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I Am that I Am (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה, ehyeh ašer ehyeh [ehˈje aˈʃer ehˈje]) is the common English translation (JPS among others) of the response God used in the Hebrew Bible when Moses asked for his name (Exodus 3:14). It is one of the most famous verses in the Torah. Hayah means "existed" or "was" in Hebrew; "ehyeh" is the first person singular imperfect form and is usually translated in English Bibles as "I will be" (or "I shall be"), for example, at Exodus 3:14. Ehyeh asher ehyeh literally translates as "I Will Be What I Will Be", with attendant theological and mystical implications in Jewish tradition. However, in most English Bibles, in particular the King James Version, this phrase is rendered as I am that I am.
Ehyeh-Asher-Ehyeh (often contracted in English as "I AM") is one of the Seven Names of God accorded special care by medieval Jewish tradition. The phrase is also found in other world religious literature, used to describe the Supreme Being, generally referring back to its use in Exodus. The word Ehyeh is considered by many rabbinical scholars to be a first-person derivation of the Tetragrammaton, see for example Yahweh.
The word Ehyeh is used a total of 43 places in the Hebrew Bible, where it is often translated as "I will be" — as is the case for its first occurrence, in Genesis 26:3 — or "I shall be," as is the case for its final occurrence in Zechariah 8:8. Used by God to identify himself in the Burning Bush, the importance placed on the phrase, as it is, stems from the Hebrew conception of monotheism that God exists by himself for himself, and is the uncreated Creator who is independent of any concept, force, or entity; therefore "I am who I am" (ongoing).
Some scholars state that the Tetragrammaton itself derives from the same verbal root, following a rabbinical interpretation of Exodus 3:14, but others counter that it may simply sound similar as intended by God, such as Psalm 119 and the Hebrew words "shoqed" (watching) and "shaqed" (almond branch) found in Jeremiah 1:11-12. Whether the Holy Name (written as YHWH) is derived from Eyheh or whether the two are individual concepts, is a subject of debate amongst historians and theologians.
In appearance, it is possible to render YHWH (יהוה) as an archaic third person singular imperfect form of the verb hayah (אהיה) "to be" meaning, therefore, "He is". It is notably distinct from the root El, which can be used as a simple noun to refer to the creator deity in general, as in Elohim, meaning simply "God" (or gods). This interpretation agrees with the meaning of the name given in Exodus 3:14, where God is represented as speaking, and hence as using the first person — ehyeh "I am". Other scholars regard the triconsonantal root of hawah (הוה) as a more likely origin for the name Yahweh (יהוה).
This usage is also found in the New Testament:
Kabbalists have long deemed that the Torah contains esoteric information. The response given by God is considered significant by many Kabbalists, because it is seen as proof in the divine nature of God's name, a central idea in Kabbalah (and to a lesser degree Judaism in general).
Some of the salient points are the following:
Some religious groups and theologians believe that this phrase or at least the "I am" part of the phrase is an actual name of God, or to lesser degree the sole name of God. It can be found in many lists where other common names of God are shown.
As discussed above, depending on how it is rendered (a subject of much debate amongst historians), the Hebrew name for God YHWH bears some similarity to an archaic form of "he is". In Biblical Hebrew, ehyeh is the first person singular imperfect "to be". In other world religions also the "I AM" part is the actual name of God.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge predicates much of the theoretical frame of his Biographia Literaria on what he calls 'the great I AM' (that is, God the Father) and 'the filial WORD that re-affirmeth it ...' (Christ, reaffirming his father's statement') '...from Eternity to Eternity, whose choral Echo is the Universe.' Coleridge's argument is that these two things together work to create the ground for all meaning, especially poetic and artistic meaning.
In the Hindu Advaita Vedanta, the South Indian sage Ramana Maharshi mentions that of all the definitions of God, "none is indeed so well put as the biblical statement “I am that I am”". He maintained that although Hindu scripture contains similar statements, the Mahavakyas, these are not as direct as given in Exodus. Further the "I am" is explained by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj as an abstraction in the mind of the Stateless State, of the Absolute, or the Supreme Reality, called Parabrahman: it is pure awareness, prior to thoughts, free from perceptions, associations, memories. Parabrahman is often considered to be a cognate term for the Supreme Being in Hinduism.