Why is God's name "I AM"?


Hi all,

So I got stumped the other day with a question about God’s name.

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” - Exodus 3:14

I have two questions:

  1. Why is God’s name “I AM”? What’s the significance of this?

  2. Does this name apply specifically to God the Father? Or to all Persons of the Holy Trinity?

Thanks in advance for all your replies!


Because God is the Creator and ground of all being, with no past, no future, only an eternal and infinite present, outside of linear time as we know it. I would say that the Name applies to the Godhead, 3 Divine Persons in one God.


Yah-weh (I am) is God’s old testament name.

John 17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world”

John 17:25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them”


This is a very good question. While I have never been fond of just quoting things from the catechism, I think that this entry sort of sums up what is ultimately a mystery:

213 "The revelation of the ineffable name “I AM WHO I AM” contains then the truth that God alone IS. The Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, and following it the Church’s tradition, understood the divine name in this sense: God is the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is."


Because God is


It speaks to being eternal, non created, ever present, no end, no beginning.
He IS.

So He said I AM, WHO AM.

No “theories” about where He came from, He just IS. And will always be.

Readers/Lectors who insert more words to this or do a HUGE disservice to the liturgy.
This is a CRUCIAL passage when dealing with non-believers



Well stated.


It’s consoling to know that He is not going anywhere.


John 8, 57 -59

“You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

“Very truly I tell you,” **Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” ** At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.


A co-worker recently stated he didn’t understand this statement, “Why does God tell Moses to say I AM sent me?”

Because was the answer, when you designate someone to bring a mandate or proposition you usually have a reference to someone…and this SOMEONE is the ultimate being that contains all that can be…thus I AM!

For those who don’t resonate well with it…a good chuckle is coming down the line when the light bulb goes on! We are all on different circuits, you know.

And Caiphas declared, “Are you the Son of the Living God?”, and Jesus replied, “I AM”. For those who were in right disposition on hearing this at that moment surely must have experienced the largest goose bumps ever on them!!


Jesus answered the exact same way to the Pharisees in John chapter 8 verse 58; “Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.” And the Pharisees understood precisely what he was claiming about himself as you read their response in verse 59 below.

***53 Art thou greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? and the prophets are dead. Whom dost thou make thyself?

54 Jesus answered: If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father that glorifieth me, of whom you say that he is your God.

55 And you have not known him, but I know him. And if I shall say that I know him not, I shall be like to you, a liar. But I do know him, and do keep his word.

56 Abraham your father rejoiced that he might see my day: he saw it, and was glad.

57 The Jews therefore said to him: Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

58 Jesus said to them: Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham was made, I am.

59 They took up stones therefore to cast at him. But Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.***

Peace, Mark


Oops…Eric beat me to it! :wink:

Peace, Mark***


Because He is Being itself


[quote=PNEUMA;14811760**]Yah-weh (I am)

is God’s old testament name.

John 17:6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world”

John 17:25 “Righteous Father, the world does not know you, but I know you; and these know that you have sent me. I made your name known to them”

Actually, JHVH (or YHWH), beginning with the letter yod, the verbal prefix for the 3rd person masculine singular, is more like “he is”. “I am” in the verse quoted by the OP is “'ehyeh”, beginning with alef, the verbal prefix for the first person singular.

To address the OP’s question directly, I can’t think of a better name for God than “I AM” – with the implication that the rest of the supposed gods ARE NOT.


I have read that “I am who I am” is not the only possible translation of the Hebrew. Others might be “I will be who I will be,” or even “I will be what I will be.”

If any Hebrew translators here have any info on this, it would be appreciated. TY.


Eric Hoffer wrote, in The Passionate State of Mind, and Other Aphorisms (1955):
God alone is satisfied with what He is and can proclaim: “I am what I am.” Unlike God, man strives with all his might to be what he is not. He incessantly proclaims: “I am what I am not.”


I have seen this translation before. For me “I will be who I will be” or “I will be what I will be” has a strong implication that God has not yet fully evolved into something other than what He is. This became the best illustration to me as to why “I AM” is all God could say to the question without putting limitations on Himself.



I like it!



I’m not fluent in Hebrew, but to give the little I know:

YHWH translates to “He who causes / will cause to be” or “He who makes things happen.” Third person masculine singular imperfect (implying ongoing or incomplete action: “he was running,” “he is running,” “he runs,” “he will run”) causative (hiphil). :wink: The Name derives from the root hwy, hwh (havah) or hyh (hayah) “to be(come), to exist, to happen.”

“I am (being)” or “I (will) be” - first person singular imperfect (ongoing) - is ehyeh. EHYEH ASHER EHYEH - “I am (being) who/what I am (being)” or “I will be what I will be” (i.e. ‘I am whatever I want to be’).

Biblical Hebrew verbs doesn’t exactly work like English verbs do. Biblical Hebrew verbs come in two forms: perfect and imperfect. Perfect verbs describes completed action, while imperfect expresses incomplete or progressive/ongoing action. Compare that to English, where you have past, present or future tenses. Biblical Hebrew doesn’t have so much ‘tenses’ as it does ‘aspects’: while tense is temporal, about a certain point in time (did Jim run last night? Is Jim running right now? Or will Jim run tomorrow?), aspect is … well, aspectual, about whether the action is ongoing or not: did Jim run (implying that he doesn’t right now or anymore) or is he running still?

While you might render the perfect aspect with the past tense and the imperfect with the future (or present) tense - this is what biblical translators do all the time - there are cases when ‘imperfect’ verbs could refer to an action which temporally, happened in the past and ‘perfect’ verbs could refer to temporally future actions: the so-called or waw-consecutive**waw-conversive grammatical construction involves adding the letter waw/vav (ו) to an imperfect or perfect verb, which accordingly reverses the meaning.


Maybe to augment with several points of interest what Tarpeian Rock and Eric Hyom (:thumbsup:) have posted :

It is God’s very essence to exist. Hence I AM WHO AM.

To exist means “to be.”

A quote which appears in several of Chesterton’s books (this one taken from HERE):

We are living the legacy of what Chesterton calls “the morbid Renaissance intellectual.” who says, “To be or not to be – that is the question.” But St. Thomas Aquinas, says Chesterton, replies in a voice of thunder, “To be – that is the answer!”

Hence once more, I AM WHO AM.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.