Jesus’ “I AM” Statements in Light of Ancient Boasting

Comparisons between Paul and Greco-Roman boasting is fairly well ploughed ground in both classical and NT studies. Similarly, the literary role of the “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John is well studied. Customarily, modern exegetes immediately jump from an “I AM” statement to its theological import, including perhaps how Jesus’ original listeners would have reacted to such a theological claim. Given the renewed modern interest in honor and shaming, I want to explore if Jesus’ audience, both first-century Palestinian Israelites and later the hearers of John’s Gospel, would have heard Jesus’ claims initially as boasting. If so, how would such a boast be received, and then what would be the honor or shaming interpretation in light of a perceived substantiation (or non-substantiation) of the boast? As modern readers, should our initial interpretive grid be “theological discourse” or “honor contest”?