A common accusation Muslims levy against Christianity is that Jesus never claimed to be God. Since the Koran states Jesus was not divine (Surah 4:171), Muslims must re-interpret every claim of deity Jesus made to suit their theology.
In light of this, some Muslims make the claim that Jesus never said, “I am God.” It is true that the Lord Jesus never used those exact words. However, this does in no way disprove that Jesus is or claimed to be God. Instead, one way He claimed to be God was by stating He was Yahweh, the God revealed in the O.T.
You see, in the American 21st century, one way to claim to be divine would be to state, “I am God.” However, in first century Palestine (where Jesus lived), you claimed to be God in the context of Judaism. This should be obvious, since Jesus was a Jewish man Himself living among people who were familiar with the Hebrew Bible.
In fact, Jesus made the most explicit claims to deity in the context of 1st century Judaism. We read in Exodus 3:14 that God revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush. God said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”(NASB) Here we have God revealing Himself as the self-existent one to Moses.
Now, if we fast-forward to John 8:58-59, we see that Jesus claims to be the “I AM.” “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.” Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.”
According to Leviticus 24:16, anyone who blasphemed the name of God was to be stoned. As we read in verse 59, the Jews who denied Jesus as the Messiah took up stones to kill Him. Obviously they took this as a claim to deity, otherwise they would not have tried to stone Jesus!
Context is key when interpreting the Bible. We must always remember to look at the time, place, and language surrounding stories in the Bible. If we apply this to John 8:58, it is clear Jesus claimed to be God.