Thursday, April 1, 2010

A is for Abba.


This word, Abba, is used in the Greek New Testament three times. Although the New Testament was originally written in Greek, the origin of this word is Aramaic. It is also what we call a “transliteration,” the Aramaic letters are the same as in our English translation.

We find this word used in Mark 14:36 where we find Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is just hours from his horrific death by crucifixion and He finds Himself compelled to pray. Jesus begins His prayer with two words, “Abba, Pater.”

The next time we find the word, “Abba”, we discover that it is used by the Apostle Paul. Paul used this word in Romans 8:15 and he used it again in Galatians 4:6. Each time that Paul used this word it was to symbolize the cry of the Holy Spirit within the heart of the children of God for God as their Father.

Each time this word is used it is used in conjunction with the Greek equivalent of Pater. Abba seems to mean or imply, “My Father” or "My Dear Father" and Pater is the Greek word for Father. Abba is the word that was used by very young children as a term depicting unreasoning trust. “Father” expressed an intelligent understanding of the relationship of the young child to the male parent. The word expressed the love and confidence of the child in the Father.

When this word occurs in the New Testament it has the Greek interpretation linked to it. This is apparently explained by the fact that the Chaldee word “ABBA” used frequently in prayer, gradually acquired the nature of a most sacred proper name, to which the Greek speaking Jews added the name from their own tongue as a customary title used of God in prayer.

When we pray to God our Father, we are humbly showing our dependence, unreasoning trust, absolute confidence, and our love for God who is our Father. We have neither right nor a beckoning to become overly familiar with God and assign an appellation of less respect than He is due or worthy. Remember how Christ taught His disciples to pray, “Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.”

The key in the translation of any word is how did the author intend to use a word and how would the hearer understand the word? I bring this up because we live in an emotional, touchy-feely, or maudlin society in which we find ourselves overly familiar with certain terms or ideas. These two words for Father were words of endearment and familial relationship but they also conveyed great respect.

Neither of these words implies the word “Daddy.” We must be very careful that as we meditate on and become moved by our child-Father relationship to our God that we do not enter hallowed ground with such familiarity and 21st century emotionalism that we become disrespectful.

The Aramaic and Greek Culture, not to mention the Hebrew culture did not have that thought process or additional words. The key was respect, honor, and dignity. I think that is why Jesus more than likely pioneered using both words, which He was familiar with to show the depth of the relationship, My Dear Father, Father…

Now I know some of you are not going to like that. You have had pastors or worship leaders tell you that this word can be translated as daddy, and you need to think of God as your daddy. These types of thought, though well meaning and designed to raise goose bumps on our arms stretch the meaning of a very precise language. I think this leads to a less than respect awe and proper fear of God, our loving and dear Father than should be.



An excellent srart to the challenge and a most interesting informative blog. Reading was a pleasure,


Lisa said...

I learned something new today.

And it makes perfect sense that we not call him "Daddy." It seems a bit trite for One who created the universe! I saw a blog the other day where a lady mention "Daddy God" and thought it was cute. I see it in a different light now.

Thanks Gregg and I hope you have a blessed day!


Shannon said...

I really liked this post Gregg...and I have always been fond of calling God, Abba Father...thanks so much for sharing this monrning...Great start!

RCUBEs said...

Thanks be to Jesus, I [we]can call Him "Abba"...To be a part of His family...It's unfathomable. Blessings.


It's truly "amazing grace" that God would adopt sinners into His family and then allow us to call Him Abba, Father, Daddy.!!!


I've never heard anyone encourage calling God "daddy." I don't think it is respectful at all. We can boldly approach the throne of grace, but not irreverently. Good post.

arlee bird said...

I have often hear pastors, speakers, and Christian entertainers making the "Abba" - Daddy connection. You make an important point with your explanation. These days a lot of Christianity is neatly packaged to make it more acceptable the hearers of the Word. This leads to a lot of distortion of the content of the Bible.
Very relevant post.

Carol Conway-Fleisher said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. What a great post. I am so thankful that I can God Abba! :)

Aramaic Scholar said...

You are correct that abba in Aramaic does not really mean "daddy". It means Father, but is something that a natural son would call his Father, as opposed to a servant. So in that sense we are adopted by God to become natural heirs. I think that is the intention of the use of the Aramaic word abba.