Dear Aebi...


Abba, Father

Charles J. Aebi

Dear Aebi: "A preacher recently told his audience that it was all right to address God as 'Daddy, Daddy' because the word 'Abba' means 'Daddy.' Is that so?"

There is some interpretation involved in it, but I think "Daddy" as applied to God is flippant and shows a lack of reverence and respect. I first heard it used in the 1960's by one who said "Great celestial Daddy" as hippy slang for "Heavenly Father." Abba is Aramaic for "Father," and was used by Hebrew - or Aramaic - speaking Jews and Christians. I have not yet found any scholar who suggests that "Daddy" is an appropriate translation for it and therefore that we should use "Daddy" in reference to God because of the Biblical use of Abba (or for any other reason).

Abba (Aramaic for "Father") is used in Scripture only along with pater (Greek for "Father") and only in three passages, as far as I have found: Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. In Mark 14:36 (NKJV), Jesus said, "Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me: nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will." He was praying to God about the suffering He was to undergo. Some think Jesus may have used Abba every time He addressed God and that Mark translated it. Dorris (Commentary on the Gospel by Mark, p. 339) thinks Jesus used the Hebrew and Mark supplies the Greek translation of it. Hendriksen (New Testament Commentary, p. 588) explains, "It is not necessary to believe that Jesus, in addressing his Father, used two words: the Aramaic Abba and the Greek Pater, both with the same meaning, namely, 'Father.' He probably said 'Abba,' a word which Mark, writing mainly for non-Jews, immediately translates into the language with which his readers are better acquainted, Greek." Gould and others agree with Dorris and Hendriksen.

Romans 8:15 (NKJV) reads, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'" The context is that of our being sons of God because we are adopted and led by the Spirit of God through the word of God which guides us into the new birth and through the Christian life. Lightfoot and Lard believe Paul uses both words just as Mark used them - the Greek to translate the Hebrew or Aramaic. Lard says that either both should be translated or both be left untranslated, in which case we would have either "Father, Father" or "Abba, Pater." R. L. Whiteside thinks both terms are used together for emphasis (A Commentary on Paul's Letter to the Saints at Rome, p.178). Winters believes the repetition may be explained as expressing an affection too deep for words or as a Greek translation of the Aramaic (Commentary on Romans, p. 93). None of them suggests that we should make the application of calling God "Daddy." The emphasis, as shown by the context, is that we have a great blessing to be in God's family, and that we should therefore act the part of God's sons and be obedient to the will of our Father.

In Galatians 4:6 (NKJV), Paul says, "And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying out, Abba, Father." All that is said about Abba in Romans 8:15 applies here also; both passages are talking about our son-ship and our obligations and privileges as sons. Since we are privileged to be sons, we should act like sons. 2660 Layman Rd., Vincent, OH 45784-9730.


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