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May I Call God Daddy? – Does Abba mean Daddy?
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May I Call God Daddy? – Does Abba mean Daddy?

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In a growing trend I have seen Christians referring to God as Daddy, and this use is justified by the explanation that it is a term of endearment, and the claim is made that Jesus and Paul used the equivalent of our English word “daddy”. In this short article we will examine this question and ask what the Bible says. Scripture is our rule of faith!

We will first go to Scripture and look at the use of the term by Jesus:

“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36, KJV).

When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He called out to His Father saying, “Abba Father”. Why did He use this term. Some claim that it means daddy but in the context that doesn’t really fit. Also, there is both Greek and Hebrew words that are equivalent to “daddy”, but Jesus didn’t use them. Before we explain the Biblical meaning of Christ using Abba, let’s look at the history.

Where did it all start?

In the late 1960’s a man by the name of Joachim Jeremias wrote a book entitled The Prayers of Jesus, and in this book he states that the use of abba was “the chatter of a small child. . . . a children’s word, used in everyday talk”. It is upon this work that almost all insinuation of abba as daddy stem. Sadly, Jeremias’ view of scripture is that of a higher critic. He sees the usage of “our Father” in the gospels as “unauthentic” and claims that Jesus usage is completely new. Not only that but he claims that it was “disrespectful”, and “irreverent” to the Jews.

Now, let us examine this logically. When Jesus claimed to be God the Jews wanted to stone Him. When Jesus’ disciples picked grain on the sabbath and ate it, they were rebuked by the pharisees. Remember now, that the Jews held the name of God in such reverence that it was not even spoken. Do you think that if Jesus used a term that was considered “disrespectful”, and “irreverent”, that the Jews would not have said something? At least the disciples would have questioned Him on why He would use such an irreverent term. No friends, Jeremias has made this up in his head, through critically dissecting Scripture to fit his fancies. His views hold no Biblical weight.

On page 96 of his book he states that Jesus “spoke with God as a child speaks with his father, simply, intimately, securely, childlike in manner.” At first glance this may sound nice and cozy, but it brings both Christ and God down to our level, making Christ childlike. Even though Jeremias makes questionable claims, does not support his views with Scripture, and is critical of Scripture he disagrees with, he does not state in the book that abba is equivalent to daddy. Others have taken his work and make this assumption based on his used of words such as “childish” and “childlike”.

Where does the word “abba” originate?

“Abba” is a transliterated Aramaic word meaning “father.” Transliteration is not the same as translation. For instance, in the Bible we read of Noah, but in the gospels his name is transliterated as Noe. “Abba” is the determinative
form of the noun ‘ab. What exactly does that mean? Determinative means to settle or define. So we look to the determinative form to define what follows it.

In defining the word determinative, let us not forget the key point that abba is a form of the word ab. Where do we see ab in Scripture? The word ab is used over 1,200 times in the Old Testament and is almost always personalized and preceded by my, our, their your, thy or his. This gives us a very interesting perspective of the meaning of the transliterated abba. Even when preceded by the word the it still denotes a personal connection such as Genesis 4:20

“And Adah bare Jabal: he was the father[ab] of such as dwell in tents, and of such as have cattle.” (Genesis 4:20, KJV).

This point is going to make sense when we come full circle in a moment. But first I don’t want us to miss a very important point. Ab is Greek for Father, it is literally translated as Father every time in the Bible.

Abba, Father – the true meaning

As we come back to Mark 14 we are going to find something quite striking. Let’s quickly reread the verse:

“And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.” (Mark 14:36, KJV).

Now, when we read the gospels we have several accounts and as we compare the gospels we get different perspectives which give us a much broader meaning of the context. If we look at the parallel passages we find clarity:

“And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. (Matthew 26:39, KJV).

Notice that when Matthew records what Mark writes as abba, he uses the personal word “my” showing a deep personal relationship with the Father. But we must be careful not to miss the most important part here. Some wish to make this term out to be some childish chatter, which destroys the beauty. The last part of the verse shows that the term, the address, shows a sign of obedience and submission. So it makes complete sense that the two remaining times the word abba is used in the Bible it is speaking to the believers submission to God.

Does it matter? “You do you… don’t be a Pharisee!”

The cool thing to do these days when truth is presented seems to be to call the person a pharisee. But if is truth shouldn’t we follow it? And if it is not truth, should we not seek to love the individual and bring them to the truth? How does Scripture tell us to address God? When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, they weren’t asking because they did not pray. They saw Jesus spend long hours in the early morning and at times all night long in prayer with His Father. They saw the deep connection and they saw that the power attending His work came from this connection and they longed to have that kind of prayer life. So when Christ gives us this answer, should we not accept it?

“After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name.” (Matthew 6:9, KJV).

Just as ab in the Old Testament tends to denote a personal relationship, and abba is shown to mean “My Father” (from Matthew 26:39), when Jesus teaches us to pray He tells us to call God “Our Father”. Note, He does not say to call God His Father but ours. We are to have a personal relationship with God… but friends, this gives us no license to call God what we please. It says plainly and clearly to call God our Father. Not daddy! Does it matter? Yes! If it didn’t matter, when Jesus was asked of the Disciples to teach them to pray, He would have simply replied “pray however you like, God doesn’t care how you address Him.” But He didn’t say that, instead He gave us clear instructions how to address God. And the Bible is plain that we are to reverence God:

“God is greatly to be feared[reverenced] in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him.” (Psalm 89:7, KJV).

The word fear means to reverence, to obey. When Christ was in the garden He submitted to the death on the cross. We too are to submit our worldly ideas and reverence God by addressing Him as He has requested us to do. How are we to serve God?

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:” (Hebrews 12:28, KJV).

If there is an acceptable way to serve and worship God then there is an unacceptable way. And if God has given direction to us, then to ignore that direction means our worship is unacceptable to God. The very next verse in Hebrews says for (or because of these things) “Our God is a consuming fire.” Not only does God demand our reverence but He deserves it. Through Creation and Redemption He has bought us twice over.

What is really interesting is that the The Swahili word Bwana, meaning “mister”, “sir”, or “lord”, is derived from the Arabic Abuna (أبونا), “our father”. If we dig deeper we find that contrary to being a childlike chattering term, it is one of sincere personal relationship, one of submission to the Father, willing to obey.

Final reason I believe Paul uses the same term

We have seen the connection of a personal God by the use of Abba. He is our Father too! And to express this idea to its fullest Paul uses the phrase Abba Father:

“To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 
And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. 
Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.” (Galatians 4:5-7, KJV).

In Galatians 3:28, Paul has just asserted that there is neither “Jew nor Greek”, meaning that when it comes to salvation Christ died for all, no matter your race. In the very next chapter he speaks to the “adoption” whereby we become sons of God. In this context as Paul uses the phrase “Abba, Father”, we see a connection with Galatians 3:28. When we cry out “Abba Father”, it is not in some childish jibberish, it is not a casual cry of daddy, but a deep and personal cry to a loving and majestic God who cares for us and who has adopted ME as His child. Here is denoted a personal and deep relationship that the term daddy destroys. God is not your daddy, He is your father. He deserves our respect and reverence.

I pray this article was a blessing to you. It is intended to uplift God and Scripture. If you have questions or thoughts please feel free to comment.

Saturday, December 17th, 2022 at 10:32 pm and is filed under General Bible Questions, God's Name and Character. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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