August 1, 2005

“Abba, Father”

Category: Bible - NT :: Permalink

While I’m speaking about the New Testament’s use of Aramaic, what about “Abba, Father” (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6)? A few Sundays ago, Judah Soles, the son of Jamie Soles, asked me after a sermon why Scripture talks about us calling God “Abba.” Why that word in particular? Why not just “Father”?

I hadn’t thought about it before but when he asked it struck me that the use of this Aramaic term might be particularly significant given that Paul is arguing that Gentiles are fully included along with Jews in the church and the family of God.

The Jews knew that Israel was God’s firstborn son. Whether people normally addressed God as “Father” in the time of the Old Covenant or not, it was one of the terms available, given Old Covenant revelation.

But what about the Gentiles now? Paul does not simply say that Gentiles can call God “Father.” He doesn’t simply use the Greek term. He deliberately uses the Aramaic term, the term that a Jew would use.

In other words, it’s not as if Jews use their Aramaic term for “father” when addressing God, a term that might have connotations of special intimacy to them, but that Gentiles stick to the Greek word for “father,” which, to a Jewish ear, might lack those special connotations (the way Dutch people tell me that barmhartigheid is so meaningful compared to the rather bland English mercy). Rather, the Gentiles get to use the very same intimate term for God that the Jews do (and vice versa). Both get to call God “Abba” and both call Him “Father.” They may do this because they are both in Jesus Christ, who called God by both terms (Mark 14:36).

At least, that’s what I said to Judah when he asked, and it still sounds basically correct to me. Any thoughts?

Posted by John Barach @ 7:30 pm | Discuss (0)

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