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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: June 2012



Abba The biblical record indicates that abba, the Aramaic word for ‘father’, was the form of address used by Jesus for God (see, e.g., Matt. 11:25–6; 26:39, 42; Luke 23:34, 46; John 11:41; 12:27–8; 17:5, 11, 21, 24–5). This usage appears to have been regarded as significant enough that it is one of the few pieces of Aramaic that is preserved untranslated in the Gospels (Mark 14:36). Jesus commended the same form of address to his disciples (Matt. 6:9; Luke 11:2; cf. John 20:17), and, again, its significance was such that it appears to have been preserved even among Greek-speaking communities in its Aramaic form (Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

While scholars disagree over whether or not Jews customarily addressed God as ‘Father’ before Jesus' time (cf. Isa. 63:16; Jer. 3:19), there seems little question that Jesus' use of the term was regarded by his followers as distinctive. The canonical evangelists understand Jesus' use of ‘Father’ as correlative of his own status as ‘Son’ (Matt. 11:27; John 17:1; cf. Matt. 3:17; 17:5 and pars.). From this perspective, later developed explicitly in the doctrine of the Trinity, God's identity as ‘Father’ does not refer to a generic relationship between Creator and creature, but rather to a unique relationship with God's own co-eternal Word (John 1:1; see Logos), who, as ‘Son’, enjoys an intimacy with God that has no creaturely parallel (John 1:18).

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