Romans 8:15, Abba, Father

But ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

//Much has been made of Jesus’ choice of words for his Father in heaven. Jesus claimed a blasphemously close relationship with God, even calling God “Abba,” and it eventually got him the death penalty.

This terminology found its way into Christian language rather quickly, as evidenced by Paul’s letters, where, twice, Paul encourages us to speak to the Father with the same familiarity. This should be no surprise: religious Jews fervently believed that one day, God would return to earth and dwell personally with his people, calling them his children. The Christian claim was that this day had arrived with the coming of Jesus.

But what, exactly, does abba mean? 

The truth is, we don’t know anymore. We assume it is meant to convey intimacy. A 20th-century German scholar, Joachim Jeremias, suggested that the word abba is best translated as “daddy.” Jeremias apparently backed off somewhat from this assertion, but the translation stuck. It’s heart-warming and intimate, exactly the way we think of Jesus’ relationship with the Father. I, too, suggest the translation “daddy” in my books about Revelation and John’s Gospel. 

But it’s good to remember, like so many other translation issues from the original Greek and Hebrew of our Bible, that we don’t really know what Jesus meant.

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