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Yesterday's sermon at the church we visited was about Father's Day and referenced this passage:

And [Jesus] said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”—Mark 14:36 (ESV)

I understand that Abba probably doesn't mean "daddy", but does it imply a more intimate relationship between humanity and God than is found in the Tanakh?

Clearly, there is a Jewish concept of God as Father, yet He is generally represented as accessible only on His own terms. Do passages like this (which show Jesus respectfully petitioning God to change His mind, so to speak) show God as more approachable than the contemporary Jewish understanding?

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This probably needs more tags. – Jon Ericson Jun 19 '12 at 0:16
@Monica: I'm wondering if Jesus' way of addressing God would have been shocking or unusual for a Jew of his time. The pastor said it would have been seen as outrageous, but I'm not so sure. – Jon Ericson Jun 19 '12 at 6:51
Hoshea likens the relationship between God and Israel to that between bride and groom. Do you want more intimate than that? – Eli Rosencruft Jun 19 '12 at 19:08
@Eli: That's a good point. But could an individual claim such a relationship? (I think I need to develop the question a bit more.) – Jon Ericson Jun 19 '12 at 20:28
The problem is that the OT is about Israel's relation to God. That's the viewpoint. There was no modern concept of the individual, or of individual redemption in the OT apart from the redemption of the faith community. – Eli Rosencruft Jun 20 '12 at 2:52

Does the NT use of “abba” to address God imply a more intimate relationship than found in the tanakh?

Yes and no.

Yes, I think it’s fair to say that, since “Abba” precedes “father,” there is more of a calling out, a persistence, saying it twice and saying it differently. This implies intimacy.

Thayer’s Lexicon (Abba): “father, in the Chald. emphatic state.”

Oxford Dictionary (emphatic): showing or giving emphasis; expressing something forcibly and clearly.

Christ was emphatic in Mark 14:36. “Emphatic” implies intimacy.

Because Mark 14:36 refers to Christ calling out to YHWH prior to his death and purpose, this verse is definitively intimate. Textually, it would be difficult to argue that the use of “Abba” prior to “father” is coincidental or less than intimate. This is the only time Christ ever uses the word in the NT (used by Paul in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6).

No, for the reasons below (and more, not included). And since this is where “Abba” is set aside because it does not appear in the tanach, in order to compare the intimacy between the tanach and the NT, other factors need to be considered.

  1. It’s subjective. Christians would likely agree that Christ’s relationship with YHWH is more intimate than Moses’s or Abraham’s was. Jewish and Muslim people likely interpret otherwise. All three religions share the tanakh.

  2. There are plenty of examples in the tanach of great intimacy between people or tribes and YHWH.

IE: The guiding “pillar of a cloud” and “fire” from YHWH to the tribes (Exodus 13:21); Abraham’s sacrifice of his son, yet stopping when he hears the call of YHWH (Genesis 22:3); Moses directly asking YHWH for a name and receiving it directly (Exodus 3:13); Ishmael (“the lad”) calling out and saved by YHWH, then angels comforting Hagar (Genesis 21:17); the unyielding faith of Job (Job 42:7); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego fleeing from a fiery furnace, due to their faith (Daniel 3:2-5).

… not enough space to name all the examples ...

  1. The theme of the tanach and the NT is faith -steadfast or lack of- and this is not less prevalent in the NT than it is in the tanach. Faith requires intimacy.

  2. The tetragrammaton is used over 7,000 times in the tanach. The NT does not refer to YHWH -not even once. One could argue the lack of intimacy in the NT on this reason alone.

  3. The NT, as we know it, is not written in Hebrew; the tanach is. Though there is debate about the original, true language of YHWH (Genesis 11:1-6, Genesis 31:18), there is a better argument for it at least being closer to the late or modern Hebrew scriptures that we have than it is to Koine Greek. This does not imply that a person who knows how to speak Hebrew is more intimate with YHWH than one that does not (that’s not what I am saying), but because the text is consistently translated and transliterated, there is a lack of intimacy between what was written and what is often read.

Hence, the need for hermeneutics.

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Your last point especially with regard to what is read vs written could be developed further. There is a fundamental lack of intimacy based on the tradition of not pronouncing the name YHVH which is even extended to G-d. If a person does not use the name or even the position, there is a lack of intimacy. What is read is never pronounced. "YHVH" would be read as "Adonai." The name becomes a postion/relationship. So the position/relationship of "Abba" is more intimate than "Adonai." If relationship is important than there is a lack of understanding about using/misusing the name of God. – Revelation Lad Apr 19 at 18:06
One could make a compelling argument that the greatest "misuse" of a name is not to use it. How does YHVH make His name great? Probably not by His people refusing to speak His name and call Him "Lord." In this case a tradition of never using the name is probably too extreme...which does impact intimacy between the LORD and his people. – Revelation Lad Apr 19 at 18:16
hi Revelation Lad, I agree that it's disheartening that the original name of YHWH is lost -but that has nothing to do with this post. I'm not going to make the argument that Jewish people should use "Abba" instead of "Adonai" because I think it is misguided. – Daisy Apr 21 at 14:32
I did not do a good job of explaining. Consider this example: Barrack Obama is the President. He is also a father. If his children said "Mr President" they would be right but their manner of address lacks the intimacy of "Dad" or "Daddy." Suppose the Obama's adopted a child and the child called him "Mr President" because they did not feel it was right to say "Daddy." Correct but a lack of intimacy.So when God took a people for Himself and they do not use His name or call Him Daddy, they are acting out of respect for who He is, but living without the intimacy of who He said they are. – Revelation Lad Apr 21 at 18:54
When I wrote, "between what is written and what is often read," I meant that people sometimes interpret the scriptures incorrectly (myself included). This has nothing to do with Ha Shem/Adonai/Yahweh, etc. Your comment's in a different camp. We could go back and forth (this is complex and cannot be deciphered fairly at a website's comment section) so I think it's best that you post your own post with your own questions/comments. I'm not going to tell Jewish people what they should and shouldn't call their creator. – Daisy Apr 21 at 19:45

I can only find one instance of αββα in the LXX. It is used in 2 Chronicles 29:1 to render the name of Hezekiah's mother, "Abijah". The Hebrew word in this place is אֲבִיָּ֖ה (Strong's H29, Abiyyah), which means "Jehovah is my father" or "Yah is my father". 24 times prior to this, the LXX used Αβια for this name.

It seems reasonable to me, highly likely even, that the translators preferred Αββα in 2 Chronicles 29:1 in reference to Hezekiah's mother, because Αβια is masculine, whereas Αββα is gender neutral.

So, the use of Αβια -- "Yah is my father" -- transitions via the name of Hezekiah's mother, to "Αββα", and then 150 years after it appears in the LXX the word falls from the lips of Jesus in a most intimate appeal:

Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.

I'm not convinced that Abba translates as "daddy", either. The sense of Jesus' words is, "Yah my father, The Father, all things are possible unto thee ..". "Daddy" just doesn't do the moment justice.


The narrative of scripture, the OT and the Gospels, chronicles the life of a son, the nation of Israel, who did not want the kind of relationship that Jesus had with his Father. However, the love of the Father must have expression, which is why it then came to the Gentiles. Paul writes:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear1; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
-- Romans 8:15 (KJV)

There is little room for doubt that the word "Abba" reflects a more intimate relationship between a son and his father.

1. Hebrews 12:18-24

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