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What is the best English translation of abba (Greek: Αββα, Aramaic: אבא) such as in Romans 8:15? What are its senses in the original languages, and are those best captured by father, dad, daddy, or something else in English?

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3 Answers

ABBA is spoken in a matter a child would speak to his father before he jumped off the kitchen counter. Holding his hands out saying in faith "Daddy," knowing Abba was going to be there to catch him. It is found three times in the KJV Bible, twice used by Jesus, and once in one of my favorite scriptures, Galatians 4:6-7 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.

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Hi Van, welcome to the site. We try to have answers that are supported by references. Do you have references for this? –  Kazark Oct 13 '13 at 1:04
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Not an expert, but I did have this link sent to me once:

Abba Isn't Daddy

Each of the three occurrences of αββα in the NT is followed by the Greek translation ο πατερ, "the father." This translation makes clear its meaning to the writers; the form is a literal translation -- "father" plus a definite article -- and like abba can also be a vocative. But it is not a diminutive of "babytalk" form. There are Greek diminutives of father (e.g., παππας [pappas]), and the community chose not to use them.

and

There is still a point of confusion: In Modern Hebrew, "abba" has become commonly used as... You guessed it: "Daddy." So, when a Hebrew speaker happens upon this anecdote, to them it makes "perfect sense." :-)

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I like this and it makes sense. But why would people use the Aramaic "abba" instead of either of the Greek words available ("pater" and "pappas")? –  Richard Oct 19 '11 at 16:18
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I presume that this in reference to its use in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, it means "father". It's pretty much the only translation for it.


Use in Greek text

From Vines

Abba is an Aramaic word, found in Mar 14:36; Rom 8:15 and Gal 4:6. In the Gemara (a Rabbinical commentary on the Mishna, the traditional teaching of the Jews) it is stated that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title. It approximates to a personal name, in contrast to "Father," with which it is always joined in the NT. This is probably due to the fact that, abba having practically become a proper name, Greek-speaking Jews added the Greek word pater, "father," from the language they used. "Abba" is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; "father" expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.

Essentially, it's considered more like "daddy" because it's considered more of an "infantile" word that's used. Children called their fathers abba. However, adults used the Greek word pater for "father".

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