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?

  • This probably needs more tags. Commented Jun 19, 2012 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. Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 6:51
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    Hoshea likens the relationship between God and Israel to that between bride and groom. Do you want more intimate than that? Commented Jun 19, 2012 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.) Commented Jun 19, 2012 at 20:28
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    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. Commented Jun 20, 2012 at 2:52

7 Answers 7


The Pharisees did not mind the idea of a father. They regarded Abraham as theirs. But in truth, their first father was Adam, not Abraham. And Isaiah had told them that their first father had sinned, (Is 43:27). The 'father' of all men is God, the Creator, in a sense, but more realistically it is Adam.

Creation is a different thing from regeneration. To truly call God, 'Abba', necessitates a birth of water and of Spirit, a heavenly birth from above, a birth again (anagenesis) and a birth that reverses the first birth in Adam (paligenesis).


A lot of people, including some scholars such as the late famed Joachim Jeremias, attempt to make a huge issue of the Aramaic word Αββα. Jeremias even went so far as to suggest that Αββα is some sort of diminutive alternative for “Father” which would make it equivalent to the term daddy, papa, or some other diminutive expression. This idea is however largely rejected by most scholars, and rightly so.

In order to clear up any misconceptions about what Αββα means and how it should be understood, let us look at the grammar of the address Jesus uses. This word is only used three times in the New Testament and always in the same context.

  • Jesus’ prayer in the garden in Mark 14:36, καὶ ἔλεγεν Αββα ὁ πατήρ πάντα δυνατά σοι παρένεγκε τὸ ποτήριον ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ τοῦτο ἀλλ᾽ οὐ τί ἐγὼ θέλω ἀλλὰ τί σύ.

  • Galatians 4:6, Ὅτι δέ ἐστε υἱοί ἐξαπέστειλεν ὁ θεὸς τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν, κρᾶζον Αββα ὁ πατήρ.

  • Romans 8:15, Οὐ γὰρ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα δουλείας πάλιν εἰς φόβον ἀλλ᾽ ἐλάβετε πνεῦμα υἱοθεσίας ἐν ᾧ κράζομεν Αββα ὁ πατήρ.

The construction of Αββα ὁ πατήρ is the same in each text. Although ὁ πατήρ is nominative in its spelling, it is used as a vocative of address. This is not at all uncommon in Greek grammar. There are many examples of this. One such example would be Hebrews 1:8-9 where the Father address the Son as ὁ Θεός. Θεός is nominative spelling but it is used as a vocative of address.

In each of the thee places where Αββα is used, the meaning of the word is clearly set forth by the user. Both Jesus and Paul ascribe the word 'Father' as the definition and equivalent of Αββα. Αββα is not offered as a proper name for the Father as some have suggested because of the use of the definite article with Θεός. It is simply an address – Father. This is certainly not a diminutive form of address. There are Greek diminutive forms of father (παππας, τατα, τέττα, and perhaps even πατρίδιον), but none of these are used in connection with Αββα in any of these three passages.

There is really nothing spectacular about the word its self. Both Jesus and Paul provide the meaning of the word as 'Father'. The point Paul is makes is that being able to address God as ‘Father' is a profound privilege. This is a big deal. This is what separates the son from the mere servant. As adopted sons, we are privileged now to address God as “Father,” not merely collectively as was the Jewish custom, but individually which was inconceivable to Jewish thinking. This is why the Jews attempted to stone Jesus for blasphemy in John 5:18 when he called God his Father.

“For this reason, therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.”

Paul says for us to be able to address God as “Father” is a privilege we now enjoy that we did not previously have.


Verses that support the use of the term Father (Av) in the Old Testament in reference to God:

"And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn" - Ex. 4:22 (KJV)

"Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish people and unwise? is not he thy father that hath bought thee? hath he not made thee, and established thee?" - Deut. 32:6 (KJV)

I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" - Ps. 2:7 (KJV)

"He will cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.' I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth." - Ps. 89:26-28 (NASB)

"Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O LORD, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting" - Is. 63:16 (KJV)

As the Hebrew noun (av) אָב meaning 'father' finds its cognate in the the Aramaic אַבָּא (see BDB), there is no reason to translate it other than 'father' when found in the New Testament, i.e. not 'daddy.' Jesus' use of the term אַבָּא in reference to God is not fundamentally different that the Old Testment use of אָב in reference to God.

In reference to the 'Jewish' understanding, just look to the song Avinu Malkhenu ('Our father, our king'), which any synagogue-going Jew should know (it's part of the liturgy). That refers to God as father very clearly, so it's not just a Christian understanding. Jews also picked this up from the Tanakh without having to go to the New Testament.

The issue concerning the pronunciation of the name which someone brought up is secondary and in this case irrelevant, because Jews today still call God 'Our Father' even without saying the Name.


When comparing 'Abba' and 'Father in my Strong's concordance, there doesn't really appear to be any difference in the meanings of the two words, however one in Aramaic origin and the other Greek. Jesus did seem to express a closer relationship to the Father than what others had (and rightly so!). John 5:18 gives an example of the Jewish authorities being upset by what Jesus said, but 'Abba' is not used here.

I don't have any degree, but I hope this helps. Jose

  • Welcome to BHSE! Please make sure you take our Tour. (See below left) Thanks. Commented Apr 23, 2019 at 18:59

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.

  • 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. Commented Apr 19, 2016 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. Commented Apr 19, 2016 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
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 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. Commented Apr 21, 2016 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
    Commented Apr 21, 2016 at 19:45

The question should be put more precisely and with a greater clarity, for it is unclear whether it asks:

a) Do the New Testament writers consider in their account of Jesus' letting His disciples to address God as their Father as a change in relationship of humans with God towards a greater intimacy?


b) Is that, so to say, "Father" appellation introduced by the New Testament authors really/objectively/ontologically/historically/psychologically/morally, notwithstanding the intentions or agenda of the NT writers, imply any essential promotional change with respect of human intimacy with God, as compared to the texts of the Old Testament, which also convey a story of the human-God relationship with a language of perhaps not a lesser intimacy, which is to be discussed?

If the "a)" is asked, then, yes, of course, 100%! - For the New Testament authors clearly assert that in relationship of mankind and God something radically changed and humans are already invested with a totally novel and hitherto unprecedented in history authority of becoming children of God (John 1:12) and co-heirs of Jesus from Jesus Himself, who, as God's only begotten Son has this authority properly and naturally (for the very term "Son" means that He possesses the entire inheritance and authority of God-His-Begetter.) For men do not say boldly "Father" to God out of self-given, self-invested authority, but through the Holy Spirit that Jesus asked Father to send them (John 14:16), and exactly through this Holy Spirit, called by Paul also the "Spirit of Sonship", humans can authoritatively cry to God in the most intimate manner possible - "Abba", which means, "Father" (Rom.8:15). Moreover, this status is incomparably, unimaginably and unutterably higher than not only that of all the prophets of the Old Testament, but even that of the pre-lapsarian Adam and Eve in paradise, for they could not enjoy even being in paradise that glory that God gave through His Son to humans after the latter's Incarnation, for the Kingdom of Heaven, to which humans have already access through Christ is higher than Adam's paradise beyond comparison.

Thus, God's eternal Logos-incarnate, Jesus Christ, vouchsafed to humans to be co-heirs of Himself, which is the impenetrable and awesome mystery of us, the created beings, becoming co-heirs of Him, the Creator, whose Being is eternal and co-eternal with the Father and the Spirit of Sonship that goes out from the Father (John 15:26).

But if the "b)" is asked, then totally different discussion will ensue, in which I will abstain at a moment indulging myself - although I fully believe that the NT authors convey not only their intentional and subjective, but also real/ontological/objective truth - but to sum up my post: the question should be presented with a greater clarity, otherwise the answers will be as blurred as the question itself.

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    Dear down voter, please, if you wish, just spend one or two minutes to instruct me on any blunder my answer has committed, will be most thankful! Commented Feb 23, 2018 at 6:36

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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