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Athanasius of Alexandria translates :

... the everlasting father ... [Isaiah 9:6 KJV]

as :

... Father of the coming age ... ['On Luke 10:22' from Select Works and Letters (1) ].

I notice that Robert Young translates this as :

... Father of eternity ... [YLT].

Does the Hebrew (Masoretic Text) support Athanasius' rendering ?


(1) Page 266 of Select Works and Letters

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  • I answered on the same or duplicate que of YLT mistranslation, that it must be a trinitarian or pseudo-trinity bias that sees a conflict in identifying Messiah as Eternal Father, so they preferred to change the plain word. Abi-ad means eternal father. Athanasius having a subordinate hyper trinity of a begotten son would have the same bias in mistranslation hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/47489/… also see ladderofjacob.com/2022/05/02/shalom
    – Michael16
    Jun 30 at 11:38
  • He was translating from LXX which was likely ABP version πατήρ του μέλλοντος αιώνος Father of coming (messianic) age. But YLT has no excuse as he translated from Hebrew.
    – Michael16
    Jun 30 at 16:17

2 Answers 2

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The operative Hebrew word in Isa 9:6 is אֲבִיעַ֖ד ('abi'ad) - a compound word of father + perpetuity/eternity (עַד BDB), eg, Gen 15:18, Isa 57:15, Ps 111:3, 10, 112:3, 112:9, 132:14, 19:10, etc.. As with such Hebrew compound words, one might validly translate this as:

  • everlasting father (eg, NIV, BSB, ESV, etc)
  • father of eternity (eg, YLT)
  • eternal father (eg, NASB, CSB, CEV, etc)

However, I struggle to see a valid justification for "father of the coming age"; this appears to have been motivated by Ananasius' theology or similar; see Benson's comment below. Indeed, the thoughtful commentaries offer these remarks:

Pulpit -

The Everlasting Father; rather, Everlasting or Eternal Father. But here, again, there is a singularity in the idea, which makes the omission of the article unimportant; for how could there be more than one Everlasting Father, one Creator, Preserver, Protector of mankind who was absolutely eternal? If the term "Father," applied to our Lord, grates on our ears, we must remember that the distinction of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been revealed.

Ellicott -

In “Father of Eternity,” (LXX. Alex. and Vulg., “Father of the age to come “) we have a name which seems at first to clash with the formalised developments of Christian theology, which teach us, lest we should “confound the persons,” not to deal with the names of the Father and the Son as interchangeable. Those developments, however, were obviously not within Isaiah’s ken, and he uses the name of “Father” because none other expressed so well the true idea of loving and protecting government (Job 29:16, Isaiah 22:21). And if the kingdom was to be “for ever and ever,” then in some very real sense he would be, in that attribute of Fatherly government, a sharer in the eternity of Jehovah. Another rendering of the name, adopted by some critics, “Father (i.e., Giver) of booty,” has little to recommend it, and is entirely out of harmony with the majesty of the context.

Benson -

The everlasting Father — Hebrew, אבי עד, The Father of eternity: having called him a child and a son, lest this should be misinterpreted to his disparagement, he adds that he is a Father also, even the Father of eternity, and, of course, of time, and of all creatures made in time. Christ, in union with the Father and the Holy Ghost, is the God and Father of all things, the maker and upholder of all creatures, John 1:3; Hebrews 1:3; and especially the Father of all believers, who are called his children, (Hebrews 2:13,) and the author of eternal life and salvation to them, Hebrews 5:9.

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Curiously the text referenced in the OP, an English translation of Athanasius, references the LXX on page 266 when referring to Isaiah 9:6, which is missing any reference to the MT אבי עד. So either Athanasius had different version of the LXX than we have or he was in fact using another translation or the MT itself or the editor of this translation of Athanasius made a mistake.

The OT עד can appear in several forms with opposite meanings:

  • עד until as in II Sam 7:18 עד הלם, up to as in Genesis 15:18
  • ועד and more meaning "forever" as in לעולם ועד
  • עוד more than, still in Genesis 45:3 העוד אבי חי

So while the simplest translation of the MT אבי עד in Isaiah 9:6 would be "eternal father", (the yod is a phonetic interjection like the yod in the names עדיאל, דניאל, and not first person possessive), there is definitely room for an interpretive translation of אבי עד as "father from then on" (future father), or "father to be" based on עד in the sense of more than or future with reference to time, especially if this translation fits the writer's agenda of being a reference to a future (with respect to the date of Isaiah) revelation of God.

I speculate that Athanasius's interpreted the name אבי עד in Isaiah 9:6 is as a reference to Genesis 49:10, עד כי יבא שילה.

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  • If you can get the Göttingen LXX apparatus, it would be great what rendering it has. Coz Rahlf's LXX has this: His government shall be great, and of his peace there is no end: μεγάλη ἡ ἀρχὴ αὐτοῦ καὶ τῆς εἰρήνης αὐτοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν ὅριον There is no Father in the name. The Apostolic Bible has πατήρ του μέλλοντος αιώνος Father of coming age.
    – Michael16
    Jun 30 at 12:24

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