Body and Blood of Christ

 

Abba/Father


Celine Mangan
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Many Christians down the centuries have thought of God almost exclusively as Father. It is true that in the New Testament Father is frequently on the lips of Jesus but a closer look at how he used it will reveal that the meaning he gave the title is not altogether the same as it is employed today.

The word for father in the Aramaic of Jesus' time was abba (see Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15). Even though recent scholarship is inclined to discount the translation of the word, Abba as "Daddy', there is no doubt that on the lips of Jesus it implied an understanding of God as a caring and tender parent. Though the title Father was not at all common for God in the Judaism into which Jesus was born, there are places in the Hebrew Scriptures where it is used in combination with other titles for God such as Saviour (see Jer 31:9) or Creator (see Is. 64:7). Most of these passages show God's care and concern for people in distress, a parental concern which is often more motherly than fatherly (see Hos 11: 1-4).

When Jesus used the title Father for God, therefore, it was with such a caring God in mind (see Mt 6:32), a God who would show mercy to those in need (see Mt 7:11), a God who would be both father and mother. God's people were to have that same attitude of caring and forgiveness towards others (see Mk 11:25; Lk 6:36). Jesus thanks God that this image was especially understood by the nobodies of his time (see Mt 11:25) and, as a hunted nobody himself in the Garden of Gethsemane, it is precisely Abba that he cries out to God (see Mk 14:34-36).

It is not enough today, therefore, merely to translate Abba by Father since that word has come to have connotations of a powerful authoritarian figure. Other titles for God in use today, such as Mother or Liberator combined with the older titles of Saviour and Creator, would seem to convey more fully the intrinsic meaning of what Jesus meant when he called God, Abba.

  

        

 

 

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