It is now two weeks since we finally dived into the details of the Lord’s Prayer in my Sunday school class. Moving at our usual fast pace, we covered one word on that occasion: Father.
I highlighted the evidence for Jesus have addressed God as abba in Aramaic, and the misconception that abba meant “daddy” was mentioned. And so I explained – as I also sought to do on the BLT blog recently – that abba simply is not an equivalent of “daddy.” It may be that Aramaic abba and Greek pater overlapped with our English word “daddy” in terms of their semantic domains, just as the English word “father” overlaps with the meaning of “daddy.” But that is something very different. Abba is not a diminutive form, it simply is the Aramaic for “the father.”
This is not to say that there isn’t an intimacy in addressing God as “father.” There certainly is – indeed, while the divine name is mentioned in the next line, God is not addressed by that name. And arguably “father” is more intimate than the use of a name, just as we address our own parents not by their names but by such titles.
Presumably the significance of Jesus addressing God as “abba” was that it was in Aramaic, the language of ordinary speech, and not in Hebrew. The closest parallel that I can think of that might be familiar to some readers is the shift to addressing God in English after being accustomed to using Latin for such purposes.
We also discussed gender-inclusive language, abusive parents, and other considerations relevant to thinking about or addressing God as “Father.” That topic also came up on the BLT blog recently, and they shared this sample of a gender-inclusive translation: