“Abba” is a desperate, violent cry!!!

The word??abba??is a Greek transliteration of an Aramaic word??????????????????meaning ???father???: (titles for God, literally ???father???) one who combines aspects of supernatural authority and care for his people ??? ???Father.???
Louw & Nida, 12.12:

abba?? abba oJ path/r, pa??nta dunata?? soi ???Abba Father, you can do all things??? Mk 14:36. Though there is a widespread tendency to preserve the Aramaic transliteration in the form of either abba or aba, there are frequent dangers in doing so, since the transliterated form may actually correspond to another word in a receptor language and thus provide an obstacle to proper understanding. In general, there is no point in a translation of abba, since the resulting expression would simply be ???Father Father.??? Accordingly, in many languages the combination of ???Abba, Father??? is simply reduced to ???Father.??? In a number of languages, however, a vocative form (that is to say, a form used in direct address) is different from a form used in speaking about God as Father. It is, of course, essential to employ the appropriate grammatical form.

Consider also, Thayer:

Abba; Abba (WH Abba), Hebrew }a??b father, in the Chaldean emphatic state, }abba} i.e. ho pate??r, a customary title of God in prayer. Whenever it occurs in the N.T. (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6) it has the Greek interpretation subjoined to it; this is apparently to be explained by the fact that the Chaldee }abba}, through frequent use in prayer, gradually acquired the nature of a most sacred proper name, to which the Greek-speaking Jews added the appellative from their own tongue.*

???Abba,??? Thayer??Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, n.p.

I contend that there is no English equivalent of??which most English Bible versions transliterate as “Abba”. It should not be translated/interpreted into our English fatherly titles of daddy??or papa. This is because “Daddy” and “Papa” in the receptor language of the modern-day English language is normally used as a term of endearment, of an intimately affectionate relationship. According to BDAG,??abba??literally means ???my father??? but taken over simply as ???father,??? used in prayer and in the family circle, and later taken over by the early Greek-speaking Christians (BDAG 1 s.v. ?????????) (via NET Bible notes).

However, these semantic inferences does not do justice to the context of the biblical text where??abba??occurs.

abba??“Abba” is only found in Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. ??In each of these instances, there includes the connotations of a child of God who is in desperation for life, and thus the Aramaic title of “Father” is used alongside the Greek to explain the despair in the speaker’s voice.??It is thus spoken as a violent cry, as of a newborn baby crying painfully for his father’s immediate life-giving, sustaining care. (I understand that my interpretation is in opposition to Eugene Peterson’s The Message paraphrase of the Bible.)

  1. Mark 14:36 ??
    And he said, ???Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.???
    **The context is Jesus praying to God his heavenly father??while in the Garden of Gethsamane, just prior to his crucifixion. Jesus is sorrowful, in agony, so much so that he is in pain. In the parallel passage in Luke 22, we find Christ “being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” (Luke 22:44 ESV)

  2. Romans 8:15??
    For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ???Abba! Father!???
    **The context is Paul’s explanation of our adoption–as sons and children of God, and thus heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ. Adoption thus precipitates a desperate cry, followed by suffering, and then glorification.??

  3. Galatians 4:6
    And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ???Abba! Father!
    **Similar to Romans 8:15, Galatians 4’s context is also about the doctrine of adoption. Consequently, Paul is “in??the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you [Galatians]! (Galatians 4:19 ESV)
Our normal English usage of “Daddy” and “Papa”–especially in our prayers to God–do not normally include such inferences of birth pains or cries of desperation for life, as in the anguish of childbirth (or spiritual adoption). And unless one normally uses “Daddy” or “Papa” in the form of a desperate, violent cry to God to save you from death, I contend that we thus keep the Aramaic transliteration of “Abba” alongside our translation of “Father” from the Greek??path??(pater).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s