Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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a Syriac word, which signifies father. The learned Mr. Selden, from the Babylonian Gemara, has proved that slaves were not allowed to use the title abba in addressing the master of the family to which they belonged. This may serve to illustrate Romans 8:15 , and Galatians 4:6 , as it shows that through faith in Christ all true Christians pass into the relation of sons; are permitted to address God with filial confidence in prayer; and to regard themselves as heirs of the heavenly inheritance. This adoption into the family of God, inseparably follows our justification; and the power to call God our Father, in this special and appropriative sense, results from the inward testimony given to our forgiveness by the Holy Spirit. St. Paul and St. Mark use the Syriac word abba, a term which was understood in the synagogues and primitive assemblies of Christians; but added to it when writing to foreigners the explanation, father. Figuratively, abba means also a superior, in respect of age, dignity, or affection. It is more particularly used in the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic churches as a title given to their bishops. The bishops themselves bestow the title abba more eminently upon the bishop of Alexandria, which occasioned the people to give him the title of baba, or papa, that is, grandfather; a title which he bore before the bishop of Rome.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Abba'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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