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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature

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This word, besides its obvious and primary sense, bears, in Scripture, a number of other applications, most of which have, through the use of the Bible, become more or less common in all Christian countries.

1. The term Father is very often applied to God Himself (;;;;; ). In some of these passages He is set before us as the Father of all men, in the general sense of creator and preserver of all men, but more especially of believers, whether Jews or Christians.

Without doubt, however, God is in a more especial and intimate manner, even as by covenant, the Father of the Jews (;;;;; ); and also of Christians, or rather of all pious and believing persons, who are called 'sons of God' (; , etc.). Thus Jesus, in speaking to his disciples, calls God their Father (;;;;;; , etc.). The Apostles, also, for themselves and other Christians, call him 'Father' (;;;; and many other places).

2. Father is applied to any ancestor near or remote, or to ancestors ('fathers') in general. The progenitor, or founder, or patriarch of a tribe or nation, was also pre-eminently its father, as Abraham of the Jews. Examples of this abound. See, for instance,;;;;;;;;; , etc.

3. Father is also applied as a title of respect to any head, chief, ruler, or elder, and especially to kings, prophets, and priests (;;;;;;;;;;; , etc.)

4. The author, source, or beginner of anything is also called the Father of the same, or of those who follow him. Thus Jabal is called 'the father of those who dwell in tents, and have cattle;' and Jubal, 'the father of all such as handle the harp and the organ' (; comp.;; ).

The authority of a father was very great in patriarchal times; and although the power of life and death was virtually taken from the parent by the law of Moses, which required him to bring his cause of complaint to the public tribunals (), all the more real powers of the paternal character were not only left unimpaired, but were made in a great degree the basis of the judicial polity which that law established. The children and even the grandchildren continued under the roof of the father and grandfather; they labored on his account, and were the most submissive of his servants. The property of the soil, the power of judgment, the civil rights, belonged to him only, and his sons were merely his instruments and assistants.

Filial duty and obedience were, indeed, in the eyes of the Jewish legislator, of such high importance, that great care was taken that the paternal authority should not be weakened by the withdrawal of a power so liable to fatal and barbarous abuse as that of capital punishment. Any outrage against a parent—a blow, a curse, or incorrigible profligacy—was made a capital crime (;; ). If the offence was public, it was taken up by the witnesses as a crime against Jehovah, and the culprit was brought before the magistrates whether the parent consented or not; and if the offence was hidden within the paternal walls, it devolved on the parents to denounce him and to require his punishment.

It is a beautiful circumstance in the law of Moses that this filial respect is exacted for the mother as well as for the father. The threats and promises of the legislator distinguish not the one from the other; and the fifth commandment associates the father and mother in a precisely equal claim to honor from their children. The development of this interesting feature of the Mosaical law belongs, however, to another head [WOMAN].





Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Father'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature". https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​kbe/​f/father.html.
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