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Father

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(אָב , ab, a primitive word, but followilng the analogy of אָבָה, to show kindness, Gesenius, Thesaurus, pages 6-8; Chaldee, אִב, πατήρ ). Compare SON.

1. 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 (see Gesenius's Hebrews and Robinson's Greek Lex.).

(1.) 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, Deuteronomy 1:11; 1 Kings 8:11; Matthew 3:9; Matthew 23:30; Mark 11:10; Luke 1:32; Luke 1:73; Luke 6:23; Luke 6:26; John 7:22, etc. So of the founder or rebuilder of a city (1 Chronicles 2:50-52, etc.).

(2.) Father is also applied as a title of respect to any head, chief, ruler, or elder, and especially to kings, prophets, and priests (Judges 17:10; Judges 18:19; 1 Samuel 10:12; 2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 5:13; 2 Kings 6:21; 2 Kings 13:14; Proverbs 4:1; Matthew 23:9; Acts 7:2; Acts 22:1; 1 Corinthians 4:15, etc.). Also of protector or guardian (Job 29:16; Psalms 68:5; Deuteronomy 32:6). Hence of seniors, especially of Church fathers. See below.

(3.) 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" (Genesis 4:21-22; comp. Job 38:28; John 8:44; Romans 4:12). In the Talmud the term father is used to indicate the chief; e.g. the principal of certain works are termed "fathers." Objects whose contact causes pollution are called "fathers" of defilement (Mishna, Shabb. 7:2, volume 2, page 29; Pesach, 1:6, volume 2, page 137, Surenh.). This use of the word is exceedingly common in the East to this day, especially as applied in the formation of proper names, in which also the most curious Hebrew examples of this usage occur. (See AB) .

(4.) As an extension of all the foregoing senses, the term father is very often applied to God himself (Genesis 44:19-20; Exodus 4:22; Deuteronomy 32:6; 2 Samuel 7:14; Psalms 89:27-28; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8). Indeed, the analogy of language would point to this, seeing that in the Old Testaments and in all the Syro-Arabian dialects, the originator of anything is constantly called its father. Without doubt, however, God is in a more especial manner, even as by covenant, the Father of the Jews (Jeremiah 31:9; Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; John 8:41; John 5:45; 2 Corinthians 6:18); and also of Christians, or, rather, of all pious and believing persons, emho are called "sons of God" (John 1:12; Romans 8:16, etc.). Thus Jesus, in speaking to his disciples, calls God their Father (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:8; Matthew 6:15; Matthew 6:18; Matthew 10:20; Matthew 10:29; Matthew 13:43, etc.). The apostles also, for themselves and other Christians, call him "Father" (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:4; and many other places). (See ABBA).

2. The position and authority of the father as the head of the family is expressly assunsed and sanctioted in Scripture, as a likeness of that of the Almighty over his creatures, an authority as Philo remarks intermediate between human and divine (Philo, περὶγονέων τηεῆς , § 1). It lies, of course, at the root of that so-called patriarchal government (Genesis 3:16 : 1 Corinthians 11:3), which was introductory to the more definite systems that followed, and that in part, but not wholly, superseded it. When, therefore, the name of "father of nations" (אִבְרָהָם ) was given to Abram, he was thereby held up not only as the ancestor, but as the example of those who should come after him (Genesis 18:18-19; Romans 4:17). The father's blessing was regarded as conferring special benefit,but his malediction special injury, on those upon whom it fell (Genesis 9:25; Genesis 9:27; Genesis 27:27-40; Genesis 48:15; Genesis 48:20; Genesis 49); and so also the sin of a parent was held to affect, in certain cases, the welfare of his descendants (2 Kings 5:27), though the law forbade the punishment of the son for his father's transgression (Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6; Ezekiel 18:20). The command to honor parents is noticed by the apostle Paul as the only one of the Decalogue which bore a distinct promise (Exodus 20:12; Ephesians 6:2), and direspect towards them was condemned by the law as one of the worst of crimes (Exodus 21:15; Exodus 21:17; 1 Timothy 1:9; comp. Virgil, AEn. 6:609; Aristoph. Ran. 274-773). Instances of legal enactment in support of parental authority are found inr Exodus 22:17; Numbers 30:3; Numbers 30:5; Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 21:18; Deuteronomy 21:21; Leviticus 20:9; Leviticus 21:9; Leviticus 22:12; and the spirit of the law in this direction may be seen in Proverbs 13:1; Proverbs 15:5; Proverbs 17:25; Proverbs 19:13; Proverbs 20:20; Proverbs 28:24; Proverbs 30:17; Isaiah 45:10; Malachi 1:6. The father, however, had not the power of death over his child under the Mosaic law (Deuteronomy 21:18-21; Philomen 1.c.).

From the patriarchal spirit also the principle of respect to age and authority in general appears to be derived. Thus Jacob is described as blessing Pharaoh (Genesis 47:7; Genesis 47:10; comp. Leviticus 19:32; Proverbs 16:31; Philomen 1.c. § 6).

The authority of a father was thus very great in patriarchal times; and although the law of Moses required the parent to bring his cause of complaint to the public tribunals. (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), all the more real powers of parental 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. If a family be compared to a body, then the father was the head, and the sons the members, moving at his will and in his service. There were exceptions, doubtless, but this was the rule, and, with some modifications, it is still the rule throughout the East.

Filial duty and obedience were, indeed, in the eyes of the Jewish legrislator, 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 profligcacy was made a capital crime (Exodus 21:13; Exodus 21:17; Leviticus 20:9). If the offense 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 offense 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 (see Cellerier, Esprit de la Legislation Mosaique, 2:69, 122-129). (See WOMAN).

Among Mohaimmedans parental authority has great weight during the time of pupilage. The son is not allowed to eat, scarcely to sit, in his father's presence. Disobedience to parents is reckoned one of the most heinous of crimes' (Burckhardt, Notes on Bed. 1:355; Lane, Mod. Eg. 1:84; Atkinson, Travels in Siberia, page 559).

Father (GOD THE) was usually represented in early Christian art by a hand, which was usually extended through a cloud. The principal subjects in which God the Father is represented by a hand are the scenes from the creation: Moses receiving the law, Moses at the burning bush, the sacrifice of Abraham, and the baptism of Christ. The hand is often given as holding out wreaths or crowns to saints and inartyrs at their death, or their ascension to Paradise. As early as the fifth century, God the Father is represented as an old man. This symbol predominated during the later Middle Ages, and is the one now universally adopted by Christian artists. The figures of God in the creation by M. Angelo and Raphael, in the Sistine chapel and in the Vatican, are among the grandest conceptions in all art. God the Father is also represented as an. old man,in the representations of the Trinity (q.v.). Martigny, Dictionnaire des Antiquites Chrdtiennes, 1865.

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Father'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​f/father.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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