Language Studies

Greek Thoughts

abba - αββα (Strong's #5)

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Our word this week is the Aramaic abba αββα (Strong's #5). Thayer affirms that its equivalent is the Greek ho pater, a customary title of God in prayer.F1 Abba was a term of endearment, later used as a title and personal name; rarely use in reference to God. Also, it was used in prayer and in the family circle, taken over by Greek-speaking Christians as a liturgical.F2 Ralph Earle adds, "The Jews, out of reverence, avoided using this familiar word in addressing God. But Jesus was able to do it, and so are we.F3 Our word abba is only used three times in the Greek New Testament: Mark 14:36; Ro 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. Let us explore.

First, abba signifies a restoration. Jesus' use of the term abba signifies a restoration. A restoration of friendsip where there was a deep intimacy between the God and man. It was an intimacy that the soul of man had lost. It was an intimacy that needed to be restored. Because of the fall the intimacy that existed between the Father and the first Adam was damaged. But now, in the second Adam, Jesus, it has been repaired. Craig A. Evans observes, "Jesus' style of addressing of God Father left a deep impression on early Christians."F4 Yes, Jesus has left a deep impression. Now, it is legitimate for us, from a heart of gratitude, to put a term of endearment on our lips and call God abba.

Second, abba signifies a familial relation. The two other occurrences of the term abba come from the pen of Paul, and in both instances, he develops the legal technical term, adoption (huiothesia) and out of that adoption relation we can legitimately call God abba.

Consider this: we were made children of slavery, with the fetters of fear, because of sins consequences. Now, by the grace of God and the outpouring of the Spirit of God in our hearts and the adoption of children, we have a familial relation with the heavenly Father. And instead of the fetters of fear, we have flights of freedom, through which we cry abba, father!

In closing, any time now my wife and I are expecting our first God-given child together, and with the help of modern technology, we know it's a boy. Already I have been having father and son imaginations: we can go places together, play together, read together and even learn some Greek together—thank you, Lord for a sense of wonder!

And when we go places together, play together, read together and even learn some Greek together, my son and I will can that intimate relationship of trust, love and respect, the relationship that every father dreams of having with his son. Our word abba captures the very essence of that father and son relationship, where trust, love, respect and intimacy all work together to create a sensational symphony.

F1: Joseph H. Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996),1
F2: Danker, et al, . Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago, 2000), 1.
F3: Ralph Earle, Word Meanings in the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1986), 47.
F4: Craig A. Evans, Romans, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001), 413.

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Meet the Author

Bill Klein has been a pastor, counselor, and educator for the past 41 years. He has had extensive training and education in biblical languages, and has authored a Biblical Greek course.

He is currently serving as Professor of Biblical Greek at Master's Graduate School of Divinity, and president of BTE Ministries - The Bible Translation and Exegesis Institute of America, a non-profit organization located in California that provides Bible study tapes and Greek study materials through their website