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ABBA (ăb'a, Heb. ’abbā’). Aramaic word for father, transliterated into Greek and thence into English. The corresponding Hebrew word is Ab. Abba is found three times in the NT (Mark.14.36; Rom.8.15; Gal.4.6).

ABBA ăb ə (אַבָּא, father). An Aram. form of the Heb. äb, transliterated into Gr. in the NT and then into Eng. The word does not occur in either the Heb. OT or the LXX. It occurs in three NT prayers (Mark 14:36; Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6) together with its Gr. equivalent as ̓Αββα ὁ πατήρ.

Paul’s use of the term seems to reflect a common NT practice or even an early liturgical formula. Such a practice most prob. would have stemmed from Jesus’ use of the word, making it fraught with His reverent intimacy with His Father, a reverence and intimacy which He tried to teach His disciples. Dalman’s assertion, “The usage of family life is transferred to God: it is the language of the child to its father,” fits well with this idea. It is possible that Abba was used in addressing God in the Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:9).

In both Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6, Paul related the use of the term to the expression of the consciousness of the intimate relationship of the Christian to God as his Father, a relationship based upon its actuality through and in Christ.

In the M. the term may mean “my father” or even “our father,” and is used as a title, as in The Sayings of the Fathers, or even as a proper name. It is almost never used of God in sub-NT Jewish writings.

It is evident from this later Jewish usage, as well as from the almost complete silence of the OT in regard to the use of such words in personal relationship with God, that the NT use of “Abba, Father” was highly significant of a relationship between Jesus and His Father, and then between the Christian and God as Father, which greatly transcended OT concepts. See Rabbi.


G. Dalman, The Words of Jesus (1902), 192; G. Kittel, ed.; tr. and ed., G. W. Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, 1 (1964), 5, 6.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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