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Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [1]

A Syriac word, signifying Father. It is thrice used in the New Testament. Once, by the Lord Jesus, ( Mark 14:36.) and twice by his servant the apostle Paul. ( Romans 8:15. and  Galatians 4:6.) It is a word of peculiar tenderness; and I could wish that the real and full meaning of it was strongly impressed on the mind of every regenerated believer. It would tend to give great confidence and comfort in a dark and trying hour. David, Levi, in his Lingua Sacra, derives it from a root, which signifies, desire, delight, complacency, satisfaction: and implying no less, special interest of relationship, as between the nearest of all connections. And agreeably to this account of the word, it is remarkable, that though the word, in its extensive sense, signifies the Ab, or Head, and Lord of a family; yet a slave, or menial servant, was never allowed to use it in addressing the Ab.

I very earnestly beg the reader not to lose sight of this view of the word Abba, but to let it possess a suitable place, equal to its importance, in his remembrance. For if it was so specially confined, among the people of the East, to the children of a family; and Jesus and his people in him, are enjoined to use it on this account; can any thing more strikingly prove their relationship? And I cannot but express my hope, that if the reader of this Poor Man's Concordance, is enabled, by grace, to see his own personal privilege herein, and can enter into a proper apprehension of the word, in this most endearing view, he will be led to discover the sweetness and blessedness of it, and from henceforth adopt it, in all his approaches to the throne of God in Christ. And how delightfully in this sense, doth it explain to us that passage of the apostle, in his epistle to the Galatians; where he saith, "Because ye are sons, [not because ye are to be made so, but because ye are already sons] God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father." ( Galatians 4:6.)

While I am upon this word Abba, Father, I cannot forbear adding to those observations, though in a cursory manner, a remark upon the word Ammah, Mother. For it is from the same root, and is also of the like peculiarity of tenderness, in reference to the church of Jesus; which, as the apostle saith, (including both that in heaven and in earth, for they are but one and the same,) "is the mother of us all." ( Galatians 4:26.) We meet with the several branches of the same root in Scripture, according to the several relations arising out of it; but they are all one and the same family. ( Ephesians 3:14-15.) Hence Zion is called, and by the Lord himself, the "Virgin daughter (the Almah) of Zion." ( Isaiah 37:22.) So again she is spoken of as the sister (Ruhamah) ( Hosea 2:1.) And it is no uncommon thing for Christ to call his church by all these names. (See  Song of Song of Solomon 4:9-10; Son 4:12.) And when Isaiah was commissioned to proclaim to the church, the subject of the miraculous conception, he used the same word as the Lord did of Zion. "Behold, a virgin, (Almah) shall conceive." ( Isaiah 7:14.) I venture to believe that if the recollection of these names, all springing as they do from one and the same source, were frequent in the believer's remembrance, they would much refresh the soul. And I think it worthy of yet farther remark, that there is a beautiful sameness between the first cry of nature, in the infancy of our being, and this language of grace when the souls of believers are first born to God. It was said by the prophet concerning Him, whom he predicted, that "before the child should know to refuse the evil and choose the good," the event leading to it should be accomplished. ( Isaiah 7:16.) And it must be truly said, that before the cry of the soul, in the new birth of grace, goes forth in Abba, or Ammah, the apprehending union, interest, and relationship in Christ with his church, had been settled long before, even from all eternity.

Though I have already far exceeded, under this article, the ordinary limits to be observed in a work of this kind, yet I must beg to trespass a little farther, by way of confirmation of the observations made upon it.

The special and personal interest of the word Abba, derives another authority, from the customs and manners of the East. It is well known, that the ancient nations of the Arabs, retain many of the usages we read of in sacred history. And although they know nothing of the true religion of the patriarchs, yet in provincial acts and habits, they are much the same people that they were, two or three thousand years ago. Hence, among many proofs in point, which might be given in confirmation of this sameness of manners, the mode of salutation is one, in which there is nothing changed. We find among the patriarchs, the general expression was, "Peace be to you." ( Genesis 43:23.) In the days of the Judges, the salutation was the same. ( Judges 19:20.) So in the days of David, ( 1 Samuel 25:6.) and in the days of our Lord, and by Christ himself. ( John 20:19.) In like manner the limitation of the word Abba is still the same as ever, not being brought into common use, but wholly restricted to relations, and of the nearest and tenderest kind.

One proof more. In the common acts of respect observed in the East, when servants do reverence to their masters, or superiors, it is always done by kissing the feet, or the garment. Hence the poor woman we read of,  Luke 7:38. But when children meet their parents, and do reverence, they kiss the hand, or the head. Hence the father in the parable. ( Luke 15:20.) Moreover, the posture which is observed upon those occasions, differs materially according to the rank of the parties. From inferiors, in giving what is called the Asslem-mah, (Salutation) they always offer it, by laying their right hand upon their breast. Persons of equality, or relations, do it by kissing the hand, head, or shoulder of each other. So Dr. Shaw relates in his Travels to Aleppo, page 301. Let the reader connect this with Jacob kissing his son, and the church's call unto Christ. ( Song of Song of Solomon 1:2.) How beautiful and striking both cases! How little the change made in those things, in a period of near four thousand years!

From the whole of these observations, I cannot but conclude, that the word Abba hath a peculiar sweetness in it, and is intended to intimate what a nearness and dearness of affinity there is, between Christ and his church. And I venture to believe, that our holy faith, not only warrants the use of it, but enjoins it, from the personal union, and oneness, of the Lord Jesus Christ with our nature. And under such high encouragement and authority, I confess, that I feel a disposition, upon every occasion, to adopt it, considering it the peculiar privilege of all true believers in Christ, to bring it into constant use, whenever they draw nigh to a throne of grace. See Ammi.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

Abba is the emphatic form of the Aram. word for ‘father’ (see Dalman, Aram. Gram. p. 98, for אב and its various forms; also Maclean, in Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , s.v. ). It is found only in three passages in the NT, viz.  Mark 14:36,  Romans 8:15,  Galatians 4:6; in each case ὁ πατήρ is subjoined to Ἀββᾶ, the whole expression being a title of address. [The use of ὁ πατήρ, nominative with the article, as a vocative, is not a Hebraism, as Lightfoot thought, but an emphatic vocative not unknown to classical Greek and common in the NT: ‘nearly sixty examples of it are found in NT’; sea Moulton, Gram. of NT Greek , Edinburgh, 1906, p. 70.]

Lightfoot on  Galatians 4:6 argues that the bilingual expression is a liturgical formula originating with Hellenistic Jews, who, while clinging to the original word which was consecrated by long usage, added to it the Greek equivalent; but he supports an alternative theory that it took its rise among Jews of Palestine after they had become acquainted with the Greek language, and is simply an expression of importunate entreaty, and an example of that verbal usage whereby the same idea is conveyed in different forms for the sake of emphasis. As illustrations of this repetition, he quotes  Revelation 9:11 (Ἀπολλύων, Ἀβαδδών)  Revelation 12:9;  Revelation 20:2 (Σατανᾶς, Διἀβολος). Thayer, in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols) ( s.v. ), points out that, though devotional intensity belongs to repetition of the same term ( e.g. κύριε, κύριε), it is also expressed by such phrases as ναὶ ἀμήν, ‘Hallelujah, Praise the Lord,’ where the terms are different. The context of each passage where ‘ Abba , Father’ is found appears to prove that the Greek addition is not merely the explanation of the Aramaic word, such as, e.g. , St. Peter might have added in his preaching-a custom to be perpetuated by the Evangelists, as suggested by the passage in Mk.; but is rather an original formula, the genesis of which is to be sought further back, perhaps in the actual words used by our Lord Himself. Thus Sanday-Headlam on  Romans 8:15 ( International Critical Commentary , 1902) remark:

‘It seems better to suppose that our Lord Himself, using familiarly both languages, and concentrating into this word of all word such a depth of meaning, found Himself Impelled spontaneously to repeat the word, and that some among His disciples caught and transmitted the same habit. It is significant however of the limited extent of strictly Jewish Christianity that we find no other original examples of the use than these three.’

Thus, the double form is due to the fact that the early Christians were a bilingual people; and the duplication, while conveying intensity to the expression, ‘would only be natural where the speaker was using in both cases his familiar tongue.’ F. H. Chase ( Texts and Studies i. iii. 23) suggests that the phrase is due to the shorter or Lucan form of the Lord’s Prayer, and that the early Christians repeated the first word in the intensity of their devotion, coupling a Hellenistic rendering with the Aramaic Abba. He argues that the absence of such a phrase as ὅ ἐστιν, or ὅ ἐστι μεθερμηνευόμενον, in  Mark 14:36 is due to the familiarity of the formula; and that, while the Pauline passages do not recall Gethsemane, they suggest the Lord’s Prayer as current in the shorter form. Moulton ( op. cit. p. 10), combating Zahn’s theory that Aramaic was the language of St. Paul’s prayers-a theory based on the Apostle’s ‘ Abba , Father’-remarks that ‘the peculiar sacredness of association belonging to the first word of the Lord’s Prayer in its original tongue supplies a far more probable account of its liturgical use among Gentile Christians.’ He mentions the analogy (see footnote, loc. cit. ) of the Roman Catholic ‘saying Paternoster ,’ but adds that ‘Paul will not allow even one word of prayer in a foreign tongue without adding an instant translation’; and further refers to the Welsh use of Pader as a name for the Lord’s Prayer.

It seems probable (1) that the phrase, ‘ Abba , Father,’ is a liturgical formula; (2) that the duality of the form is not due to a Hebraistic repetition for the sake of emphasis, but to the fact that the early Christians, even of non-Jewish descent, were familiar with both Aramaic and Greek; (3) that Abba , being the first word of the Lord’s Prayer, was held in special veneration, and was quoted with the Greek equivalent attached to it, as a familiar devotional phrase (like Maran atha [ 1 Corinthians 16:22], which would be quite intelligible to Christiana of Gentile origin, though its Greek translation, ὁ Κύριος ἐγγός [ Philippians 4:5], was also used; cf. Did. 10. 5, where ‘Maran atha’ and ‘Amen’ close a public prayer); and (4.) that our Lord Himself, though this cannot be said to be established beyond doubt, used the double form in pronouncing the sacred Name, which was invoked in His prayer.

In conclusion, it should be noted that, while the phrase is associated with the specially solemn occasion of the Gethsemane agony, where our Lord is reported by St. Mark to have used it, both examples of its use in the Pauline writings convey a similar impression of solemnity as connected with the Christian believer’s assurance of sonship-and sonship (let it be noted) not in the general sense in which all humanity may be described as children of God, but in the intimate and spiritual connotation belonging to υἱοθεσίαν, or ‘adoption,’ into the family of God.

Literature.-See article‘Abba’ in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols), Dict. of Christ and the Gospels , and Jewish Encyclopedia , an art in Expository Times xx. [1909] 358, and the authorities cited above.

R. Martin Pope.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

ABBA is the ‘emphatic’ form of the Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] word for ‘father.’ It is found in the Gr. and Eng. text of   Mark 14:36 ,   Romans 8:15 , and   Galatians 4:6 (in each case Abbâ, ho patçr , ‘Abba, Father’). Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] has no article, and the ‘emphatic’ affix â is usually the equivalent of the Heb. article. Both can represent the vocative case (for Hebrew see Davidson’s Syntax , § 21 f.); and abba occurs in the Pesb. of   Luke 22:42;   Luke 23:34 for pater . The ‘articular nominative’ is found in NT sixty times for the vocative; and so we have ho patçr for ô pater (Moulton, Gram. of NT Greek , p. 70). Jesus often addressed God as ‘Father’ or ‘my Father.’ In both cases He would probably use ‘Abba’; for ’abbâ may be used for ’âbî (Targ. on   Genesis 19:34 ). In   Mark 14:36 , ho patçr is perhaps a gloss added by the Evangelist, as in   Mark 5:41;   Mark 7:11;   Mark 7:34 he adds an explanation of the Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] : but in   Romans 8:15 and   Galatians 4:6 the Gentile Christians had learned for importunity to use the Aram. [Note: Aramaic.] word Abba  ; as the Jews in prayer borrowed Kyrie mou (‘my Lord’) from the Greek, and used it along with Heb. words for ‘my master,’ ‘my father’ (Schöttgen, Hor. Heb . 252).

J. T. Marshall.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [4]

The Greek form is ἀββᾶ father: it is the same as Ab in Hebrew, but was pronounced Abba in the time of our Saviour. It occurs three times in the New Testament, and is always followed by 'father,' and translated Abba Father; that is, the 'abba' is transcribed and not translated: if it were translated it would be 'Father Father.' In the Greek it stands thus: ἀββᾶ ὁ πατήρ the 'Abba' being Aramaic, and the 'Father' Greek. In the, Old Testament Ab was not restricted in its use to children. Elisha used it toward Elijah; servants applied it to their masters, etc.: see   2 Kings 2:12;   2 Kings 5:13;  2 Kings 6:21 , etc. Jehovah asked, "Hath the rain a father?"  Job 38:28 . In the N.T. it appears to be used in a stricter sense of relationship: "Ye have received the Spirit of adoption [or sonship] , whereby we cry, Abba Father,"  Romans 8:15; and " because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba Father."   Galatians 4:6 . The only other instance is when the Lord thus addresses His Father,  Mark 14:36; and the Spirit in the hearts of believers puts the very words He used into their lips. It has been suggested that in the two words the Jew and the Gentile each say 'Father' in his own language — the Aramaic being then spoken by the Jews, and Greek the language of the Gentiles in Palestine and many other places. God had been revealed in the Old Testament as Jehovah, the Almighty, etc., but it was reserved for New Testament times for Him to be made known to believers in the relationship of Father: cf.  John 20:17 .

Holman Bible Dictionary [5]

Old Testament Although abba does not occur in the Old Testament, its Hebrew associate ab occurs frequently. Ab usually refers to a human father. On occasion the Old Testament speaks of God in the role of Father to Israel (  Exodus 4:22;  Deuteronomy 32:6;  Isaiah 45:9-11;  Malachi 2:10 ) or to Israel's king ( 2 Samuel 7:14;  Psalm 2:7;  Psalm 89:26-27 ).

New Testament The idea of God's intimate relationship to humanity is a distinct feature of Jesus' teaching. God relates to believers as a father relates to his child. Some would translate Abba as “Daddy” to convey the close, personal meaning of the world. Even when “Father” in the New Testament translates the more formal Greek word pater, the idea of abba is certainly in the background. Jesus addressed God as Abba in prayer (  Mark 14:36 ) and taught His disciples to pray in the same terms ( Luke 11:1-2 ). Jesus' claim of intimate relationship with God offended many of His opponents because they considered Abba to be overly familiar in addressing God. But Jesus' usage established the pattern for the church's view of God and each believer's relationship with Him. Paul used Abba to describe God's adoption of believers as His children (  Romans 8:15 ) and the change in the believer's status with God that results ( Galatians 4:6-7 ).

Michael Fink

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [6]

The Chaldaic-Hebrew form, as Ab is the Hebrew form, for the Greek Pater , "father." Instead of the definite article which the Hebrew uses before the word, the Chaldee or Aramaic adds a syllable to the end, producing thus the emphatic or definitive form. It is used to express a vocative case, and therefore is found in all the passags in which it occurs in the New Testament (being in all, an invocation):  Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:6.

The use of the Hebrew and of the Greek appellation addressed to the one Father beautifully suggests that the Spirit of adoption from Jesus, who first used the double invocation, inspires in both Jew and Gentile alike the experimental knowledge of God as our Father, because He is Father of Jesus with whom faith makes us one, and as our God because He is Jesus' God. Compare  John 20:17, "ascend unto My Father and (therefore) your Father. and to My God and (therefore) your God";  Galatians 3:28, "there is neither Jew nor Greek, for ye are all one in Jesus Christ";  Ephesians 2:18, "through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the leather." (Especially (See Abaddon above.) "Abba" was a title not to be used by slaves to a master, nor Imma to a mistress, only by children: see  Isaiah 8:4. "Before the child shall have knowledge to cry Abi, Immi.")

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [7]

1: Ἀββά (Strong'S #5 — Noun — abba — ab-bah' )

is an Aramaic word, found in  Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15 and   Galatians 4:6 . In the Gemara (a Rabbinical commentary on the Mishna, the traditional teaching of the Jews) it is stated that slaves were forbidden to address the head of the family by this title. It approximates to a personal name, in contrast to "Father," with which it is always joined in the NT. This is probably due to the fact that, abba having practically become a proper name, Greek-speaking Jews added the Greek word pater, "father," from the language they used. Abba is the word framed by the lips of infants, and betokens unreasoning trust; "father" expresses an intelligent apprehension of the relationship. The two together express the love and intelligent confidence of the child.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [8]

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.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [9]

Abba was a common word in the Aramaic and Hebrew languages, and meant ‘father’. It was a warm and informal term used in the everyday language of family life.

Jews of Old Testament times never used abba when addressing God, but Jesus used it when praying to his Father ( Mark 14:36). The early Christians also addressed God as Abba; for, through Christ, God has adopted believers as his sons and made them joint heirs with Christ of his heavenly inheritance ( Romans 8:15-17;  Galatians 4:5-6; cf.  Galatians 3:26; see Adoption ).

People's Dictionary of the Bible [10]

Abba ( Ăb'Bah ), a Chaldee word signifying Father (Hebrew Ab ), easily pronounced by infant children, and expressing the peculiar tenderness, familiarity, and confidence of the love between parent and child.  Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:6. Luther translated Abba, Paler, "Abba, dear Father."

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [11]

A Syriac word signifying father. When the Jews came to speak Greek, this word may have been retained from their ancient language, as being easier to pronounce, especially for children, than the Greek pater. It expressed the peculiar tenderness, familiarity, and confidence of the love between parent and child,  Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:6 .

King James Dictionary [12]

AB'BA, n. In the Chaldee and Syriac, a father, and figuratively a superior. appen.

In the Syriac, Coptic and Ethiopic churches, it is a title given to the Bishops, and the Bishops bestow the title, by way of distinction, on the Bishop of Alexandria. Hence the title Baba, or Papa, Pope or great father, which the Bishop of Alexandria bore, before the Bishop of Rome.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [13]

 Mark 14:36 Romans 8:15 Galatians 4:6

Smith's Bible Dictionary [14]

Ab'ba. See Ab .

Webster's Dictionary [15]

(n.) Father; religious superior; - in the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic churches, a title given to the bishops, and by the bishops to the patriarch.

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [16]

See Fatherhood Of God

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [17]

( ‘Αββᾶ , אִבָּא ) is the Hebrew word אָב , Father, under a form (the "emphatic" or definite state the father) peculiar to the Chaldee idiom ( Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:6).

1. As such, it was doubtless in common use to express the paternal relation, in the mixed Aramaean dialect of Palestine, during the New Testament age. Especially would it be naturally employed from infancy in addressing the male parent, like the modern Papa; hence its occurrence in the New Testament only as a Vocative (Winer, Gram. Of The New-Test. Diction, § 29)'. Its reference to God (comp.  Jeremiah 3:4;  John 8:41) was common among the later Jews (Hamburger, Real-Encyklop. s.v.). To guard against the appearance of too great familiarity, however, the writers of the New Testament, instead of translating the title into its Greek equivalent, Πάπα , have retained it in its foreign form one of emphasis and dignity; but they have in all cases added its meaning, for the convenience of their merely Greek readers. Hence the phrase "Abba, Father" in its two-fold form (Critica Biblica, 2:445).

2. 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 of our forgiveness given by the Holy Spirit. (See Adoption).

3. The word Abba in after ages came to be used in the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic churches, in an improper sense, as a title given to their bishops (D'Herbelot, Bibl. Orient. S.V. ), like Padre, etc., in Roman Catholic countries.' The bishops themselves bestow the title Abba more eminently upon the Bishop of Alexandria; which gave occasion for the people to call him Baba, or Papa, that is, grandfather a title which he bore before the Bishop of Rome.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [18]

ab´a ( ἀββᾶ ,אבּא , 'abbā ), Hebraic-Chaldaic, "Father"): In Jewish and old-Christian prayers, a name by which God was addressed, then in oriental churches a title of bishops and patriarchs. So Jesus addresses God in prayer ( Matthew 11:25 ,  Matthew 11:26;  Matthew 26:39 ,  Matthew 26:42;  Luke 10:21;  Luke 22:42;  Luke 23:34;  John 11:41;  John 12:27;  John 17:24 ,  John 17:25 ). In  Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15 , and  Galatians 4:6 ὁ πατήρ , ho patḗr , is appended even in direct address, in an emphatic sense. Servants were not permitted to use the appellation in addressing the head of the house. See Delitzsch on  Romans 8:15; compare G. Dalman, Gram. des jüd.-palast. Aramaisch , etc., section 40, c. 3.

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [19]

Ab´ba is the Hebrew word Ab, father, under a form peculiar to the Chaldee idiom ( Mark 14:36;  Romans 8:15;  Galatians 4:6).