the jesus-daddy: another look at the word abba

Like father like son...

If you look deeply into the palm of your hand, you will see your parents and all generations of your ancestors. All of them are alive in this moment. Each is present in your body. You are the continuation of each of these people.”
Thich Nhat Hanh quote

Ab ‘ab (Hebrew) [from the verbal root ‘abab to blossom, bear fruit] Father, hence founder, forefather, ancestor; by extension, teacher or counselor. Originally a Babylonian name.
Fifth month of the Hebrew ecclesiastical or sacred year, according to the system used after the Babylonian captivity; also the 11th month of the civil year. Likewise the 11th month of the Palmyrenes and Syrians, equivalent to July-August and the zodiacal sign Leo. See also ABBA .

I and the Father are one – (John 10:30)

Was Jesus claiming divinity? Who was the Father? (Was he like the God-father?) What does father mean in the Hebrew tongue? These are very important questions, and the answers might change how we see Jesus and God.

 Essentially, one of the many things Jesus could be claiming is that he is the founder of the world. That he is the founder of the faith, which would usurp Abraham as the father of Judaism. This is incredibly inflammatory language to be using to a crowd of people who have held for centuries that it was ‘father Abraham’ that God chose as the progenitor of Judaism and its practices. In some sense, its as if Jesus is re-writing history. He is saying that what he is offering is more valuable than what Abraham offered. If anything, Jesus is also demonstrating what it means for us to follow after him. That to follow after him not only means to be like him, but that we too are the re-writers of the faith. This is incredibly powerful and empowering language.

The history of the term itself is Chaldeen in origin. It was also a title used by Rabbi’s. It would be later used in some of the Eastern Orthodox Churches as a title for bishops and is still used in some of those same circles today. It’s also a word that is defined by action rather than just the role. The act of being a father means someone is who is giving of themselves or benevelont. It is referred to in the sense of caring and protection.

Ehad is the Hebrew phrase for one. It is defined as several components or parts coming together to be one.  Typically, this is spoken of in terms of the Christian doctrine of the Trinity (the three in one); Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. However, if you look at this information historically, this could also be referring to the ancient pantheon of Gods that were  borrowed by the Jews from the neighbouring/warring Canaanites. The Elohim (“we”) refers to El who is the God of Gods, or sometimes referred to in the Torah (Old Testament) as the “Lord of Lords”. Yahweh was one of the gods along with Baal who were situated under the rule of El. So, the idea of Ehad being the word used for Jesus’ claim for unity with God comes from the same idea of God (El) claiming unity with the Divine Council. Ehad is the idea of pluralism becoming one, all the while maintaining its pluralistic identity. Something I think we could learn to do better.

The word for ‘I’ in Hebrew is the word ‘anokiy’ (aw-know-kee). It is the personal plural pronoun. It infers a plurality of identity, but its also the same Greek word for ‘ego’. Freud referred to the ego as consciousness.  Without making this anymore mystical than it already is, lets tie this all together! The word I is also the same word for I that God uses in Genesis when speaking of himself. It is a term of being or is-ness, it is also a term in perpetual motion, not unchanging, but rather a constant evolving. So, here is where Jesus could be equating himself with God. Or at least, if anything, having unity with the Divine that empowers him with divinity (and by inference it passes on to us).

One more quick note on forefathers. In the Hebrew culture forefathers were the ultimate rockstars. They had the ultimate authority. They had the major influence on how the Jewish people developed and would develop (this is why you see the Pharisees heavily relying on the words of Moses) their culture based on the words and deeds of their ancestors. In this culture, you as a person weren’t only defined by your own name, you were also defined by the name (reputation) of your own father. But also, Jesus could be saying that because he is connected or in a direct lineage of the ancestors that he has the same authority as them. That he too is like Abraham, Jacob, Isaac and the many others. That he shares their authority and can be trusted like them. Again, incredibly evocative language.

The word Abba is the word for father. It is a cognate of the word ‘av’ which means forefather. Jesus invites us to relate to God as Abba, the same as did. Again, an incredibly inflammatory suggestion. As you might know the word Abba is different from the title of Father, because it connotes intimacy. It means we’re romantically intertwined with the Divine. Abba is easily yet loosely connected (as you see from the definitions at the beginning of the post with the word ‘forefather’. So, what if what Jesus is saying isn’t only that he is one with the Divine, but that he is also one with the forefathers as well? This is deeper than ancestral worship (although there are some verses in the New and Old Testament that lend themself to this idea) and I am not claiming that all, but if you are in a culture where the people you look up to and seek authority from are your forefathers, than Jesus himself isn’t just claiming divinity he is also claiming the authority to help re-shape Judaism, re-shape their minds.

I am not questioning whether Jesus was God, how he was God is a whole different question.

 I also think that we don’t take his claims far enough, in several different places he invites us to see and interact with God equally as he himself does. This is another inflammatory statement, he is not only saying that he is divine, but that we are too. He also isn’t stating that he is the only ‘son of god’, but that we are too (later on, Paul would refer to a community he wrote to as the ‘sons and daughters of god’ (TNIV). Which has the same connotations. These again are incredibly powerful words that if we apply them will transform how we treat others along with ourselves.

verbal abjection: being changed by a changing language.

IM

The concept of abject is often coupled (and sometimes confused with) the idea of the uncanny, the concept of something being “un-home-like”, or foreign, yet familiar. The abject can be uncanny in the sense that we can recognize aspects in it, despite its being “foreign”. An example, continuing on the one used above, is that of a corpse, namely the corpse of a loved one. We will recognize that person as being close to us, but the fact that the person is dead, and “no longer” the familiar loved one, is what creates a sort of cognitive dissonance, leading to abjection of the corpse.

We all search for home in one way or another. Home is what we know. Home is what creates a sense of safety, at times it might be a false-sense of safety, but safety nonetheless. Home is important to our development. We all search for home in different shapes or forms. The whole idea behind a child holding on to a blanket and taking it with them everywhere they go or while they sleep is this psychological need for home (or safety). To be estranged from our homes it to make us a foreigner or immigrant. This feeling of being an outsider tugs at the very idea of being rejected by others; it challenges our own value. Rather than embracing the life an outsider, we do and try things to make sure we remain the insider.

Acceptance makes us feel like we are back at home again. Acceptance seems to make sense to us in our subconscious, once we lose that feeling, we spend our whole lives trying to get it back. But, what if part of why we’re afraid of being the foreigner is because at times we still feel like an outsider. Chances are, you and I have and will feel like the outsider at sometime in our lives. Maybe we are afraid of the untruth that we aren’t valuable. At one point, the author of Hebrews talks about how we are all foreigners/pilgrims just passing through – that this world is not our home. That all we accrue is temporary. That our status is beyond what we see. That our acceptance doesn’t lie in what we do/don’t have. Our status is transient. It doesn’t dictate who we are or can be.

If this is true, than maybe we need to learn what it looks like to hold the things we might call home, loosely. This isn’t to forget or devalue the importance of the ideas we may have accrued. Let me clear something up, I am not talking about relationships. I am talking about ideas, philosophies, worldviews and personal status.

Maybe the part of being abject, is to treat our ideas and even language with a bit of abjection. If we don’t, no matter how hard we try, our ideas will never evolve – they might be re-packaged but really they haven’t changed. If we learn to hold our ideas loosely than not only does it allow space for those ideas to evolve, but it allows us the space neccessary to evolve with them. If the feeling of abjection can teach us anything, may it be that to renew our ideas, to renew our thoughts, we must hold the words we speak with a spirit of abjectivity. When we do, we can begin to learn to live in a state of perpetual change.

we all have condemned

we all have condemned. we all have pointed the finger, whether verbally or mentally we have all done it at least one time or another. but condemning is even deeper than simply pointing the finger, if we condemn others we damn them. that is part of the structure of the word itself, to damn someone to hell. we may not even intend to, but sometimes with the choice of our words, body language, silence, and etc. we end up choosing the direction of one’s soul.

in some jewish circles they believed the best way to speak against something, was to do the exact opposite. so, if you disagreed with intolerance, the best way to respond to it, is by being tolerant. if you disagreed with indifferance then you would embrace diversity. if you embraced plurality than you were telling others that you have come to realize that your worldview isn’t the only one.

the hebrew word for condemn is chata. it means to be led away from a goal. or to bear the blame of one’s own choice. the condemning isn’t done by another person. the condemning is done in the aftermath of that persons’ choices. his own choices will condemn him rather than others. a person steals, he goes to jail, this is him being condemned. When we accept him, we agree that condemnation doesn’t have the last word. when we look beyond what he or she has done, we embrace them for who they meant to be and help others see that love is better than hate. when we do this, we confess that love really does change everything.

what is the gospel?

the gospel even in the greek has no connection to the idea of jesus dying on the cross or rising from the dead. the gospel was news of victory or a gift given to a messenger. the gift itself was called the gospel. so then the gospel is when give ourselves (‘die to ourselves’) to another. in the aramaic, the gospel only… means hope. hope looks different for everyone. so when we give away hope we are preaching the gospel

what is love in friendship?

if jesus compares love to the act of laying down our lives, than it means we must be willing to let everything go. all of our identities (mother, father, child, employer, love, friend), all of our status, all of our physical things (house, car, phones, profiles, and etc.) – it means to truly love we give it all up. we die to it all to be people who are committed to love.

mercy: from the womb to life.

Cat in the box!

when speech fails, the visionary may find themselves caught up in ecstasy – Anna Smith

to renew thought, you must renew terminology — Anna Smith

We all have it in us to create love. We all have it in us to create shalom. We all have it in us to find and create safe spaces for that love to grow. When we do this, we are agreeing that mercy has the last word. But what it mercy?

“In Jeremiah 2:2 the word chesed is rendered ‘kindness,’ the reference being to ‘the kindness of thy youth,’ and this phrase is paralleled by ‘the love of thine espousals.’ The meaning is not that Israel was more tender in her attitude towards God or in her affections, but that in the first days after the rescue from Egypt she was faithful to the marriage-covenant with God. The charge of the prophets is that Israel’s loyalty to her covenant with God”

The idea of mercy in the Hebrew mind is coupled with justice. Justice is simply defined as setting things right. (Mercy sometimes gets defined as receiving something we didn’t deserve, or being ‘saved’ from something that we should deserve. It tends to get defined within in the context of orthodox salvation. I think we need new words.) Mercy in this new context means that mercy is then an intimate relationship built upon setting things right.

The Kabbalah (a Jewish mystic compilation of wise sayings and aphorisms) states that ‘chesed’ (mercy) is “This is the place of emotional perfection, the place of yearning for union with the absolute.” Although, mercy is sometimes explained as a feeling of favor (very similarly to that of ‘grace’) from God to man, there is also a responsible to demonstrate intimacy and favor throughout humanity. So in this case, mercy is about how we treat the other. How we feel about another person and whether or not what we do with feeling spur us on to help set things right in those people(s) lives. Mercy is an action. Not something that is out there in the sky that we wait for, its something that we bring with us, something that lives out of us. It comes from our bones.

Another hebrew word for mercy is the word for womb. I know it sounds weird. But what is a womb? A place where new life is being formed. A place where very different things are being placed together to make one thing. Organs that are working together to create one body. One body that is alive and breathing. It is a sacred space of all potential, a sacred space for humanity to become what it is meant to become. Mercy is the act of finding ways to get very diverse things to work together as one.

Mercy is about unity. It is the ecstatic expression of what could be. Mercy are words that create worlds and life. God’s act of creation, was an act of mercy (not in the traditional sense). God was demonstrating to us what it looks like to create life out of nothing, essentially this is one of the many lessons of having children. Creating and encouraging life to grow, mature and encourage more life. Mercy is the act of encouraging life. (In its own context, it has nothing to do with the cross; but when placed in context of the cross, mercy than chooses its form in the form of resurrection – new life). Mercy says that the death of creation doesn’t have the last word. Mercy says that life has the last word.Mercy is about providing a safe space for growth. A safe space for life to flourish. To do so we have to ingest things that help sustain and create that life. What we ingest will help determine what comes out. Also, its not only when we create life, its also when we encourage others to create life that we become purveyors of mercy. But if we judge, than the life we help create and sustain is a new way to judge others. If we love (another word for mercy) than we help build into live(s) and help sustain them through love. If we choose the former, than we are agreeing that life isn’t sacred as it should be. If we choose to live out of our potential, if we choose to hold and embrace those in need, if we choose to make life than we are people who embrace and perpetuate mercy.

Note: I expound a lot more about this in my second book, coming out in about a year. (I have another one out before then.)