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.

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5 comments

  1. Ken Silva · May 31, 2010

    “[Jesus] 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…”

    No; Jesus is, in His uncreated nature, God Who took on human nature as well. We, as created beings, are not divine i.e. God.

    Only those who are regenerate have the divine nature implanted within them per God the Holy Spirit (e.g. Romans 8:5-11).

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    • conspiracyalive · May 31, 2010

      i would agreed with you on the last line, but in the hebrew (the old testament was written by hebrew/aramaic speaking people not greek speaking people) the word for adam means 'man' but is pluralized which is better rendered as mankind and eve is hebrew for life or life-giver, which when coupled its the story of how all of creation was made. and in that act within the first 5 chapters, the author talks about how God breathed his ruach into the nostrils of adam (which again stands for humanity); all people have the breath of God. To assume otherwise is writing another story, which is fine, but if you are referring to that one Ken than you have to go with what language is being spoken not theology.

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    • Bob Chapman · June 12, 2010

      From the Athanasian Creed (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Athanasian_Creed):

      "One; not by conversion of the Godhead into flesh; but by assumption of the Manhood into God."

      Traditional (historic) Christianity does teach we have been made divine.

      Like

      • conspiracyalive · June 12, 2010

        Thanks Bob! This is brilliant! I really appreciate you stopping by as well!!

        Like

  2. Pingback: The Lame/Lukewarm/Feel Good Church | Humble Beginnings Trusting Jesus

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