“Abba does not mean Daddy”
The word Abba is given to us in Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. It is given to us as a divinely sanctioned way of calling the First Person of the Holy Trinity. In 1966 the Bible scholar Joachim Jeremias wrote an influential article stating that Abba equated to “Daddy” in modern languages, and this is repeated many times from pulpits even to the present day. Scholars have been quick to point out, however, this is is incorrect.
The word Abba is saying two things, because in form, it can be read as either vocative or nominative. This is grammarian’s language to say that the word can be used to address someone, or that it can be used to refer to someone.
Firstly, as possibly vocative in form, it is giving us a divinely sanctioned name by which to address our heavenly Father. Following Jesus, we may call our Father “Abba”. Secondly, the Greek ho patēr following the word Abba, shows us what the meaning of the word Abba should be understood to be, that is, how to refer to our Father. The Aramaic word Abba is translated into Greek as ‘ho patēr’ which means ‘the Father’. It is not translated into a Greek word meaning Daddy; the Bible gives the translation as ‘the Father’. So we address the Father calling him Abba, and we refer to him in our speech as ‘the Father’, because this is what the Bible teaches Abba means. Only in Modern Hebrew does Abba mean daddy, and not in Intertestamental Aramaic, as scholars have demonstrated.
The three words Abba ho patēr convey a far more interesting message than can be wrought from a faulty, out-of-date rehashing of a famous scholar’s discredited idea, namely that Abba means Daddy. Because it doesn’t.