By Charles H. Welch
This Aramaic or Chaldee word is the equivalent of the Hebrew
abi and means
‘my father’, but, although so far as translation is concerned the one word is
equivalent to the other, in usage they differ in one great particular.
Abi can be
used of a natural father and it can also be used of an elder, a magistrate, a
ruler, but abba
can only be used of a natural or an adopting father. Dr. John Lightfoot gives a
number of examples of this usage from Rabbinical sources. Moreover, the word
forbidden to a slave, only sons could use the title.
is found in three passages of the New Testament, namely, in Mark 14:36,
Galatians 4:6 and Romans 8:15. The parallel passage in Matthew 26:39 reads ‘O My
Father’ which is a good translation of
abba. The introduction of the
in Mark’s Gospel is one of the indications that Gentile readers were envisaged,
and the reader may know that in the prophecy of Daniel, at chapter 2, verse 4,
the words ‘in Syriac’ indicate a change from the Hebrew, which continues to the
end of chapter 7. This is one dispensational purpose served by the presence of
The other is a claim to the highest relationship with the Father, that of a
‘son’ (for a fuller account of the dispensational distinction between ‘child’
and ‘son’, see ADOPTION p. 40). Both the place
of the Gentile, and the high dignity and blessedness of being a ‘son’ are
intended by the employment of this same word in Galatians and Romans.
‘And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the
spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father’ (Gal. 4:6).
‘For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have
received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit
itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God’ (Rom.
In both these epistles ‘bondage’ is in the background of these references,
and ‘liberty’ is nothing less than ‘the liberty of the glory of the sons of God’
This study is mainly an adjunct of a larger theme, namely that of ‘Adoption’,
and many aspects of the truth that seem to cry out for exposition will be found
under that head. The need to conserve space makes repetition, however desirable,
both uneconomical and unnecessary in a work of this character.
We append however the structure of the sections that contain the word
Galatians and Romans.
Galatians 3:24 to 4:7
A | 3:24,25. The schoolmaster,
B | 3:26-28. Ye are all sons of
C | 3:29. ‘IF’, heirs.
A | 4:1-5. Tutors,
B | 4:6. Ye are sons,
C | 4:7. ‘IF’, heir.
A | 1-4. No condemnation. God sent
His own Son. huios
B | 5-15. Led. Sons now.
C | 15-17. Spirit itself.
D | 17-21. Manifestation of
C | 22-28. Spirit itself.
B | 29,30. Conformed. Sons
A | 31-39. Who condemns? He spared
not His own Son. Huios