Call No Man “Father”

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The word abba (אַבָּא), which literally means "the father" in Aramaic, but also can mean "our father" or "my father," was brought into Hebrew and used in the endearing sense of "daddy."

Revised: 16-Oct-2012

It has always been common for Jews to refer to their patriarchs as “our father so-and-so.” Abraham is referred to as “Abraham our father” (אַבְרָהָם אָבִינוּ, avraham avinu), or “our father Abraham” (אָבִינוּ אַבְרָהָם, avinu avraham). This custom was especially common in the time of Jesus, and we find many examples of “our father so-and-so” in the New Testament, just as in other Jewish sources from the period: “Abraham our father” (Luke 1:73; Rom. 4:1; James 2:21); “Isaac our father” (Rom. 9:10)”; our father Abraham” (Luke 16:24, 30; John 8:53; Acts 7:2; Rom. 4:12); “our father Jacob” (John 4:12); and “our father David” (Mark 11:10; Acts 4:25).

One should realize that the Hebrew word for “father,” אָב (av), is also the word for “forefather,” or “ancestor.” So when a Hebrew speaker uses “our father Abraham,” he is not using “father” as an honorific title, but is referring to Abraham as an arch-ancestor of the nation. It is unlikely that in Matthew 23:8-10 Jesus intended to prohibit the use of “father” in this sense.

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