“Abba” is not “Daddy”


Charismatics love to use the word “Daddy” when they refer to God. Praise the Lord, however,  for the Scriptures that reveal the truth to us.

Many years ago, while I was still attending a Charismatic church, a speaker on the day referred to God as his daddy. It irks me when people speak of God in such a derogatory way.  Who are we then, to bring God down to our level? It is shameful to say the least.)

We are called to show reverence, humility and honour to God.
Somehow “Daddy” just doesn’t cut it in that regard.

Jesus Himself never used such terminology and He knew God better than anyone else, being the Son of God.

Jesus said:

Father take this cup from me.
Our Father who art in heaven.
No one comes to the Father except through me.
Go into your closet and pray to your Father.

Our daddy who art in heaven? (It’s just not right)

We can, however, clearly see where overplayed humanism has again brought changes and altered meanings to what is written in Scripture.

The concept of God as father is problematic for some, particularly for those who have been fed the abominable lie that God is simply a God of love and not also a God of wrath, which He is, making Him the perfect Father. This unbalanced viewpoint has been further strengthened by deluded writers such as Rob Bell (Love Wins), William P Young (The Shack) and by the dangerous theology of those who teach universalism, inclusivism and free will-ism.

Earthly fathers fail their children. Even those who are good by human standards are not perfect. Sadly, there are many fathers who are abusive and neglectful. These men are not a reflection of who God is as Father. God is the perfect Father. He does not disappoint like our earthly fathers do.

God as Father does not abuse or shame. He disciplines in love (Heb 12). He deserves, and even demands, respect. He is also incredibly loving. He knows our needs, and He supplies to all of them (Matt 6). God cares for us as a perfect father would care for his children. We belong to God as a child belongs to a perfect father.

To even ascribe the same type of values and names to God our Heavenly Father, who gives life and takes it away, as we do to our own earthly parents, borders on blasphemy. To hold Abba Father in the same regard as we do our beloved “Daddies” at home (bless them all), is grossly inadequate and is a deceived view of God which the falsely charismatic church willfully portrays.

When one considers the extreme reverence in which the Old Testament believers held God, to the extent that they would not even say or write His name, which is why they referred to Him as YHWH, one simply has to wonder at those who so flippantly refer to the Almighty as Daddy. If only they knew! If only they knew!

Pastor Hammons explains:

Adoption confers the name of sons, and a title to the inheritance; regeneration confers the nature of sons, and a meetness for the inheritance. Abba, Father. — The interpretation which is generally given of this expression is, that Paul employs these two words — Syriac and Greek, the one taken from the language in use among the Jews, the other from that of the Gentiles — to show that there is no longer any distinction between the Jew and the Greek, and that all believers, in every nation, may address God as their Father in their own language [as per Calvin quoting the fathers above –Nate]. It would rather appear that the Apostle alludes to the fact that among the Jews slaves were not allowed to call a free man Abba, which signified a real father. ‘I cannot help remarking’ (says Claude in his Essay on the Composition of a Sermon) ‘the ignorance of Messieurs of Port-Royal, who have translated this passage, My Father, instead of AbbaFather, under pretense that the Syriac word Abba signifies Father. They did not know that St. Paul alluded to a law among the Jews which forbade slaves to call a free man Abba, or a free woman I mma. The Apostle meant that we were no more slaves, but freed by Jesus Christ; and consequently that we might call God Abba, as we call the Church Imma. In translating the passage, then, the word Abba, although it be a Syriac word, and unknown in our tongue, must always be preserved, for in this term consists the force of the Apostle’s reasoning.’

It seems to me that this understanding is in best agreement with the adding of this term “Abba” in the text and it really helps draw out the fact that we have the spirit of adoption, not of bondage, so we can cry “Abba” to the heavenly father, as according to the Jewish custom.  The “daddy” thing apparently was at one times someone’s cute attempt to simplify this underlying meaning, but clearly goes off the mark.

The point is that when we trust Christ, we do move from one realm to another. In that move, we are given the honor of being able to call our Father, Abba as well. This is not a privilege the rest of the world has because they come to God without the merits of Christ. Once again, we are reminded of the wonderful relationship we have in the Father, and that we are His special people.

BTW, one of the most dangerous aspects about those who let their feelings drive their beliefs is that they are always looking for the next tidbit of information to keep those fuzzy feelings going. Those who do this really open themselves up for error and falsehood, because the truth of God’s word is not driving them. They soon fall in line with spiritual nutcases like Oprah. If you find yourself doing this, repent and fall back into line of God’s word. It’s not as fuzzy, but eternally much more rewarding.

Philip Ryken explains:

It isn’t quite right to say that the Aramaic “abba” means “daddy.” In other words, to call the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob “daddy” at the outset of our prayers is a bit too casual and irreverent.

“To call God ‘Abba, Father’ is to speak to him with reverence as well as confidence. Abba does not mean ‘Daddy.’ To prove this point, the Oxford linguist James Barr wrote an article for the Journal of Theological Studies called ‘Abba isn’t “Daddy”.’ What Barr discovered was that abba was not merely a word used by young children. It was also the word that Jewish children used for their parents after they were fully grown. Abba was a mature, yet affectionate way for adults to speak to their fathers.”

“The New Testament is careful not to be too casual in the way it addresses God. The Aramaic word abba appears three times in the New Testament (Mark 14:36; Rom. 8:15; Gal. 4:6). In each case it is followed immediately by the Greek word pater. Pater is not the Greek word for ‘Daddy.’ The Greek language has a word for ‘Daddy’ – the word pappas – but that is not the word the New Testament uses to translate abba. Instead, in order to make sure that our intimacy with God does not become an excuse for immaturity, it says, ‘abba, pater.”

“The best way to translate abba is “Dear Father,” or even “Dearest Father.” That phrase captures both the warm confidence and the deep reverence that we have for our Father in heaven. It expresses our intimacy with God, while preserving his dignity. When we pray, therefore, we are to say, ‘Our dear Father in heaven.’”

Philip Ryken, When You Pray, p. 57-8

Steve Caruso explains :

Abba Isn’t Daddy – The Traditional Aramaic Father’s Day Discussion

It is traditional that I bring up the common myth that the Aramaic word “abba” means “daddy” around this time of year, but I must admit that this is the first year in a long time that sightings of that anecdote among the blogs are few. (So either, there isn’t as much interest this year, or people are actually doing their research.

So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with this particular meme, it is common to find around the Internet and in sermons throughout the world that where Jesus is recorded in the New Testament to use the Aramaic word “abba” that the term was an informal word, the likes a child would refer to their pop (i.e. “dad” or “daddy”).

This stemmed from an idea that was originally proposed by a scholar named Joachim Jeremias (b1900-d1979); mainly, that the form “abba” originated from “child-babble.” The connection between “abba” and “daddy” was then popularized by his following.

However, this idea was immediately challenged by a number of other scholars, such as James Barr who published an article entitled “Abba Isn’t ‘Daddy'” (in the Journal of Theological Studies) which outlined the numerous problems with such an assertion and addressed them in detail.

Overall, I believe that Mary Rose D’Angelo summed up what happened next nicely:

“Jeremias began almost at once to retreat from the claim that “abba” had the same connotations as “daddy.” In a sense, Barr’s title (but only his title) misrepresents Jeremias. Even as Jeremias acknowledged that the word was in common use by adults and was used as a mark of repect for old men and for teachers, he continued to stress the origins in babytalk and the consequent intimacy as a special component of Jesus’ use of the word. This meaning seems to have been the basis on which he regarded Jesus’ use as absolutely distinct from the Judaism of his time.

The NT itself gives quite a different reading of αββα. Each of the three occurrences of αββα in the NT is followed by the Greek translation ο πατερ, “the father.” This translation makes clear its meaning to the writers; the form is a literal translation — “father” plus a definite article — and like abba can also be a vocative. But it is not a diminutive of “babytalk” form. There are Greek diminutives of father (e.g., παππας [pappas]), and the community chose not to use them.

–Mary Rose D’Angelo. Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 111, No. 4 (Winter, 1992), pp. 615-616

And beyond this, many years after Jeremias’ death, modern linguistic study of how children pick up speech has completely discounted his conclusions of abba as “babytalk.”


There is still a point of confusion: In Modern Hebrew, “abba” has become commonly used as… You guessed it: “Daddy.” So, when a Hebrew speaker happens upon this anecdote, to them it makes “perfect sense.”

The myth survives.

Does “Abba” Father mean I can call God “Daddy”?

This is always something I have been uncomfortable with. I have never really known why.

Some have asked about the relationship with my own father thinking, I suppose, that a poor relationship with my own father might relate to my discomfort in calling God “Daddy”. However, I have not only been blessed with a wonderful and Godly father but one who I would class as one of my best and closest friends. I have no problem calling my own dad, pop, mate or any formal or informal terms for ones father. So I can’t relate to or understand that. So is there more to it than that?

Looking at the biblical use of the word we find the following references:

Mark 14:36  ESV And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Romans 8:15 ESV For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Galatians 4:6 ESV And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

I have heard it said, by many, that “Abba” is a term a small Jewish child would us to speak to their father – which is correct. However, this alone does not make it mean Daddy. It is, as you can understand, an easy word for very young children to say, possibly like “Da-Da” I suppose, but unlike English Abba is a real word and so it not a baby word for something like “Da-Da” would be.

Unfortunately there is no English equivalent word for “Abba” because the word “Abba” has multiple meanings. One as a familiar context for Father and at the same time one of great respect. It is easier to explain using the Italian language by looking at the word “Papa”. This is a real word very young children use for their Fathers and is pretty easy for them to say and is a term of great love and endearment. However, the very same word “Papa” is used for the Pope, someone the Italians particularly hold in great esteem. The word Papa therefore holds huge honour and a magnificence and reverence in that context and one of great intimacy and familiarity in the other.

So too in these verses I do not see it to be the writers intention to bring an irreverent over familiarity by using “Daddy” but, in context, is addressing with great honour the magnificent, all powerful creator of the universe. In Mark 14:36 Jesus is saying “All powerful, almighty Father, all things are possible for you”. The reason that we “did not receive a spirit of slavery” in Romans 8:15 is because we have had a revelation in our spirit that we have an “All powerful, almighty Father”. Now I agree that Galatians 4:6 has much more of a paternal feel to it, but there too as you read the context of Galatians Paul is defending vigorously the fact that we are justified by faith alone, not by works of the law. We were slaves and ensnared by sin, born under the law and by the amazing grace of God and the sacrifice of Jesus we are now sons! and so our hearts cry “All powerful, almighty Father”.

My discomfort in using the word “Daddy” when addressing God (as a title if you will) is this: That whilst he is our father, and we are sons and heirs he is still “All powerful, almighty Father”. He is the creator of all the universe and everything in it. He is slow to anger, but he does anger. He is merciful, but he also stores up wrath, he is forgiving but he also judges. He is gracious but he is to be feared. His is in his very nature love, but will not be mocked. Yes, let us acknowledge him as our father and accept that we are loved by him as his children, but to forget his power and might and not behold his magnificence and majesty is folly. It would be foolishness to address the Pope as Daddy even for those of us who believe that his position is man made. It would be dishonouring and disrespectful. In a similar way I do not think that any of these verses lead us to address one who is worthy of all honour and all praise as “Daddy”.

That said, there is something that we can draw from this in that God does desire for us to be both intimate with him and at the same time maintain a sense of awe and wonder. I am not challenging the sentiment of the word “Abba” as “Daddy” just the use of it as a title, as a way of addressing Yahweh, the God of all creation! The fact that the word “Abba” has two meanings in the original text can not lead us by itself to assume the most intimate and familiar meaning is the right one without looking also at its other meaning and most importantly the context in which it appears. The context does not lead us to the over familiar, but an awesome title of respect and honour!

Hebrews 12:28-29 ESV Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.

Resources used :




15 thoughts on ““Abba” is not “Daddy”

  1. Reblogged this on Intrepid Didymus and commented:
    I completely agree. It just doesn’t feel right by bringing the Father down to our level by labeling him as “daddy”. I did fall into this calling Him “Daddy” thing for a bit while I was entangled with the NAR/Seeker Friendly/Name It Claim It/Purpose Driven/Prosperity Gospel/etc.movement. Aunt Betty never said “Abba Daddy”…it was ALWAYS “Abba Father”…as it should remain.


    • a_l_henley

      Thank you for your comment and the re-blogging 🙂 We are in agreement , I never felt comfortable with the term used more and more wider. May the Lord have mercy and open those who are deceived’s eyes.

      God bless


    • Ann Scianna

      Thank you for commenting.

      Yes !! That is correct , I remember that !! Indeed unnerving as you say. I read that book some years ago and it was a terrible book to read, the Shack by William P. Young and he made a mess of the book, and misrepresented the Triune God. It was a deceiving book to read from page one.


  2. This was a good post. I’ve never referred to God as “Daddy” either. In fact, my morning prayers always start with, “Precious Heavenly Father, Maker of Heaven and earth, of all things seen and unseen. You are the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end., the Almighty.” Occasionally I am distracted when I first kneel to pray and start right in with my concerns, but I barely get a sentence or two in before I realize I’ve forgotten to properly address God as the Almighty. Peace, Linda


  3. Reblogged this on the untangling and commented:
    Since “Abba” is always used as “Abba Father” in the new testament, I’ve never liked the overly casual use of “daddy” and “papa” many in charismania are in the habit of using. But even more than that, I see an over-arching casual-ness that displays itself in believing the redeemed humans are equal (or almost) to the Redeemer; in the power of our words, or our “prophetic acts’ or any number of things. If you are surrounding by those referring to Almighty God as “Daddy” or “Papa” who is “always in a good mood,” please consider the following information. Don’t just brush it aside. Read it with an objective lens. Words DO have meaning, and we should be careful to keep our words in line with the original intent of the writers of scripture if we believe they wrote under the power of the Holy Spirit.


    • couldnt have said it better. How far we have fallen away from scripture. No fear of the Lord, no trembling at His word. I can remember reading Charles Spurgeon sermons where he spoke of no man can see the Lord and live and he seriously spoke that he was willing to die just to see His beauty and greatness. Both Daniel and John fell down before Him as dead men. Paul couldnt and was forbidden to speak of what he saw in the 3rd heavens. The scriptures cant be broken. “It will be difficult to be a christian in the last days”. Amen. God bless- love these rich insights


  4. The first time I heard a lady at my church use the term “daddy God” I nearly fell off my chair!! It sickened me, and I made some kind of comment, knowing me…lol But she said the same thing, “well that is what Abba means”!! Some how I new in my Spirit it had to be wrong. I just couldn’t bring myself to call my loving Heavenly Father, who is so very Holy, Holy, Holy , a mere earthly name like daddy!! It seemed VERY disrespectful to me, and I never got into to doing it!!! Thank the Lord!!!
    I thank God for all the discernment he has given me over the years. That knowing deep within, that you get when something is off base!!!! That invisible red flag, that the Holy Spirit starts waving at you when it isn’t of God!!! Thank you for the article, and I pray more people will read it and understand the falseness, in calling our Almighty God a small earthly name, and how satan totally means to demean God and bring him down!! I agree with you, and thank you for your service!!! (except that you don’t use the King James of coarse)!!! LOL 🙂 Yours in Christ. s


  5. Pingback: 5 Fruits of the false teaching of the “Bring the kingdom” crowd … Fruit 1: The Heaviest Yoke | Beth Cavete

  6. I love this article! It is clear to me that you are critically questioning human teaching by taking it to scripture and testing to see if it lines up with God’s word! And there are many who do forget the power and majesty in His name. They end up treating God like a pillow pet, huggable lovable and wholly harmless.

    That being said, I wanted to post here why I call my Heavenly Father Daddy, because it is important to understand our Brothers and Sisters in Christ so that we can better worship with them.

    I rarely use the term Daddy. I reserve it for the following uses:
    1) I am praying with or talking to a young girl who is struggling with her identity in Christ, and needs to feel the amount of love and care that God has for her
    2) I am praying with or talking to a young boy who is struggling with the feeling of not being accepted by God, or who doesn’t see himself through God’s eyes
    Both these situations it is appropriate because of what the word Daddy communicates. Both of these broken children need to feel the security and closeness of their Father God. It would not be appropriate to scold them or distance them. They don’t need to be reminded of the gap between themselves and their Creator, they need to be shown how much God cares even though there’s a gap.
    This is the exception, however, and not the rule, and I never use Daddy lightly in prayer. It is a tool that is used sparingly so that it retains meaning and reverence.

    The final situation:
    3) When I have nothing left and I cry out to God in my hopelessness, when I cry out as His son to come and save me. This is never public, always in the privacy of my personal prayer. You see, I don’t even call my earthly father Daddy. Only God is my Daddy. And he moves in such careful and loving ways that I have grown to see him as my Daddy. But this is my personal name for my King that comes to save me when I am broken or in unspeakable pain.

    If it makes you uncomfortable, don’t do it! But for those who do use Daddy in a careful, respectful way to cry out to your Father in Heaven who watches over your every step, call Him by the name you know Him. But be careful. Not everyone calls God Daddy, because no one persons relationship with God looks like another.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Daddy God? | the untangling

  8. I agree 100 percent. Calling God Daddy is disrespectful and brings God down to our level. He is all Powerful and Holy. Calling Him Daddy does not show reverence to Him. Jesus is God and didn’t call Him daddy but Our Father. I would never call my mother or father by their first name either out of respect.

    Liked by 1 person

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