“Hey Daddy…” “Daddy God…” just a few of the countless prayer openers I’ve heard in which people refer to God as their “daddy”. This has always bothered me to no end, but I could never put a finger on why. Maybe it’s for the same reason I cringe out of creepiness when a grown 25-year-old woman still refers to her father as daddy. Maybe it’s for the same reason that if you met President Barak Obama in person, out of respect for who he is, you wouldn’t call him Barry. Whatever the reason was, something just did not sit right with me about calling the all powerful, creator of the universe…daddy.
Now don’t get me wrong. It’s impossible to deny that God is portrayed as a father throughout scripture. Even Jesus refers to God as Father, and I don’t think I can argue with Him. The picture of God as a father is not what bothers me. It’s the word “daddy”.
For a long time it has been taught that when scripture uses the word “Abba” to refer to God, this is the language a child would have used, and the best translation is daddy. But what if I were to tell you that daddy is actually a terrible translation of the Aramaic word Abba?
Some Cultural Background
Abba was not a word only used by young children. It was also a word that Jewish people used for their parents once they were fully grown. This was a word that displayed affection, but maturity at the same time when speaking to your father. It displayed the relationship one has with their father, while at the same time communicating great respect.
According to the scholar Georg Schelbert from the University of Fribourg “in the Aramaic language of the time of Jesus, there was absolutely no other word available if Jesus wished to speak of, or address God, as father.”
ABBA in Scripture
There are 3 times that Abba is used in Scripture, and each time it is very careful not to be too casual in the way it addresses the almighty God. Each time it is used, it is followed by the Greek word “Pater”. This is not a Greek word for daddy. The Greek language has a word for daddy. It’s “Pappas”. But the Greek doesn’t use that word with Abba. Instead, it uses “Pater”. Pater is a very respectful term for father and is partnered with Abba in order to make sure this term of intimacy does not become an excuse for immaturity.
Translating the word
There is no English equivalent for the word Abba. What this word achieves in the Aramaic language is showing an intimate relationship while still showing great esteem and respect. Way better translations would be
- Dear Father
- Dearest Father
- My Father
These phrases still capture the warm intimacy but at the same time the deep reverence we have for our Father in heaven. It expresses our relationship while establishing dignity.
My biggest issue with the word daddy (besides being a totally irresponsible translation of Abba) is that, while God is our Father, he is still the all powerful creator of the universe. He accepts us as his children and loves us, but all of that power is not to be made light of.
Our relationship with God as our father is amazing and one of the best ways we can connect the way God feels toward us with something we experience here on Earth. I get that people connect with God by viewing him through certain terms. But I’ll say the same thing I would say to someone referring to their earthly father. If you’re 4, go for it, call God daddy all you want. But if you’re grown, and you no longer talk like a baby, then please stop calling God daddy.