́Abbā́ In The Old Testament? -- By: Willem A. Vangemeren

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 31:4 (Dec 1988)
Article: ́Abbā́ In The Old Testament?
Author: Willem A. Vangemeren


́Abbā́ In The Old Testament?

Willem A. Vangemeren*

The issue before us is the Fatherhood of God in the OT and the NT. Because of the insistence of Joachim Jeremias that ʾAbbāʾ: is one of the few ipsissima verba in the NT and because of his attractive exposition of God’s relationship to us as “Daddy,” it is not uncommon to see a wedge driven between the Testaments. It is out of concern for the integrity of the Biblical witness on the Fatherhood of God that I question Jeremias’ methodology and conclusions. I have greatly benefited from his writings, but at this point I have had genuine difficulty at both an academic level and a practical level. The widespread effect is evident from the manner in which scholars and popular writers set the OT off from the NT in Reformed and non-Reformed circles. For example, J. I. Packer writes:

For everything that Christ taught, everything that makes the New Testament new, and better than the Old, everything that is distinctly Christian as opposed to merely Jewish, is summed up in the knowledge of the Fatherhood of God. “Father” is the Christian name for God … New Testament believers deal with God as their Father. “Father” is the name by which they call Him. “Father” has now become His covenant name—for the covenant which binds Him to His people now stands revealed as a family covenant. Christians are His children, His own sons and heirs. And the stress of the New Testament is not on the difficulty and danger of drawing near to the holy God, but on the boldness and confidence with which believers may approach Him: a boldness that springs directly from faith in Christ, and from the knowledge of His saving work.1

Jeremias has greatly confounded the relation between the Testaments by his teaching that Jesus’ unique contribution is the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God. It is out of concern for this tender balance between the OT and the NT that I propose to critically evaluate Jeremias, to look at the Fatherhood of God in the OT in the context of the world of the OT and to reconsider the doctrine of the Fatherhood of God in the NT.

I. Jeremias On ́abbā́

The term ʾAbbāʾ for Jeremias signifies “the ultimate mystery of the mission of Jesus.” Jesus came to reveal the Father.2 As he did so, he enlarged the circle of his relationship to the Father to include all those who are united to

*Willem VanGemeren is professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi.

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