Rawlings School of Divinity


Doctor of Philosophy


C. Fred Smith


Bible, Theology, Gospels, Abba, Father, Jesus


Christianity | Religion


When Jesus of Nazareth lifted His eyes to Heaven in Matthew 6:9 and taught His disciples to address Yahweh, the covenant God of Judaism as Father (πατήρ, אַבָּא), this was an offense of blasphemy and presumption culpable of death for His Jewish audience; unless it was true (John 5:18). Not only was Father the distinctive and unique term given to God by Jesus, but there is almost universal scholarly consensus that behind the Greek πατήρ is the Aramaic Abba (Αββα, אַבָּא) (Mark 14:36). In both the ANE and Jewish contexts of the Old Testament and first-century Israel, it was unparalleled and unprecedented to address Yahweh directly as Father. To do so with the intimate familial term Abba evokes an intimacy and access no one had ever employed before Jesus. The thesis of this dissertation is that the hermeneutical key to the teaching of Christ concerning prayer is His relationship with and revelation of God as Abba Father. That is, Christian prayer is categorically distinct from Old Testament or Jewish Prayer because disciples of Christ are invited to approach God in an unprecedented manner as their Abba Father just as the Lord Jesus did, transforming the entirety of the Christian religion. Jesus of Nazareth’s use of Abba as a direct address for God in prayer was unprecedented and unparalleled against the religious background of His time. New Testament prayer is categorically distinct when compared with its Old Testament and Jewish counterparts and the explanation is Jesus' use of Abba for God and His instruction for His disciples to do the same. Finally, Jesus’ teaching concerning God as Abba is an invitation to His disciples into the heart of Trinitarian love to enjoy the same intimacy and access with Abba that He did. This means that all Christians have unprecedented and unparalleled access to God as His sons and daughters most clearly displayed in the extraordinary privilege and gift of Christian prayer in Jesus' name, empowered by the Holy Spirit, addressed to Abba Father.

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