Q&R with Brad Jersak – “Christ uniquely revealed God as Abba. Doesn’t the OT also reveal God as Father?”


Recently on a podcast, you emphasized how Jesus uniquely revealed God as Abba. I know the Old Testament has multiple references to God as Father so I was wondering made Jesus’ revelation of Abba so special?


Good question! With cudos to Mercy Aiken for alerting me to this (see her explanation below). While rare in the Hebrew Scriptures, the Jewish tradition was not entirely silent on the fatherhood of God. And I’m not claiming that God had not already actually been their Father. 

In the Psalms, fatherhood is twice used as an analogy for God’s compassion (Ps. 68:5, 103:13). But it is mainly reserved for the prophecies extending David’s reign through a promised Messiah:

  • “He said to me: ‘You are My son. I Myself today did beget you’” (Ps. 2:7). 
  • “He will cry to Me, ‘You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.’ I also shall make him My firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth” (Ps. 89:26-27).

Isaiah thought of God as father in the sense of creator (Isa. 9:6) and as founder of their nation (Isa. 64:8). He prays, “You, LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer of yore is Your name” (Isa. 63:16). But in context, the prophet recalls God’s fatherly acts of deliverance in the past and questions why he doesn’t help them now. 

He too sees God’s forthcoming deliverance would be revealed and fulfilled finally through a Son, through whom the fatherhood of God will be personalized, universalized and internalized.

Note also the significant difference between belief in God as national father (rendered pater in the Greek LXX of the above texts) and the more intimate Abba (Papa), who Jesus alone is able to disclose through the Spirit of Sonship, by which we all can cry out, “My Abba.” 

Thus, while there are occasional references to God as Father before Christ, the fulfillment of this revelation finds its singular locus in the corresponding revelation of Christ as firstborn Son, who makes God known as Abba.

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