🔼The name Abba: Summary
- Father, Dad
- From the noun אב ('ab), father.
🔼The name Abba in the Bible
Abba is not really a name but rather an appellative. It occurs three times in the Bible:
- In Mark 14:36, Jesus uses it to cry out to the Father during his ordeal in the garden of Gethsemane.
- In Romans 8:15, Paul explains that the sons of God have received a spirit of adoption by which they cry out Abba, Father!
- In Galatians 4:6, Paul teaches that because of this sonhood, the Spirit of God's Son comes into the hearts of the sons, crying Abba, Father!
🔼Etymology of the name Abba
The word abba is the common Semitic (Chaldean, says Zodhiates — The Complete Wordstudy Dictionary) word that expresses familiar intimacy with a father. It's probably related to the words papa (and thus pope), dad, daddy, and tata (that's the Slavic daddy), and some say this is because these words are essentially onomatopoeic, that is, written after the way a baby babbles.
Whether that is true is hard to say, but what we can say is that the word abba comes from the common Hebrew word אב ('ab), meaning father:
The noun אב ('ab) means father, but describes primarily a social relationship rather than a biological one. That social fatherhood was the defining quality of the community's alpha male, the one around whom all economy revolved and from whom emanated all instructions by which the 'sons' (בן, ben) operated. It's unclear where this word אב ('ab) comes from but the verb abu means to decide.
The Hebrew variant of our word daddy may not have expressed the comfort that comes from familiarity but rather the comfort that comes from knowing that someone bigger and stronger is in control. It's doubtful that in Gethsemane Jesus cried out like a small boy for his daddy. He most likely cried out to the Almighty, but in the most intimate way he could, appealing both to God's authority, his omnipotence and Jesus' priority as a son. He cried Abba like a prince to his king.
So no, Abba as used in the New Testament surely doesn't mean Daddy. It means Sir and only gains more verbal momentum through the weight of the one who says it, and that of the one it's addressed to.