The Hebrew word ʼav, translated “father,” is a mimetic (imitative) word taken from the first and simplest sounds of infant lips. The Hebrew ʼav and the Greek pa·terʹ are both used in various senses: as begetter, or progenitor, of an individual (Pr 23:22; Zec 13:3; Lu 1:67), the head of a household or ancestral family (Ge 24:40; Ex 6:14), an ancestor (Ge 28:13; Joh 8:53), a founder of a nation (Mt 3:9), a founder of a class or profession (Ge 4:20, 21), a protector (Job 29:16; Ps 68:5), the source of something (Job 38:28), and a term of respect (2Ki 5:13; Ac 7:2).
Jehovah God as Creator is called Father. (Isa 64:8; compare Ac 17:28, 29.) He is also the Father of spirit-begotten Christians, the Aramaic term ʼAb·baʼʹ being used as an expression of respect and of close filial relationship. (Ro 8:15; see ABBA.) All who express faith with a hope of everlasting life can address God as Father. (Mt 6:9) Jesus Christ, the Messiah, because of being God’s Chief Agent of life, was prophetically called Eternal Father. (Isa 9:6) Also, anyone who has imitators and followers, or those who exhibit his qualities, is regarded as a father to them. (Mt 5:44, 45; Ro 4:11, 12) In this sense the Devil is spoken of as a father.—Joh 8:44; compare Ge 3:15.
Applying “father” to men as a formalistic or religious title was forbidden by Jesus. (Mt 23:9) Because of Paul’s bringing the good news to certain Christians and nourishing them spiritually he was like a father to them, but in no scripture is “father” applied to him as a religious title. (1Co 4:14, 15) Paul likened himself to both a father and a mother in his relation to the Thessalonian Christians. (1Th 2:7, 11) Whereas reference is made at Luke 16:24, 30 to “father Abraham,” this is basically in the sense of fleshly ancestry.
Father’s Authority and Responsibilities. As described in the Bible, the father was the head of the household, being guardian, protector, the one making final decisions, and the judge of the family group. (1Co 11:3; Ge 31:32) Among the patriarchs and in Israel before the selection of the Levitical priesthood, the father took the lead in representing his family in worship as a priest. (Ge 12:8; Job 1:5; Ex 19:22) The father had authority over his household until his death. If the son married and set up an independent household, then he became head over it, although due respect was still shown toward the father. When a daughter married, she came under the headship of her husband. (Nu 30:3-8) In Bible times the father usually arranged for the marriage of his children. If he came into dire financial straits, he could sell his daughter into slavery, with certain restrictions for her protection.—Ex 21:7.
Fatherly Concern for the Family Members. As God’s representative, the father is responsible to see that God’s principles are taught to his household. (Ge 18:19; Eph 6:4; De 6:6, 7) His teaching and disciplinary duties also include personal instructions and commands, which the mother assists in carrying out. (Pr 1:8; 6:20) The God-fearing father has great love for his children and exhorts and consoles them with great tenderness. (1Th 2:11; Ho 11:3) So that they might walk in the right way, he disciplines, corrects, and reproves them. (Heb 12:9; Pr 3:12) He finds pleasure in his sons, and especially does he rejoice when they display wisdom. (Pr 10:1) On the other hand, he is deeply grieved and vexed by a course of stupidity on the part of his children. (Pr 17:21, 25) He is to be compassionate and merciful. (Mal 3:17; Ps 103:13) He is to be considerate of their needs and requests. (Mt 7:9-11) A pattern for human fathers is provided in the many descriptions of God’s love and care for his people.
Genealogical Use of Father’s Name. Ancestry of a man was customarily traced back through the father, not through the mother. Thus, whereas there seems to be sound reason for believing that Luke presents Jesus’ genealogy through his mother (an exception to the general rule), Luke does not list her. Apparently he lists her husband Joseph as the son of Heli, evidently Mary’s father. This would not be improper in the least, since Joseph would be Heli’s son-in-law.—See GENEALOGY OF JESUS CHRIST.
In the absence of family names (surnames), a man was regularly distinguished by being referred to as the son of “So-and-so.” For example, Isaac was called “the son of Abraham.” (Ge 25:19) Many Hebrew names included the Hebrew ben or Aramaic bar, “son,” followed by the name of the father as a surname, such as “Ben-hur” (1Ki 4:8, RS; “the son of Hur,” NW) and “Simon Bar-jonah,” or “Simon son of Jonah.”—Mt 16:17, KJ, NW.