Did You Know?
Why did Jesus in prayer address Jehovah as “Abba, Father”?
The Aramaic word ʼab·baʼʹ can mean either “the father” or “O Father.” On each of the three occasions that the expression appears in the Scriptures, it is part of a prayer and is used with reference to the heavenly Father, Jehovah. What significance does the word carry?
The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states: “In the colloquial speech of Jesus’ time, ʼabbāʼ was primarily used as a term of informal intimacy and respect by children of their fathers.” It was an endearing form of address and among the first words that a child learned. Jesus used the expression in a particularly fervent appeal to his Father. In the garden of Gethsemane, just hours before his death, Jesus in prayer addressed Jehovah with the words “Abba, Father.”—Mark 14:36.
“ʼAbbāʼ as a form of address to God is extremely uncommon in Jewish literature of the Greco-Roman period, doubtless because it would have appeared irreverent to address God with this familiar term,” continues the above-mentioned reference work. However, “Jesus’ . . . use of this term in prayer is an indirect attestation of His extraordinary claim to intimacy with God.” The other two Scriptural occurrences of “Abba”—both in the writings of the apostle Paul—indicate that first-century Christians also used it in their prayers.—Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6.
Why was part of the Bible written in Greek?
“The sacred pronouncements of God” were entrusted to the Jews, stated the apostle Paul. (Romans 3:1, 2) Hence, the first part of the Bible was written mostly in Hebrew, the Jews’ language. Yet, the Christian Scriptures were written in Greek.* Why so?
In the fourth century B.C.E., the soldiers who served under Alexander the Great spoke various dialects of classical Greek, which were in the process of being blended to form Koine, or common Greek. Alexander’s conquests contributed to Koine becoming the international language of the day. By the time of those conquests, the Jews had become widely dispersed. Many never returned to Palestine from their Babylonian exile, which had ended centuries earlier. As a result, many of the Jews eventually lost their grasp of pure Hebrew and used Greek instead. (Acts 6:1) For their benefit, the Septuagint, a Koine, or common Greek, translation of the Hebrew Scriptures, was produced.
The Dictionnaire de la Bible notes that no other language had “the richness, the flexibility, and the universal and international character of Greek.” With its extensive and exact vocabulary, detailed grammar, and verbs that aptly expressed subtle shades of meaning, it was “a language of communication, of circulation, of propagation—precisely the language needed by Christianity.” Is it not fitting that Greek was the language in which the Christian message was penned?
Brief portions of the Hebrew Scriptures were written in Aramaic. The Gospel of Matthew was apparently first written in Hebrew and then may have been translated into Greek by Matthew himself.
[Picture on page 13]
Fragment of a Greek Septuagint manuscript
Courtesy of Israel Antiquities Authority