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THEOLOGY > God > Names of God > Ab and Pater  


Ab is the Hebrew word translated “Father”; the basic concept is that of nourisher, provider, or protector. In the Old Testament the word “Father” is used of God in several ways.

One, the word is used of God in His relationship to the nation of Israel.

He brought the nation into existence. Moses, just before his death, reminded the people that God was their Father; he asked them: “Is He not your Father, who bought you? Has He not made you and established you?” (Deut. 32:6). Moses refers to Israel as God’s “sons and daughters” who were “unmindful” of the One who “begat” them and had “forgotten” the God who had “fathered” them” (Deut. 32:17-19). Isaiah affirms: “You are our Father” and “You, YHWH, are our Father” (63:16; 64:8). In Jeremiah God says: “You shall call Me ‘My Father’ and not turn away from Me” (3:19). Later through Jeremiah God proclaims: “I am a father to Israel and Ephraim is My firstborn” (31:9). Malachi asks: “Have we not all one Father?” (2:10), a reference to God or possibly Abraham. God was the Father of the nation: He “fathered” the nation, He protected the nation, He provided for the nation, He punished the nation. Like a wise, loving earthly father, only more so, infinitely more so, God was the Father of His sons and daughters, the nation of Israel. As His children, Israel's responsibility was to honor and obey the Father.

Two, the word is used of God in relationship to individuals.

God says that David “shall cry to Me, ‘You are my Father’” (Ps. 89:26). God says of Solomon: “I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him . . . but My mercy shall not depart from him” (II Sam. 7:14-15). God is said to pity “those who fear him” like “a father pities his children” (Ps. 103:13). And Solomon says: “For whom YHWH loves He corrects, just as a father the son in whom he delights” (Prov. 3:12). Not only to the nation in general but also to individuals within the nation God is spoken of as Father.

Three, the word is used of God in relationship to the coming Messiah.

God’s “Anointed One,” the One installed as King on Zion and the One who will ultimately rule the nations who are now raging and plotting, said that the Lord says to Him: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You” (Ps. 2:7). In Hebrews this verse from the Old Testament is used to speak of the exalted position of Jesus, a position “so much better than the angels” (Heb. 1:4-5). God said in Hosea 11:1: “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My Son.” According to Matthew 2:15 this statement in Hosea was ultimately a reference to the flight into Egypt by the parents of Jesus and their return from Egypt after the death of Herod. The relationship of the Son to the Father in the Old Testament is more fully developed in the New Testament.

Pater is the Greek word translated “Father” in the New Testament; and it carries the same connotation as the Old Testament word Ab, that of nourisher, provider, and protector. The concept of God as Father in the New Testament has two important dimensions.

One, the word is used of God in relationship to Jesus, the earthly manifestation of the Son.

The Father-Son relationship is most prominent in John, though the relationship is seen in other passages (Matt. 7:21; 10:32; 11:27; 18:10; 25:34; 26:29, 39, 42, 52; Lu. 2:49; 23:34). In John the Son reveals the glory of the Father (Jo. 1:14, 18; 6:46); the Father loves the Son (Jo. 3:35; 5:20; 10:17; 15:9); the Son did the will of the Father (Jo. 5:30, 36; 8:28); the Father has entrusted all judgment to the Son (Jo. 6:22); the Father sent the Son (Jo. 10:15, 38); the Father and the Son are one—not one in person but one in essence and perfection (Jo. 10:30, 38; 14:9); the Father can only be approached through the Son (Jo. 14:6); and the Son returned to the Father (Jo. 20:17). It should be noted that the Father is the Father not in the sense of origination but in position for the great act of redemption. The Father represented the interests and dignity of the Godhead and purposed the salvation of man; it was the Son who undertook the actual saving work and accomplished the redemption in time on earth—incarnation was the experience of the Son. The Father-Son relationship focuses upon the salvation of man by God.

Two, the word refers to God’s relationship to His people.

God is the Creator of all men (see: God's Work of Creation), but it is only the believer who knows God as Father. When we come to God through Jesus, God, the Father of Jesus, becomes our Father. It is the Son who reveals the Father to man, and no one can know the Father (Matt. 11:27) or come to the Father except through the Son (Jo. 14:6). To reject the Son is to reject the Father (Jo. 5:23). But when the Son is accepted, the believer receives “the Spirit of sonship,” who “testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children” (Rom. 8:15-18). God sent His Son “that we might receive the full rights of sons,” and no longer be a slave but a son (Gal. 4:4-7).

At times both concepts, God as Father of the Son and Father of the believer, appear together. In Paul’s salutation to the Ephesians God is referred to as “God our Father” and as the “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:2-3).

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