Charles Buck Theological Dictionary: ABBA

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Charles Buck Theological Dictionary: ABBA


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A Syriac word, signifying Father. It is more particularly used in the Syriac, Coptic, and Ethiopic churches, as a title given to the bishops. The bishops themselves bestowed the title ABBA more eminently on the bishop of Alexandria, which occasioned the people to give him the title of Baba or Papa; that is, Grandfather: a title which he bore before the bishop of Rome. It is a Jewish title of honour given to certain Rabbins called Tanaites: it is also used by some writers of the middle age for the superior of a monastery. St. Mark and St. Paul use this word in their Greek, Mar_14:36. Rom_8:15. Gal_4:6. because it was then commonly known in the synagogues and the primitive assemblies of the Christians. It is thought by Selden, Witsius, Doddridge, and others, that Saint Paul alluded to a law among the Jews which forbade servants or slaves to call their master Abba, or Father; and that the apostle meant to convey the idea that those who believed in Christ were no longer slaves to sin; but being brought into a state of holy freedom, might consequently address God as their Father.