Friday, 2 November 2012

Is translating 'Abba' as 'Daddy' disrespectful to God the Father?

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I was reading my new copy of the excellent English Standard Version (ESV) Study Bible and came across some notes which suggested that because 'Abba' was used (in the time of Jesus) to address adult parents, then 'Daddy' was an inappropriate, indeed disrespectful, translation of the word.

Yet, I used the Daddy translation myself, only a few weeks ago:

http://charltonteaching.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/from-jehovah-to-daddy.html

The ESV attempt to label the word 'Daddy' as disrespectful made me see red, for a number of reasons!

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In the first place, translation is not a word by word process, every translation is incomplete and potentially misleading, historical context is imperfectly understood - and all the rest of it. So there is no perfect word, no word free form the possibility of misinterpretation. Translation is always a question of priories - what it is wished to emphasize. 

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But there is a very good reason to translate Abba as Daddy, and that is to bring out a son or daughter's child-like love-of, trust-in and reliance-upon their (good) Father - which goes far beyond the biological relatedness conveyed by the word Father.

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What is more, my Ulster relatives (for instance) called their parents Daddy and Mummy for all their lives - it is not simply a child's endearment.

In fact I repent having stopped calling my own parents Daddy and Mummy during my teens (a transition I found difficult) - since dropping that appellation was certainly not a matter of increased respect but almost the opposite; shame at seeming childish, wishing to be trendy - in a nutshell an assertion of independence.

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(Thus 'Daddy' signaled willing dependence; dropping 'Daddy' signaled rebellious independence. Which of these usages best applies to the proper nature of our relation to God?)

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Of course none of this perhaps applies to Americans, who probably imagine Daddy to be an English upper class affectation - and who themselves seem to lack an equivalent word to 'Daddy' as it is used among working class people in the borders of England and Scotland (which includes most of my ancestors, including the Northern Irish Protestants). For Americans 'Daddy' may indeed be disrespectful - like 'Pops'.

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But for me the idea that God is our (adoptive) Daddy if we accept his invitation; that we are asked to become Sons and heirs of God, and that Jesus will be our Heavenly Brother - well, this is exactly the kind of thing we need to hear; and something we ought to try and live by, and which the word Daddy perfectly expresses.

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