5

Jehovah's Witnesses believe God is the Father whose name is the Hebrew YHVH, the Tetragrammaton, which was the name the Apostles called on to be saved.

However, after calling on the name to be saved, the New Testament states that those who believe and accept what has been done to restore the relationship between God and man should acknowledge they are sons of God by calling the Father "Abba:"

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15) [ESV]

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6)

The term "Abba" is from the Aramaic אַבָּא vocative form, originally a term of endearment, later used as a title and personal name; rarely used in reference to God which is transliterated into Greek as ἀββα. It was taken over by Greek speaking Christians as a liturgical formula.1

The use of "Abba" by the Greek speaking Christians is not surprising given Paul's instruction. Historically what is described with the name, is similar to animal sacrifice which those who rejected God's act of salvation believe is still necessary but the Apostles and all who believe understand are no longer required. In other words, where the Jewish people were told to call on the name of YHVH to be saved and to call on "the Father" (eg. in prayer) before the death and resurrection of Jesus, and still do, those who had been saved were to use "Abba."

Moreover, "Abba" is also how Jesus addressed His Father in the garden of Gethsemane:

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36)

How do Jehovah's Witnesses explain the requirement to use the name which was and still is associated with the Old Testament and its sacrificial system and not address God the Father in the way which acknowledges the current condition? In other words, since Paul says "Abba" is how someone who has been saved because the OT law has been fulfilled and is a child of God should address God the Father, how is instructing someone to use the Jewish name "Jehovah" consistent with the message of salvation Paul preached in the New Testament?


  1. Fredrick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, The University Chicago Press, 2000, p. 1
15
  • 2
    Most Jehovah's Witnesses are not born again. They believe only 144,000 are chosen for this role, to rule from heaven as kings and priests alongside Jesus over the inhabitants of the paradise earth. Nevertheless, we do address God as Father in our prayers as well as Jehovah.
    – user32540
    Jun 22, 2020 at 21:10
  • Mathew 6:9 “our father in the heavens hallowed be thy name” You are saying that name is Abba?
    – Kris
    Jun 22, 2020 at 21:12
  • Can one not call him father while also acknowledging his name and sanctifying it?
    – Kris
    Jun 22, 2020 at 22:10
  • 1
    @Kris I realise this question is not asking about the name Jesus inherited, but the answer given by 4castle seemed to imply that a name can refer to a position, such as King. We know that “Father” is not a proper noun but according to the logic in that post, then the position of Father could also be applied to Jehovah as a name. Or have I misunderstood?
    – Lesley
    Jun 23, 2020 at 15:09
  • 1
    @Kris I am asking why use the Old Testament name and title and not the post resurrection title? Trying to draw a comparison with animal sacrifice which was ended by death and resurrection of Jesus and gives us the right to say "Abba." It seems like there is an acceptance of putting aside the old for one but maintaining it for the other. Even though Scripture says both are in the past. Jun 23, 2020 at 23:14

2 Answers 2

3

Jehovah's Witnesses do not ascribe different importance between the so-called Old and New Testaments. They view the Bible as one unified message. Certainly, the Law of the Hebrew Scriptures was brought to a finish by Jesus Christ, but there are also many timeless facts contained in the Hebrew scriptures about God, one of which is his name.

I am Jehovah. That is my name. — Isaiah 42:8

Then God said once more to Moses: “This is what you are to say to the Israelites, ‘Jehovah the God of your forefathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered from generation to generation.
Exodus 3:15

May people know that you, whose name is Jehovah, You alone are the Most High over all the earth.
Psalm 83:18

On the other hand, the Bible does not teach that "Father" is a personal name of God, but rather it is used as a title, just as your own fleshly father's personal name is not Father, though the word functions grammatically as a proper noun when you're addressing him with that title.

Christians can and should address God as their Father, as exemplified by Jesus, but nowhere does any scripture say that we should stop using God's personal name, Jehovah. The Bible teaches that God's name is the same for all eternity.

For “everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.” — Romans 10:13

6
  • Like the answer, but it may help to ref which edition/translation of the bible you are citing from; I usually do, and it helps readers who may have a translation different from the one you prefer. Here is the meta on that Jun 23, 2020 at 13:15
  • Maybe I didn't ask properly so let me give an example. The OT calls for animal sacrifice to Jehovah, but no one who believes in what Jesus accomplished on the cross believes those sacrifices are now required. So if the Christ event (life, death, and resurrection of Jesus) brings about a change to the OT sacrificial system and that same event brings a change in the believer's (in the Christ event) relationship to God (now they are children), why must the old address continue? Why not use the address, Abba, which expresses the current relationship and acknowledges what God has done for man? Jun 23, 2020 at 14:27
  • @RevelationLad JWs do address God as Father. But we don't do it exclusively, because different aspects of God's personality can be expressed by using different forms of address. The name Jehovah is full of meaning.
    – user32540
    Jun 23, 2020 at 14:39
  • I edited the question. Hopefully it betters states what I see as a conflict between calling on a "name" to be saved and how a saved person speaks because they are saved. Jun 23, 2020 at 15:12
  • 2
    @Lesley Unfortunately there are no extant Greek manuscripts containing Romans 10:13 from the 1st century C.E., but there are manuscripts containing Joel 2:32 from the 1st century where the name Jehovah appears in Hebrew, so the direct quotation would have contained the name Jehovah. (Read more in Appendix C of the NWT)
    – user32540
    Jun 23, 2020 at 16:16
2

The reason why Jehovah's Witnesses relegate the form of address, "Abba" to almost non-use, is due to their doctrine that only 144,000 humans have ever had the right to call God their "Abba". As (on average) 99% of all Jehovah's Witnesses for the past 100 years deny being part of that group of 144,000, they cannot (dare not) address God as their "Abba". That is only the entitlement of the tiny number they say are anointed of 'holy spirit' so as to have 'the heavenly calling'.

It might be that someone attending their annual solemn memorial of Christ's death could hear "Abba" during a prayer - if the person praying was a partaker of the bread and wine at that event. Anointed, in other words - expecting to go straight to heaven when they die. But he could only mean himself, and not the others. (And it would be a 'he' praying, not a 'she', because women are not allowed to pray at their public meetings when men are present.)

The basis for this is Romans chapter 8, where all who belong to Jesus Christ are assured that they have the indwelling Holy Spirit as their guarantee that they belong to Christ and will be with him in glory. Verse 9 addresses those who have the Spirit of God living in them. Verse 10 warns that if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. The following verses go on to assure Christians who have the indwelling Holy Spirit that they will live as "sons of God"; they received "the spirit of [adoption] as sons" and can cry out "Abba, Father!". The Spirit testifies with their spirit "that we are God's children" therefore joint heirs with Christ". (N.W.T.)

But those verses in Romans chapter 8 only apply to those who take the bread and wine at their "Memorial" service, once a year. That leaves many millions of Jehovah's Witnesses unable to call God their "Abba". So, they don't. And it is true. They cannot call God their "Abba", because those ones are not indwelt with the Holy Spirit, anointed, called to be with Christ in heaven. Only those in the 144,000 class are such spirit-filled sons of God, say all Jehovah's Witnesses.

There's no need to explore what they say about anything else. It's not about a "requirement" to call God 'Abba' - it's about the "entitlement" to call God 'Abba'. 99% of them do not believe they are entitled to call God 'Abba', and that is actually true. They are not entitled, otherwise they would take the bread and wine at their annual Memorial.

References: Wt.B&T.Soc., Insight on the Scriptures Vol.1 p13 under Abba - "Romans 8:15... the word is used in connection with Christians called to be spirit-begotten sons of God and indicates the intimacy of their relationship with their Father... they are also sons in the house of a loving Father, and they are made positively aware of this status by the holy spirit through their Lord Jesus."

Also p.270, 'Partakers & Other Attenders not partaking.'

Also p.1197 col.2 lines 6-17, these anointed ones will reign with Christ in heaven and are born again. That only applies to the 144,000, as all JWs know.

Two other occurrences of the use of the word [Abba] are in the apostle Paul’s letters, at Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6. In both places the word is used in connection with Christians called to be spirit-begotten sons of God and indicates the intimacy of their relationship with their Father. While they are “slaves to God,” yet they are also sons in the house of a loving Father, and they are made positively aware of this status by holy spirit through their Lord Jesus. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1966567

NOTE: Jehovah's Witnesses believe that only the remnant of the 144,000 are "spirit-begotten sons of God" who alone have a heavenly calling.

0

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .