Our Parent, who art in heaven?

TheoBlogian Mike Swalm has started an interesting series In Our Image: The Language of Father and Divine Gender. This takes up among other things some of the issues which I raised here recently, about Driscoll’s God and Molly’s paradigm shift.

In a comment on Part One of TheoBlogian’s series Odysseus wrote:

I don’t know for certain, as I have not double and triple checked the reference, but I was told that in Aramaic, ‘Our Father’ can be translated in a variety of ways, including ‘Our Father/Mother’.

I’m not sure about the Aramaic either, but I know that the Greek word πατήρ pater translated “father” is not always explicitly male. Look for example at Hebrews 11:23, where the Greek literally refers to Moses’ “fathers” (the plural of πατήρ pater), but almost all English translations, even back to KJV and including the very literal Young and Darby versions, render “parents”.

If Moses’ “fathers” were not necessarily male, then Jesus’ Father was not necessarily male. Indeed, we more or less know that he was not, because he has no distinguishing body parts, and men and women are equally made in his image – as I argued in my post on Driscoll’s God.

So, do we need to translate πατήρ pater, the more or less new name which Jesus gave to God, as “Father”? Well, it is not a bad translation or a mistranslation. But I would suggest that “Parent”, while arguably not very elegant, would be just as accurate as a translation. For there is no justification for insisting on a specifically gendered word here.

0 thoughts on “Our Parent, who art in heaven?

  1. thanks for your thoughts here and over at my place, peter. I’m going to be going a little deeper into “father” language a little later, if i can find time to work my series while at a pastor/wife retreat, and then defending my masters thesis next week…and pastoring. does it ever slow down? well, maybe, if i didn’t have two girls under three 🙂 gotta love the life!

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