The Father is God


This is not commonly denied, but you never know.  So here's Biblical proof.

While denying the deity of 'God the Father' is not so common, several groups offer aberrant teaching on this point. One sizable group of theists who refuse to call God 'Father' are the Muslims. Latter-Day Saints agree that God the Father is God, but deny that He is Jehovah.


One Father God the Father God of Abraham
Only True God Doubtless Our Father
The Vineyard My Father's House High Priest
Father of the Messiah Israel the Firstborn Jeremiah
Touch me Not Rock Potter and Clay
His Offspring One God and One Lord Father of Lights
Father of Mercies Suffering Servant Abba, Father
Born Again Exclusive Club The Synagogue
The Talmud

One Father

"Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us?  Why do we deal treacherously with one another By profaning the covenant of the fathers?" (Malachi 2:10).

God the Father

"Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him." (John 6:27).

"To Titus, a true son in our common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior." (Titus 1:4).

"Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To the pilgrims of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied." (1 Peter 1:1-2).

"For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'" (2 Peter 1:17).

"Jude, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are called, sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ: Mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you." (Jude 1:1-2).

The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

The Mormons have inherited from the Gnostics of old the conviction that Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is not the Father of Jesus Christ. Yet the God of the Old Testament is triune: He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He is the Father:

"The God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his son Jesus, whom you betrayed and denied before Pilate, when Pilate judged that he should be released..." (Acts 3:13 Lattimore).

Margaret Barker is another of this tendency, saying positively, "Jesus is not called the son of Yahweh nor the son of the Lord, but he is called Lord." (Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, pp. 4-5).

"So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: 'Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them..."The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the LORD and against His Christ." For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done. (Acts 4:24-28).

The God of Israel is not the 'Son-only' any more than the 'Father-only.'




Only True God

"These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17:1-3).

This assertion of the Father's deity is so absolute and unequivocal that some readers have thought Jesus intended to disown His own deity in calling God the Father "the only true God." But this passage itself testifies to the deity of the Son, in that "life eternal" requires knowing the Son also.

Doubtless

The fatherhood of God is not a uniquely New Testament doctrine; Israel calls upon God as 'Father' in the Old Testament:


"Doubtless You are our Father, though Abraham was ignorant of us, and Israel does not acknowledge us. You, O LORD, are our Father; Our Redeemer from Everlasting is Your name." (Isaiah 63:16).



He is the Father of the fatherless: "A father of the fatherless, and a judge of the widows, is God in his holy habitation." (Psalm 68:5).

Our Father

"So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven." (Luke 11:2).

This popular prayer is a familiar common-place:

"On April 26, 1862, author and editor Thomas Wentworth Higginson of Worcester, Massachusetts, received a letter from an aspiring young poet named Emily Dickinson, who lived in Amherst. Referring to her parents and siblings, she wrote, 'They are religious, except me, and address an eclipse, every morning, whom they call their Father.'" (quoted in Warren W. Wiersbe, On Earth as It is in Heaven, p. 23).

The Vineyard

Jesus told the parable of the vineyard:

"Then He began to speak to them in parables: 'A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed...And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those vinedressers said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.'" (Mark 12:1-7).

The vineyard owner, the Father of the "beloved" Son, is the LORD of hosts:

"Now let me sing to my Well-beloved a song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard: My Well-beloved has a vineyard on a very fruitful hill. He dug it up and cleared out its stones, and planted it with the choicest vine. He built a tower in its midst, and also made a winepress in it; so He expected it to bring forth good grapes, but it brought forth wild grapes...For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help." (Isaiah 5:1-7).



My Father's House

Jesus called the temple at Jerusalem "my Father's house":

"And He said to those who sold doves, 'Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!'" (John 2:16).

The temple at Jerusalem was sacred to none but the LORD God:

"But will God indeed dwell with men on the earth? Behold, heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple which I have built! Yet regard the prayer of Your servant and his supplication, O LORD my God, and listen to the cry and the prayer which Your servant is praying before You: that Your eyes may be open toward this temple day and night, toward the place where You said You would put Your name, that You may hear the prayer which Your servant makes toward this place." (2 Chronicles 6:18-20).

The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, William Holman Hunt
The Finding of the Saviour in the Temple, William Holman Hunt


High Priest

Jesus was appointed high priest by Him who said to Him "You are My Son": "So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.' As He also says in another place: 'You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek'..." (Hebrews 5:5-6).

He who said "You are My Son" is the LORD God: "I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'" (Psalm 2:7).

Father of the Messiah

The king of Israel is called God's son: "Now He said to me, ‘It is your son Solomon who shall build My house and My courts; for I have chosen him to be My son, and I will be his Father." (1 Chronicles 28:6). This is true in a unique sense of the Messiah, the coming King. In Old Testament passages like these, the LORD owns the Messiah as His Son:

"I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men." (2 Samuel 7:14)
"He shall build an house for my name; and he shall be my son, and I will be his father; and I will establish the throne of his kingdom over Israel for ever." (1 Chronicles 22:10).
"He shall cry to Me, 'You are my Father, My God, and the rock of my salvation.' Also I will make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth." (Psalm 89:26-27).
"I will declare the decree: The LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You.'...Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.  Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him." (Psalm 2:7-12).

Consequently, He whom Jesus called "My Father" is the living God, the God of Israel.

This is, not a new theme tending in a different direction, but an intensification of the familiar Bible theme that Israel is God's son, and further revelation of its true meaning, because the Messiah is the true Israel: "As He was anointed to be the Servant of the Lord, not with the typical oil, but by the Spirit of Jehovah upon Him, so was He also the Son in a unique senses. His organic connection with Israel is marked by the designations 'Seed of Abraham' and 'Son of David,' while at the same time He was essentially, what Israel was subordinately and typically: 'Thou art My son — this day have I begotten Thee.' Hence also, in strictest truthfulness, the Evangelist could apply to the Messiah what referred to Israel, and see it fulfilled in His history: 'Out of Egypt have I called my Son.'" (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Kindle location 3487)

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The First-Born

Only-Begotten His Own Son
Declare the Decree The Beloved
I am Peter's Confession
Apostles' Confession The First-born
My Father Out of Egypt
The Vineyard No Consort




Israel the Firstborn

Israel is God's firstborn:

"Then you shall say to Pharaoh, 'Thus says the LORD: "Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I say to you, let My son go that he may serve Me. But if you refuse to let him go, indeed I will kill your son, your firstborn."'" (Exodus 4:22-23).
"You are the children of the LORD your God; you shall not cut yourselves nor shave the front of your head for the dead." (Deuteronomy 14:1).
"They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn. . .Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord." (Jeremiah 31:9-20).
"Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! For the LORD has spoken: 'I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against Me; the ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider.' Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward." (Isaiah 1:2-4).
"A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am the Father, where is My honor? And if I am a Master, where is My reverence? Says the LORD of hosts to you priests who despise My name." (Malachi 1:6).

Israel is a type of the Messiah, with Old Testament verses like these applied, in the New Testament, to Jesus Christ:

"When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son." (Hosea 11:1, Matthew 2:15).
"But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: 'Let all the angels of God worship Him.'" (Hebrews 1:6).

This last is a quote of the Septuagint text for Deuteronomy 32:43:

"Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people." (LXX).

Studying these texts, the reader realizes that the Messiah and His people are so closely linked that the Messiah is Israel. What gives?:



Thomas Eakins, Crucifixion


Jeremiah

Speaking through the prophet Jeremiah, God mentions that Israel called to Him as "My Father:"

"Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth?’" (Jeremiah 3:4).

Their prayer was not heard however because their repentance was not real but superficial and inconstant. He looked forward to a time when they would call on Him by this manner of address, not in rotation with their other gods but having turned to Him with a whole heart:

"But I said: 'How can I put you among the children and give you a pleasant land, a beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?' And I said: 'You shall call Me, "My Father," and not turn away from Me.'" (Jeremiah 3:19).

Even before Christ's first advent, Jews prayed to 'Our Father':

"Lord, Father, and Ruler of my life, do not abandon me to the tongue's control or allow me to fall on its account. . .Lord, Father, and God of my life, do not let me have a supercilious eye." (Ecclesiasticus 23:1-4);
"So I sent up a prayer from the earth and begged for rescue from death. I cried, 'Lord, thou art my Father; do not desert me in time of trouble, when I am helpless in the face of arrogance.'" (Ecclesiasticus 51:10, NEB);
"At that point he [Joseph] cried out, calling upon the mighty God to save him from their power.  He said, 'O Father, my God, leave me not forsaken, in the power of the nations.'" (Dead Sea Scrolls, Wise, Abegg, and Cook, p. 334, 74. 4Q371-373, 2Q22).
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Touch me Not

"Jesus said to her, 'Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, "I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God."'" (John 20:17).

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The Rock

"Do you thus deal with the LORD, O foolish and unwise people? Is He not your Father, who bought you?  Has He not made you and established you?...Of the Rock who begot you, you are unmindful, and have forgotten the God who fathered you.  And when the LORD saw it, He spurned them because of the provocation of His sons and His daughters.  And He said: 'I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end will be, for they are a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith.'" (Deuteronomy 32:6-20).

Potter and Clay

"But now, O LORD, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You our potter; and all we are the work of Your hand." (Isaiah 64:8).

His Offspring

"And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, 'For we are also His offspring.' Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising." (Acts 17:26-29)

One God and One Lord

"For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as there are many gods and many lords), yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:5-6).

Father of Lights

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning." (James 1:17).

Father of Mercies

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort..." (2 Corinthians 1:3);

"...that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him..." (Ephesians 1:17).

Suffering Servant

Isaiah prophesied that "the LORD" Jehovah would lay the sins of the community onto the Messiah, as a scape-goat:

"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:6).

Latter Day Saints take notice: Jehovah, the LORD of the Old Testament, is not the Son-only; rather, God the Father is also called 'Jehovah.'




Abba

The adoptive children of God cry out, "Abba, Father:"

"And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ." (Galatians 4:6-7).

The Father who adopts us is the same Father of the Son:

"For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. . ." (Romans 8:14-16).

We are not 'only-begotten,' but we are children, by adoption:

"Adoption is a central biblical description of how God saves. It emphasizes the quality of the new relationship that God brings us into, a relationship of having been made into his children. In explicitly Trinitarian terms, this means that God brings us into the relationship of sonship that has always been part of his divine life. When we become sons of God, we are joined to the sonship of the incarnate Son, which is in turn the human enactment of the eternal sonship of the second person of the Trinity. Sonship was always within God, and it came to be on earth as it is in heaven, in the person of the incarnate Christ." (Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God, p. 157).

We are in Him who is the Son, the beloved, becoming joint heirs:

"Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!" (1 John 3:1).
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Born Again

God is in a special sense the Father of believers, "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. " (John 1:12-13). The Rabbis describe a proselyte as a new-born child: "R. Jose said: One who has become a proselyte is like a child newly born." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Yebamoth, 48b). Christians believe in a similar vein, "Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." (John 3:3).


The True GodOnly One GodJesus is GodThe Holy Spirit is God


Exclusive Club

Some people imply that addressing God as Father is unique to Christianity. If they mean to say that the reality of adoption into the family of God is only delivered by the gospel, then they are onto something; but if they mean to say no other religion ever formulated any such concept, they are mistaken.

"PATER. It is often said that the New Testament introduced a new name of God, namely, Pater (Father). But this is hardly correct. The name Father is used of the Godhead even in heathen religions. It is used repeatedly in the Old Testament to designate the relation of God to Israel, Deut. 32: 6; Ps. 103: 13; Isa. 63: 16; 64: 8; Jer. 3: 4, 19; 31: 9; Mal. 1: 6; 2: 10, while Israel is called the son of God, Ex. 4: 22; Deut. 14: 1; 32: 19; Isa. 1: 2; Jer. 31: 20; Hos. 1: 10; 11: 1."
(Berkhof, Louis (2017-02-04). Systematic Theology (Kindle Locations 1026-1030). GLH Publishing.)

I suspect this theme in preaching goes back to the old Unitarians, who believed in the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and. . .they used to say, the neighborhood of Boston. What they were able to swallow from the gospel was the idea of God as Father. And that is certainly a wonderful Bible theme. But if its realization in verity is a new thing, the outline of the theme is not.

The synagogue also prays to God as Father: "With great love hast Thou loved us, O Lord our God, and with much overflowing pity hast Thou pitied us, our Father and our King." (early form of Second Benediction, quoted in Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ, Alfred Edersheim, p. 198). "Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned; pardon us, our King, for we have transgressed; for You do pardon and forgive." (Eighteen Benedictions, Benediction 6). As expressed with a touch of impudence: "The recognition of this fatherhood is all that God wants from Israel. 'All the wonders and mighty deeds which I have done for you,' says God unto Israel, 'were not performed with the purpose of being rewarded (by you), but that you honor me like children, and call me your father.'" (Quotation from Exodus Midrash Rabba, 325, pp. 50-51, Aspects of Rabbinic Theology, Solomon Schechter).

The Qumran covenanters do not dissent: "For You are a father to all the children of Your truth, and You rejoice over them as a loving mother over her nursing child." (Thanksgiving Scroll, Dead Sea Scrolls, Michael Wise, Martin Abegg, Jr., and Edward Cook, p.105). It is not the church alone who worship their Father in heaven: "When Israel went up to Jerusalem to worship their Father who is in heaven, they sat so close together that no one could insert a finger between them, yet when they had to kneel and to prostrate themselves there was room enough for them all to do so." (Avoth d' Rab. Nathan, chapter 35, quoted in Hebraic Literature: Translations from the Talmud, Midrashim and Kabbala, Kindle location 3054).  Given the Old Testament texts listed above, there is no reason to assume this is entirely a late development. Admittedly, no previous teaching rises to the level of Jesus' revelation of His Father:

"Certainly no parallel to Jesus' presentation of God as Father has been found in extra-Christian literature. The term 'father' is indeed applied to God here and there in the Old Testament. But in the Old Testament it is usually in relation to the people of Israel that God is thought of as Father rather than in relation to the individual. . .Despite all previous uses of the word 'father' as applied to God, Jesus was ushering in a new era when He taught His disciples to say, 'Our Father which art in heaven.'" (J. Gresham Machen, The Origin of Paul's Religion, pp. 132-133).

This Talmudic lament over the temple destroyed in 70 A.D. portrays God as a father bereft of His children:

“He also said to me, ‘My son, what voice hast thou heard in that ruin?’ And I said to him, ‘I have heard the “Bath Kol,” which cooed like a dove, and said, “Woe to the children, because on account of their sins I have laid waste My House, and I have burned My Sanctuary, and I have driven them forth among the nations.”’ . . .What remains to the father who has driven his children into captivity? and woe to the children who have been driven forth from the table of their father.’” (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life in the Days of Christ, extract from Berachoth, p. 129).

To bring in a less reputable parallel, even the Greek pagans prayed to Zeus as "Our Father:"

"Then bright Odysseus was to gladness stirred,
And prayed aloud, and spoke, and said a word:
'O Zeus Our Father, may Alcinous now
Fulfill the promise I this night have heard!'" (Homer, The Odyssey, translated by J. W. MacKail, Book Seventh, Volume 1, Books I-VIII, p. 190).

Zeus is a pagan non-entity no doubt, but Homer imagined him to be the 'father of gods and men.' Jeremiah knew of pagans with similar habits, "Saying to a stock, Thou art my father; and to a stone, Thou hast brought me forth: for they have turned their back unto me, and not their face: but in the time of their trouble they will say, Arise, and save us." (Jeremiah 2:27). The Moabite stone, a pagan memorial found lying in the desert, tells us the king was the son of Chemosh: "I [am] Mesha, son of Chemosh [...], king of Moab. . ." (Atlas of Bible History, Kindle location 1781). More:

"Never in me be this mind, O our father Zeus, but to the paths of simplicity let me cleave throughout my life, that being dead I may set upon my children a name that shall be of no ill report." (Pindar, Odes, VIII, For Deinis of Aigina, Winner in the Short Foot-Race, The Extant Odes of Pindar, Ernest Myers.)

The pagans prayed to their "Almighty Father: "Is it your pleasure, Almighty Father, that the future shall be hidden in such utter darkness?" (Silius Italicus, Punica, Book X, Kindle location 3207).

Pagans might fancy themselves the offspring of whatever non-entity they adored,

“Extrabiblical confirmation of the Moabite rebellion against Israel is extant in the Moabite Stone, discovered in 1868. An inscription on the stone tells of the rebellion from the perspective of Mesha, king of Moab. The text begins with, 'I am Mesha, son of Chemosh . . .'”
(Currid, John D. (2013-08-31). Against the Gods: The Polemical Theology of the Old Testament (Kindle Locations 1872-1874). Crossway. Kindle Edition.)

Inasmuch as this next pagan lecturer is from the New Testament period, there is no way of knowing if he was influenced by the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth, but he is a pagan and he is certain we are children of God:


"Slave yourself, will you not bear with your own brother, who has Zeus for his progenitor, and is like a son from the same seeds and of the same descent from above? But if you have been put in any such higher place, will you immediately make yourself a tyrant? Will you not remember who you are, and whom you rule? that they are kinsmen, that they are brethren by nature, that they are the offspring of Zeus?" (Epictetus, Discourses, as transcribed by Arrian, Delphi Complete Works of Arrian, Kindle location 5352).



According to Plutarch, our relation to God is closer than that of a manufactured item to its maker: "Since therefore the world is neither like a piece of potter's work nor joiner's work, but there is a great share of life and divinity in it, which God from himself communicated to and mixed with matter, God may properly be called Father of the world — since it has life in it — and also the maker of it." (Plutarch, Moralia, Book XIII, Question II, Why Does he call the Supreme God Father and Maker of All Things?, Platonic Questions, Complete Works of Plutarch, Kindle location 60865). Like most pagans, he did not believe in creation ex nihilo, and there is mingled with this the unfortunate but persistent idea of the deity of ourselves, "...as Menander says, 'For our mind is God,' and as Heraclitus, 'Man's genius is a Deity.'" (Plutarch, Moralia, Book XIII, Question I, Platonic Questions, Complete Works of Plutarch).


Cleanthes
 Hymn to Zeus 


The 'Fatherhood of God' is not distinctive to Christianity in concept, only in realization. The pagan poet Aratus acclaimed Zeus as father:

"For we are also his offspring; and he in his kindness unto men giveth favourable signs and wakeneth the people to work, reminding them of livelihood. . .Wherefore him do men ever worship first and last. Hail, O Father, mighty marvel, mighty blessing unto men." (Aratus, Phaenomena, 4-16).

Seneca called him "the Father of us all:" "Now God, who is the Father of us all, has placed ready to our hands those things which he intended for our own good; he did not wait for any search on our part, and he gave them to us voluntarily." (Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Letter CX, On True and False Riches). Plutarch summarizes the views of some people, ". . . for, they said, it is not the Typhons and giants of legend that rule in heaven, but the father of all gods and men." (Plutarch's Lives, Life of Pelopidas, Chapter XXI.)  Diodorus Siculus explained Zeus' title of 'Father' by reference to His care and responsibility for man:

"It is for this reason also that names have been given him: . . . Father, because of the concern and goodwill he manifests toward all mankind, as well as because he is considered to be the first cause of the race of men; Most High and King, because of the pre-eminence of his rule; Good Counsellor and All-wise, because of the sagacity he manifests in the giving of wise counsel." (Diodorus Siculus, Library of History, Book Five, 72.2).

"In the name of Zeus our Father [προς του πατρωου Διος], permit me to ask the tragic dramatists and their predecessors, the inventors of fables, what they mean by showering such a flood of ignorance upon the son of Laius who consummated that disastrous union with his mother. . ." (Aelian, On Animals, Book III, Chapter 47, p. 209 Loeb edition).

The problem with paganism is not that the pagans did not understand the fatherhood of God; it's that they had more than one. While Zeus was the principal god, he was far from the only one, nor even the only one they addressed as 'father.' Their Christian critics began to notice that this gets silly:

“Therefore Jupiter is called father by those who pray to him, as is Saturnus, and Janus, and Liber, and the rest in order; which Lucilius laughs at in the council of the gods: 'So that there is none of us who is not called excellent father of the gods; so that father Neptunus, Liber, father Saturnus, Mars, Janus, father Quirinus, are called after one name.' But if nature does not permit that one man should have many fathers (for he is produced from one only), therefore the worship of many gods is contrary to nature, and contrary to piety.” (Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, Book 4, Chapter 3).

But that multiplication and reduplication is part and parcel of the absurdity of paganism.

'Jupiter' is the same as 'Zeus:' "Now Jupiter is our father, and whatever is in the open air is in some way thought to be particularly in his sight." (Plutarch, Roman Questions, Question 40, Complete Works of Plutarch, Kindle location 39787). 'Zeus' is a false god, but his titles and attributes encroach upon those of the true and living God. Or rather two streams are converging here: a false god who, if Euhemerus' approach is correct, was somebody who at one time was a king of Crete, becoming conflated with an intimation of the truth: "For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse. . ." (Romans 1:20). It cannot be altogether ruled out that true intimations of deity are entombed within the 'Zeus' character, although he has taken on hideous accretions: the 'Zeus' of pagan mythology is a child molester and serial rapist.

To complete the circle, American patriot Benjamin Franklin prayed to God as Father: "O powerful Goodness! bountiful Father! merciful Guide! Increase in me that wisdom which discovers my truest interest." (Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, Kindle location 1536). He cannot have meant to suggest his adoption as a child of God in the Christian understanding, because he did not really believe in all that, but is reverting tot he pagan idea that God is father of all in creation, and father especially of good men in respect of virtue.

It is one of the oddities of history, that nineteenth century 'liberalism,' borrowing from the old Unitarians, invented their own distinctive new religion, whose essence resided in the Fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. I had almost said the neighborhood of Boston, but a German liberal like Adolf von Harnack did not care about that, and he was a believer. . .of sorts. They believed in a simplified, no-frills Christianity:

"No! the Christian religion is something simple and sublime; it means one thing and one thing only: Eternal life in the midst of time, by the strength and under the eyes of God." (Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity?, p. 8).

These people did not, of course, believe that Jesus is God incarnate, as the church has always believed. But they were religious after their own fashion. Their stripped-down faith was centered around the proclamation, by Jesus, who they allowed to have existed for long enough to make this proclamation, of the fatherhood of God:

"But the fat that the whole of Jesus' message may be reduced to these two heads — God as the Father, and the human soul so ennobled that it can and does unite with him — shows us that the Gospel is in nowise a positive religion like the rest; that it contains no statutory or particularistic elements; that it is, therefore, religion itself." (Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity? p. 63)

For this simplicity to be attained, the details had to be lost, which means the historicity of the gospels had to be overlooked or even debunked. The Fatherhood of God was retained:

"There is nothing in the Gospels that tells us more certainly what the Gospel is, and what sort of disposition and temper it produces, than the Lord's Prayer. . .It shows the Gospel to be the Fatherhood of God applied to the whole of life; to be an inner union with God's will and God's kingdom, and a joyous certainty of the possession of eternal blessings and protection from evil. . .Moreover, the genuineness, nay the actual existence, of religious experience is to be measured, not by any transcendency of feeling nor by great deeds that all men can see, but by the joy and the peace which are diffused through the soul that can say 'My Father.'" (Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity? pp. 65-66).

Though to the Bible-believer these people's joyous destruction of the word of God must ever be obnoxious, by their own lights, their simplified faith was wonderful, and whatever allowed it to shine without petty distraction was godly: "Religion gives us only a single experience, but one which presents the world in a new light. . . man is seen to be on the side of the Eternal." (Adolf Harnack, What is Christianity? p. 69). To them this faith was a comfort. They devised a plausible-sounding scheme according to which the apostolic faith was the same as their own faith in God as Father only, and that Jesus had preached this very faith: ". . .for, as we saw, God's Fatherhood is the main article in Jesus' message." (Adolf von Harnack, What is Christianity? p. 214). . .but that subsequently 'Greek philosophy' had entered the picture, leading to the deification of the Son. Needless to say, John's gospel did not 'work' for these folks and so they discovered that only the synoptic gospels had historic value.

Does it work? To say the very least, it is an odd choice to situate the essence of Christianity in a concept shared not only with non-believing Jews but also with pagans. Perhaps that is part of the reason why time has passed by this sub-trinitarian faith, and people have reverted to caring about what the actors in first century Palestine said and did. Friedrich Schleiermacher enacted a Copernican revolution in theology by making the definition of Christianity hinge upon the practical experience, the lived faith, of nineteenth century Germans, as opposed to the views and opinions of personages in first century Palestine. The Bible had to be discredited for the triumphant propagation of this new faith, for which nineteenth century lived experience was definitional. Successor generations, however, were unable to confirm that this people-group was uniquely interesting or even interesting at all, and so they went back to caring more about first century Palestine. Modern evangelicals therefore believe in the Fatherhood of God, and also in the eternal deity of the Son of God. Old-style Unitarianism has become more or less a museum piece, because nowadays when you walk into a UU church, you are more likely to encounter a Wiccan or a Buddhist than a confessing Christian.

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The Synagogue

Jesus' habit of calling God 'My Father' drew suspicious scrutiny in the Judaism of the day, though 'Our Father' likely raised no eyebrow. Though prayer usage lagged behind the Old Testament testimony, God the Father is not unknown to the synagogue:

"Unlike the brute creation and the hosts of stars, which know nothing of their Maker, man feels akin to the God who lives within him; he is His image, His child. He cannot be deprived of His paternal love and favor. This truly human emotion is nowhere expressed so clearly as in Judaism. 'Ye are the children of the Lord your God.' [Deut. xiv. 1]. 'Have we not all one Father? Hath not one God created us?' [Mal. ii. 10]. 'Like as a father hath compassion on his children, so hath the Lord compassion upon them that fear Him.' [Ps. ciii. 13]." (Kaufmann Kohler, Jewish Theology, p. 256).

Philo Judaeus was a first century Jewish author who acclaimed God as Father. . .and also Word and Holy Spirit: "And we have shown that God never desists from creating something, but that when he appears to do so he is only beginning the creation of something else; as being not only, the Creator, but also the Father of everything which exists." (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, Book I, Chapter VII):




Paul names God the Father as the defining instance who gave His name to the species: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. . ." (Ephesians 3:14-15). In a similar vein, Philo says, "Moreover, it naturally influences those who think themselves the causes of generation; so that they scarcely ever turn their minds at all to behold the true Father of the universe. For he is in truth the one real and genuine Father of all and we, who are called fathers, are only instruments of his, serving to generation; since, as in a wonderful resemblance, all things which are represented in appearance are yet in reality inanimate, but that which strengthens the nerves is invisible, and yet is itself the cause of virtue, and of motion, and of sight." (Philo Judaeus, Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book 3, Chapter 48).

A non-canonical book of the inter-testamental period, The Wisdom of Jesus son of Sirach, offers prayers to God as Father:

"Lord, Father, and Ruler of my life, do not abandon me to the tongue's control or allow me to fall on its account. . .Lord, Father, and God of my life, do not let me have a supercilious eye." (Ecclesiasticus, 23:1-4).

 "Desire for gain invented the ship, and the shipwright with his wisdom built it; but it is thy providence, O Father, that is its pilot, for thou hast given it a pathway through the sea and a safe course among the waves, showing that thou canst save from every danger, so that even a man without skill can put to sea." (Wisdom of Solomon 14:2-4).

The apocryphal book of Tobit also speaks of God as Father: "Exalt him in the sight of every living creature, for he is our Lord and God; he is our Father and our God for ever." (Tobit 13:4).

General or congregational prayer to God as Father is found in these sources, but in some instances they suggest as well a more personal realization that God is the Father of the Messiah: "I called upon the Lord, the Father of my Lord, that he would not leave me in the days of my trouble, and in the time of the proud, when there was no help." (Ecclesiasticus 51:10 Brenton Septuagint). The same is the case for the poor and honest man of Wisdom of Solomon 2:16: "He rejects us like base coin, and avoids us and our ways as if we were filth; he says that the just die happy, and boasts that God is his father."

According to tradition, the temple service incorporated prayer to God as Father:

“Tradition has preserved these to us. Subjecting them to the severest criticism, so as to eliminate all later details, the words used by the priests before the third and fourth lots were as follows: 'With great love hast Thou loved us, O Lord our God, and with much overflowing pity hast Thou pitied us. Our Father and our King, for the sake of our fathers who trusted in Thee, and Thou taughtest them the statutes of life, have mercy upon us, and enlighten our eyes. . .that we in love may praise Thee and Thy Unity. Blessed be the Lord, who in love chose His people Israel.'” (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, pp. 110-111).

Again, 'Our Father,' not the more striking 'My Father:' “The prayers offered by priests and people at this part of the service are recorded by tradition as follows: . .'Appoint peace, goodness, and blessing; grace, mercy, and compassion for us, and for all Israel Thy people. Bless us, O our Father, all of us as one, with the light of Thy countenance. For in the light of Thy countenance
hast Thou, Jehovah, our God, given us the law of life, and loving mercy, and righteousness, and blessing, and compassion, and life, and peace.'” (Alfred Edersheim, The Temple: Its Ministry and Services, pp. 112-113).

Rabbi Aqiba offered this victorious prayer, "R. Aqiba followed him at the reading-desk, and said: 'Father and King! we have no other king but Thee. Only for Thy sake have mercy upon us!' And his prayer was answered." (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume VIII, Tract Ta'anith, Chapter III, Kindle location 32861).

The Rabbis asserted that Israel is a son, not only when obedient, but also when wayward:

"'In the rabbinical literature the paternal-filial relation between God and man is a common theme. R. Akiba. . . "Beloved (of God) are the Israelites, in that they are called sons of God; still more beloved in that it is made known to them that they are called sons of God" (Dt. 14.1). R. Judah (ben Ila'i) taught that the name sons was given them only when they behaved themselves like sons; but R. Meir refuted him by quoting passages in which they were called foolish sons (Jer. 4.22), untrustworthy sons (Dt. 32.20), breed of evil-doers, vicious sons (Is. 1.4)—but sons notwithstanding. Instead of its being said to them, Ye are not my people, they shall be called sons of the Living God (Hos. 1.10). The relation is not annulled by sin' (Moore, Judaism, ii. 203)." (quoted p. 581, The Mission and Message of Jesus, H.D.A. Major, T. W. Manson, C. J. Wright).

That is not the only view however; the apocryphal work 'Book of Jubilees' assigns Sonship to Israel only when obedient, a theme which recurs in the New Testament:

"And their souls will cleave to Me and to all My commandments, and they will fulfill My commandments, and I will be their Father and they shall be My children. And they all shall be called children of the living God, and every angel and every spirit shall know, yea, they shall know that these are My children, and that I am their Father in uprightness and righteousness, and that I love them." (Book of Jubilees, Chapter 1, 24-26).

As should be apparent from the evidence offered here, calling God 'Father' is not unique to one religion or testament. While His hearers correctly understood Jesus meant something distinctive, even unique in calling God MY Father, this was not because no one at the time called God 'Father.' Some people think what 'God the Father' means in the New Testament is altogether different from what is meant by calling God 'Father' in the Old Testament; in this latter meaning, for example, is included creation, in which the Word and the Spirit participated equally with God the Father. But segregating the evidence into heterogeneous categories introduces confusion rather than clarity; didn't Jesus say, ". . .go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God." (John 20:17)? The wellspring of the very concept of 'Fatherhood' is God the Father: "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named. . ." (Ephesians 1:14-15). Better to let the 'Father' evidence cohere than fly apart; this theme reveals one of the faces of God.

So where did the oft-heard idea get started, that calling God 'Father' was unique to Christianity? It is a theme one finds in the liberalism of the German higher critics,

"He [Jesus] trusts God's Providence, and resigns Himself to His will, He takes up the attitude of a child towards Him, and loves best to call Him the Heavenly Father. The expression is simple, but the thing signified is new. He first knows Himself, not in emotion but in sober quietness, to be God's child; before Him no one ever felt himself to be so, or called himself so."

(Encyclopedia Britannica article appended to Julius Wellhausen. Prolegomena to the History of Israel (Kindle Locations 9125-9128), at Gutenberg.org.)

It seems that, since the Unitarians had no religion to speak of other than the conception that God was 'Father' and mankind were 'brothers,' they were obliged to play that up for lack of any other content to offer. It is like John Dominic Crossan, reduced to pretending that offering pot-luck suppers (open commensality) was somehow revolutionary. You must make do with what you have. The Jews understood Jesus' claim was radical, because He spoke of God as "His" father in a special and unique sense, and so Wellhausen must negate this very point: "He is the first-born of the Father, yet, according to His own view, a first-born among many brethren. For He stands in this relation to God not because His nature is unique, but because He is man; He uses always and emphatically this general name of the race to designate His own person." (Encyclopedia Britannica article appended to Julius Wellhausen. Prolegomena to the History of Israel, at Gutenberg.org, (Kindle Locations 9128-9130).)

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The Talmud

The evidence from the Talmud, a sixth century compendium of Rabbinic thought,

“The Mishnah (Berakhot 5: 1) states that the ancient holy ones (called Hasidim) spent an hour in preparation prior to prayer 'in order to direct their hearts toward their Father who is in heaven.' This understanding of God as Father continues in synagogues today, where Jews speak of and to Av ha-rachamim ('merciful Father') as well as Avinu malkenu ('our Father, our King') and proclaim, Hu avinu ('He is our Father').” (Levine, Amy-Jill (2009-10-13). The Misunderstood Jew (Kindle Locations 819-822). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.)

An extended lament over the destruction of the temple and the loss of Israel's national homeland echoes the phraseology of the Lord's prayer,

"MISHNAH. . .R. PHINEAS B. JAIR SAYS: WHEN [THE SECOND] TEMPLE WAS DESTROYED, SCHOLARS AND NOBLEMEN WERE ASHAMED AND COVERED THEIR HEAD, MEN OF DEED WERE DISREGARDED, AND MEN OF ARM AND MEN OF TONGUE GREW POWERFUL. NOBODY ENQUIRES, NOBODY PRAYS [ON THEIR BEHALF], AND NOBODY ASKS. UPON WHOM IS IT FOR US TO RELY? UPON OUR FATHER WHO IS IN HEAVEN." (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sotah, 49a.)

The evidence underscores the testimony of the New Testament, that's Jesus's speaking of 'My' Father would be perceived as a false note, but the concept that Israel is God's son is well understood:

"Then Israel said (unto Isaac): 'For thou (alone) art our father.' Said Isaac unto them: 'Instead of praising me, praise ye the Holy One,, blessed be He,' and he pointed them on high with his finger. 'There is the Lord!' Then they lifted up their eyes unto Heaven and said: Thou, O Lord, art our Father, our Redeemer from everlasting is Thy name.'" (The Babylonian Talmud, edited by Michael L. Rodkinson, Volume 1, Tract Sabbath, Chapter IX, Mishna IV, Kindle location 4278).
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It may be objected, the many senses listed here in which God is spoken of as 'Father' are not all the same. That is certainly true:

"Usually when we think about God the Father, we are tempted to consider his fatherhood as being grounded in something else besides this core Trinitarian basis. We tend to associate his fatherhood with the things he has freely chosen to do in salvation history. For example, God the Father predestined the chosen ones to be adopted as sons (Eph. 1:5), an act in which he determined himself to become the adoptive Father of the elect. But great as this saving, adoptive fatherhood is, it belongs in the sphere of something God does, not something that determines who he is. He would have been God the Father if he had never adopted created sons and daughter, because he would have been God the Father of God the Son." (Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God, p. 86).

That is certainly true. However, these mutually reinforcing and interpenetrating meanings of 'Father' should not be pried apart, because Jesus joined them together; He allowed us to pray with Him to 'Our Father.' In the end, these things all belong together. They cohere, they do not fly apart: "Christians are people who talk to God like they are Jesus Christ. . .When you approach the throne of grace and call on God as your father, God the Father receives you because you pray in the family style that you learned from the Son: 'Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name' (Matt. 6:9). God the Father is our Father in a complex, saving sense: Father of Jesus by nature, Father of sinners by grace and adoption. And you are 'predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers' (Rom. 8:29)." (Fred Sanders, The Deep Things of God, p. 217). Since our salvation draws us into the very life and communion of the triune God, the different senses in which God the Father is called 'father' interlock and illuminate one another.