Is it Right to Call Jesus “Father”?

"My Lord & My God": John 20:28

In a comment posted here, a reader named Duane asked (in an edited version):

Why is Jesus never referred to as “the Father,” aside from that Isaiah prophecy? Is it incorrect to call Jesus “Father” or “Abba”?

This article is an edited version of my response, originally posted as a comment here.

Isaiah 9:6 and similar prophecies make it clear that the one to be born would be not only the Son, but also the Father—and of course, God:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Jesus was not born fully divine

However, during Jesus’ lifetime on earth he was not fully divine because he still had the finite human element from his human mother in addition to the infinite divine element that was God, the Father. During his lifetime on earth it would not have been correct to refer to him as “God” or “Father,” but only after he became fully one with the Father. That is why it was after his resurrection that Thomas recognized him not only as “Lord,” but also as “God” (John 20:28).

Now that he is fully glorified and one with the Divine Father, he is also Father, just as Isaiah 9:6 prophesies that he will be. And so it is good for us to think of him as Father and to call him “Father” as well. (“Abba” is an Aramaic word for “Father.”)

The Trinity is within God

It helps to make a distinction between the internal dynamics of God and God’s relationship to us. Internally, God consists of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which are the Divine Love, the Divine Wisdom, and the Divine Power. This means that within God there is a metaphorical relationship of Father to Son and Son to Father, and of both with the Holy Spirit that proceeds from them. These are not separate “Persons” of God, but distinct parts of God. (See: “Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?”)

However, that is within God. In relation to us humans, who are not God, all of God is our Father.

There is only one God, who is the Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Regenerator of all. That God is the Lord God Jesus Christ, who is one both in essence and in person—contrary to the false and unbiblical doctrine of the Trinity of Persons that invaded Christianity early in its history, and has held it captive ever since. (See: “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”)

We can and should call Jesus “Father”

All of the attributes of God are in that one God, and are that one God: Father, Creator, Redeemer, Regenerator, and every other name that is applied to God. They are all names of the one God, seen in God’s various qualities, characteristics, components, and powers. We can and should call Jesus all of these things because that is who and what he is: the one and only God of the universe.

Yes, now that the Lord Jesus has been glorified and is the one God, sovereign over heaven and earth (see Matthew 28:18), it is good and proper to call Jesus “God” and “Father,” just as he is called in the Old Testament prophecies of his coming, and just as he identifies himself to Philip in John 14:8–10:

Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”

Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak from myself. It is the Father living in me who is doing the works.”

Jesus prepared us for his full union with the Father

Keep in mind that almost half of the Gospel of John, chapters 12–20, covers events and sayings that took place in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. When he spoke these words to Philip in John 14, he had nearly completed the process of glorification: of becoming fully one with the Father.

Much of what he says in these last chapters before his crucifixion is in anticipation of his full union with the Father. In his last days with his disciples, he was preparing them for the great change both in him and in their own lives, when he would be not only their Lord, but their God, and when he would not only be the Son of God, but would be God their loving Father.

Further, if the Epistles were properly translated according to the exact meaning of the original Greek, and not bent in translation to conform to the false doctrine of the Trinity of Persons, readers would see many places where Jesus is called both “God” and “Father” by the Apostles after the resurrection. Whoever is God is also our Father. There are not three of them, but one of them.

(And yes, God is also our Divine Mother. See: “The Mother of All the Living.”)

For further reading:

About

Lee Woofenden is an ordained minister, writer, editor, translator, and teacher. He enjoys taking spiritual insights from the Bible and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg and putting them into plain English as guides for everyday life.

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15 comments on “Is it Right to Call Jesus “Father”?
  1. Adriaan Braam says:

    Dear Lee Thanks so much for sharing this conversation with so many details!! It is so amazing how high and detailed people may go to this aspect of life and history. One of the things that came to mind, some time ago, about explaining how and why Jesus came to earth with this idea. Please have a look at this link. This approach can be extended and be made more detailed but this is just the basic idea. Thanks so much for the conversation. https://sites.google.com/site/liveitupspiritually/home/writings/Fish-tank.txt

    Adri

    • Lee says:

      Hi Adri,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your kind words. FYI, I slightly edited the link in your comment. For those reading in, the link goes to a Google site where you can download a TXT file.

      I do like your “fish tank” analogy. Yes, our “fish tank” here on earth got dirty, as it inevitably would given our God-given freedom that makes it possible for us to choose evil over good. And yes, eventually God had to come personally and “clean up the mess.” Not that there would be no more mess (those fish keep right on doing their thing), but that the mess we are still making became more manageable.

      Though I know you’re not using technical language, my only caution would be about the statement, “So God created a human being with Mary . . .” As covered in some of the articles linked at the end of this one, though Jesus at birth did have a human side from Mary, which was indeed “created,” the divine side of Jesus was not created, but is an uncreated extension of God. However, that is a quibble for the theologically-minded. I do get what you’re saying.

      Thanks for a good and thoughtful piece!

  2. necron48 says:

    This was a great article Lee…..It helps others to see the mystery of the “Godhead” and to understand it better. My only concern is your statement where you said:

    “Further, if the Epistles were properly translated according to the exact meaning of the original Greek, and not bent in translation to conform to the false doctrine of the Trinity of Persons”

    Show me 1 instance where translations deliberately differed from the Greek to conform to a trinitarian concept of God

    • Lee says:

      Hi necron48,

      Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Glad you enjoyed the article!

      I do not mean to imply that the various Nicene Christian (Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant) Bible translators deliberately change the language of their translation to conform to a trinitarian concept of God. Though this sort of deliberate changing of the text occasionally does happen in translations—for example, Luther’s famous or infamous insertion “alone” after “faith” in Romans 3:28 in his German translation of the Scriptures—for the most part it is more subtle and nuanced than that. People of various doctrinal stances read and understand the Bible according to their own doctrinal stance. Their translations bend toward that doctrinal stance, not “deliberately,” but because that is the lens through which they read the text. They sincerely believe that they are accurately translating the text into the target language. Translation is an art, not a science. It depends heavily on the translator’s reading and understanding of the text.

      As for examples of the Epistles calling Jesus “God” and “Father” if they are translated more exactly according to the original Greek, I first encountered this in the wonderful book Great Truths on Great Subjects, by the Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley, originally published in England in 1850. In the discussion following the first lecture (on pp. 44–45 of the linked reprint edition on Amazon), this question and answer occurs:

      Q. If the Father and the Savior are one person, how is it that in the Epistles their names are so often separated by the conjunction “and,” such as “God and Christ,” “the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ”?

      A. Partly because the Father and the Savior are two characters, though not two persons. You admit that God and the Father are one person, and yet you will often find the conjunction, “and,” occurring between these two names. As, for instance: “Now God himself and our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way unto you” (1 Thessalonians 3:11). “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3). It must be confessed, however, that this appearance of distinction would not be so strong in many instances if we had a translation of the New Testament more rigidly exact to the original than we at present have. Thus, in the new translation of the American Bible Society, there is a great improvement. For instance, in 2 Peter 1:1: “Through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ” is corrected, and we read, “Through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Again: “Through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2), is given more correctly, “Through the knowledge of Jesus, our God and Lord.” Again: “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13) is rendered, “Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of Jesus Christ our great God and Savior.”

      Unfortunately, Amazon has not linked the print edition to the Kindle edition. If you want to purchase Great Truths on Great Subjects for Kindle, you can do so here. These are my own reprint editions of this fantastic and highly recommended book.

  3. Annie Howell says:

    Hi Lee

    Firstly I need to say a massive thank you for helping me out with some religious questions that have puzzled me in the past. If I hadn’t come across your blog I would be completely turned off by Christianity and you helped me feel I could still be a christian and not be part of a faith that judges people and feels superior. About a year ago I think, you told me that when Jesus was on earth, God was still in his heaven at the same time – something that confused me beforehand.

    I wanted to ask though seeing as Jesus and God are spoken about separately and for thirty three years Jesus had an earthly mother do you think they two different entities or the same. Are Jesus and God now in heaven one spirit or two. A lot of people say Jesus is God and I do believe that God came down in human form to spread his message of love and compassion to others as Jesus Christ but after death I question whether he is God as he was reconciled to him or a part of him sitting beside him, but then not actually him. I know from people who have had near death experiences that some of them have said they felt the love of god and some say they have felt the presence of Jesus but not always both. As there are 6 major world religions and many of smaller ones where they mostly believe in God, only one of them believes that Jesus is anything to do with God. Some people suggest that Jesus is a path to God for Christians and similarly Mohammad would be a path to God/Allah for Muslims as he is the one they worship. I was interested to hear your opinion as what you think about that. This is what Oprah Winfrey has said she believes while I believe that Jesus is for all of us with love and acceptance but seeing as other religions pray to other prophets I’m sure people of other faiths would seek out the prophet that means a lot to them but that Jesus draws all to himself as well. I believe that but I don’t like having the my religion is right, your religion is wrong mentality to others. I do believe Jesus is God but was wondering if God turned up as God to everyone firstly or as Jesus as people of other faiths probably wouldn’t reject God but could reject Jesus as to them he is a stranger in the way other prophets would be to me.

    Lastly I have always wondered as Jesus is the savior of all human beings from his life on earth and came to save us all what happened before to all our ancestors and other biblical characters in the old testament if he wasn’t on earth to save them. Any thoughts?

    It says Enoch and Elijah were taken to heaven directly by God and I like to think that seeing as our ancestors have been around for six million years and Jesus only came 2019 years ago that they went to Heaven. It does bring up the question of what was the purpose of Jesus if we were all saved beforehand but If good people were sent away from God after death thats a horrible thought. I have always heard people talk about Jesus saving us but never about what happened to everyone in the old testament before Jesus if they weren’t saved after death. Seeing as God is seen as love it makes God sound unloving and Jesus sound forgiving. If jesus is God then surely he is the same person and would want to save his children since the beginning of time. God coming to earth and sending out his message to the world through Jesus was an amazing thing to do and I love that when I went to a church in Africa God was seen as a black man and in my church he’s white as it shows he is for us and relates to us whatever we are and his message is for everyone.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Annie,

      Good to hear from you again! I’m glad our blog has been so helpful to you. That’s why we do it.

      About your first round of questions, please read these three articles, and see if they provide the answers you are looking for. The third one was a response to a similar question that you asked earlier.

      1. Who is God? Who is Jesus Christ? What about that Holy Spirit?
      2. If Jesus Christ is the One God, Why Did He Talk and Pray to the Father?
      3. If Jesus was God, How was God Still in Heaven?

      About your second round of questions, the salvation of people in the Old Testament is a problem only for “Christians” who believe in the false doctrine justification by faith alone. For such “Christians,” there is no salvation without intellectual belief in Jesus, so the salvation of people who lived before Jesus was born is a real problem. They have various work-arounds, none of which are really convincing unless you reject their basic doctrine of faith alone. (I put “Christians” in quotation marks because these people reject what Jesus Christ and his Apostles teach in the Bible, so they can’t really be called Christians.)

      For people who believe what the Bible actually teaches, which is that we are saved if we believe in God, love God, and live according to God’s commandments, there is not a problem about the salvation of people in Old Testament times. Those who believed in God and lived according to God’s commandments were saved. Those who did not were not saved.

      It’s the same for people of all religions. Even atheists who live according to a code of ethics that they believe is more important than their own self-interest are believing in God and living according to God’s commandments. They just reject the label “God,” mostly because traditional Christianity (and other religions, too), has made God look like a total jerk. See: “Do Atheists Go to Heaven?

      Here are some more articles that go into this in more detail:

      1. If there’s One God, Why All the Different Religions?
      2. Is Jesus Christ the Only Way to Heaven?
      3. Did Jesus ever actually say, “If you don’t believe in me you will go to hell”?
      4. Heaven, Regeneration, and the Meaning of Life on Earth

      I know that’s a lot of articles. But you’re asking a lot of big questions! If, after reading these articles, you still have questions, or don’t understand something, please feel free to leave further comments.

      • Rami says:

        Hi Lee,

        Do you think it’s too harsh to put ‘Christians’ in quotes when referring to Protestants and Catholics on account of their doctrines of justification, effectively calling them pseudo-Christians? I realize that, among many of the aforementioned, their indictment of Swedenborgians has historically been similarly uncharitable, but I once heard a podcast by William Lane Craig in which a student asked him about oneness Pentecostals and if they were truly ‘Christian’, and he remarked: ‘it seems to me that the only necessary condition to be a Christian is to accept the Divinity of Christ,’ and I would be inclined to agree with this.

        Now, I would draw a difference between qualifying conditions and disqualifying conditions. I would put ‘Christians’ in quotes when referring to, say, white supremacists, who believe Jesus is Lord but nevertheless hold to a set of deeply contrary and abhorrent beliefs. Conversely, I wouldn’t call the ethical atheists you referred to in your reply as ‘Christians,’ for even though they (unknowingly) live in accordance with the basic Christian teaching for salvation, they don’t consciously and in their hearts place that belief within a larger spiritual framework.

        But do you feel a doctrine of justification can be a disqualifying belief?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          Doctrinally, Catholicism and its schism Protestantism are not Christian. This not a matter of being “uncharitable.” It’s a matter of being factual.

          Christians accept the teaching of Jesus Christ, and of the Christian Bible. But Catholicism and Protestantism have long since rejected the basic teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible, especially on the critical matter of salvation, and have substituted non-biblical and anti-biblical teachings originated by such theologians as Anselm, Aquinas, Luther, and Calvin.

          Catholics are now doctrinally followers of Anselm and Aquinas, not followers of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. Protestants are doctrinally followers of Luther and Calvin, not followers of Jesus Christ and his Apostles. They therefore, in point of fact, are “Christian not in essence or in reality but in name only,” to use Swedenborg’s description (in True Christianity #668).

          Now, individual Catholics or Protestants may be Christians if they embody Jesus’ own definition of his followers:

          By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:35)

          More generally, if they follow Jesus’ two Great Commandments, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves, then they are Christians in reality and essence, meaning in their lives, even if they are not Christians doctrinally because they belong to a non-Christian church.

        • Lee says:

          Hi Rami,

          As for accepting the divinity of Christ, Catholicism and Protestantism do this only in a limited fashion. They see Christ as the human side of one-third of the Godhead—of the “Second Person” of the Trinity. They do not see Christ as fully Divine, meaning that he is God. He is only part of God, or more accurately, part of part of God. So they do not accept the full divinity of Jesus Christ, but grant him only part of the divinity—one-sixth of it, to be precise. This is true of Orthodox Christianity as well.

  4. Duane Armitage says:

    Lee
    This is fantastic. Thanks for mentioning my question!
    I have a follow up to this, which is sort of a clarification: Jesus had to have, as a human, a distinct personality, right — that is, as a finite human being? Was this personality God’s personality? Or is God’s personality precisely Jesus’?
    I hope this question makes sense in light of what you wrote above, and that it is clear I am not exactly asking the same question.

    • Lee says:

      Hi Duane,

      It’s a good, and interesting, question.

      Jesus, while he was on earth, was a first century Jew living in Palestine. He would have been a different personality if he had been a third century Chinese living in China, or a fifth century African living in Ethiopia. The particular personality he had due to his particular ethnic and temporal human background is not any more God’s personality than any of the other potential personalities he could have had if he’d been born in a different time and place. However, the divine aspects of his personality would have been the same no matter where and when he was born.

      It is similar to Swedenborg’s statements in Secrets of Heaven #10453 about how the Bible would have had a different literal sense if it had been written in a different culture, but its spiritual sense would have been the same.

      • Duane Armitage says:

        Whoa! Ok! That’s fascinating. I always assumed his personality was God’s! So does Jesus now retain that aspect of his personality, post-glorification???
        Also, I believe you have a link about Jesus’ earlier years and his coming to understand himself as God’s son. Do you have a link for this?

        • Lee says:

          Hi Duane,

          Post-glorification, Jesus is infinite and omniscient, and is God.

          God does come to different people in particular human forms, including as the common picture of Jesus among Christians here on earth. This is likely not what Jesus actually looked like; it is simply how Europeans, especially, have come to visualize Jesus. For a fascinating brief article on this, see:

          What did Jesus really look like? By Joan Taylor

          In other words, the Lord commonly appears to us in the guise that we expect. That doesn’t mean that’s what Jesus “actually looks like.” God, the Divine Humanity, encompasses all (good) human characteristics at a divine level. How the Lord appears to us depends greatly upon how we picture the Lord in our own minds, and in our prayer life. This is not wrong. It’s just human. For a related article, see:

          How does Jesus Appear to Us? Can We See God Face to Face?

          I don’t think I have an article here specifically on Jesus’ early years and his coming to understand himself as divine. However, there are sections in a couple of my recent comments-turned-to-posts:

          It comes up in various other articles here as well.

  5. Duane Armitage says:

    Hi Lee
    What do you make of the images in the Bible that picture God the Father on a throne and Jesus next time him, seemingly representing “two” persons or even beings rather than one? I am thinking mainly of revelation (to the one who sits on the throne and the lamb, etc.), but also even Jesus’ own proclamation that he will be seated “at the right hand” of the power.
    Duane

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