Promise of the Father
What does it mean to confess that God is "the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"? The Promise of the Father begins by showing that Judaism's claim of God as "Father" never attached an ontological gender or "masculine" essence to God. Instead of setting the standard for the conduct for human personal fathers or men in general as some argue, God's identity as "Father" served as an example for the entire community of faith as one who promotes mercy, justice, and humility. Jesus' address to God as "Father" thus did not introduce a new private experience of intimacy with the divine, rather, it evoked Israel's ancient and coporate hope of God's saving power and covenant faithfulness. Above all then, to speak of God as "Father" signifies the redemptive and life-giving work of God and then only subsequently to human experience of that work. Christians can confess God as "Father of Jesus Christ" because God was first "Father" to the people of Israel, and to Israel's Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, and to the followers of Jesus.
Marianne Thompson surveys the portrayal of God as Father in the Old Testament and Second Temple Judaism, in the ministry of Jesus, in the Synoptic Gospels, and in the writings of Paul and John. Thompson argues that, rather than rooting the image of God in a debate about gender, "Father" terminology really identifies an ancestor who grants inheritance.
"Moving beyond current stalemated controversies, Thompson asks the right question: 'How does the imagery of God as Father actually function in the biblical narratives and prayers?' Her careful exegesis makes an important contribution to the church's current reflections about the appropriate use of language for God." -- Richard B. Hays, Professor of New Testament, Duke Divinity School
Westminster John Knox Press, 2000
Paperback, 196 pages, ISBN: 978-0-664-22197-3
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