It is often asserted that Jesus’ cry abba, father, reflects the memory of the early church. This is how Jesus prayed.
Not only this, but several people have followed the line of argument that Jesus prayed like this not once, but every time he addressed God as “father”–referring to him as abba.
The prayer recurs in Paul. Twice.
Thus, the idea is that Paul’s churches participate in this historical memory, themselves participating in the unique form of prayer that Jesus himself taught.
Jesus only says abba once in the Gospels. It’s in Mark. And, it’s in a context where there is no other character around to hear him. In other words, this is one of the least likely places in the Gospel for a historical remembrance to be informing the story.
What if, rather than abba father being a historical remembrance that influenced the Pauline churches, the practice of the Pauline churches influenced how Jesus is depicted as praying in Mark 14?
I have no doubt that Jesus addressed God as “Father” before Paul came on the scene. There is the Lord’s prayer, after all, and other examples of Jesus so addressing God.
But in my study of the abba prayer, I have some concern that too much historical weight is being placed on a passage that can’t bear it. Is abba Jesus’ way of praying? Well, it is in the garden of Gethsemane, and it is in those who are being renewed after the image of this suffering son (Rom 8).