The Meaning of the Greek Word Pater

Since some defenders of the TNIV have tried to deny the obvious about the meaning of the Greek word pater, we present for the convenience of readers visual evidence from lexicons. We would have liked to use BDAG (the third English edition of Bauer's Greek lexicon [2000]). But in order to be free from copyright issues in presenting material on the web, on this page we use two lexicons published before 1900. The first is Edward Robinson, Greek and English Lexicon of the New Testament, new ed. (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1855), p. 563. You may view and download his entire page on pater if you have a reasonably fast internet connection. Only a small portion of the page is directly relevant, and we reproduce it immediately below.

The red lines have been added by us for clarity.

The entry begins by giving forms of the word pater in Greek lettering. Then comes a general summary of the meaning: "a father." (We have added a red rectangle around "a father" for clarity.) Then come various subdivisions. Division "A)," the "general" or "ordinary" meaning, comes first. (Division B deals with God as Father.) Under this we find subdivisions, beginning with subdivision 1. In subdivision 1 "Pr." indicates the "proper" or literal sense, as opposed to a figurative sense. The meaning given is "a father" (underlined in red). Further down comes the indication that the plural ("Plur.") can mean "parents" (underlined in red). Then comes meaning 2, "forefather." There are also meanings 3 and 4, discussed on other parts of the page, having to do with other extended meanings, but these do not concern us.


Now let us turn to look at Liddell-Scott, A Greek-Enlgish Lexicon, 8th ed. (New York: American Book Company, n.d. [1897]), p. 1162. Liddell-Scott is the general lexicon for all Greek literature, in contrast to Robinson, who focuses on the Greek of the New Testament. We have reproduced below all of that part of the page that discusses pater.


The beginning part of the article indicates some of the forms of the word pater. The article then gives the meaning "a father" (in the red rectangle). Then come parts II, III, and IV, with metaphorical meanings. Part V (with V underlined in red) specifically discusses the plural ("in pl."). Meaning 1 under this part is "fathers," while meaning 2 is "one's parents."

That's it. All the main lexicons agree that the plural of the word pater can mean either "parents" or "fathers," depending on the context. They also agree that the singular means "father" (or "forefather" or other extended meanings).