addressing one's or someone else's father humbly / respectfully in Japanese (父)

Like a number of other East Asian languages, Japanese uses a complex system of honorifics, i.e. a system where a number of different levels of politeness are expressed in language via words, word forms or grammatical constructs. These can range from addressing someone or referring to someone with contempt (very informal) to expressing the highest level of reference (as used in addressing or referring to God) or any number of levels in-between.

One important aspect of addressing someone else in one’s or someone else’s family is by selecting the correct word when referring to them. One way to do this is through the usage of an appropriate title within a conversation as shown here in the widely-used Japanese Shinkaiyaku (新改訳) Bible of 2017.

When the speaker humbly refers to his or her father in the presence of respected interlocutor(s), chichi (父) is often used as in the case of Jacob’s sons referring to their father before Joseph (in Genesis 43:28). This form is very appropriately chosen as they refer to their father as “your servant” and bowed down before Joseph the prime minister.

In some conversations, archaic honorific forms for “father” are chosen that also contain chichi (父) and typically indicate a greater level of respect. These are o-chichi-ue (お父上) (only in Genesis 48:1), and chichi-gimi (父君) in few occasions (2 Samuel 10:3, 2 Samuel 13:5, and 1 Chronicles 19:3).

Yet another, ore often-used term is chichi-ue (父上) (see addressing one’s or someone else’s father respectfully in Japanese (父上)). An interesting contrast can be found in the message sent from Asa the king of Judah to Ben-hadad the king of Aram (1 Kings 15:19). In this utterance, commonly translated as “my father and your father” in English, Asa humbly refers to his father as chichi (父) but respectfully refers to Ben-hadad’s father as chichi-ue (父上). Similar contrasts can be found in 1 Kings 20:34 and 2 Chronicles 16:3 as well.

While chichi can carry this humbling effect in reference to the speaker’s father, in some types of dialogues/utterances such as in poetry, including prayers (e.g. Jesus teaching how to pray in Matthew 6:9) and proverbial teachings (e.g. “honor your father and mother” in Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16 et al.), chichi is used without the humbling effect.

(Source: S. E. Doi, see also S. E. Doi in Journal of Translation, 18/2022, p. 37ff. )