Call No Man Father? (Matthew 23:9 and other texts)


This post originally appeared in the FidoNet OpenBible conference in November 1994.

From: P / To: BILL HOHMANN / Subj: Call No Man Father?

P > Peter has no problem with HOLY men and HOLY prophets [2 Peter 1:21; 2 Peter 3:2 KJV] so why not HOLY FATHER as a spiritual title for the Pope?

BH> You seem completely happy to quote many scriptures about "human" fathers while at the same time totally ignoring the context of the "Call no man your Father" scripture; a typical distain and lack of regard for what the scripture is talking about.

The word is "disdain" and besides the fact that you wouldn't even HAVE a Bible were it not for my Church, you misunderstand Scripture if you think I am violating Matthew 23:9 by calling our priests and pastors "Father." Here is why --

First, I asked and challenged Ralph Stokes [who was famous in FidoNet for his "KJV Only" belief] with --

P> You want to debate the Papacy with me?

And Ralph responded with --

RS> debate the Papacy? What's a Papacy? Your Papa? Obey the Lord Jesus Christ...call no MAN your father.

Ralph gave no context. Ralph didn't even attempt to interpret this statement at all. He simply mindlessly quoted "call no MAN your father" (i.e. Matthew 23:9) and thinks that contradicts 2,000 years of Catholic teaching. This is ignorant to say the least.

So to prove this wrong I quoted dozens and dozens of verses where Jesus and the apostles call MEN father, whether natural "fathers," ancestral "fathers," or spiritual "fathers." Ralph didn't try to make any distinction, so neither did I. In his response, Ralph came back with "CONTEXT, CONTEXT" but he didn't deal with the context, so why should I?

Now, unless you want to say the Bible contradicts itself and Jesus and His apostles are continually disobeying Jesus in Matthew 23:9, then Ralph's ignorant, mindless recitation of "call no MAN your father" taken as a literal statement is WRONG. Now that Ralph has been proven wrong, maybe you can do a little better. You quoted Matthew 23:8-11 and interpreted as follows --

BH> And do not call one on earth "father", (in a religious sense) for you have one Father, and he is in heaven. (not on earth)

BH> The greatest among you will be your servant. (not someone who would take on a divine title to himself)

In case you weren't aware of this, one of the common titles of the Pope is "servant of the servants of God." That is how he is addressed in the new CATECHISM, page 1 --

"John Paul, Bishop SERVANT OF THE SERVANTS OF GOD for everlasting memory"

BH> For you to quote references of human father's in a non-religious sense, and refer to Paul's references to Timothy as his son in the Lord is a typical attempt to justify a practice that is in defiance to the literal words of Christ.

The literal words of Christ are "call no MAN your father" (KJV). I already showed you to interpret this literally is complete nonsense. Paul's references to Timothy as his SON in the Lord is PRECISELY the Catholic understanding of the term "father" for our pastors --

"For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not MANY FATHERS: for in Christ Jesus I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU [i.e. become your FATHER] through the gospel....

"For this cause have I sent unto you TIMOTHY, WHO IS MY BELOVED SON, and faithful in the Lord..." (1 Cor 4:15,17 KJV)

"...as a SON [Timothy] with the FATHER [Paul], he hath served with me in the gospel" (Phil 2:22 KJV)

"we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a FATHER doth his children" (1 Thess 2:11 KJV)

"Look unto ABRAHAM YOUR FATHER, and unto Sarah that bare you: For I called him alone, and blessed him and increased him." (Isaiah 51:2 KJV)

Neither Paul nor Abraham literally "fathered" -- in the sense of human fatherhood -- all those believers that would come after them. Paul was not the natural father of Timothy. He was his spiritual or RELIGIOUS "father." That is the basis of the Catholic teaching.

Your interpretation of Christ's words in Matthew 23:8-11 therefore cannot be correct. Christ was engaging in hyperbole, as he often did, and attacked the MISUSE or ABUSE of the title "father." He was specifically talking about the Pharisees who

"love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be CALLED OF MEN, RABBI, RABBI. But be not ye called Rabbi..." (Matthew 23:6-8 KJV)

Jesus was a faithful Jew and he certainly wasn't condemning the mere use of the title "Rabbi" which means "Master" or "Teacher" -- a title still used by Jewish people today. He was specifically condemning the improper use of the title for the Pharisees who were hypocrites "for they SAY, but DO not" (Matthew 23:3 KJV).

The same with the title "father." There is nothing inherently wrong with calling a MAN "father" (as proven with all the verses I quoted for you) whether natural fathers, ancestral fathers, or even spiritual fathers (as Paul was) -- so long as we recognize that it is the FATHER of our Lord Jesus Christ "of whom the whole family [or all FATHERHOOD] in HEAVEN and EARTH is NAMED" (Eph 3:14-15; cf. Matthew 23:9).

But if I understand you correctly, you said calling a man "father" in a "religious sense" is wrong. Is that so? Okay. Then the following I posted to Ralph still stands against your interpretation --

MATTHEW 23:30 -- "And say, if we had been in the days of OUR FATHERS..."

LUKE 16:24,30 -- "And he cried and said, FATHER Abraham.....And he said, nay, FATHER Abraham...."

ACTS 7 : 2,11,12,15,32,38,39,44,45,51,52 -- "Men, brethren, and FATHERS...unto our FATHER Abraham" (v. 2) "...and our FATHERS found no sustenance" (v. 11) "...he sent out our FATHERS first" (v. 12) "So Jacob went down into Egypt, and died, he, and our FATHERS" (v. 15) "Saying, I am the God of thy FATHERS, the God of Abraham...." (v. 32) "spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our FATHERS..." (v. 38) "To whom our FATHERS would not obey..." (v. 39) "Our FATHERS had the tabernacle..." (v. 44) "...our FATHERS that came after...before the face of our FATHERS" (v. 45) "as your FATHERS did, so do ye" (v. 51) "Which of the prophets have not your FATHERS persecuted?" (v. 52)

"Men, brethren, and FATHERS...." (Acts 22:1) "...according to the perfect manner of the law of the FATHERS" (v. 3) "And he said, the God of our FATHERS hath chosen thee" (v. 14)

"...so worship I the God of my FATHERS..." (Acts 24:14)

"...hope of the promise made of God unto our FATHERS..." (Acts 26:6)

"...nothing against the people, or customs of our FATHERS" (Acts 28:17)

"What shall we say then that Abraham our FATHER..." (Rom 4:1) "...that he might be the FATHER of all them that believe..." (v. 11) "...the FATHER of circumcision...faith of our FATHER Abraham" (v. 12) "...the faith of Abraham; who is the FATHER of us all" (v. 16) "I have made thee a FATHER of many nations" (v. 17,18)

"yet have ye not many FATHERS: for in Christ Jesus I have BEGOTTEN you [or "become your FATHER"] through the gospel" (1 Cor 4:15)

"...not that ye should be IGNORANT, how that all our FATHERS" (1 Cor 10:1)

"...exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my FATHERS" (Gal 1:14)

"...as a son [Timothy] with the FATHER [Paul], he hath served with me in the gospel" (Phil 2:22)

"we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a FATHER doth his children" (1 Thess 2:11)

"Unto Timothy, MY OWN SON IN THE FAITH [that makes Paul his FATHER IN THE FAITH]" (1 Tim 1:2,18)

"Rebuke not an elder, but intreat him as a FATHER" (1 Tim 5:1)

"To Timothy, my DEARLY BELOVED SON [again, that makes Paul his SPIRITUAL FATHER IN THE FAITH]" (2 Tim 1:2; 2:1)

"To Titus, MINE OWN SON AFTER THE COMMON FAITH [once again, that makes Paul his SPIRITUAL FATHER IN THE FAITH]" (Titus 1:4)

"...received by tradition from your FATHERS" (1 Peter 1:18)

"...the FATHERS fell asleep, all things continue..." (2 Pet 3:4)

"I write unto you, FATHERS, because ye have known him..." (1 Jn 2:13) "I write unto you, FATHERS, because ye have known him..." (v. 14)

BH> But then, so-called "Christians" have been doing that for a long, long time.

Yes, Bill, even the very first Christians.


Back to Apologetics Articles

Back to Home Page

About | Apologetics | Philosophy | Spirituality | Books | Audio | Links