A series of articles born out of critically thinking on the works of several Catholic Apologists and comparing their work with Scripture.


Calling men "Father"

"Call no man your father upon the earth" - Jesus - Mat 23:9

Let me start by saying that I don't consider this a major problem that should cause division between people. However, a Catholic author I was reading spent a significant part of a chapter in his book addressing this and basically could not understand why Evangelicals would be hesitant to follow this tradition, so I felt like I had to at least briefly address this. This is just another area where Catholic teachings differ from Scripture. It, by itself, is not a big deal, but when all the areas are added up, it becomes just another discrepancy that reinforces my belief that somewhere along the line, the Catholic Church had departed from its Biblical roots.

Many claim that when Jesus made the above statement, He was not referring to calling religious leaders "father". If Jesus did not mean calling religious leaders "Father", what then, did he mean? An author who shares this view equates Evangelicals calling people "Sunday School teacher" and "Bible teacher" to calling religious leaders "Father". And, therefore, the logic follows that if it is okay for Evangelicals to use these terms, then they (Evangelicals) should not object to the Catholic use of the term "Father" when addressing their clergy. Let us just take a little closer look at what Jesus actually says.

Matthew 23:1 Then spoke Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,…
Matthew 23:2 Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees...
Matthew 23:6 And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues,
Matthew 23:7 And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi.
Matthew 23:8 But do not called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all of you are brethren.
Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
Matthew 23:10 Neither be called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

My comments:
V7 Jesus tells those who are and will be Christians in authority (leaders) not to call themselves Rabbi (master, title of honor).
V8 Jesus tells those who are to be subordinate Christians (the flock) to not call any man father upon the earth.
V9 Jesus tells those who are (and will be) Christians in authority (leaders) not to call themselves Master (same Greek word used in v8) (New American Bible correctly translates this word as Master, the NIV miss-translates this as teacher.)
The argument against using the term "teachers" does not apply for 2 reasons. One, the word is not translated correctly in the NIV as illustrated above, and , Two, Jesus is speaking to "masters" [the people in charge] and says to not call themselves "masters". His teaching is not speaking of the flock (lay people) calling one in authority "master" when He is talking about the term "master" above. This is a subtle difference, but an important one.

To re-phrase and sum it up, in the above verses, Jesus is telling the flock (lay people) not to call people in authority "father". Jesus is telling the people in authority not to call themselves "Rabbi" or "master".

If it were me, I would feel very insecure directly violating Jesus' teaching that the flock should not call people in authority "father".

Unfortunately, the author takes advantage of another translation error in some Bibles in 1Cor4:15. A more correct translation can be found in the KJV;
Corinthians I 4:15 For though you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
The word father is not found in the Greek in the last portion of this verse. The word "begotten", or more correctly translated "procreate", is used. I believe Paul is referring to his being used by God to bring them the Gospel so that in a sense, Paul "helped" beget these Corinthians since he was the vehicle God used. It is sort of along the lines of Paul saying that he "planted" {Corinthians I 3:6} where he did not literally "plant" a literal seed in their flesh, he is using a figure of speech to say that he was the one who brought them the Gospel. While I cannot be completely dogmatic in my view of this passage, in order to not put a block of stumbling in front of my brother, I, personally, would prefer not referring to a religious leader of mine as "father". It is a grey area at absolute best.

The author also tries to stress that Paul called Titus and Timothy his sons:
Timothy I 1:2 Unto Timothy, my own son in the faith…
Timothy I 1:18 This charge I commit unto you, son Timothy,…
Timothy II 1:2 To Timothy, my dearly beloved son
Timothy II 2:1 You therefore, my son
Titus 1:4 To Titus, mine own son after the common faith…
He did, however, I don't recall reading anywhere where Timothy or Titus called Paul "father". I don't recall hearing a priest calling a person his "son", or "son in the faith" either in my 30 years as a Catholic. If these verses imply that we are to call religious leaders "father", then why aren't lay men called "sons" by those who would want to be called "father"? This is just another inconsistency in the author's logic.

I don't recall anyone (much less Timothy or Titus above) in the NT using the term "father" when addressing a person of religious authority. One would think that it would have been used somewhere (anywhere) if it were used so prevalently. Either Peter would have signed his letter as Fr. Peter, or someone in the narrative book of Acts would have used this term. Or even Paul or any of the Apostles would have addressed each other this way. It's absence is as loud as Jesus' command above. Calling a person "Holy Father" seems to amplify all the more all of the problems above.

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