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Call no man father.

De Maria's picture

Hello all,

On another topic, the Esteemed Julabee Jones is castigating Catholics roundly for calling priests, father.

She bases that opinion on Jesus' injunction, "call no man father". Now I don't see any qualifications there. Jesus didn't say, don't call priests father. He said
And call no man your father upon the earth.... Matthew 23:9

Yet, I've met no one, Protestant or Catholic, who doesn't call their dad, father. Except a few disrespectful children.

So I was wondering, what do you call your father? A question, by the way, which the sweet Julabee, has yet to answer.


De Maria

De Maria's picture

re: Context

Hi Noshi,

Thanks for joining the discussion. You said:

Dear DM,
One must try to understand the spirit behind the words. For even the pharisees and the teachers of the law perfectly knew the written law, but totally missed the spirit of the law.
If one reads the preceding text, it's clear that this verse infact is spoken in connection with people like those - who desired special honours for themselves - for the duties that they 'supposedly' performed.
Here our Lord is specifically asking His disciples not to succumb to the same error, but guide others in a spirit of humility, acknowledging the supremacy of God in their lives, and not of one human being over another.
Please note the sequence - Rabbi.. father.. teacher. It has nothing to do with our biological fathers at all.

You make a good point. I'd be a liar if I said you didn't. I used to believe that myself. With the small caveat that I also understood Jesus to be forbidding us to call our fathers, father.

And, since I understood the text and the context essentially the same way that you do today, I went around with an uneasy feeling.

Before I continue, I'd like to ask you a question, to make sure we are on the same page.

Do you agree that reading the Scriptures is about "meaning" and not about "words"? I mean, Jesus was not speaking English. He was speaking another language, some say Aramaic, some say Hebrew. But He was using different words with the same meaning as the ones we listen to in English. Do you agree?

The reason I ask, is because everyone I know, Protestant or Catholic is known as Mister. Do you know where the word Mister comes from?

as a title of courtesy before a man's Christian name, 1447, unaccented variant of master.

So, essentially every Christian man is known as Master. Isn't that strange? Apparently, we all disregarded the words of our Lord.

Well, lets look at another on your list:

Definitions of rabbi on the Web:

* spiritual leader of a Jewish congregation; qualified to expound and apply Jewish law
* a Hebrew title of respect for a Jewish scholar or teacher

Rabbi is essentially a redundancy in our Lord's text since it is synonymous with teacher. In fact, even the word "master" which I mentioned above, has a meaning of "teacher" in certain contexts. So, we can handle all of them together. Do Christians call anyone teacher?

Lets look at the rolls in a Christian University. Pick one, any one. I'll pick a Protestant University in order to be fair. I'm certain that the Catholic Universities will call the teachers on their staff teachers. But lets see what those who object to calling any man "father" will do to the other injunction against calling anyone "teacher".

Let's try Yale Divinity School. I hope that is Protestant enough for you.

Now, if you agreed that the meaning of the words is what is important. We will see that professor means teacher.

Here is a New York Times obituary telling us that a professor died.
The Rev. Dr. Roland H. Bainton, professor emeritus of church history at the Yale Divinity School, died yesterday at his Divinity School apartment in New Haven.

Main Entry: pro·fes·sor
Pronunciation: \prə-ˈfe-sər\
Function: noun
Date: 14th century

1 : one that professes, avows, or declares
2 a : a faculty member of the highest academic rank at an institution of higher education b : a teacher at a university, college, or sometimes secondary school c : one that teaches or professes special knowledge of an art, sport, or occupation requiring skill

And Yale Divinity School has many professors:
... Don Saliers ’62 B.D., ’67 Ph.D., the William R. Canon Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Theology....Don Saliers, a liturgical musician and former Yale Divinity School professor of theology.....

They issued degrees which bestow the title "Master":
The degree of Master of Divinity (M.Div.) certifies completion of a program of theological studies designed primarily, although not exclusively, to prepare the candidate for ordination to the Christian ministry.....

I think that I've proven that both Protestants and Catholics call their teachers, "teacher". Thus, according to you, we could say that the whole Christian world disregards Christ's injunction:

10Nor are you to be called 'teacher,' for you have one Teacher, the Christ.


I'm sure you will also agree with me, that the truth is true even if the whole world did not believe it and disobeyed it.

But I still had that uneasy feeling, because its one thing for the world to disregard Jesus' injunctions, but the Apostles? Yes, the Apostles. Why would they disregard His injunctions?

Acts 13:1
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul.

1 Corinthians 12:28
And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

And finally, even Our Lord disregarded what He said. He referred to Abraham as Father Abraham:
Luke 16:24
And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.

And He refers to every man's father as "father":
Mark 10:29
And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,

He calls Nicodemus a "master":
10Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?

So, if Jesus, the Apostles and the whole of Christendom did not take these words literally as you suggest, shouldn't we be looking for another meaning to this verse?

I say we should. And I have suggested another meaning. In my opinion, Our Lord is saying "I AM". He is proclaiming that He is God.

Let us review the Scripture in question:

Matthew 23: 7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.

As I look at these verses, it strikes me that Jesus is equating Himself and God the Father. Look at how it is set up. We have one Master, Christ. One Father, God. Again, one Master, Christ. Jesus is not here telling us to deny our fathers and our teachers. He is telling us to recognize that He is God from whom all things come.

And He has done it before. This verse is similar:
Luke 14 26If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. 27And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

This is plain speaking isn't it? It is just as plain as call no man father. We must not only not call a man our father but we must HATE our fathers? Is that what the God of Love is teaching us? To hate our fathers, mothers, wives etc.? No! Again, He is telling us that He is God and there is none before Him.

So, there you have it.


De Maria