General Question

longgone's avatar

Does the Bible really state that you should not call anyone "father" except for God?

Asked by longgone (13740points) October 10th, 2017

If that’s true, how come Catholics call priests “father”?

I recognize there’s inconsistency in every religion, just curious about the argumentation.

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

16 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

Mathew 23–9 says “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (KJV)

You could argue that that’s clear evidence that you shouldn’t call priests “father” however reading a single verse out of context or in an entirely literal fashion is usually unhelpful.

elbanditoroso's avatar

First off, that’s the New Testament, not the Old Testament, which makes it irrelevant for a Jews and various others.

Second, there are dozens – hundreds even, of references to families where the father is identified (take the Joseph story – “Does my father still live?”) and numerous others where sons speak to fathers using the term Father.

I am no expert on the NT (Matthew) but it seems that the verso quoted couldn’t possibly be taken literally.

zenvelo's avatar

@longgone You question, “how come Catholics call priests “father”?” happens to be one of many anti-Catholic arguments of Fundamentalists.

But it shows a lack of understanding of the cultural use of a term for a counselor, mentor, leader, a term of respect.

flutherother's avatar

It is nonsense to take these words literally because if we did it would mean we shouldn’t listen to Jesus, as he is not God.

Muad_Dib's avatar

The Bible says many things, some literal, some allegorical, some metaphorical.

Can we be sure which are which? Not really, since we don’t have the source documents, and stuff gets lost between copies, and we’re relying on translations of rumours from thousands of years ago – which is usually read with little to no understanding of how language was used at that time.

Let’s look at the context of that scripture:

Jesus is speaking to the multitude here, so we’re starting at Matthew chapter 23, verse 2:

Saying, The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.

Translation: These here Pharisees are hypocrites – they want you to follow their instructions but they don’t even follow their own commandments.

For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, And 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.

Translation: When the Pharisees do work, it’s not the manual labor – they make other people do that – they do things so that it can be seen by other people, so those people will look at them and think, “Wow! Look how awesome they are! We should learn from them!” (Rabbi literally means “teacher”)

But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

Translation: But don’t fall for this bullshit, and don’t get conned into thinking this is the best way to serve God. Be humble, learn, and serve, and don’t be a hypocrite, and you will be praised for it, and people won’t think you’re an asshole

Brian1946's avatar

It’s true. This is why Matt Silverman (AKA Matthew), insisted that we call our male parents “Dad”, instead of “Father”. ;-o

Strauss's avatar

All sources I’ve researched, as well as most interpretations I’ve seen, say almost exactly the same thing. The writers of the Gospels were masters of hyperbole, as well as other literary devices. The verse in discussion should be looked at in context with the rest of the text.

longgone's avatar

Thanks everyone. That was really interesting. I’ve never had any real contact with a Bible, so all this is news to me. I’m thinking about it as more of a cautionary tale now, not to be taken literally.

I wonder whether it’s a distinction without a difference though – the pope is certainly treated with more reverence than you’d treat the average neighbour, isn’t he? Of course, the same could be said about other celebrities.

Muad_Dib's avatar

The Pope is the head of the Catholic Church. Protestants typically don’t ascribe any special status to the Pope, though some offer him personal respect as a scholar in his own right.

The Catholic Church was first legalised by the emperor Constantine, and made the state religion of Rome by the emperor Theodisius I in 380. Since then, the Catholic Church has retconned history so there’s an unbroken line of “official Popes” going back to Saint Peter (because, Catholicism claims, it was him of whom Jesus spoke when he said “Upon this rock I will build my Church”.

Because Catholicism credits the Pope with infallibility when speaking about matters of the church, the last 1800 years have given us oodles and oodles of non-Biblical canon that applies to the Catholic religion, and not to Protestants.

That’s why you’ll see Catholics baptize infants, whereas most forms of protestantism wait until a child is able to ask to take part in the rite.

Catholics and Protestants both claim the same Jesus, but they really are very different religions.

kritiper's avatar

It may depend on which Bible you read. Having been raised Catholic, I have never heard of such a thing.

Zaku's avatar

Literally yes. Taking almost any part of the Bible literally is a mis-use of it, though.

Brian1946's avatar


What are some of the historical and theological relationships between Baptists and Catholics?

Muad_Dib's avatar

About 1250 years.

The first recognized Baptist congregation began in Amsterdam in the 1600s – about 70 years after the Lutherans started whispering into Henry VIII’s ear. It’s a little outside the time period I normally study (I prefer the first millennium, CE) but from what I know, the Baptists were separatists who opposed some of the finer points of the Church of England (the result of Henry VIII’s institution of Lutheranism into English law).

Of course they also have retconned the beginning of their religion to John the Baptist himself (as opposed to St. Peter). They believe that the only “true baptism” is the baptism of the believer, meaning that the baptism of an infant is insufficient to protect the person’s soul from damnation. This (in my study) is supported by scripture, though the Bible does talk about dedicating infants to God, it does speak of baptism as something that is done after a confession of faith and repentance of sins.

The Catholic church baptises infants as a precaution against damnation due to Original Sin, which was first mentioned in the 2nd century (arguably on a mistranslation of scripture), and made popular by St Augustine of Hippo in the 4th century, who stated that since Adam was the father of all, we inherit his sin through birth.

While Baptists (and other Protestants) tend to agree that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”), Evangelical protestants like Baptists and Pentecostals (I was raised Pentecostal) believe that forgiveness can only come through repentance, and baptising an infant is just giving them a cold bath.

Brian1946's avatar

Thanks for your prompt and comprehensive answer.

I guess your reply would have been about 3 hours later, if Wrigley field wasn’t being “baptized”. ;-)

Muad_Dib's avatar


Stupid TBS not letting them show the game at 1pm like they asked.

Muad_Dib's avatar

I ORDERED PIZZA. It’s Taco Tuesday. They just ruined my whole week.

Answer this question




to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther