Do not to call anyone your father upon the earth



asked this question on 1/15/2001:

Why would you call your priests Father when in Matthew 23.9? it states plane as the nose on your face not to call anyone your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, Which is in heaven? thanks."



gave this response on 1/15/2001:


In many parts of the world throughout the centuries, saintly men who loved Christ and knew the Scripture had no misgiving at all to be called "father". Were they disobeying the Lord? I say no.

A Catholic would have understood at once this kind of reasoning. He would have asked how this reality harmonizes with the text we are talking about. It wouldn’t have crossed his mind that there could be a possible disobedience to Christ’s word as you imply. However, you can’t accept this kind of argument because your only source is Scripture isn’t it? (It's a surmise. I've have been wrong).

Have you called "father" the man that sired you? It says unmistakably in the Scripture "And do not call ANYONE on earth ‘father’. I suppose you have done so. May I repeat your words: "it states plane as the nose on your face not to call anyone (!?) your father upon the earth"?

It’s unfair to argue like that. I agree. This sort of arguments is called "ad hominem – against the person". We should argue "ad rem – concerning the problem". The scholastics of old have many things to teach us!

The biblical texts are understood by the context. Do you agree? What is the context of our passage? The recriminations of our Lord against the Pharisees and Scribes that liked honorific titles. The interpretation would then be: "You should not give each others honorific titles as the Pharisees do". What are these titles? Rabbi (master), teacher, father, director. Why? Because you all are brothers". It’s not about the word "father, master, teacher, director". The point of the teaching is that nobody should exalt himself. This is the intention. Jesus wants to avoid thatch His church be infected by the ferment of the Pharisees.

Now I have to thank you for your post because it made me go and ask the Church Fathers. What did they think about this question?

I found for you and me a text of St. Augustine (Treatise of faith and creed 4):

For if, on the ground of His having said, "Who is my mother?" (Mt 12, 48) every one should conclude that He had no mother on earth, then each should as matter of course be also compelled to deny that the apostles had fathers on earth; since He gave them an injunction in these terms: "Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven."

You see it’s not about calling anybody with the name of ‘father’ for Augustine. 1500 hundred years ago they had the same question as you do.

And Saint Agustin abounds regarding the reference of Saint Paul:

"1 Cor 4: 14 I am not writing this to shame you, but to warn you, as my dear children. 15 Even though you have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. 16 Therefore I urge you to imitate me."

The ancient knew the Scripture. They knew it by heart. St. Augustine (Cfr. Comm. In Ps. 78 and I hope you know that the Vulgate and the Hebrew Psalms differ in numeration by one) knew this text too and shows how it combines with the other one commenting Psalm 78 verse 10/11: "And they forgat His benefits, and the wonderful works of Him which He showed to them; before their fathers the wonderful things which He did".

After some considerations Augustine continues:

"do we more suitably understand thereby the fathers Moses and Aaron, and the other elders who are related in the same Scripture also to have received the Spirit, of which also Moses received, in order that they might aid him in ruling and bearing the same people? For why should they not have been called fathers? It is not in the same manner (hear ye, hark ye!) as God is the One Father, who doth regenerate with His Spirit those whom He doth make sons for an everlasting inheritance; but it is for the sake of honor, because of their age and kindly carefulness: just as Paul the elder saith, "Not to confound you I am writing these things, but as my dearly beloved sons I am admonishing you:" though he knew of a truth that it had been said by the Lord, "Call ye no man your father on earth, for One is your Father, even God." And this was not said in order that this term of human honor should be erased from our usual way of speaking: but lest the grace of God whereby we are regenerated unto eternal life, should be ascribed either to the power or even sanctity of any man. Therefore when he said, "I have begotten you;" he first said, "in Christ," and "through the Gospel;" lest that might be thought to be of him, which is of God".

I love Saint Augustine!

Just the explanation the Catholics have for this problem. Therefore, by the permission of St. Augustine you may continue calling your progenitor "father" without disobeying Christ.

(to be continued)



gave this follow-up answer on 1/15/2001:

(I hope you can stand some additional information!)

May I cite additionally a non-Catholic commentator regarding the text we are talking about?

"The Abba of Holy Writ has its equivalent in many Oriental languages, as well as in the Greek and Latin, through which it has passed into all the dialects of Europe. It was originally given to all presbyters, as implied in their name of elders, and was a title of humility when it became peculiar to the bishops, as (1 Peter 5:3) non Domini sed patres. St. Paul (1 Corinthians 4:15) shows that "in Christ"—that is, under Him—we may have such "fathers; "and thus, while he indicates the true sense of the precept, he leads us to recognize a prophetic force and admonition in our Savior’s words (Matthew 23:1), 'Call no man your father upon the earth'." (M. Henry's Commentary ad locum)

In order to show you that he doesn't write this out of sympathy with Catholicism you can read the sequel. The author grinds his ax against the Pope.

It's my personal preference that in my community I be called by my first name. Do I reprove Saint Augustine?

You have to make a distinction between theology and pastoral. Theology is doctrine that cannot be changed. Pastoral is the application of this doctrine. The application can be changed according to the circumstances. I don’t want to change the doctrine regarding this question. It’s all right call the Pope, the bishops and the priests "father". But we have to look at the situation and act accordingly.

Let me give you an example. Catholicism doesn't advocate animal sacrifice. The missionaries of Britain asked Gregory the Great what to do regarding the sacrifices of animals that were in use during the feasts of the natives. The Pope answered them that you have to move gradually introducing the Christian ways of life. So by all means let them celebrate the feasts of the Lord sacrificing animals with rejoicing as long as they understand that it’s all in honor of the one God.

Now here in Peru many a faithful are very clericalists. They think that the priest is out of their league, a superior being. It’s like in the joke of a nun teaching Sunday class. She talks reverently about the excellence of holy order. Awed little James asks: "Oh sister, the priests do they go to the bathroom?" Blushing the nun answers: "Quite, they do that but not so frequently!"

Therefore, I try to help my community to be serious regarding the fact that I am a brother, a sinner. (At least they would never sense the necessity to pray for my conversion. Perish the thought!)

At the same time, I have a special ministry for them during the holy Liturgy. Then I am a special representative invested with the power of Christ to teach, to baptize and to consecrate. This is visible. In holy Liturgy, I put on the liturgical vestments and preside in front of the whole community. The honor is for the represented not for whom represents.

In other meetings, I sit between my brothers and sisters and I am taught by them and corrected by them too, thank God. Therefore, it’s pastoral procedure and not the teaching that I am changing.

I suppose that you are of evangelical extraction. That’s why and how you ask the question you are asking.

You have only to look at the real Catholic experts on the Catholicism board in order to understand that we have something more than Scripture to guarantee our unity in doctrine. (There are some fakes ones but the Lord makes them serve in order to have a better Catholic Church). We talk all the same language because we are steeped in the same doctrine and we understand each other at once be they from different cultures, of America, Europe, Asia or Peru. We have an other leg to stand on: Tradition, uninterrupted Tradition from the Apostles until today. That's why the Catholic Church teaches the same doctrine through the centuries and in all regions.

"It's plane as the nose on your face..."

However, sometimes someone has to help you by pushing your nose and turning your head until you face in the right direction. That doesn't change the nose but is changes the panorama. I would be wrong to say: "The nose is plainly the nose. It can only point in one direction!" That's the narrow view of Sola Scriptura. Tradition makes you look at the entire panorama.




dprinf asked this follow-up question on 1/15/2001:

For all your research I am thankful but AS theologians and not Christ speaking I would be following a tradition of a man and not the word of God. For most certainly the Church prescribes to the knowledge that "priests" The very word haunts me for some reason. Do they pretend to be Leviticus? If not brethren. They are enshrined into the World of the past when Rome ruled the world and a power struggle was on the front burner of the day. Priest and Bishops and especially the vicar and infallible Pope would be taking a position above the regular status quo when they consider themselves divine in some way. This is purely taking the high seat in the Church of Rome and cannot happen in the Church of Christ. Priests before the Bible was printed in mass had only letters handed down from higher authorities and often times were unlearned themselves and didn’t understand what was written if they didn’t know Latin. A father can be the ONE in heaven or a person of parentage or ancestry or a founder of the Church or something else. I believe we can at least distinguish this easily in dividing the word of Christ. I do not whish to be taught a thing when I have already been a Christian most of my life and believe this as we now have many more scholars than 2000 years ago. thx.




I'm happy that we agree on the possibility that we do no wrong to Scripture when we distinguish between whom we call "father" (you called your father "father" didn't you?) and Whom we call "FATHER".

Moreover, if I understand you right, your follow up question is not about the title of "father" but about priesthood. Perhaps it's convenient to remember that in the NT only Christ receives the title of "priest", all His instruments are called presbyters. In the Catholic Church, the Leviticus priesthood is discontinued. Read Hebrews. I'm sorry if the general use of describing Catholic clerics by the word "priest" worries you. In the Latin-American ambiance, we call them "presbyters". Nevertheless, we do talk about the call to priesthood. But it's the call into participation in the one priesthood of Christ.

You are haunted by ghosts that lead you into wrong conclusions. Wrongdoing is not equal wrong doctrine. Certainly, I don't deny that some Popes (we have had some pretty hideous ones, God help us!), Bishops and priests in the past did not abide to the mission of their service. They abused it in order to achieve personal and secular gain. They did wrong. Please read the prayer of John Paul II asking forgiveness of all these sins in the name of the Church. However, these incidences show that the Catholic Church is the true Church. How can you explain that not even our gruesome Popes did ever declare a falsehood in doctrine? It's a sure sign that the Catholic Church is the true Church if she can't be destroyed not even by her very own Popes, Bishops and priests (oops! presbyters). Her foundation is the rock that cannot be overcome by the gates of hell. This is a greater danger than persecution from outside or haunting ghosts that suppose wrong doctrine.

Look at many other Christian denominations. They are destroying themselves from the inside. They have had at least God's Scripture to teach them. Against Scripture, they admit divorce, homosexuality, abortion, female bishops, contraconception and other abominations. What has happened to them? Their temples will be museums.

Regarding your argument about scholastics and academics I thought the right scholars are those who explain lucidly Christ's teaching and are not inventors of unwarranted conclusions. I can't disprove your assumption that many of the early priests and bishops didn't know to read or to write. There is no way to prove it or the contrary. We don't have the facts. By the way, the first ones wrote in Greek. Only with Tertulian Latin enters the Church. You wouldn't care to argue that scholars are wrong because at the beginning there were few of them? The Bishops we know were all scholars. The Apostolic Fathers show a surprising grasp of their culture. The oldest post-apostolic document the Didache is proof of it. Even this document called "childlike in style" by some evangelical commentators uses the very sophisticated rhetoric device of "progressio". Besides, the old Christians used their memory much more than we do. They learned by heart. Are you a scholar only because you know how to read and write? Catholic scholars abide by the teaching of the Church. There you have the guarantee of orthodoxy.

Finally, one can err even after 40 years of being a faithful Christian. Your personal guarantee is a scholar, preacher, and pastor? Probably your answer is: the Word of God. But the many denominations all interpret Scripture. Look what they are doing and teaching. Who guarantees your interpretation? My guarantee is the uninterrupted coherent teaching of the 2000 year old Catholic Church.

And perhaps it requires a scholar to pull your nose in the right direction even after 40 years.




dprinf asked this follow-up question on 1/18/2001:

I will agree the Bible has been preserved in such a way that the Roman Catholic Church can take their share of the Credit although many Church's claim to be very old. As far as Churches destroying themselves, do not the Catholics have abortions, Divorce, and all the abominable things you mentioned at the same rate as every one else? The King James version of the Bible come comes from the Kingly Line out of Jerusalem. They have the stone of scone with Hebrew writing on it taken when they were scattered. All Kings were coronate over this stone for as far back as time. This is why King James had the Bible written up. Well, stick to your faith and God bless.


mscperu declined

Yes, yes, yes! We Catholics are sinners. But we don't say it's all right! That is the big difference. I don't care to discuss the rate because we don't have the enough information. And another problem has to be considered. Many denomination expel the sinners. The Catholic Church does it only in special cases.

Thank you for letting me stick to my faith.

God bless you too!





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