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Call No Man Father

Apostolic Apologetics: Call No Man Father



Introduction


Before I knew a single fact about Catholicism, one of the most commonly levied attacks in my Lutheran upbringing was that Catholics call priests "Father". This page will show you how a one verse cherry pick has turned into a completely ridiculous man made doctrine that directly contradicts the Bible. This document will review in full scriptural detail the issue presented by anti-Catholics regarding calling Clergy "Father".  You are encouraged to read this lengthy document from beginning to end, as much scripture is presented.

Synopsis


I found the following example of anti-Catholic teaching here at the website linked to below. This is a fairly standard example of the argument as set forth by non Catholics.

http://www.bible.ca/cath-overview-false-teaching.htm

1. Calling the Priests "Father" is forbidden

FACT: Catholics are taught to call their priest, "Father", as a religious title of respect. Christians in the first century never called their leaders, "father". This first happened hundreds of years later.

Scriptural Basis for the Objection


The above mentioned website claims to be a "Bible Teaching" website, informing the public on the
errors of the Catholic Church. But what does scripture actually say? The objection is founded upon the following verse. As with most anti-Catholic man made doctrines, this is the only verse that anti-Catholics can use to make their argument.

St. Matthew 23:9 
And call none your father upon earth; for one is your father, who is in heaven.

Correct Interpretation (Haydock)

The meaning is, that our Father in heaven is incomparably more to be regarded, than any father upon earth: and no master is to be followed, who would lead us away from Christ. But this does not hinder but that we are by the law of God to have a due respect both for our parents and spiritual fathers, and for our masters and teachers.

Christ did not mean that we can literally never call anyone "father" and the Bible proves it. He especially did not mean it to refer those who he taught, founded his Church upon (Matthew 16:18), and sent to carry on his message (John 20:21).

But could that "Meaning" be true? What makes it true?

Scripture does. Priests have always been called father.

Scripture Supporting the Catholic Practice

The Elders of the Church are Called "Fathers" and the Faithful "Children"

Judges 17:10
And Micah said to him, "Stay with me, and be to me a father and a priest, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, and a suit of apparel, and your living."

Judges 18:19 
And they said to him, "Keep quiet, put your hand upon your mouth, and come with us, and be to us a father and a priest. Is it better for you to be priest to the house of one man, or to be priest to a tribe and family in Israel?"

1 Corinthians 4:15
For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

Every family, spiritual or biological, in Heaven and on Earth, is named from the "Father." We are fathers in the Father:

Ephesians 3:14 
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father,

Ephesians 3:15 
from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named

Elders of the Church are called "father" repeatedly in the Bible:

Acts 7:2 
And Stephen said: "Brethren and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham, when he was in Mesopota'mia, before he lived in Haran,

Acts 22:1 
"Brethren and fathers, hear the defense which I now make before you."

1 John 2:13 

I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.

Paul describes his role as spiritual father over his "children" the Corinthians:

2 Corinthians 12:14 
Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children.

Paul calls Timothy's service to him as a son serves a "father."

Philippians 2:22 
But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

Paul compares the Church elders' ministry to the people like a father with his children:

1 Thessalonians 2:11 
for you know how, like a father with his children, we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you

1 Thessalonians 2:12 

to lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

Paul calls Timothy his true "child" in the faith and his son:


1 Timothy 1:2 
To Timothy, my true child in the faith: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:2 
To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

2 Timothy 1:3 
I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.

Paul calls Titus his true "child" in a common faith. Priests are our spiritual fathers in the family of God:

Titus 1:4
To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

Paul says he has become the "father" of Onesimus:

Philemon 1:10 
I appeal to you for my child, Ones'imus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment.

Emphasizes our earthly "fathers". But these are not just biological but also spiritual (the priests of the Church):

Hebrews 12:7
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Hebrews 12:8 
If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.

Hebrews 12:9 
Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?

Peter refers to himself as father by calling Mark his "son":

1 Peter 5:13 
She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark.

Yet again, we see John calls the elders of the Church "fathers":

1 John 2:1 
My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

1 John 2:13 
I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father.

1 John 2:14 
I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

John repeatedly calls members of the Church his "children."

1 John 2:1 
My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous;

1 John 2:18 
Children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come; therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:28 

And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

1 John 3:18 
Little children, let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth.

1 John 5:21 
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.

3 John 1:4 
No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth.

Mattathias the priest tells his sons that Simeon will be their "father":

1 Maccabees 2:65

 "Now behold, I know that Simeon your brother is wise in counsel; always listen to him; he shall be your father.

Apostles, NT Authors, Ignoring Jesus, or different understanding?


Jesus himself refers to Abraham as our "father":

Matthew 3:9 
and do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

Luke 3:8 
Bear fruits that befit repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.

The Lord, Mary, the Apostles and Others Refer to Spiritual Leaders as "Fathers"


The people cried out blessed is the kingdom of our "father" David that is coming:

Mark 11:10
Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is coming! Hosanna in the highest!"

God's angel says Jesus will be great and be given the throne of his "father" David:

Luke 1:32 
He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David,

Mary says that He spoke to our "fathers," to Abraham and to his posterity for ever:

Luke 1:55 
as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity for ever."

Zechariah says the oath which he swore to our "father" Abraham:

Luke 1:73 
the oath which he swore to our father Abraham,

Jesus, in His parable about the rich man, says our "father" Abraham:

Luke 16:24 
And he called out, 'Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Laz'arus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame.'

Luke 16:30 
And he said, 'No, father Abraham; but if some one goes to them from the dead, they will repent.'

The Samaritan woman asks Jesus if He is greater than our "father" Jacob:

John 4:12 
Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?"

Jesus refers to the "fathers" who gave the Jews the practice of circumcision:

John 7:22 
Moses gave you circumcision (not that it is from Moses, but from the fathers), and you circumcise a man upon the sabbath.

Jesus tells the Jews your "Father" Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day:

John 8:56 
Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad."

Peter teaches that the God of our "fathers" glorified His servant Jesus and raised Him to life:

Acts 3:13 
The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him.

Acts 3:25 
You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant which God gave to your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'And in your posterity shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'

Acts 5:30 
The God of our fathers raised Jesus whom you killed by hanging him on a tree.

Peter and John pray to God and refer to our "father" David:

Acts 4:25 
who by the mouth of our father David, thy servant, didst say by the Holy Spirit, 'Why did the Gentiles rage, and the peoples imagine vain things?

Stephen refers to our "fathers" in the faith:

Acts 7:11 

Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food.

Acts 7:12 
But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent forth our fathers the first time.

Acts 7:15 
and Jacob went down into Egypt. And he died, himself and our fathers,

Acts 7:19 
He dealt craftily with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, that they might not be kept alive.

Acts 7:38 
This is he who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living oracles to give to us.

Acts 7:44 

"Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, even as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen.

Acts 7:45 
Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations which God thrust out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David,

Acts 7:50 

Did not my hand make all these things?'

Acts 7:51 

"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.

Stephen calls God the God of our "fathers":

Acts 7:32 
'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.' And Moses trembled and did not dare to look.

Paul also refers to the God of our "fathers" in the faith:

Acts 13:17 
The God of this people Israel chose our fathers and made the people great during their stay in the land of Egypt, and with uplifted arm he led them out of it.

Acts 13:32 
And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers,

Acts 13:36 
For David, after he had served the counsel of God in his own generation, fell asleep, and was laid with his fathers, and saw corruption;

Acts 24:14 
But this I admit to you, that according to the Way, which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the law or written in the prophets,

Acts 26:6 
And now I stand here on trial for hope in the promise made by God to our fathers,

Acts 28:17 
After three days he called together the local leaders of the Jews; and when they had gathered, he said to them, "Brethren, though I had done nothing against the people or the customs of our fathers, yet I was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans.

Acts 28:25 
So, as they disagreed among themselves, they departed, after Paul had made one statement: "The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:

Paul says he was educated according to the strict law of our "fathers":

Acts 22:3 
"I am a Jew, born at Tarsus in Cili'cia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gama'li-el, educated according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as you all are this day.

Ananias says the God of our "fathers":

Acts 22:14 
And he said, 'The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Just One and to hear a voice from his mouth;

Paul calls Abraham our "forefather":

Romans 4:1 
What then shall we say about Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?

Paul says that Abraham is the "father" of us all and the "father" of many nations:

Romans 4:16 
That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants-- not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all,

Romans 4:17 
as it is written, "I have made you the father of many nations" --in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.

Paul calls Isaac, a spiritual leader, our "forefather":


Romans 9:10 
And not only so, but also when Rebecca had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac,

Paul says that our "fathers" were all under the cloud, referring to the Old Testament spiritual leaders:

1 Corinthians 10:1 
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,

Paul says that he was zealous for the tradition of his "fathers":

Galatians 1:14 
and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul thanks God whom he serves with a clear conscience as did his "fathers" in faith:

2 Timothy 1:3
I thank God whom I serve with a clear conscience, as did my fathers, when I remember you constantly in my prayers.

The author says God spoke of old to our "fathers":


Hebrews 1:1 
In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets;

The Holy Spirit says that your "fathers" put me to the test:

Hebrews 3:9 
where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years.

God says not like the covenant that I made with their "fathers":

Hebrews 8:9 
not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord.

James says was not our "father" Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac?


James 2:21 

Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?

Peter says you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your "fathers":


1 Peter 1:18 
You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your fathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold,

Peter says ever since the "fathers" fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning:


2 Peter 3:4 
and saying, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things have continued as they were from the beginning of creation."

More examples of Jesus using the word "Father" when teaching

Jesus uses "father" when He teaches God's commandment to "Honor your father and your mother":

Matthew 15:4 
For God commanded, 'Honor your father and your mother,' and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die.'

Matthew 15:5 
But you say, 'If any one tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is given to God, he need not honor his father.'

Matthew 19:19 
Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

More examples of Jesus using "father" when teaching about honoring our fathers and mothers:

Mark 7:10
For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'He who speaks evil of father or mother, let him surely die';

Mark 7:11 
but you say, 'If a man tells his father or his mother, What you would have gained from me is Corban' (that is, given to God)--

Mark 7:12
then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother,

Luke 18:20 

You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'"

Paul also teaches to honor your "father" and mother, and says "fathers," do not provoke your children:

Ephesians 6:2
"Honor your father and mother" (this is the first commandment with a promise),

Ephesians 6:4 
Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.

Jesus says "father" will deliver up his child in the last days:

Matthew 10:21 
Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

Matthew 10:35 
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

Matthew 10:37 
He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;

Mark 13:12 
And brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death;

Jesus says a man shall leave his "father" and mother and be joined to his wife:

Matthew 19:5 

and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'?

Mark 10:7 
'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife,

Ephesians 5:31 
"For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."

Jesus says whoever has left mother or "father" for His sake shall receive a hundredfold:

Matthew 19:29 
And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life.

Mark 10:29 

Jesus said, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,

Mark 10:30 
who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

Jesus uses "father" when he teaches about the parable of the two sons and asks, "who did the will of his "father?"


Matthew 21:31 
Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you.

Jesus speaks about reward and punishment with reference to what their "fathers" did to the prophets:


Luke 6:23 
Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.

Luke 6:26
 "Woe to you, when all men speak well of you, for so their fathers did to the false prophets.

Jesus says what "father" among you will give his child a serpent when he asks for a fish:

Luke 11:11 
What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;

Jesus tells the lawyers they are witnesses to the deeds of their "fathers":

Luke 11:47 
Woe to you! for you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed.

Luke 11:48 
So you are witnesses and consent to the deeds of your fathers; for they killed them, and you build their tombs.

Jesus says we must leave our "fathers" and mothers and come to him, or we cannot be His disciple:


Luke 14:26
"If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.

Jesus repeatedly uses "father" when teaching about the prodigal son:

Luke 15:12 
and the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that falls to me.' And he divided his living between them.

Luke 15:17 
But when he came to himself he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have bread enough and to spare, but I perish here with hunger!

Luke 15:18 
I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you;

Luke 15:20 
And he arose and came to his father. But while he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.

Luke 15:21 
And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

Luke 15:22 
But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet;

Luke 15:27 
And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fatted calf, because he has received him safe and sound.'

Luke 15:28 
But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him,

Luke 15:29 
but he answered his father, 'Lo, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command; yet you never gave me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends.

Jesus uses "father" when teaching about the rich man in purgatory:


Luke 16:27 
And he said, 'Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father's house,

Jesus says your "fathers" ate the manna in the wilderness and died:

John 6:49 
Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

John 6:58 
This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

1206 times in the Holy Bible is the word "Father" used. 558 Times "fathers" is used.


Conclusion

If these passages (St. Matthew 23:8-9) were meant to be taken literally, then we all offend the Scripture. We all have used "father" to designate our birth father; and "teacher," our instructors at school. On the other hand, the meaning of the scripture is that no person should be given the respect and honor due ultimately to God the Father.

Matthew 23:8 
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren.

By this verse you are not to call anyone rabbi or teacher. But on the anti Catholic page I referenced at the beginning of this article, they have a search to locate "instructors in your area".

Citations


Much of the scripture commentary in this document comes from John Salza of Scripture Catholic [Link]

Comments