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Call No Man Father


Catholicism Overseer
Catholicism Overseer
Oct 21, 2019
Catholics are sometimes accused of contradicting scripture because they call their priests "Father" but Jesus said (Mt 23:9):
And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

But is there really a contradiction?
Jesus himself uses the term in later in the same chapter (vs 32.)
Jesus refers to Abraham as father in Lk 16:24, as does James in Jas 2:21.
Paul writes “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.” (1Cor 4:15)
Matthew repeatedly refers to fathers in Matt 10:21-37, 15:4-6
John writes “I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning.” (1Jn 2:13)
And there are more examples I could give.

So what is going on?
What is going on is the logical fallacy of equivocation in the use of “call” – using a word with two different meanings.
The Collins Concise Dictionary gives 28 [yes, twenty eight] different meanings to the verb “call”. Some of these are specialist terms (e.g. to “call” at poker)
Here are two of them
8. (tr) to name or style: they called the dog Rover.
9. (tr) designate: they called him a coward.
or as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary [less comprehensive with only 8 meanings] puts it:- “[3.] give a specified name to. address by a specified name, title, etc.”
Catholics address or give their priests a title of Father. But this is not the same meaning as Jesus was using in Mt 23:9

According to a Greek Orthodox priest, who is also a Greek translator, the word translated “call” in Mt 23:9 is misunderstood. I do not understand the technicalities of Greek but apparently the word used (kalesete) is not any of those used to imply a name or title, but means summon or call forth and is in the second person aorist active subjunctive plural form (and no, I don’t understand what that is!).

This would be the following from the Collins Concise Dictionary
1. to speak out or utter (words, sounds etc.) loudly so as to attract attention
2. (tr) to ask or order to come
or as the Concise Oxford English Dictionary put it:- “[1.] cry out to (someone) in order to summon them or attract their attention.”

The issue does not arise in the Greek because two different words are used.
In Mt 23:9 the Greek is kalesete.
But the Greek word for call in the sense of addressing someone is legeis as in this example (Lk 18:18-19)
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call [legeis] me good? No one is good but God alone.

Here is an example using both meanings
As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon who is called Peter and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. And he said to them, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. (Mt 4:18-21)

Here are the two uses of called. The first meaning named or addressed (Simon who is called Peter) is legomenon (Strong 3004). The second is call in the sense of call out to (he called them) ekalesen (Strong 2564)


Staff member
Central Minnesota, USA
Dec 11, 2010
If I understand you then, the use of the word father when referring to a priest is merely a title and not reflective of an inheritance, ancestry, or Lordship and in Matthew 23:9 Jesus is not speaking about a title but rather an ancestry, Lordship, or ancestral line. Father in this case is a much more intimate use of the vernacular. For those of us who accept Christ are joint heirs with Christ.

14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”
16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Romans 8:14-17 NKJV

And again...
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 1:10-13 NKJV


Mar 12, 2022
Hello Mungo.
I think what our Lord meant was not to think of anyone as having preemenence above our Father in Heaven. He also said, be not ye called Rabb,: for one is your Master, even Christ (Mt.23:8). This kind of goes along with Pauls' teaching in 1Cor.3:3-7.
So it's not wrong to refer to people who instruct us as teachers, or our dads as fathers, but it is wrong to think of them as the ultimate teacher or Father.


2022 Supporter
Sep 18, 2012
The next generation wont have any difficulty not calling anyone father. It's all Baby Daddy with them now.

Well I had 9 kids, so I named 'em all Joe.

How does that work?

When it's time for dinner, I just calls Hey Joe, Suppertime and they all come a runnin. Now if I was wanting to speak with one individual child? Then I'd call him by the baby daddy last name....