Is It Wrong To Refer To Religious Figures As “Father” According To Matthew 23:9?

The Roman Catholic denomination refers to their pope by the religious title of “father” (the word “pope” comes from the Greek word pappas, meaning “father”). This contradicts Matthew 23:9 which clearly condemns the use of the word “father” as a religious title.

Others wrongly argue the case that the Bible contradicts itself in Matthew 23:8-11; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Philippians 2:22. From this position, the question is raised, “Since Paul, the apostle is referring to himself with the term ‘father,’ why should it not be the case that religious figures can be called by the title ‘Father’? Does Matthew 23:8-11; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Philippians 2:22 contradict?” Both of these questions will be answered in accordance to the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).

When Jesus is forbidding the terms, “rabbi, father, and teacher”, in the context, he is referring to formal religious titles. There are different meanings of the word “father” in the Scriptures. When Paul is using the term “father”, he is using it as a metaphor, not as a formal religious title(a metaphor is a figure of speech applied to a word that is not literally applicable). Look closely at 1 Corinthians 4:15. Paul says he “begot” (“lead”, “fathered”) the Corinthians through the gospel of Jesus Christ as a result of preaching to them. The seed was “planted” in the good and honest hearts of the Corinthians and they obeyed it (1 Corinthians 3:6). In Philippians 2:22, Paul is using a simile to describe his mentoring relationship with Timothy (a simile is a figure of speech comparing one thing with another of a different kind for emphasis). Jesus condemned using the word “father” as a religious title; whereas, Paul used the word “father” as a figure of speech for emphasis to describe his role in the conversion of the brethren to whom he was addressing. The Bible does not support the Catholic’s position of addressing their religious leaders as “pope”, “father”, etc. nor does the Bible support the skeptics’ view that the Bible contradicts itself.

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