Friday, March 04, 2016

Matthew 23:9 and Father

καὶ πατέρα μὴ καλέσητε ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τῆς γῆς, εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν ὁ πατὴρ ὁ οὐράνιος·

I hate to state the obvious here, but Jesus is not discussing biological fathers: the context is a religious one. Louw and Nida (Lexical Semantics of the Greek NT. Atlanta: Scholar's Press, 1992) provide 24 examples of πατὴρ in the GNT and show that one must carefully differentiate between distinct semantic domains of πατὴρ, just as one would carefully parse between unique senses of "earth" in Scripture.

They write:

"In context 5 ('do not call anyone on earth father')
the use of PATHR is quite different from what it is in
previous contexts, since this is certainly not an
injunction against speaking about one's own father nor
is it a taboo about speaking of God as 'Father.' In
Matthew 23:9 the focus is on authority within the
believing community, and so a term appropriate to God
is not to be used in speaking about [human] persons"
(pp. 45-47).

This explanation is obvious in the context of Mt 23:9; nevertheless, some continue to insist that this Matthean verse does not rule out calling religious leaders "father."


Duncan said...

Interesting point.

The previous verse when compared with mat 7:29 demonstrates the context by comparison. So, also, a father like no other.

You would think that verse 12 would make them think hard about why they would ever want to carry that title.

Edgar Foster said...

Those who call themselves "father" or who are given this designation say they're servants of the Lord. Even the Pope (pappa) is known as "primus inter pares."

Duncan said...

Sound a little like George Orwell's animal farm - "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others".