Friday, June 19, 2020

If it is not right to call any person on earth "Father" (Matthew 23:9), why did St. Paul say, “I became your father through the gospel (1 CORINTHIANS 4:15)”?

Is there a contradiction between these two verses? Or, is it wrong to call a Catholic priest or spiritual adviser here on earth, “Father”? Is it enough to understand this literally or not to carefully analyze what the Lord Jesus meant by, “And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father—the one in heaven” (Matthew 23:9)?

Is it wrong to call any priest or spiritual mentor or adviser, “Father”? 

Christ was a priest and this is biblical (Hebrews 7:26). He called his disciples “children” which is written in the gospel (John 13:33).  

Here is what a Bible scholar said in his analysis: 
Jesus addresses his disciples as “children” in 13:33 (cf. paidi/a in 21:5), which figures in the Jesus tradition  as well as being a standard title for disciples in John’s circle (1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21; paidi/a in 2:14, 18). This title should not be thought to betray a confusion between the roles of Father and Son; apart from its application to Jesus, one would not even need to assume divine implications in Jesus being their implied “father” here...“Father” could apply to any respected elders;  thus, for example, the honorary title “father of a synagogue” (The Gospel of John, Volume One & Volume Two, Craig S. Keener, Baker Academic, 2010, pp.921-922).

Regarding the statement of Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 4:15. Students could affectionately call and treat special teachers as "fathers"; that St. Paul here calls himself their "father through the gospel"(1 Corinthians 4:15).

“Philosophers, rabbis and teachers in general were models to imitate as well as to listen to. This is one of the most common ideas in Greek literature. A disciple of a teacher could be called his "child" (4:15); Timothy as an imitator of Paul can become a model for St. Paul's "children" in Corinth” (The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, IVP Academic; First edition (February 1994), p. 461).

According to Historians, St. Paul was a spiritual father.
Cf. also 1 Cor. 4:15, where Paul says that he became the spiritual father (Gk. egennesa) of the Corinthians (page 285, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Volume 2 edited by Geoffrey W. Bromile).

In Matthew 23, Jesus made us understand that we must learn how to be humble while religious leaders must not seek honorary titles. 
"Religious leaders must not seek honorary titles (23:7-11). Most of the people respected sages and their disciples (Goodman 1983: 77-78), and honors for rabbis seem to have grown in time (cf., e.g., Neusner 1972: 76, 101; Edersheim 53) (The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary ,Craig S. Keener, p.543).

If we study the message carefully, the Pharisees wanted to grab the Glory of God. You can call your mentor, “Father” provided you do not consider him god or equal to God, the Father in heaven. This is the message of Jesus. 
"By the same token, they ought not call anyone on earth "father" (23:9), because they have only on Father -- "the one in heaven," to whom Jesus taught them to pray in filial confidence and love (6:9-13)" (p. 955, The Paulist Biblical Commentary).

No other should be called “teacher” or “father” except God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ: Father, because from him are all things…. It is one thing to be a father or teacher by nature, something else to be one by tender feeling. If we call a man “father,” we are conferring honor to his age; we are not pointing out the Creator of our life (260-261, Commentary on Matthew (Fathers of the Church Patristic Series).

Jesus taught the “Our Father” to his disciples (Matthew 6:9-13).

Let us observe closely: Instead of using the word “God” when He taught the prayer to His disciples, He used the word “Father” since it refers to the only God in Heaven.
“I thought to myself, ‘I would love to treat you as my own children!’ I wanted nothing more than to give you this beautiful land – the finest possession in the world. I looked forward to your calling me ‘Father,’ and I wanted you never to turn from me” (Jeremiah 3:19).

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