Matthew 23:9
And call no man your father on the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(9) Call no man your father.—This also, under its Hebrew form of Abba, was one of the titles in which the scribes delighted. In its true use it embodied the thought that the relation of scholars and teachers was filial on the one side, paternal on the other; but precisely because it expressed so noble an idea was its merely conventional use full of danger. The history of the ecclesiastical titles of Christendom offers in this respect a singular parallel to that of the titles of Judaism. In Abbot (derived from Abba=Father), in Papa and Pope (which have risen from their application to every priest, till they culminate in the Pontifex summus of the Church of Home), in our “Father in God,” as applied to Bishops, we find examples of the use of like language, liable to the same abuse. It would, of course, be a slavish literalism to see in our Lord’s words an absolute prohibition of these and like words in ecclesiastical or civil life. What was meant was to warn men against so recognising, in any case, the fatherhood of men as to forget the Fatherhood of God. Even the teacher and apostle, who is a father to others, needs to remember that he is as a “little child” in the relation to God. (Comp. St. Paul’s claim in 1Corinthians 4:15.)

23:1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, Ex 13:2-10; 13:11-16; De 6:4-9; 11:13-21. They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, Nu 15:38, to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.And call no man your Father ... - This does not, of course, forbid us to apply the term to our real father. Religion requires all proper honor to be shown to Him, Exodus 20:12; Matthew 15:4; Ephesians 6:1-3. But the word "father" also denotes "authority, eminence, superiority, a right to command, and a claim to particular respect." In this sense it is used here. In this sense it belongs eminently to God, and it is not right to give it to people. Christian brethren are equal. Only God has supreme authority. He only has a right to give laws; to declare doctrines that shall bind the conscience; to punish disobedience. The Jewish teachers affected that title because they seem to have supposed that a teacher formed the man, or gave him real life, and sought, therefore, to be called father. Christ taught them that the source of all life and truth was God, and they ought not to seek or receive a title which properly belongs to him. 9. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven, &c.—To construe these injunctions into a condemnation of every title by which Church rulers may be distinguished from the flock which they rule, is virtually to condemn that rule itself; and accordingly the same persons do both—but against the whole strain of the New Testament and sound Christian judgment. But when we have guarded ourselves against these extremes, let us see to it that we retain the full spirit of this warning against that itch for ecclesiastical superiority which has been the bane and the scandal of Christ's ministers in every age. (On the use of the word "Christ" here, see on [1346]Mt 1:1). See Poole on "Matthew 23:10". And call no man your father upon the earth,.... Not but that children may, and should call their natural parents, fathers; and such who have been instrumental in the conversion of souls, may be rightly called by them their spiritual fathers; as servants and scholars also, may call those that are over them, and instruct them, their masters: our Lord does not mean, by any of these expressions, to set aside all names and titles, of natural and civil distinction among men, but only to reject all such names and titles, as are used to signify an authoritative power over men's consciences, in matters of faith and obedience; in which, God and Christ are only to be attended to. Christ's sense is, that he would have his disciples not fond of any titles of honour at all; and much less assume an authority over men, as if they were to depend on them, as the founders of the Christian religion, the authors of its doctrines and ordinances; and to take that honour to themselves, which did not belong to them; nor even choose to be called by such names, as would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them, and take off of their dependence on God the Father, and himself, as these titles the Scribes and Pharisees loved to be called by, did: and who were called not only by the name of Rabbi, but Abba, "Father", also: hence we read of Abba Saul, or "Father" Saul (n); Abba Jose ben Jochanan, a man of Jerusalem (o), Abba Chanan (p), Abba Chelphetha, a man of the village of Hananiah (q); Abba Gorion (r), and others; and this name was , "a name of honour, even as Rabbi" (s), and of great authority: the wise men are said to be , "the fathers of all" (t), to whom all gave heed, and upon whom all depended, as so many oracles. There is a whole treatise in their Misna, called Pirke Abot, which contains some of the oracles, and peculiar sayings of these "fathers", the Misnic doctors, and which are preferred to the writings of Moses, and the prophets. In this sense, and upon this score, our Lord inveighs against them, and cautions his disciples against giving or taking all such titles, in such sense. "For one is your Father, which is in heaven"; who is so, both by creation and adoption, and is possessed of all paternal authority; and is to be honoured and obeyed by all; from whom all wisdom and knowledge is derived, and who has the care and government of all in heaven and in earth.

(n) Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 8. (o) T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 53. 2.((p) Ib. fol. 64. 1.((q) T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 94. 1. & Bava Bathra. fol. 56. 2.((r) Massech Sopherim, c. 15. sect. 10. (s) Juchasiu, fol. 31. 2. & 61. 2.((t) Maimon. in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.

And call no man your {i} father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

(i) He attacks a custom of the Jews, for they called the rabbis our fathers.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 23:9. πατέρα = abba, another title of honour for the Rabbis (Schöttgen). The clause is to be translated: a father of you call not upon earth = do not pronounce this sacred name with reference to men. Vide Winer, § 64, 4, and cf. Hebrews 3:13.Matthew 23:9. πατέρα, father) This also was the grand title given by the Jews to their teachers, especially in old age.—μὴ καλέσητε, κ.τ.λ., do not call, etc.) Let not either your tongue or your mind ascribe infallibility to any man.Verse 9. - Your father. This was the title given to eminent teachers and founders of schools, to whom the people were taught to look up rather than to God. It was also addressed to prophets (2 Kings 2:12; 2 Kings 6:21). In ver. 8 Christ said, "be not called;" here he uses the active, "call not," as if he would intimate that his followers must not give this honoured title to any doctor out of complaisance, or flattery, or affectation. Upon the earth. In contradistinction to heaven, where our true Father dwells. They were to follow no earthly school. They had natural lathers and spiritual fathers, but the authority of all comes from God; it is delegated, not essential; and good teachers would make men look to God, and not to themselves, as the source of power and truth. Father (πατέρα)

Aimed at those who combed the title Abba, or Father. Compare the title Papa - Pope.

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