Matthew 23:9 – Do not call anyone on earth your father

The text:

And do not call anyone on earth ‘father’, for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.   (Matthew 23:9)

Explanation of the word:

The Greek for ‘father’ is: ‘pater’.

The Greek-English dictionary translates ‘pater’ as:

  • father, founder, forefather
  • creator, forbearer
  • cause

The OLB translates it among other things as:

  • procreator or male ancestor
  • someone who causes something to happen and who passes something on
    (someone who has steeped others in his own spirit, who sets their thoughts in motion and directs them)

‘Pater’ is always translated as ‘father’ in the NIV version.

Not call anyone on earth your father:

‘Pater’ is an expression with broad content.
According to the explanation of the word ‘pater’ represents the ancestor, the forefather of a whole family.

It is an undeniable fact that everyone is fathered by a natural father.
Jesus did not mean that father, therefore, when He said that we are to call no one father, for God Himself calls upon children to honour their father and mother.

However ‘pater’ in the sense of creator, someone who causes something to happen and who inculcates something, has to do with spiritual life.
‘Pater’ also represents someone who steeps others in his own spirit and who sets thoughts in motion and directs them.
God longs to take this place in the life of a Christian.


And do not call anyone on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.   (Matthew 23:9)

There is nothing wrong with being taught or exchanging ideas with other people. This may not go as far as to become more important than the teaching from the Bible, however, for:

The fear of the LORD (respecting and honouring God) is the beginning of knowledge.   (Proverbs 1:7)

The fear of the LORD (respecting and honouring God) is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (insight, discernment).   (Proverbs 9:10)

Someone who teaches must take care to bind no one to himself or to appropriate a title for himself, for:

You are not to be called ‘Rabbi’ (teacher), for you have one Teacher (Master, Guide), and you are all brothers.   (Matthew 23:8)

Nor are you to be called instructors (guide, teacher, educator), for you have one Instructor, the Messiah.   (Matthew 23:10)

The greatest among you will be your servant.   (Matthew 23:11)

This last verse makes Jesus’ intention clear. The greatest among you will be a servant.

God, as the Creator of every living thing, is the Father, de ‘Procreator’ of new spiritual life.
As the perfect Father, He longs for His children to accept Him as the sole educator and not to place themselves under the authority of another ‘teacher’.

God compels no one, however, but He has always longed for His children to recognise Him as their Papa, as He lets us know through the prophet Jeremiah:

I thought you would call me ‘Father’ (literally: that you would call out: Papa!) and not turn away from following me.   (Jeremiah 3:19)

God sent Jesus Christ to the world so that He would be better known as Father. Jesus said of Himself:

I always do what pleases him (He, who sent me).   (John 8:29)

I and the Father are one.   (John 10:30)

Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.   (John 14:9)


All Bible teaching must be directed towards getting to know Jesus better.
In the church of Jesus Christ anyone in a leadership position, who teaches, or who guides people towards recovery and a deeper Christian life, may not direct attention to himself.
Everything must be directed towards bringing people into a relationship with Jesus Christ, and, through Jesus, with God, the Father.
Except for Jesus, no one in this world can claim absolute authority as a teacher or an educator.
Jesus alone is the norm and the Bible is the correct reference.

In this respect Jesus calls the pupil to consider no one as ‘my’ teacher, for Jesus alone is authoritative as a teacher. All other teachers teach as best they can to make the Word of God, the Bible, better understood. No one among them has absolute authority, however.

That is the reason for Paul’s appeal:

… test them all (to the Bible); hold on to what is good.   (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

This applies to the teaching on this website as well.


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Matthew 23:9 – Do not call anyone on earth father.