Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning whether it is sinful to call someone “father” who is not God. The argument is that Matthew 23:8-10 says that we should not call anyone on earth “father,” while other passages, such as Exodus 20:12, tell us to refer to our earthly fathers as “father.” However, there is a very easy explanation for this alleged contradiction.
Scriptures – Is It Sinful to Call Someone “Father” Besides God?
Do Not Call Anyone on Earth “Father”
8 But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. 10 Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.Matthew 23:8-10
Call a Person “Father”
“Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.Exodus 20:12
The Answer – Is It Sinful to Call Someone “Father” Besides God?
Do Not Give Authority to Non-Authorized People
In Matthew 23:8-10, Jesus is talking about the scribes and the Pharisees, who claimed to have authority, yet were hypocrites. Jesus is saying that we should not call these people “rabbi” or “father” because their teachings do not have the authority of God.
”The Pulpit Commentary” says this:
This was the title given to eminent teachers and founders of schools, to whom the people were taught to look up [to] rather than to God. It was also addressed to prophets (2 Kings 2:12; 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.The Pulpit Commentary Vol. 2, page 397
However, God explicitly gives earthly fathers authority over their children (as long as they do not overstep the limits of their authority), so an earthly father’s authority over his children is legitimate.
In any case, the context of Matthew 23:8-10 is very specific. It is about the authority to teach, which the scribes and the Pharisees did not have from God. Whether or not we should call our earthly father “father” is irrelevant to Matthew 23:8-10.
Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties
There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.
More Answers to “Contradictions” in the Bible
To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.
These books are also excellent resources: