I was reading in Matthew and saw a fascinating command, directly from Jesus:

Matthew 23:9 (NWT)
Moreover, do not call anyone your father on earth, for one is your Father, the heavenly One.

Are there any Christian doctrines or denominations that currently practice this doctrine of not calling anyone on Earth a "father"?

  • 2
    Related: What is the Roman Catholic view on Matthew 23:9?
    – user23
    Nov 8, 2011 at 17:21
  • @JustinY Nice find! It actually answers my base question of "should we really follow this", just not the explicit question of "is there anyone that actually does"?
    – Richard
    Nov 8, 2011 at 17:28
  • 1
    There are no religions anywhere on the planet which teach one not to call one's parents mother and father.
    – user46876
    Oct 17, 2021 at 2:14

4 Answers 4


Aside from the Jews for Jesus, I think all Christians take this the way Jesus meant it whether they know it or not.

I won't copy and paste my answer from What is the Roman Catholic view on Matthew 23:9?, but the gist of it is, the Pharisees took pride in calling Abraham their Father, and the pride is what Jesus is doing away with.

Not that the Gospels should necessarily be intertwined in such a manner, but if you read:

John 8:48-58 (NIV)
48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”
   49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”
52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”
54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”
57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”
   58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Jesus calls Abraham 'your father' because the Jews about Him called Abraham 'our father'.

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus stresses that God is Our Father and that's what's really important.

  • I suspect that there aren't any who take this command literally. Until (unless) someone posts an answer with a doctrine that does, I'll go ahead and accept this one. Thanks for link!
    – Richard
    Nov 8, 2011 at 18:11
  • 1
    I guess that depends on your definition of literal ;-), I think I take it literally and I don't think literal always means 'out of context'
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:00
  • I mean literal as in the "by the word" definition. (ie "according with the letter of the scripture"). This is compared to the spirit of the text (as in letter of the law versus the spirit of the law). "The spirit of the law" means keeping the original intent whereas "the letter of the law" is getting bogged down in all the literal words.
    – Richard
    Nov 8, 2011 at 19:06
  • 1
    Man, if I took everything literally, I'd probably be missing an eye or two and a hand or two. Apr 19, 2012 at 22:05
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    Wouldn't this mean the story of the rich man and Lazarus can't be taken literally, since he cries to "Father Abraham" instead of God?
    – Beestocks
    May 14, 2017 at 20:16

Some Protestants are against calling clergy "Father" like Roman Catholics call their priests, but some Protestant pastors think of themselves as spiritual fathers. A RC replied when asked about this and said you shouldn't call people Mister since it means Master, the word comes from the word Meister in German which means Master.

A Seventh-day Adventist brought up the RCC practice while talking about RCC being a beast or something in prophecy, so they are against it. (Some SDA are against being called Reverend citing Psalm 111:9. Psa 111:9 He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend [is] his name.)

Some verses and reasoning against calling someone Father.

Mat 23:9 And call no [man] your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.

Mark 10:29 mentions father, but Mark 10:30 doesn't while it's missing in Mat 19:29.

Mat 19:29 And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.

Mar 10:29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's,

Mar 10:30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life.

Jhn 17:11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we [are].


The Jehovah's Witnesses only refer to each other by name or as brother or sister. From the members of their elite leadership the "Governing Body" to the newest youngest freshly baptized member all have one designation a brother if male or a sister if female. A person associating with JWs but not baptized will often be referred to as Mr. or Mrs. An article from Awake 08 -8 1992 entitled: "Religious titles are they for Christians?"

Concludes with this paragraph:

Is it not clear that many clergymen are standing on ‘holy ground’ reserved for God and his Son, and that much reverence is diverted from them to imperfect men? True Christians today avoid using flattering religious titles, and they avoid the practice of setting men on ecclesiastical pedestals. Among Jehovah’s Witnesses the only form of address for ministers is “brother.” (2 Peter 3:15) That is in harmony with what Jesus said: “You are all brothers.”—Matthew 23:8, NJB.


The Churches of Christ eschew the use of any title aside from brother and sister as terms of address, allowing these two because they denote equals.

We have different offices (the elder, the deacon, and the evangelist), but nobody holding this roles is addressed by the name of his office. My own congregation has two elders, but I do not call them Elder Ron or Elder Larry, just Ron and Larry.

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