Matthew 23:9 And call no man your father upon the earth:

Spoken to: 

audience

Context: 

Jesus is speaking to a crowd including his disciples about scribes and Pharisees.

Greek : 

Literal Verse: 

And,  a father? You don't want to name yours upon this earth. This is because one is yours, the Father, the heavenly one.

My Takeaway: 

We can only bestow the title of "father" on that which is above us.

KJV : 

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

NIV : 

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

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

All Biblical translations try to "simplify" what Jesus said, making him seem to say something that he doesn't. The Greek is difficult and thought-provoking, but all of that is lost in translation. In translation, it sounds like Jesus saying that we should not address our male parents as our "father" This confusion arises partly from the difference in the Greek word translated as "call" and our English word, "call," and partly in the difference of "father."  The Greek verb has the sense of giving someone a name. We do not "name" our natural fathers. "Father" in Greek, however, is also a title. Our natural fathers are not those to whom we give the title. They exist as our fathers before we learn what the word means. We name someone when we give them the honor of the title, "father."

As in the last verse, the "your father" phrases here are misleading. A normal "your father" in the Bible is usually Jesus saying the words "that father of yours." Here, the first "your father" phrase is actually "a father do not name yours on earth" and "is yours, the father." The "upon the earth" modifies "you," saying that we are on the earth, contrasting it with the second father phrase, which is "your, the Father, the heavenly one."

This "is in heaven" phrase in Biblical translation is also completely wrong. The "the one in the heavenly" phrase was in the KJV source, without the "is," but in today's sources, the phrase is "the heavenly" (an adjective form, not the usual noun." With the article before it, the sense is "the heavenly one." This is the punchline of the verse.

Related Verses: 

Greek Vocabulary: 

καὶ [1089 verses](conj/adv) "And" is from kai, which is the conjunction joining phrases and clauses, "and," or "but." After words implying sameness, "as" (the same opinion as you). Used in series, joins positive with negative "Not only...but also." Also used to give emphasis, "even", "also," and "just."

πατέρα [191 verses](noun sg masc acc) "The Father" is from pater, which means "father", "grandfather", "author", "parent," and "forefathers."

μὴ [447 verses](partic) "No" is from me , which is the negative used in prohibitions and expressions of doubt meaning "not" and "no." As οὐ (ou) negates fact and statement; μή rejects, οὐ denies; μή is relative, οὐ absolute; μή subjective, οὐ objective. -

καλέσητε [38 verses](verb 2nd pl aor subj act) "Call" is from kaleo, which means "call", "summon", "invite", "invoke", "call by name," and "demand."

ὑμῶν [168 verses](pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, the plural possessive form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

ἐπὶ [138 verses](prep)  "Upon" is from epi. which means "on", "upon", "at", "by", "before", "across," and "against." -- The word translated as "unto" means "against", "before", "by" or "on."

τῆς (article sg em gen))  "The" is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the").

γῆς, (noun sg fem gen) "The earth" is from ge, which means "the element of earth", "land (country)", "arable land", "the ground," and "the world" as the opposite of the sky. Like our English word "earth," it means both dirt and the planet.

εἷς [94 verses](noun sg masc nom) "One" is from heis, which means "one" (as opposed to other numbers), "single," and "one and the same." As in English, it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person.

γὰρ [205 verses](partic) "For" comes from gar which is the introduction of a clause explaining a reason or explanation: "for", "since," and "as." In an abrupt question it means "why" and "what."

ἐστιν .[614 verses](verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible."

ὑμῶν [168 verses](pron 2nd pl gen) "Your" is from humon, the plural possessive form of su the pronoun of the second person, "you."

(article sg masc nom  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

πατὴρ (noun sg masc nom) "The Father" is from pater, which means "father", "grandfather", "author", "parent," and "forefathers."

(article sg masc nom)  Untranslated is the Greek definite article, hos, ("the"). 

οὐράνιος: [7 verses](adj sg masc nom) "Heavenly" is ouranios, which is the adjective form of heaven meaning means "heavenly," dwelling in heaven " and as a metaphor, "colossal."

KJV Analysis: 

And  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also."

call  - The term translated as "call" is like our word "call" because it means both "to summon" and also "to name," but it does not as clearly mean "to address," which clarifies this verse. The sense here is "to give a name" not just the idea of "summoning." it is in a form indicating something that might happen. The sense here is not that we don't address our biological fathers as "father," but that we don't give the name "father" to anyone. We, after all, don't name our own fathers.

no -- (WW) The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" or "think" something, not that it isn't done or thought.  It negative the verb not a noun so "not want to name."

man -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "man" in the Greek source.

your  - (WP) The word translated as "your" is the normal word, but it appears after the verb while the word for "Father" appears before the verb. Normally, if the sense was "your father," they would appear together, usually before the verb. The sense is not to call someone "yours."

father  - "Father" is the common word that Christ uses to address his own father, though it can mean any male ancestor. It appears before the verb, separating it from the following phrase, "upon the earth," which modifies the "your" not "father."

upon   - The word translated as "upon" means "on", "over", "upon", "against", "before", "after", "during", "by" "in the case of." or "on." This preposition phrase does not modify "father" but "you."

the  -   -- The word translated as "the" is the Greek definite article, without a noun, it has the sense of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those") than the English "the." See this article for more. 

earth:- The word translated as "earth" means the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on these words.

for  - The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, to prevent a run-on sentence, translated as a "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

one  - The word translated as "one" means the number, but it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person, as in English. Here, it is the form of the subject of the sentence.

is  - The verb "is" here equates all the nouns which are in the form of a subject. Here those nouns are "one", "father," and, surprisingly, "heaven."

your  - The word translated as "your" is the normal word, but it appears after the verb while the word for "Father" appears before the verb. Normally, if the sense was "your father," they would appear together, usually before the verb. The sense is not to call someone "yours."

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

Father,  - - "Father" is the common word that Christ uses to address his own father, though it can mean any male ancestor. "Your Father" are the same words as used above, but here the "your" comes before "the father."

which is in -- (OS, IW) There is nothing in the Greek that can be translated as "which... in" in the source we use today but it does exist in the source that the KJV translators used. The "is" doesn't appear in their source, either. It was inserted.

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

heaven. (WF) "Heaven" is not the noun form but the adjective, "heavenly"  introduced by an article, "the heavenly" or "the heavenly one". The word translated as "heaven" was the word used by the Greeks to refer to the universe outside of the planet. See this article for more perspective on the word and how Jesus uses it.

KJV Translation Issues: 

8
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "no" should be "not."
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "man" doesn't exist in the source.
  • WP -- Wrongly Placed -- The word "your" doesn't appear here, directly modifying "father, but before the verb "is."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before the second "Father" is not shown in the English translation.
  • OS -- Outdated Source -- The Greek word translated as "which...in" existed in the KJV Greek source but not the one we used today.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "is" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before the second "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "heaven" is not a noun but an adjective, "heavenly."

NIV Analysis: 

And  - The Greek word translated as "and" is used as the conjunction "and", but it also is used to add emphasis ("also") and, In a series, it is best translated as "not only...but also."

do -- This helping verb is used to create questions, commands, negative statements, and smooth word flow in English, but the Greek could be either a question or a statement.

not -- (CW) The negative used here is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion, commands, and requests. The sense is that "you don't want" or "think" something, not that it isn't done or thought.

call  - The term translated as "call" is like our word "call" because it means both "to summon" and also "to name," but it does not as clearly mean "to address," which clarifies this verse. The sense here is "to give a name" not just the idea of "summoning." it is in a form indicating something that might happen. The sense here is not that we don't address our biological fathers as "father," but that we don't give the name "father" to anyone. We, after all, don't name our own fathers.

anyone -- (IW) There is nothing that can be translated as "anyone " in the Greek source.

missing "yours"  -- (MW) The untranslated word  "your" is the normal word, but it appears after the verb while the word for "Father" appears before the verb. Normally, if the sense was "your father," they would appear together, usually before the verb. The sense is not to call someone "yours."

on   - The word translated as "on" means "on", "over", "upon", "against", "before", "after", "during", "by" "in the case of." or "on." This preposition phrase does not modify "father" but "you."

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

earth:- The word translated as "earth" means the physical planet, not society, which Christ describes as the world. See this article for more on these words.

‘father,’ - (WF) "Father" is the common word that Christ uses to address his own father, though it can mean any male ancestor. This word is an object of the verb, not a name the verb is calling, which is a different word form (the vocative). 

for  - The word translated as "for" can be treated as supporting a dependent clause, or, to prevent a run-on sentence, translated as a "this is because..." to start a new sentence.

you - (WF) The pronoun is not the subject of the sentence but a possessive, "your," appearing after the verb while the word for "Father" appears before the verb. Normally, if the sense was "your father," they would appear together, usually before the verb. The sense is not to call someone "yours."

have  - (WW) The verb here is not "have" but "is" that equates the nouns in the form of a subject. Here those nouns are "one", and "father."

one  - The word translated as "one" means the number, but it can be used as a pronoun, meaning a single person, as in English. Here, it is the form of the subject of the sentence.

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

Father,  - - "Father" is the common word that Christ uses to address his own father, though it can mean any male ancestor. "Your Father" are the same words as used above, but here the "your" comes before "the father."

and he is in -- (IP) There is nothing that can be translated as "and he is in" in the Greek source.

missing "the"  -- (MW) The untranslated word is the Greek definite article, which usually precedes a noun and, without a noun, takes the meaning of "the one." The Greek article is much closer to our demonstrative pronouns ("this", "that", "these", "those"). See this article for more. 

heaven. (WF) "Heaven" is not the noun form but the adjective, "heavenly"  introduced by an article, "the heavenly" or "the heavenly one". The word translated as "heaven" was the word used by the Greeks to refer to the universe outside of the planet. See this article for more perspective on the word and how Jesus uses it.

NIV Translation Issues: 

11
  • CW - Confusing Word -- The "not" is the subjective negative of opinion with the sense of "not wanting," "not thinking" or not seeming when used with a non-opinion verb.
  • IW - Inserted Word -- The word "anyone " doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before the second "earth" is not shown in the English translation.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "yours" before the "on the earth" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "father" is not a vocative form of address so it shouldn't be quoted. It is in the form of an object, something named upon not called.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "you" is not the subject but a possessive, "your."
  • WW - Wrong Word -- The word translated as "have" should be "is."
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before the second "Father" is not shown in the English translation.
  • IP - Inserted Phrase-- The phrase "and he is in" doesn't exist in the source.
  • MW - Missing Word -- The word "the" before the second "heaven" is not shown in the English translation.
  • WF - Wrong Form -  The "heaven" is not a noun but an adjective, "heavenly."

Front Page Date: 

Jul 31 2021