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

KJV Verse: 

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

Greek Verse: 

Literal Alternative: 

Also, "father," you don't want to name yours upon the planet. This is because one is your Father, the heavenly one.

Interesting and Hidden Aspects: 

Was Christ really saying that we should not address our male parents as our "father?" No, the confusion arises from the difference in the word translated as "call" and our word, "call." Also, there are words added and rearranged in the KJV that subtly change their meaning.

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

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.

The negative used here. "no," is the Greek negative of a subjective opinion. The sense is that "you don't want" to do something, not that it isn't done or don't think something that might be true. If it wasn't done or wasn't true, the objective negative of fact would be used.

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.

There is no Greek word for "man" here. It is added by the KJV translators.

"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 earth.

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

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.

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 sentece.,

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

"Your Father" are the same words as used above, but here they appears together, as you would normally expect. They are in a form making them common word that Christ uses to address his own father, though it can mean any male ancestor. "Father" is also in the form of the subject of the sentence.

There is not phrase "which is in" in the Greek sources we use today. It was added to the Greek source used by the KJV translators.

Strangely the word translated as "heaven" is in the form of an adjective modifying "father" but it preceded by its own article "the heaven." This usually make an adjective into a noun. The sense here is "the heavenly one." The contrast is with those "upon the planet." The word translated as "heaven" means sky, the climate, and the universe. It also meant the home of the gods in a physical sense: the sun, moon, and planets were named for the gods. More about the word in this article.

How does this make sense? Yet it is the idea in all popular English translations. What is missing here is the context. Christ is specifically referring to the "scribes and Pharisees" or, more generally, to all ministers and priests.

All popular translations also put the verse ten in the passive form: don’t let yourselves be called “master” or more precisely, "guide." However, the verb form is exactly the same as the preceding two verses, where we are clearly being told not to call the priests these names.

A better translation would be: And never call [them] your father on the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither call [them] guides: for one is your Guide, Christ.

Once we recognize Christ was talking specifically about religious leaders, we have another problem. Christian practice, in this case among Catholics, who were the only church for over a thousand years, differs dramatically from Christ's words. How could the practice of calling priests "father" could ever get started, given that Christ specifically condemns it. The first priest that were called "father" certainly knew the Bible well enough to know what Christ said.

This brings us to the heart of Christ’s teaching. Social organizations are, by their very nature, about hierarchy. Once the church became a social organization, it fell into the trap of all social organizations. The church was no longer about an individual’s relationship with God, but about the relationships among the people within the organization.

Greek Vocabulary: 

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

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

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

ἐπὶ "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 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 (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.

γάρ "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 (verb 3rd sg pres ind act) "Is" is from eimi, which means "to be", "to exist", "to be the case," and "is possible." (The future form is esomai. The 3rd person present indicative is "esti.")

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

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

οὐράνιος: (adj sg masc nom) "Heaven" is from the Greek ouranos, which means "heaven as in the vault of the sky", "heaven as the seat of the gods", "the sky", "the universe," and "the climate."

Related Verses: