The 2001 Commentaries

Religious Titles

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Note that Jesus told his followers (at Matthew 23:8-11) not to take any honorary titles to themselves; for he said:

‘But not you!
Don’t [have people] call you rabbi, for you have but one teacher and you are all brothers.
And don’t address anyone on earth as Father, for there’s just One who is your Father, the Heavenly One.
Nor should you be called leaders, for you have but one Leader, the Anointed One.
However, the greatest among you must be your servant.
So, whoever promotes himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be promoted.’

From this we can see that Jesus was telling his Apostles that they shouldn’t take honorific titles for themselves such as ‘Rabbi’ (Teacher), ‘Leader,’ or ‘Father.’ However, regardless of what he said, most modern clergy have disregarded these clear instructions and they’ve found ways to either sneak around Jesus’ words, or to just ignore them altogether.

One of the ‘sneaky’ ways that people have used to take honorary titles for themselves is to simply avoid the use of the specific titles that Jesus mentioned.
So although some may still have people calling them ‘Father;’
After the Protestant Reformation, the terms ‘Reverend’ and even ‘Pastor’ came into common use, and those with adequate college degrees like to have honorific, ‘Doctor,’ added before their names as religious titles of respect. So today, the point of Jesus’ words about not taking religious titles for ourselves has reached throughout ‘Christian’ society to the point where we would be hard-pressed to tell of any group that isn’t in violation of Jesus’ command in some way. For if even they don’t have other titles for their leaders, most religions insist that certain prominent ones (or even all in the congregation) be given such honorific titles as ‘Brother’ or ‘Sister.’

Then are we saying that it is it wrong to use such titles of respect as even Brother or Sister? Notice that Jesus didn’t tell us that his followers should call each other brother (or sister), but that they are all brothers.
(gr. Hymeis adelphoi este
You (all) brothers are).

You can see that in the Twenty-third Chapter of Matthew, Jesus wasn’t giving a dissertation on which honorifics are bad and which ones can be used; Rather, he was saying that Christians are all equals and that they should share a loving relationship as members of the same family. So adding a title ahead of a name (whether Brother, Sister, Reverend, Doctor, Minister, Bishop, or whatever) also appears to be a dodge to get around Jesus’ instructions. In fact, some people even (presumptuously, arrogantly, and in error grammatically) like to introduce themselves with such a title preceding their own names (‘My name is Brother… ’ or ‘My name is Reverend…’) to imply some assumed relationship or holy position before God.

Note that while early Christians lovingly referred to their fellows as my brother, or our brothers; There is little indication that the term brother was ever commonly applied as an honorific title that people added in front of names in the First Century Congregation.

How did that work out among early Christians?
Well, the Bible tells us that Paul was just called Paul, Peter was just called Peter, etc.
Only Jesus was given titles of respect such as ‘the Lord’ and ‘the Anointed One’ (Christ).
Even the title ‘Apostle’ was never added in front of the names of such men in the Bible (as in, ‘the Apostle Peter’). Yet, referring to the ancient Apostles in this way has become a common practice among most when they’re speaking of them today, because the use of religious honorifics has become so common and so wide spread in Christianity.

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