And call no man your father upon the earth
Not but that children may, and should call their natural parents, fathers; and such who have been instrumental in the conversion of souls, may be rightly called by them their spiritual fathers; as servants and scholars also, may call those that are over them, and instruct them, their masters: our Lord does not mean, by any of these expressions, to set aside all names and titles, of natural and civil distinction among men, but only to reject all such names and titles, as are used to signify an authoritative power over men's consciences, in matters of faith and obedience; in which, God and Christ are only to be attended to. Christ's sense is, that he would have his disciples not fond of any titles of honour at all; and much less assume an authority over men, as if they were to depend on them, as the founders of the Christian religion, the authors of its doctrines and ordinances; and to take that honour to themselves, which did not belong to them; nor even choose to be called by such names, as would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them, and take off of their dependence on God the Father, and himself, as these titles the Scribes and Pharisees loved to be called by, did: and who were called not only by the name of Rabbi, but Abba, "Father", also: hence we read of Abba Saul, or "Father" Saul F14; Abba Jose ben Jochanan, a man of Jerusalem F15, Abba Chanan F16, Abba Chelphetha, a man of the village of Hananiah F17; Abba Gorion F18, and others; and this name was (ybr wmk dwbk Nwvl) , "a name of honour, even as Rabbi" F19, and of great authority: the wise men are said to be (lkh twba) , "the fathers of all" F20, to whom all gave heed, and upon whom all depended, as so many oracles. There is a whole treatise in their Misna, called Pirke Abot, which contains some of the oracles, and peculiar sayings of these "fathers", the Misnic doctors, and which are preferred to the writings of Moses, and the prophets. In this sense, and upon this score, our Lord inveighs against them, and cautions his disciples against giving or taking all such titles, in such sense. "For one is your Father, which is in heaven"; who is so, both by creation and adoption, and is possessed of all paternal authority; and is to be honoured and obeyed by all; from whom all wisdom and knowledge is derived, and who has the care and government of all in heaven and in earth.
F14 Pirke Abot, c. 2. sect. 8.
F15 T. Bab. Yebamot, fol. 53. 2.
F16 Ib. fol. 64. 1.
F17 T. Bab. Bava Metzia, fol. 94. 1. & Bava Bathra. fol. 56. 2.
F18 Massech Sopherim, c. 15. sect. 10.
F19 Juchasiu, fol. 31. 2. & 61. 2.
F20 Maimon. in Misn. Peah, c. 1. sect. 1.