“Reverend” and “Father”

By Royce Frederick

It is common to see religious leaders wearing such titles as “Reverend,” “Right Reverend,” and “Father.” Is this practice in harmony with the teachings of the Bible?

The word “reverend” is found only once in the King James Version of the Bible. The psalmist glorifies God by saying, “...holy and reverend is His name” (Psalm 111:9). The word “reverend” in that verse means that the name of God is worthy of respect, fear, and awe. “Reverend” is never used in the Bible as a title for a mere human being.

The scribes and Pharisees loved religious titles. Jesus denounced the scribes and Pharisees for loving the “...greetings in the marketplaces, and to be called by men, ‘Rabbi, Rabbi.’ ” “Rabbi” meant “Teacher” or “Master.” He continued by warning His disciples, “But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren” (Matt. 23:7-8). All who are truly Christians are on equality with each other as brothers and sisters. No Christian should desire a religious title which exalts him above any other Christian. It should be honor enough to wear the name “Christian.”

Using “Father” as a religious title is forbidden by Jesus Christ. “Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven” (Matt. 23:9). The term “pope” comes from Latin and Greek, and it means “papa,” another way of saying “father.” Therefore, the terms “Pope” and “Holy Father” as religious titles for a human are certainly forbidden by Jesus in Matt. 23:9.

The apostles never used such exalting titles. They were simply referred to as “Peter,” “Paul,” and “John.” They refused to be personally exalted. Instead, they exalted Jesus Christ: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...” (Gal. 6:14).

The attitude of Job is in perfect harmony with the teachings of the New Testament on this subject: “Let me not, I pray, show partiality to anyone; Nor let me flatter any man. For I do not know how to flatter, Else my Maker would soon take me away” (Job 32:21-22).