Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online

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Despite Jesus Christ’s injunction not to call anyone on earth “father” (Matt 23:9, teaching perhaps exemplified at Luke 2:48f.), his followers have often called people by this word. It has frequently been a term of affectionate respect. But one of its forms came to be widely used as a title of office, and one that eventually belonged solely to the most senior bishop in the entire church, the pope (Latin and Greek “papa").

As the name by which they are known suggests, the early desert fathers were often addressed in words assoc…

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Moorhead, John, “Pope/Father”, in: Brill Encyclopedia of Early Christianity Online, General Editor David G. Hunter, Paul J.J. van Geest, Bert Jan Lietaert Peerbolte. Consulted online on 02 June 2023 <>
First published online: 2018

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