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Mark 10:29 mentions father, but Mark 10:30 doesn't.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.—Mark 10:29-30 (ESV)

A parallel in Matthew 19:29 (ESV):

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.

And a possible clue in Matthew 23:9 (ESV):

And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.

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  • Posted here as suggested by DJClayworth. christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/5507/…
    – user16659
    Jan 20, 2012 at 17:52
  • 1
    Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics! I think this is the right place to ask. ;-) I cleaned up the verse formatting a bit (and switched to the ESV) so that I could more easily tell what you are asking. Feel free to re-edit the question if I screwed anything up. Jan 23, 2012 at 17:32
  • I think that 1 Cor 4:15 should be considered here. Paul call himself “father” here. In the Genealogy of Jesus, in Luke 3, we see that Jesus had many fathers, and the same would be the case with us. Although in Acts 5:29, finally, we read: “we must obey God more than men”! Thus, putting all this together we understand that many men can be called our father, but God overrules them all as our ultimate father and authority. Jan 26 at 23:12

4 Answers 4

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Patrilineality

Both the Jewish and Roman societies of the time were strongly patrilinear in nature. This meant that family identity and inheritance came from your father only. Under the Roman system, a wife legally remained a part of her father's family. Part of the drama of the book of Ruth stems from the complicated patrilineal system of the Hebrews at the time. Naomi expected Ruth and Orpah to return to their own people after her husband and sons died:

But Naomi replied, “Turn back, my daughters! Why should you go with me? Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you? Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married. Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up? Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage? Oh no, my daughters! My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the Lord has struck out against me.”—Ruth 1:11-13 (NJPS)

Outside of rather extraordinary circumstances, one could not expect to leave their fathers. So Mark 10:29, which implies we can leave our fathers, is remarkable. But gaining 100 new fathers would have been unthinkable. The closest modern example I can think of would be if I renounced my US citizenship in exchange for all the rights and responsibilities of 100 other countries. That would seem more of a curse than a blessing.

Matthew, who almost certainly had Mark at hand when he wrote his gospel, cleverly edits the teaching to avoid the question of what one gets in return for giving up everything for Jesus' name. The principle remains, however: if you give up what you have, God will return much more to you. In both passages, the context is the rich, young man that refused to follow Jesus rather than give up everything he had.

God is the new father

When Jesus began his ministry, there is a good chance that Joseph was already dead.1 Since Jesus was the oldest son, under the patrilineal system he would be the head of his family. Shortly after Jesus called his disciples, we have this very strange story:

And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”—Mark 3:31-35 (ESV)

His family was basically calling Jesus back to his duty as head of household (it must have been clear he had stopped running the carpentry shop at this point) and Jesus essentially rejects them.2 His definition of his own family is centered on doing God's will.3 Immediately after redefining family, Jesus tells a series of parables about how the kingdom of God will grow. When he explains a parable about a sower casting seeds, he specifically mentions that "the ones who hear the word and accept it [will] bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold."

Summary

Jesus reassures his disciples that giving up family and property for his sake will not go unrewarded. We will get back all the we lost by joining a new family with a hundred times as many siblings and parental figures than we had before all under the fathership of God Himself.


Footnotes:

  1. See Mark 6:3, which mentions Mary, four brothers, some sisters, but not his father.

  2. Thankfully, we know that at least his brother James became a leader in the church. Otherwise, this passage would be altogether painful.

  3. Interestingly, Luke 8:19-21 defines family as "those who hear the word of God and do it" and Matthew 12:46-50 says "whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." It seems like the gospel writers worked hard to get Jesus' meaning across to their respective audiences so that it would not be misunderstood.

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Mat 23:9 answers your question.

When we leave behind unbelieving family and inheritance to follow Christ, we gain a hundredfold from fellowship in the church, where there are no fathers. "in this time" makes it clear that the reward is in this life, accompanied by persecutions.

In the world to come we gain eternal life.

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  • what about church fathers, spiritual fathers, or priests called fathers?
    – user16659
    Jan 23, 2012 at 16:08
  • The practice would appear to be non-biblical.
    – Bob Jones
    Feb 28, 2012 at 7:00
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One verse I might reference is 1 Corinthians 4:15. There Paul writes to the Corinthians:

Even if you had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. (NIV)

You can see the similar concept of the "hundredfold"; though, here it is ramped up to ten thousandfold. But more pertinent to your question, Paul says that despite the vast number of guardians they might have, they have yet but one father through the gospel, and this in Christ Jesus. If this reflects the traditions and teachings of Jesus, then it might help to explain why "fathers" are missing from the second list in Mark.

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A possible explanation is found in Matthew's quotation:

Matthew 23:9

Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven.

Mew mothers, sisters and brothers would be found in the Christian community. Older women would be addressed as mother, and those of a similar age as brother or sister. But no man would be addressed as father because that would violate the above-mentioned tradition. The problem with this explanation is that Mark does not contain the quote of about not calling anyone father except God. So the explanation works better if one assumes Matthean priority with Markan priority - although Mark could have known of Jesus' teaching against calling anyone on earth "father" but did not include a quote from Jesus to that effect.

Conclusion: It is possible (though not at all certain) that Mark omitted "fathers" because members of the Christian community could be adopted to replace other family members, but only God could be called "father."

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