Is it unbiblical to refer to ministers as "reverend"?


Full Question

I do not think ministers should be called "reverend" because even in the King James Version of the Bible that term is only used once and then as a description of God's name (Ps 111:9)

Answer

This objection is either silly or uncharitable--take your pick. Not only does it hinge on the use of terms in the King James Version (why not try to base the argument on a Catholic translation?), but it seems to be a gratuitous dig at non-Catholics (and, come to think of it, even at Catholic priests). It ignores the fact that there are a lot of individual terms that appear in the Bible only once, and some of them are in passages which apply them to God. This does not mean that in everyday life we may use those terms only in connection with God.

The term reverend does not mean that a person is equal in dignity with God or possesses divine attributes or even that he is to be revered for anything intrinsic to himself. A person bearing the title Reverend may be a thorough scoundrel. The title simply indicates that a person holds a position for which reverence is to be shown (as he has chosen to devote his full-time to ministry in serving God), whether or not he is a worthy occupant of that position.

Reverencing another human being is shown in Scripture. One will note that in 2 Samuel 9:6 Mephibosheth does reverence to King David, as does Bathsheba in 1 Kings 1:31. In Hebrews 12:9, children are said to revere their fathers, and in Ephesians 5:33 wives are instructed to revere there husbands. All of this is true and proper regardless of whether the husband or father or king (or mother or wife or queen) is a scoundrel or a saint. It is the office that is revered, not anything intrinsic to the person.

Your problem about the title Reverend results from an legalistic reading of Scripture, using the premise that if something isn't commanded or stated (e.g., "Thou shalt call men 'Reverend'") then it is prohibited. This is contrary to the basic principle of all law: That which is not prohibited is permitted.

Finally, Scripture requires us to show reverence for validly ordained ministers (e.g., 1 Thes 5:12-13, Heb 13:17; cf. Ex 28:2), and since they are to be shown reverence, it is thus perfectly appropriate to call them Reverend. It is also appropriate to use the title Reverend for Protestant ministers, not because we recognize their ordinations as valid (they aren't), but simply as a matter of courtesy.


Catholic Answers Staff