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Holman Bible Dictionary


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(rab' bi) Title meaning, “my master,” applied to teachers and others of an exalted and revered position. During the New Testament period, the term rabbi came to be more narrowly applied to one learned in the law of Moses, without signifying an official office.

In the New Testament the title rabbi is used only in three of the gospels. In Matthew 23:7-8 scribes generally are addressed. In John 3:26 John the Baptist is thus called by his disciples. In all other occurrences “rabbi” and an alternate form “rabboni” apply to Jesus in direct address ( Mark 9:5 ; Mark 11:21 ; Mark 14:45 , John 1:49 ; John 3:2 ; John 4:31 ; John 6:25 ; John 9:2 ; John 11:8 ; John 20:16 ).

Luke never used the term rabbi , but the word epistata , the equivalent of “school-master,” a term more meaningful to his predominantly Greek first readers (Luke 17:13 ).

A unique relationship existed between Jesus and His disciples, compared to the typical rabbi and his pupils. They were forbidden to call each other “rabbi” (Matthew 23:8 ), and in Matthew, particularly, Jesus' disciples call Him “Lord” (Kurie ). For Matthew, Jesus was not just a teacher to His followers; He was their Lord.

Robert Stagg

Copyright Statement
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.

Bibliography Information
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Rabbi'. Holman Bible Dictionary. 1991.

Lectionary Calendar
Tuesday, November 19th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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