( ῾Ραββί, רִבַּי), a title of honor given by the Jews to their learned men, authorized teachers of the law, and spiritual heads of the community, and which in the New Test. is frequently given to Christ. In the following article we comlbine the Biblical and Talmudical statements on the subject, with additions from later sources.
I. Different Forms, and the Signification of the Title. — The term רִבַּי, Rabbi, is a form of the noun רִב, Rab (from רָבִב, to multiply, to become great, distinguished), which in the Biblical Hebrew denotes a great man; one distinquished either for age, position, office, or skill (Job 32:9; Da 1:3; Pr 26:10); but in the canonical books it does not occur with this suffix. It is in post-Biblical Hebrew that this term is used as a title, indicating sundry degrees by its several terminations for those who are distinguished for learning, who are the authoritative teachers of the law, and who are the appointed spiritual heads of the Jewish community. Thus, for instance, the simple term רִב, Rsab without any termination, and with or without the name of the person following it, corresponds to our expression teacher, master, διδάσκαλος ', and is the lowest degree; with the pronominal suffix first person singular-viz. רִבַּי, Rabbi, ῾Ραββί, 1my Rabbi (Mt 23:7-8; Mt 26:25,49; Mr 9:5; Mr 11:21; Mr 14:45; Joh 1:38,49; Joh 3:2,26; Joh 4:31; Joh 6:25; Joh 9:2; Joh 11:8) — it is a higher degree; and with the pronominal suffix first person plural — viz. רִבַּן, Rabban,
῾Ραββον, our teacher, our master, in the Chaldee form — it is the highest degree, and was given to the patriarchs (נשיאים) or the presidents of the Sanhedrim. Gamaliel I, who was patriarch in Palestine A.D. 30-50, was the first that obtained this extraordinary title, and not Simon ben-Hillel, as is erroneously affirmed by Lightfoot (Harmony of the Four Evangelists, Joh 1:38). This is evident from the following statement in the Aruch of R. Nathan (s.v. אביי): "We do not find that the title Rabbon began before the patriarchs rabbon Gamaliel I, rabbon Simon his son (who perished in the destruction of the second Temple), and rabbon Jochanan ben-Zakkai, all of whom were presidents." Lightfoot's mistake is all the more strange since he himself quotes this passage elsewhere (comp. Hebrew and Talmudical Exercitations, Mt 23:7). רִבָּן, however, which, as we have said, is the noun רִב with the Chaldee pronominal suffix first person plural, is also used in Aramaic as a noun absolute, the plural of which is רִבָּנַין and רִבָּנַים (comp. Chaldee paraphrase on Ps 80:11; Ru 1:2); pronominal suffix second person singular רִבָּנִיך (Song 6:4); pronominal suffix third person plural רִבָּנֵיהוֹן (Ps 83:12). Accordingly ῾Ραββονί in Mr 10:51, which in Joh 20:16 is spelled ῾Ραββουνί, is the equivalent of רִבָּנַי, Rabbani, my master, giving the Syriac pronunciation to the Kamets under the Beth. As such it is interpreted by the evangelists (διδάσκαλος, Joh 1:39; Joh 20:16; Mt 23:8).
II. Origin and Date of these Titles. — Nathan ben-Jechiel (q.v.) tells us, in his celebrated lexicon denominated Aruch (s.v. אביי), which was finished A.D. 1101, that Mar Rab Jacob asked Sherira Gaon, and his son Hai, the co-Gaon (A.D. 999), for an explanation of the origin and import of these different titles, and that these spiritual heads of the Jewish community in Babylon replied as follows: "The title Rab (רב) is Babylonian, and the title Rabbi (רבי) is Palestinian." This is evident from the fact that some of the Tanaim and Amoraim are simply called by their names without any title — e.g. Simon the Just, Antigonus of Soho, Jose ben Jochanan, Rab, Samnuel,Abaje, and Rabba; some of them bear the title Rabbi (רבי) — e.g. rabbi Akiba, rabbi Jose, rabbi Simon, etc.; some of them have the title Mar (מר) — e.g. mar Ukba, mar Januka, etc.; some the title of Rab (רב) — e.g. rab Hana, rab Jehudah, etc.; while some of them have the title Rabbon (רבן) — e.g. rabbon Gamaliel, rabbon Jochanan ben-Zakkai, etc.
⇒See also the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia.
The title Rabbi (רבי) is that of the Palestinian sages, who received there of the Sanhedrim the laying-on of the hands, in accordance with the laying-on of the hands as transmitted in unbroken succession by the elders (זקנים ), iand were denominated Rabbi, and received authority to judge penal cases; while Rab (רב) is the title of the Babylonian sages, who received the layingon of hands in their colleges. The more ancient generations, however, who were far superior, had no such titles as Rabbon (רבן), Rabbi (רבי), or Rab (רב), either for the Babylonian or Palestinian sages, as is evident from the fact that Hillel I, who came from Babylon, had not the title Rabbon (רבן) attached to his name; and that of the prophets, who were very eminent, it is simply said 'Haggai the prophet,' etc.; 'Ezra did not come lup from Babylon,' etc., without the title Rabbon being affixed to their names. Indeed, we do not find that this title is of an earlier date than the patriarchate. It began with rabbon Gamaliel the elder (A.D. 30), rabbon Simon, his son (who perished in the destruction of the second Temple), and rabbon Jochanan ben-Zakkai, all of whom were patriarchs or presidents of the Sanhedrim (נשיאים). The title Rabbi (רבי), too, comes into vogue among those who received the laying-on of hands at this period — as, for instance, rabbi Zaddok, rabbi Eliezer ben-Jacob, etc., and dates from the disciples of rabbon Jochanan ben-Zakkai downwards. Now the order of these titles is as follows: Rabbi is greater than Rab; Rabbon, again, is greater than Rabbi; while the simple name is greater than Rabbon. No one is called Rabbon except the presidents." From this declaration of Sherira Gaon and Hai, that the title Rabbi obtained among the disciples of Jochanan ben-Zakkai, the erudite Gratz concludes that "we must regard the title Rabbi, which in the Gospels, with the exception of that by Luke, is given to John the Baptist and to Jesus, as an anachronism. We must also regard as an anachronism the disapprobation put into the mouth of Jesus against the ambition of the Jewish doctors, who love to be called by this title, and the admonition to his disciples not to suffer themselves to be styled Rabbiκαὶ φιλοῦσι (οἱ γραμματεῖς)...καλεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ῥαββὶ ῥαββί. ῾Υμεῖς δἑ μὴ κληθῆτε ῥαββί, Mt 23:7-8). This, moreover, shows that when the Gospels were written down the title Rabbi stood in so high a repute that the fathers could not but transfer it to Christ" (Geschichte der Juden [Berl. 1853], 4:500). But even supposing that the title Rabbi came into vogue in the days of Jochanan ben-Zakkai, this would by no means warrant Gritz's conclusion, inasmuch as Jochanan lived upwards of a hundred years, and survived four presidents
— viz. Hillel I (B.C. 30-10), Simon I (A.D. 10-30), Gamaliel I (A.D. 30- 50), and Simon II (A.D. 50-70), and it might therefore obtain in the early days of this luminary, which would be shortly after the birth of Christ. The Tosaphoth at the end of Eduyoth, however, quoted in the Aruch in the same article, gives a different account of the origin of this title, which is as follows: "He who has disciples, and whose disciples again have disciples, is called Rabbi; when his disciples are forgotten (i.e. if he is so old that his immediate disciples already belong to the past age), he is called Rabbon; and when the disciples of his disciples are also forgotten, he is simply called by his own name." This makes the titles coeval with the origin of the different schools, and at the same time accounts for the absence of them among the earliest doctors of the law.
Some account of the rabbins and the Mishnical and Talmudical writings may be found in Prideaux (Connection, pt. 1, bk. 5, under the year B.C. 446; pt. 2, bk. 8, under the year B.C. 37); and a sketch of the history of the school of Rabbinical learning at Tiberias, fiounded by rabbi Judah Hak- kodesh, the compiler of the Mishna, in the 2d century after Christ, is given by Robinson (Biblical Researches, 2, 391). See also Note 14 to Burton, Bampton Lectures, and the authorities there quoted — for instance, Bruker (ii, 820) and Basnage (Hist. des Juifs, iii, 6, p. 138). Compare Hill, De Rabbinis (Jel. 1741); Bohn, ibid. (Erf. 1750); Muller, De Doctoribus (Vitemb. 1740). SEE MASTER.