Seven Epithets: 5.6 Adonai Rabboni

Jesus taught. He instructed not just the disciples, but crowds of people. And His actions and words continue to instruct us today. He taught us through the power of His miracles, the humility of His service and the redemption of His sacrifice. Jesus referred to himself as Lord and Teacher:

“You call me “Teacher” and “Lord”, and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:13-14)

The New Testament was originally written in Greek where ‘Lord and Teacher’ is Kyrios Didaskalos. But Didaskalos is not just ‘teacher’ … and this is one instance where, surprisingly, British history and the English language help us for the UK education culture would more usually refer to a ‘master’ rather than a ‘teacher’ – so we have schoolmaster and headmaster. Students can gain a ‘Masters’ Degree at University. (Indeed, the King James Version translates didaskalos (or ‘Dominus’ in the Latin) not as teacher but as ‘master’.) El Shaddai shows two names as one: ‘God’ and the ‘Almighty One’ –  hence, God Almighty. In the same way, Kyrios Didaskalos shows us the Lord, our Lord Teacher; our Master.

Looking at Hebrew names for God, we need to make the connection from the Greek. John does this for us in explaining that didaskalos is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word rabbi (and he gives us the Aramaic as well, for good measure).

“… They said, ‘Rabbi’ (which means ‘Didaskolos [teacher])…’” (John 1:38)

Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni” which means “Didaskalos’ [teacher]). (John 20:16)

John 13:14 refers to Adonai Rabboni (Lord Teacher-Master or God the Teacher). In the time of Jesus’ ministry, the word rabbi was not really a word for the Jewish clergy, in the way of minister, vicar or today’s understanding of the term rabbi. In those days, it was a specific form of address meaning ‘My great one – my lord and master.’ (This provides clarity of when Jesus chastised the pharisees and religious leaders, saying “they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others.” (Matthew 23:7) So when people addressed Jesus as ‘Rabbi” they were not just saying ‘Teacher’ but were actually addressing Him as ‘My great one.’ We are not limited, in this teaching model, to Jesus. God the Father and the Holy Spirit teach us and instruct us. Be my guide and my Rabbi in the true way; for you are the God of my salvation; I am waiting for your word all the day. (Psalm 25:5)

You gave your good Spirit to instruct them. (Nehemiah 9:20)

We can leave the last word to Nathanael:

Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.’ (John 1:49)

[from Timothy Pitt]

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