Rabbi means master and teacher. It was a title used by the Jews to express honor and respect for their teachers. The word, ῥαββί (rabbi), is used 15 times in the New Testament, and the other form of the word, ῥαββουνί (rabboni), is used once. "Rabbi" was used in reference to Jesus in John 1:38, 3:2, 6:25, 9:2, 11:8. Rabboni was used of Jesus in John 20:16. Rabboni seems to be the longer form of Rabbi and expresses a deeper respect.
"By the time of the Mishnah (a.d. 200) rab had come to mean a master as opposed to slave and a master or teacher of students. The nt has two forms of the title, rabbi and rabbounei (these Greek words are sometimes translated, as ‘master,’ or simply transliterated, as ‘rabboni’). These probably reflect the pronunciations in Hebrew and Aramaic in the first century. 1
- 1. Achtemeier, Paul J., Th.D., Harper’s Bible Dictionary, (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, Inc.) 1985.