I’d appreciate your opinion on the following question: Why are Messianic
congregation leaders called Rabbi? I refer to Matthew 23:8 (KJV) which says
“But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye
(I found this on the internet in The Hebrew Names Version of the World
English Bible (HNV) translated “But don’t you be called ‘Rabbi,’ for one is
your teacher, the Messiah, and all of you are brothers.”)
I’ve wondered about this for a long time. Is this is an incorrect
translation, or just what, exactly, does it mean?
You quoted from Matthew 23:8, but to have a better understanding you must include the following verses to verse 10. A literalistic approach to Matthew 23: 8-10 is inappropriate in the reading of this passage for the following reasons. Yahshua also warns against being called “father” or “teacher” in addition to being called “rabbi.” The context leads me to believe Yahshua is prohibiting believers from accepting unearned honors, appropriating titles and offices for which they are not anointed or chosen of G-d rather than outlawing prohibited titles.
Remember, Yahshua was talking to Jews and therefore dealt with the title that they were most abusing. In the context he addresses here He refers to the then accepted common usage of the word rabbi as “Master.” This was a misappropriation of the term of the title assigning authority not given by G-d. He is not picking on one or two titles out of a multitude of manmade titles and forbidding their usage. He is attacking an ungodly principle involving the mental gymnastics that religious people tend to play. Their desire for titles that men invest with authority, esteem, and self-importance. This is an ungodly attitude and is prohibited by Yahshua. The proof is all the religious personages who prefix their name with the title Doctor that is not earned, yet used to set himself/herself apart from the laity and that is sinful behavior.
If Yahshua were bodily present on the earth today, He would say something like this to religious communities: “Do not be called apostles, prophets, most reverend, reverend, pastor or bible school teacher. Why? Because manmade titles and recognition puff up the flesh and are not necessarily, a sign of YHVH’s calling or anointing. In many denominations today the fad is to be designated as an apostle or prophet without the slightest qualifications, anointing or even understanding for such and office.
Please also remember that “rabbi” means “teacher,” not the appropriated definition “master” as it had come to be used in Yahshua’s day, conferring honors not granted. Rav Sha’ul (Paul) lists the five fold office gifting in Ephesians 4 at the end of verse 11 and calls rabbis = teachers a gift to Yahshua’s body. Rabbi and teacher are synonymous terms, so what is Yahshua saying? Are we not to use the term teacher at all or did He have something else in mind? The Ruach HaKodesh is the “Teacher,” but G-d uses anointed humans as His agents to teach His torah. If true to the term anointed rabbis. It seems then we must discern between those called of G-d as opposed to those appropriating the title for personal reasons. Rabbis, teachers, leaders, pastors must first be servants of G-d, and not masters. The risen Messiah gave rabbis to the body. Unfortunately, the church has a problem with the Hebrew word “Rabbi,” not the concept of teacher. Thereby, revealing their latent anti-Semitism. True rabbis are teachers of G-d’s word.
Finally, in First John 2:13-14, Yochanan calls mature believers in the faith, “fathers”. Was not John paying attention to Yahshua? Didn’t Yahshua warn us not to call any man father in Matt 23:9? Does that also include your biological father? Isn’t John contradicting Yahshua? On the other hand, maybe John was in rebellion. No sir! We know that is not the case. He correctly refers to mature believers as fathers of the faith, despite Yahshua’s pronouncement. Therefore it is safe to say when you are a mature believer and are able to lead others as John said, you are a father of the faith. When you walk in the ministry of teaching, within the Messianic Jewish community, given by Yahshua to teach others, you are a rabbi. He is not picking on two titles as evil over and above all the others! He merely is rebuking the principle of arrogance and pride in man’s tendency to issue or appropriate titles, without divine sanction and anointing!