[teacher (John 1:38), my great one; my excellent one].
“Rabbi” comes from the Hebrew word rav, meaning “great, master, chief.” “Rab” is used in the composition of several names, such as Rabsaris (chief attendant), Rabshakeh (chief cupbearer), and Rabmag (chief prince or magician). (2 Ki. 18:17; Jer. 39:3, 13) The designation “Rabbi” can be used in a de facto sense as “teacher.” But among the Jews, shortly before the birth of Jesus, it came to be used also as a form of address and as a title of respect and honor, the title being demanded by some of the learned men, scribes, teachers of the Law. They delighted to be called “Rabbi” as an honorary title. Jesus Christ condemned such title seeking and forbade his followers to be called “Rabbi,” as he was their teacher.—Matt. 23:6-8.
In the Bible we find the term “Rabbi” only in the Christian Greek Scriptures. It is employed twelve times in connection with Jesus, in the de facto sense of “Teacher”: twice by Peter (Mark 9:5; 11:21), once by two disciples of John (John 1:38), once by Nathanael (John 1:49), once by Nicodemus (John 3:2), three times by disciples of Jesus whose names are not specified (John 4:31; 9:2; 11:8), once by the crowds (John 6:25) and two times by Judas (one instance is repeated). (Matt. 26:25, 49; Mark 14:45) Jesus is addressed by Mary Magdalene as Rabboni (My Teacher), also by a blind man whom he healed. The personal pronoun “my” is a suffix here, but because of usage it seems to have lost its significance, as in Monsieur, originally meaning “my lord.” (John 20:16; Mark 10:51) John the Baptist is once addressed as Rabbi.—John 3:26.
The title “Rabbi,” with variations, later came to be used in the Jewish schools as an honorary title. “Rab” was the lowest in dignity in such Jewish schools, while “Rabbi” was next higher and “Rabban” (“Rabboni”) the highest, but these distinctions do not appear to have been practiced as early as the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry. The title “Rabbi” is applied today to religious leaders of Jewish congregations of Judaism.