Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The familiar noun ραββι (rabbi) is Hebrew for "great one" or "my master" and is rather similar to our English words master and mister, which both stem from the familiar adjective μεγας (megas), great or large (or more precise: from the comparative of the Proto-Indo-European root meg-, meaning great). Our noun ραββι (rabbi), similarly, comes from the Hebrew verb רבב (rabab), meaning to be or become many or much. Derived adjective רב (rab) means much, many or great, and the identical noun רב (rab) means chief or captain. Noun רב (rob) means multitude or abundance. Nouns רבבה (rebaba), רבו (ribo) and רבוא (ribo') mean ten-thousand or myriad. Noun רביבים (rebibim) denotes copious showers.
Particularly the latter word is interesting, because the bringing about of a unified effect by means of many little impulses (arrows, stones, words, instructions, rain drops, and so on) is usually described by the verb ירה (yara). The noun מורה (moreh), which comes from this latter verb, may either mean rain or teacher. The familiar word Torah, meaning instructions, also comes from this verb. Hence, the noun רב (rab) may also mean archer, which in turn helps to explains the bow of the white horseman (Revelation 6:2), and of course the many Archers in Jewish movies; probably most notably, Star Trek's Jonathan Archer, as predecessor of James Kirk (= Jacob's Church), but also Small Soldiers' Archer, Archer's Sterling Archer — obviously a pun on silver-bowed Apollo; see our article on the name Hellas and the noun αργυρος (arguros), silver — the hilariously offensive PI duo Spade and Archer from The Maltese Falcon, and actual bowman characters like Legolas, Weatherman David Spritzel, and even Robin Hood and Cupid.
Speaking of Cupid: the noun כף (kap), means open hand, whereas יד (yad), means clenched fist and ידד (yadad), means to love, hence the name David, meaning Beloved. Einstein once quipped that gravity cannot be held responsible for people falling in love, which was of course twice funny, because most people never made the connection between spacetime curvature and a flexed bow — for more on Biblical Relativity Theory, see our article on the verb נהר (nahar), which means both to flow (what a river does) and to shine (what a star does).
The word Rabbi does not occur in the Old Testament, but the Rabbinical Period commenced when the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon and Persia, and spoke Aramaic rather than Hebrew (see our article on Damascus). In order to bridge the gap between the holy Scriptures and the people's common language, Ezra instituted explainers, who, over the centuries to follow, began to be known as Rabbis, from the noun רב (rab) plus the letter י (yod), which marks "pertaining to", and which either translates as an adjective ("great one") or a possessive form ("my great one"; compare names like Abdi, Abi, Ammi and so on), which is a construction not unlike the common German Mein Herr, which in turn translates into Hebrew as Adonai, or my Lord.
Our noun ραββι (rabbi) is used 17 times, see full concordance, possibly most notably in Matthew 23:8, where Jesus says: "You are not to be called Rabbi, for One is your καθηγητης (kathegetes), guide", which obviously emphasizes that people should emulate the Oneness that is God's most intimate character (see Ephesians 5:1 and compare Deuteronomy 6:4 to Romans 1:20, which leads to texts like Ephesians 4:4-6, Acts 1:14, Philippians 1:27, John 17:21-23, and so on) by allowing all voices to speak, rather than the one voice of some leader, who will accomplish only that the world will be formed in his own image.
From our noun derives:
- The noun ραββονι (rabboni), which derives from רבן (raban), meaning chief teacher (Mark 10:51 and John 20:16 only). This noun is also not used in the Old Testament but it does show up (in many variations and nuances) in the Aramaic Targum. In Roman times, the title Rabban became a title of Jewish scholars, most specifically of scholars whose own disciples were forgotten (the title Rabbi was bestowed upon the scholar by the disciples of the disciples). Post the great Hillel (110 BC - 10 AD), the presidents of the House of Hillel bore the title of Rabban. The title רבנו (rabenu), or "Our Master" was bestowed on Moses. The term רבני (raboni) means My (Chief) Master.
The noun ραβδος (rabdos) means rod, scepter or staff. It's of unknown pedigree and possible pre-Greek, and here at Abarim Publications we privately suspect it may be an adaptation of the Aramaic noun רבד (rabad), which described a blob of fat on someone's clothes: a sure sign of abundance and rich dining, which in turn marked society's freemen (as opposed to its slaves and poor) and thus its governing elite. Rather similarly, the noun κυριος (kurios), or mister, literally means spear-carrier. The spear originally demonstrated one's actual manly prowess, but later in a ceremonial sense came to indicate one's formal authority. The words curia and curator come from this word κυριος (kurios), spear. The Aramaic noun רבד (rabad) was also spelled as רבב (rabab), and derived from the Aramaic equivalent of the aforementioned Hebrew verb רבב (rabab), to be much or many.
The Greek ραβδος (rabdos) came in various forms and had various functions, but in general was a sign of authority and wisdom, and marked a license to apprehend, beat and correct. In our modern cultures, this item has morphed into a king's scepter, a wizard's wand, and possible even a conductor's baton. In the Septuagint, the noun ραβδος (rabdos) translates the nouns משענת (mish'enet), staff (Exodus 21:19, Zechariah 8:4), שבט (shebet), rod (Exodus 21:20, Proverbs 10:13, Psalm 2:9, 45:6), and מטה (matteh), leverage (Genesis 38:18, Exodus 4:2, Psalm 110:2, Isaiah 9:4):
- The noun משענת (mish'enet), staff, comes from the verb שען (sha'an), to lean on or trust in. This staff was not only a device to lean on, it also probed the ground ahead to test it for walkable consistency and scare off any snakes that might be hiding in the grass. It was a signature attribute of watchful travelers and shepherds (Exodus 21:19, Zechariah 8:4) and reposing elders (Zechariah 8:4). In Psalm 23:4, David speaks how the Good Shepherd's rod (שבט, shebet, see next) and staff (משענת, mish'enet) comfort him. Figuratively, our word משענת (mish'enet) may denote the security and liquidity provided by rulers and law-givers (Numbers 21:18, Isaiah 36:6, Ezekiel 29:6) and prophets (2 Kings 4:29).
- The noun שבט (shebet), rod, comes from the verb שבט (shabat) to smite or beat. Farmers used such rods to beat their grains (Isaiah 28:27; see σιτος, sitos, grain) and to herd their cattle (Psalm 23:4). The latter use equates the שבט (shebet), rod, with a דרבן (dorban), goad (1 Samuel 13:21, Ecclesiastes 12:11), which in Greek is called κεντρον (kentron). This instrument signifies correction and coercion. The Aramaic equivalent of our word, namely שרביט (sharbit), came to denote the king's scepter (Esther 4:11, 5:2).
- The noun מטה (matteh), lever or leverage, comes from the verb נטה (nata), to leverage: to manipulate one's environment beyond one's natural powers, but at the price of attributes like range, accuracy, diversity, duration, and so on. This noun summarizes all forms of technology, including information technology (Psalm 110:2), and is hence strongly associated with the seat of power. Our noun's feminine version, namely מטה (mitta), means "bed", but mostly proverbially as the king's bed: the depositorial "seat" of government (Genesis 47:31, see Hebrews 11:21, Exodus 8:3, Song of Solomon 3:7). That makes the latter noun comparable to the Greek noun κοιτη (koite), marriage bed, or rather the place from which the house is governed and where the heirs are conceived.
Our noun ραβδος (rabdos), staff, rod or lever, is used 12 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The verb ραβδιζω (rhabdizo), meaning to treat with the rod: to beat, to correct, to manipulate (Acts 16:22 and 2 Corinthians 11:25 only).
- Together with the verb εχω (echo), to have or hold: the noun ραβδουχος (rhabdouchos), meaning staff-holder, rod-wielder or stick-swinger: a colloquial term for what we moderns call a policeman (Acts 16:35 and 16:38 only). There were no specific police uniforms back then, and one could recognize a policeman by his baton.