Rabbi, Master, Teacher or Lord?
Rabbi, Master, Teacher or Lord?
Is the King James Bible wrong for translating ραββι (rabbi) as MASTER in Mark 9:5 and other places?
Some KJB Bible critics have raised the objection that the King James Bible “got it wrong” in places like Mark 9:5 where they translated the Greek word ραββι (rabbi) as “Master”.
The critics are wrong of course and the KJB is right, but I want to show why this is so.
We have three parallel accounts of the same event called the Transfiguration of our Lord Jesus Christ when his face shined as the sun and his raiment was as white as the light, and Moses and Elijah both appeared with him on the mount and a voice came from heaven saying: This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.”
The specific verses we are looking at are found in Matthew 17:4, Mark 9:5 and Luke 9:33.
In each of these parallel accounts Peter asks the same question, yet the underling Greek text uses three different words to mean the exact same thing.
In Matthew 17:4 we read: “Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, LORD (κυριε), it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Mark 9:5 - “And Peter answered and said to Jesus, MASTER (ραββι), it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”
Luke 9:33 - “And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, MASTER (επιστατα), it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias: not knowing what he said.”
This word - επιστατα - is used 6 times and is always translated as “Master”, but it also is used interchangeably with διδασκαλε, which also means "master" or "teacher".
It is επιστατα in Luke 8:24 - “Master, master, we perish”, but διδασκαλε is used in the parallel passage in Mark 4:38 - “Master, carest thou not that we perish?”
And likewise επιστατα is used in Luke 9:46 - “Master, we saw one casting out devils”, but διδασκαλε is in the parallel passage of Mark 9:38 -“Master, we saw one casting out devils”
So in Matthew 17 Peter addresses Jesus as LORD - κυριε, in Mark 9 we have MASTER - ραββι and in Luke 9 MASTER - επιστατα
The King James Bible translators have at times TRANSLATED the word “rabbi” as “Master”, which simply means TEACHER. And at other times it actually has TRANSLITERATED the word as RABBI.
The KJB has Rabbi 8 times (Matthew 23:7, 8; John 1:38, 49 -“they said unto him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master - διδασκαλε,) where dwellest thou?”; John 3:2 - “Rabbi, we know thou art a TEACHER (διδασκαλε) come from God”; 3:26; and John 6:25 “Rabbi, when camest thou hither?”
The word διδασκαλε (didaskale) is the usual word used for “teacher” or “master”.
The KJB has translated the Greek word ραββι as MASTER 9 times - Matthew 26:25, 49; Mark 9:5, 11:21, 14:45; John 4:31, 9:2 - “Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?”, and John 11:8.
We see a similar idea of how the terms are used interchangeably in Matthew 23:8 -“ But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.”
Here the word for Master is καθηγητης. It is found only 3 times in the N.T. and is used the other 2 times in Matthew 23:10 - “ Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.”
What we learn from all these examples is that the terms are often used interchangeably.
In Mark 9:5, which is the verse that led to this whole study, we read: “And Peter answered and said to Jesus, MASTER, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.”
Here versions like the NKJV, ESV, NIV and NASB have TRANSLITERATED the word (not translated it) as RABBI.
This is not wrong, but neither is the King James Bible wrong from TRANSLATING the word as MASTER.
In fact, the ESV 2011 has a footnote that reads: “Rabbi means my teacher, or my master.”
Not only does the KJB translate this word ραββι as MASTER, but so also do the following Bible translations - Wycliffe bible 1395, Tyndale 1525, The Great Bible 1540, Matthew’s Bible 1549, the Bishops’ Bible 1568, the Geneva Bible 1587, the Beza N.T. 1599, Whiston’s N.T. 1745, John Wesley’s N.T. 1755, Worsley Version 1770, Haweis N.T. 1795, The Revised Translation 1815, The Webster Bible 1833, The Revised N.T. 1862, The Clarke N.T. 1913 (Master), Godspeed’s N.T. 1923 (Master), Montgomery N.T. 1924 (Master), New Life Version 1969 (Teacher), Revised Standard Version 1971 - (Master), Living Bible 1971 (Teacher), J.B. Phillips N.T. 1972 - (Master), KJV 21st Century Version 1994, Amplified Bible Classic Edition 1987, Worldwide English N.T. 1998 - (Master), Good News Translation 1992 (Teacher), The Word of Yah Bible 1993, Contemporary English Version 1995 (Teacher), God’s First Truth 1999 (Master), The Last Days N.T.1999 (Teacher), New Century Version 2005, Easy-to-Read Version 2006 (Teacher), Jubilee Bible 2010 (Master), The Conservative Bible 2010 - (Master), Expanded Bible 2011 -Teacher, The Voice 2012 (Teacher), The Bond Slave Version 2012 - (Master), The Translator’s Bible 2014 - (Teacher) and the International Children’s Bible 2015.
There is nothing at all wrong with the way the King James Bible and many others have translated Mark 9:5 or any other verse.
The King James Bible is God’s complete and 100% true words in the English language, and the Bible agnostics (each one who is his own authority and doesn’t agree with anybody else all the time) just can’t stand it.
ALL of grace, believing the Book - the King James Holy Bible,
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