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Rabbani is a Hebrew word, that is, "Teacher!". As a title "rabban" was conferred only on the heads of the central academy and of the Sanhedrin. Gamaliel I, quoted at Acts 5:34-39, is known in Jewish history as Rabban Gamaliel. Apparently the term was used more broadly in informal conversation. Although there is no evidence that Jesus was ever ordained a rabbi, it is implied at Matthew 23:8 that he and his disciples regarded him as one.

In this verse, "Rabbi" renders Greek rabbi, which transliterates the Hebrew. The word means, literally, "my Great one" and, less literally, "my master", "my teacher". It became a title of respect used for Torah scholars by everyone, even those of the same or higher rank. Teaching disciples was, and sometimes still is, the chief task of a rabbi.