Matthew – Day 15 – Was Jesus a Traditional Rabbi?

 In Bible Studies, The Book of Matthew

lease begin by reading the Shema out loud and continue trying to memorize it.

“Hear, O Israel. The LORD is our God. The LORD alone. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Amen.”

The term rabbi in the time of Jesus did not necessarily refer to a specific office or occupation. That would be true only after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 A.D. Instead, rabbi was a word meaning “great one” or “my master”, which applied to many kinds of people in everyday speech. It also was clearly used as a term of respect for one’s teacher. It is interesting that people in Jesus’ day called Him rabbi, which showed not only their great respect for Him as a person, but also His remarkable teaching ability.

Many characteristics were common with first century rabbis:

  • People would refer to the person as rabbi.
  • He would have very dedicated followers called talmidim.
  • He would travel from place to place with his disciples depending on the hospitality of others, often meeting in private homes.
  • While traveling, the rabbi would visit local synagogues because the discussion of Scripture occurred regularly in these community centers.
  • Rabbis used similar methods of interpreting Scripture (for example – remez – See Day 10).
  • Rabbis used similar techniques for teaching Scripture – parables.
  • The most respected rabbis had special authority called s’mikhah (shmee-kah). These teachers had the authority to expand on Scripture and interpret it.
  • They would teach saying, “You have heard that it was said… but I tell you…”
  • Each rabbi with s’mikhah had his idea of the “greatest commandment” which was known as his yoke.
  • Rabbis invited people to learn to keep the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament).
  • The task of the first century rabbi was to interpret Scripture in such a way as to help people obey it correctly. This was called “fulfilling” the scripture. [There are additional uses for this phrase that will be discussed as we progress through Matthew.]

As we go through the gospel of Matthew we will find that Jesus had every one of these characteristics of a rabbi.

Ray Vander Laan – That the World May Know

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