Rabbi Jesus in Sixteenth-Century Bible Translations

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This article explores the figure of Jesus as teacher in Martin Luther’s translation of the New Testament. It analyses Luther’s translation of the word ‘rabbi’. In three of the four Gospels, several interlocutors call Jesus ‘rabbi’. In his earliest translation (1522), Luther rendered the word as ‘master’ in almost all the verses where the word appeared. However, in the editions of the New Testament that appeared in 1526-30, Luther revised the translation and reinstated ‘rabbi’ as a valid title of Jesus. In order to understand Luther’s meaningful reconsideration of one of the main biblical titles of Jesus, the article discusses Luther’s translation practice, his general view on biblical titles and his employment of the term ‘rabbi’ in polemics. The article suggests that rather than anti- or pro-Jewish sentiments, Luther’s view on the figure of Jesus as teacher enabled the revision in the translation. For Luther, the word ‘rabbi’ was a locus where the Jewish and the Christian met, where the historical Jesus could by glimpsed and the unique qualities of Jesus as a teacher, as the only teacher, could be expressed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Bible and Its Reception
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)123-50
Number of pages28
Publication statusPublished - May 2023

ID: 280667164