Matthew 23:8
But be not you called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all you are brothers.
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(8) Be not ye called Rabbi.—The teaching of our Lord was not without its foreshadowings in that of the better scribes, and a precept of Shemaiah, the predecessor of Hillel, lays down the rule that “men should love the work, but hate the Rabbi-ship.”

One is your Master.—The word, as found in the better MSS., is used in its old sense as “teacher.” He was, as the disciples called Him, the Rabbi to whom they were to look for guidance. They were not to seek the title for themselves as a mark of honour. As they did their work as “teachers” (1Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11), they were to remember Who was teaching them. The received text of the Greek gives the word which means “guide,” as in Matthew 23:10.

Even Christ.—The words are wanting in the best MSS., and have apparently crept into the text from a marginal explanatory note, completing the sense after the pattern of Matthew 23:10.

All ye are brethren.—The words would seem to come more naturally at the close of the next verse, and are so placed in some MSS. There is, however, a preponderance of authority in favour of this position, nor is the use of the name here without significance. The fact that men are disciples of the same Teacher constitutes in itself a bond of brotherhood.

Matthew 23:8-10. Be not ye called rabbi — Do not affect those titles of reverence and respect which give too much honour or authority to man. The Jewish doctors were called rabbis, fathers, and masters, by their several disciples, whom they required both to believe implicitly what they affirmed, without asking any further reason, and to obey unreservedly what they enjoined, without seeking for any further authority. But our Lord here teaches his apostles, and their successors in the ministry of the gospel, that they were to be very different from these Jewish teachers. They were to decline being called rabbi, because the thing signified by the term belonged solely to their Master, in whom the whole treasures of divine knowledge and wisdom are hid; and who, for that reason, is the only infallible teacher of his church; and also, because they owed none of their knowledge to themselves, but derived it entirely from him, in which respect they were all brethren, and on a level. And they were to call no man father upon earth — To consider no man as the father of their religion, that is, the founder, author, or director of it; to look up to no man with the reverence wherewith a child should regard a father, or so as to yield an absolute subjection to his will and pleasure, or be absolutely swayed and governed thereby; because one was their Father who is in heaven, the source, as of their being, so of all their blessings, and especially of their religion; the fountain and founder of it; the life and Lord of it. Our Lord adds, Neither be ye called masters — Gr. καθηληται, leaders, or guides. That is, of the judgments and consciences of men, because, says he, one is your Master, even Christ — The infallible instructer and guide of his church in all matters of faith and practice; commissioned by his Father to reveal his will, and teach all that is needful to be known, believed, or done, in order to salvation; whose apostles even were only to be regarded as his ministers and ambassadors, and only to be credited because, by their gifts and miraculous powers derived from him, they manifested that they taught men those things which he had commanded, and by his Spirit had revealed to them. Thus our Lord, the more effectually to enforce this warning against an unlimited veneration for the judgments and decisions of men, as a most important lesson, puts it in a variety of lights, and prohibits them from regarding any man with an implicit and blind partiality as teacher, father, or guide. Upon the whole, the things forbidden are, 1st, a vain-glorious affectation of such titles as these, the ambitious seeking of them, and glorying in them; 2d, that authority and dominion over the consciences of men, which the Pharisaical doctors had usurped; telling the people that they ought to believe all their doctrines, and practise all their injunctions, as the commands of the living God.23:1-12 The scribes and Pharisees explained the law of Moses, and enforced obedience to it. They are charged with hypocrisy in religion. We can only judge according to outward appearance; but God searches the heart. They made phylacteries. These were scrolls of paper or parchment, wherein were written four paragraphs of the law, to be worn on their foreheads and left arms, Ex 13:2-10; 13:11-16; De 6:4-9; 11:13-21. They made these phylacteries broad, that they might be thought more zealous for the law than others. God appointed the Jews to make fringes upon their garments, Nu 15:38, to remind them of their being a peculiar people; but the Pharisees made them larger than common, as if they were thereby more religious than others. Pride was the darling, reigning sin of the Pharisees, the sin that most easily beset them, and which our Lord Jesus takes all occasions to speak against. For him that is taught in the word to give respect to him that teaches, is commendable; but for him that teaches, to demand it, to be puffed up with it, is sinful. How much is all this against the spirit of Christianity! The consistent disciple of Christ is pained by being put into chief places. But who that looks around on the visible church, would think this was the spirit required? It is plain that some measure of this antichristian spirit prevails in every religious society, and in every one of our hearts.Be not ye ... - Jesus forbade his disciples to seek such titles of distinction. The reason which he gave was that he was himself their Master and Teacher, They were on a level; they were to be equal in authority; they were brethren; and they should neither covet nor receive a title which implied either an elevation of one above another, or which appeared to infringe on the absolute right of the Saviour to be their only Teacher and Master. The direction here is an express command to his disciples not to receive such a title of distinction. They were not to covet it; they were not to seek it; they were not to do anything that implied a wish or a willingness that it should be appended to their names. Everything which would tend to make a distinction among them or destroy their parity - everything which would lead the world to suppose that there were ranks and grades among them as ministers, they were to avoid. It is to be observed that the command is that they were not to receive the title - "Be not ye called Rabbi." The Saviour did not forbid them giving the title to others when it was customary or not regarded as improper (compare Acts 26:25), but they were not to receive it. It was to be unknown among them. This title corresponds with the title "Doctor of Divinity" as applied to ministers of the gospel; and, so far as I can see, the spirit of the Saviour's command is violated by the reception of such a title, as really as it would have been by their being called "Rabbi." It makes a distinction among ministers. It tends to engender pride and a sense of superiority in those who obtain it, and envy and a sense of inferiority in those who do not; and the whole spirit and tendency of it is contrary to the "simplicity that is in Christ." 8. But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master—your Guide, your Teacher. See Poole on "Matthew 23:10". But be not ye called Rabbi,.... Do not be ambitious of any such title, fond of it, or affect it, or be elated with it, should it be given you; nor look upon yourselves as men of power and authority over others; as having the dominion over men's faith, a power to make laws for others, impose them in a magisterial way, and bind and loose men's consciences at pleasure, as these men do:

for one is your master, even Christ; meaning himself, the true Messiah, the head of the church, King of saints, and Lord of all; who had all power in heaven and in earth, to make laws, appoint ordinances, and oblige men to receive his doctrines, and obey his commands: the word "Christ", is left out in the Vulgate Latin, the Syriac, Persic, and Ethiopic versions; but is in the Arabic version, and Munster's Hebrew Gospel, and in all the ancient Greek copies Beza consulted, excepting two: no other indeed can be meant; he is the great Rabbi, and doctor, that is to be hearkened to, and the master we are all to obey:

and all ye are brethren; not merely as the descendants of Adam, but as being in a spiritual relation, the children of God, and disciples of Christ, and so have no superiority one over another: this may regard the disciples, both as believers and Christians, partakers of the same grace, and standing in the same relation to God, Christ, and one another, and having an equal right to the same privileges: and as apostles and ministers, one as such, no, not Peter, having no pre-eminence over the other, having the same commission, doctrine, and authority, one as the other.

{4} But be not ye {g} called Rabbi: for {h} one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.

(4) Modesty is a singular ornament of God's minsters.

(g) Seek not ambitiously after it: for our Lord does not forbid us to give the magistrate and our masters the honour that is due to them; Augustine in a sermon on the words of God from Mt 11:1-30.

(h) He seems to allude to references in Isa 54:13 and Jer 31:34.

Matthew 23:8-12. Ὑμεῖς] with which the discourse is suddenly turned to the disciples, is placed first[9] for sake of emphasis, and forms a contrast to the Pharisees and scribes.

μὴ κληθῆτε] neither wish nor allow it.

πάντες δέ] so that no one may violate the fraternal tie on the ground of his supposed superiority as a teacher.

καὶ πατέρα, κ.τ.λ.] The word πατέρα, by being placed at the beginning, becomes emphatic, and so also ὑμῶν, by being separated from πατέρα to which it belongs: And you must not call any one father of you upon earth, i.e. you must not apply the teacher’s title “our father” (אָב, see Buxtorf, p. 10, 2175; Ewald as above) to any mere man. Comp. Winer, p. 549 [E. T. 738].

Matthew 23:10. Neither are you to allow yourselves to be called leaders (in the scholastic sense), for the leader of you is One (see critical notes), the Messiah. For examples of the way in which Greek philosophers were addressed by their disciples, see Wetstein.

Ὁ ΔῈ ΜΕΊΖΩΝ ὙΜῶΝ, Κ.Τ.Λ.] But among you greatness is to be indicated quite otherwise than by high-sounding titles: the greater among you, i.e. he among you who would surpass the others in true dignity, will be your servant. Comp. Matthew 23:12. This is a saying of which Jesus makes very frequent use (Luke 14:11; Luke 18:14). Comp. Matthew 20:26 f.; also the example of Jesus in the washing of the disciples’ feet, and Php 2:6 f.

ταπεινωθ.… ὑψωθ.] that is, on the occasion of the setting up of my kingdom.

[9] In consequence of this address to the disciples, Holtzmann, p. 200, regards the whole discourse, in the form in which it has come down to us, as an historical impossibility. Observe, however, the impassioned and lively way in which the topics are varied so as to suit exactly the different groups of which the audience was composed (see on ver. 1).


The prohibitions, Matthew 23:8 ff., have reference to the hierarchical meaning and usage which were at that time associated with the titles in question. The teacher’s titles in themselves are as legitimate and necessary as his functions; but the hierarchy, in the form which it assumed in the Catholic church with the “holy father” at its head, was contrary to the spirit and mind of Jesus. Apropos of Matthew 23:11, Calvin appropriately observes: “Hac clausula ostendit, se non sophistice litigasse de vocibus, sed rem potius spectasse.”Matthew 23:8. ὑμεῖς, you, emphatic: the Twelve, an earnest aside to them in especial (an interpolation by the evangelist, Weiss-Meyer), be not ye called Rabbi.—μὴ κληθῆτε, “Do not seek to be called, if others call you this it will not be your fault”. Euthy. Zig.8. be not ye called Rabbi] The emphasis is on “ye,” which is expressed in the Greek. Ye as Scribes of the Kingdom of Heaven must not be as the Jewish Scribes.Matthew 23:8. Μὴ κληθῆτε, be ye not called) i.e. do not ye be thus treated, nor seek to be thus treated.—εἷς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν ὁ Διδάσκαλος, for one is your Teacher[987]) Others read, ΕἿς ΓΆΡ ἘΣΤΙΝ ὙΜῶΝ Ὁ ΚΑΘΗΓΗΤῊς, Ὁ ΧΡΙΣΤΌς,[988] for one is your Guide, even Christ. And this is indeed found in Matthew 23:10; in the present instance, however, it is our Heavenly Father who is spoken of; cf. ch. Matthew 16:17; John 6:45; Acts 10:28; Galatians 1:1; Galatians 1:15; Ephesians 1:9; Psalm 25:12; Psalm 32:8. Therefore our Lord adds, but all ye are brethren, which principle applies also to the ninth verse, that we should neither ourselves be called masters, nor call any one on earth father. Christ is treated of in verse 10, and verse 11 is appropriately subjoined. Cf. concerning the Father as Teacher, and Christ as Guide, ch. Matthew 11:25; Matthew 11:27.—ἐστέ, ye are) The indicative mood.[989]

[987] E. V. “one is your Master.”—(I. B.)

[988] Such is the reading of E. M.

[989] i.e. not the imperative, “Be ye,” as it might be rendered.—(I. B.)

In his App. Crit. Bengel writes thus:—“καθηγητῆς) edd. Bas. α. β. γ. etc. Exodus 5:10 (διδάσκαλος), Aug. 1. 4, in duabus pericopis, Bodl. 7, Colb 3, Gal. Go. Lin. Mont. N. 1, Par. 1. 4, Roe. Seld. 1, Steph. ε, Vsser. 2, Wheel. 1, et alii apud Erasmum et Bezam; Orig. Chrysost. ad h. 1. et Homil. 77 in Ioh., Arab. Syr. Probat Beza, Grotius, Seldenus, nec non L. de Dieu, Rus.

“¶ ὁ Χριστὸς) edd. etc. Exodus 5:10 (\) [i.e. for the omission], Bas. unus, γ. opinor. Eph. Med. Vss. 1, duo apud Bezam, Aeth. Arab. Armen. Copt. Lat. (et inde Cant. quem tamen Beza videtur innuere, Colb. 8), Pers. Syr. Orig. Chrysostomus clare. Theophyl. in comm. Vid. Gnom.”

Tishendorf, Lachmann, and Wordsworth read διδάσκαλος, but they do not omit ὁ Χριστός.—(I. B.)

Ὑμῶν ὁ διδάσκαλος is the reading of B; “vester doctor,” d; “vobis magister,” Cypr.; “magister vester,” abc and Vulg. But ὑμῶν ὁ καθηγήτης, D; to which Rec. Text adds ὁ Χριστός.—ED.

Some one of the learned has supposed it more probable that the term καθηγήτης, as being one of less common occurrence, has been changed by transcribers into διδάσκαλος, rather than that διδάσκαλος has been substituted instead of καθηγητής. But the arguments drawn from solid criticism have more weight than such mere conjectures; not to mention that the other conjecture, by which καθηγητὴς is supposed to be transferred from Matthew 23:10 (as to which there is no dispute), has at least as much show of probability. Cf. App. Grit. Ed. ii., p. 133.—E. B.Verse 8. - Be not ye called Rabbi. After stating the customs of the Pharisees, Christ proceeds (vers. 8-12) to give his own disciples a lesson in humility. The pronoun is emphatic, "But ye, be not ye called." They are not to be eager for such distinctions, indicative of spiritual superiority. The prohibition must be understood in the spirit, and not in the letter (comp. 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Timothy 1:2). Our Lord does not forbid respect for teachers or different grades in his Church (see 1 Corinthians 12:28; Ephesians 4:11-13); that which he censures is the inordinate grasping at such personal distinctions, the greedy ambition which loves the empty title, and takes any means to obtain it. One is your Master, even Christ. The received text gives εῖς γάρ ἐστιν ὑμῶν ὁ Καθηγητής ὁ Ξριστός. Many good manuscripts read Διδάσκαλος, Teacher (so Revised Version) instead of Καθηγητής, Leader, [and omit ὁ Ξριστός. Both these variations seem reasonable and warranted. "Leader" has probably been introduced from ver. 10, where it occurs naturally; it is out of place here, where, for the sake of concinnity, "Teacher" is required in both parts of the sentence. And it is unlikely that Jesus should here expressly mention himself. He is speaking now of their heavenly Father; to himself he refers in ver. 10. In support of the allusion to the Father, Bengel cites Matthew 16:17; John 6:45; Acts 10:28, etc. The Vulgate has, Unus est enim Magister vester; and yet Roman Catholic commentators interpret the clause of Christ, in spite of the purposed indefiniteness of the expression. Jesus points to the inspiration of the Father or the Holy Spirit as that which teaches his disciples. They were to follow no earthly rabbi, but the heavenly Teacher. All ye are brethren. And therefore, so far, equal. They were disciples of our Lord, and to them appertained equality and fraternity.
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