John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

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PhillipLebsack
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John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by PhillipLebsack » February 1st, 2018, 5:54 am

John 3:2 οὗτος ἦλθεν πρὸς αὐτὸν νυκτὸς καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ· Ῥαββί, οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος· οὐδεὶς γὰρ ⸂δύναται ταῦτα τὰ σημεῖα⸃ ποιεῖν ἃ σὺ ποιεῖς, ἐὰν μὴ ᾖ ὁ θεὸς μετ’ αὐτοῦ.

I'm kind of perplexed. Ῥαββί is just the transliterated form of the Hebrew רַבִּי, which means διδάσκαλος. This would indicate that Nicodemus was speaking to Jesus in Hebrew. But in the same dialogue (in the same sentence mind you) of Nicodemus, he says διδάσκαλος as well...

So, what's going on here? Did Nicodemus use a different word in Hebrew the second time? Or, why did John only choose to transliterate the first רַבִּי?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 1st, 2018, 9:48 am

We still use the title Rabbi when we speak English, that doesn't mean that every English text that uses that word was translated from Hebrew. They also use the same title in German, French, Russian, Hungarian ...

In this passage, Ῥαββί is a normal form of address for a Jewish teacher, but ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος goes way beyond that. Most Rabbis did not do the things that Jesus did.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

PhillipLebsack
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by PhillipLebsack » February 2nd, 2018, 5:49 am

Jonathan Robie wrote:
February 1st, 2018, 9:48 am
We still use the title Rabbi when we speak English, that doesn't mean that every English text that uses that word was translated from Hebrew. They also use the same title in German, French, Russian, Hungarian ...

In this passage, Ῥαββί is a normal form of address for a Jewish teacher, but ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος goes way beyond that. Most Rabbis did not do the things that Jesus did.
I see. That... shifts my perspective rather significantly. So, the use of "Ῥαββί" may not be a transliteration indicating what language Nicodemus was speaking in (and was, if that's the case, most likely not John's focus for us to see here), but instead may be a title given by Nicodemus in whatever language he was speaking? Whether it be Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek?
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 2nd, 2018, 10:54 am

PhillipLebsack wrote:
February 2nd, 2018, 5:49 am
Jonathan Robie wrote:
February 1st, 2018, 9:48 am
We still use the title Rabbi when we speak English, that doesn't mean that every English text that uses that word was translated from Hebrew. They also use the same title in German, French, Russian, Hungarian ...

In this passage, Ῥαββί is a normal form of address for a Jewish teacher, but ἀπὸ θεοῦ ἐλήλυθας διδάσκαλος goes way beyond that. Most Rabbis did not do the things that Jesus did.
I see. That... shifts my perspective rather significantly. So, the use of "Ῥαββί" may not be a transliteration indicating what language Nicodemus was speaking in (and was, if that's the case, most likely not John's focus for us to see here), but instead may be a title given by Nicodemus in whatever language he was speaking? Whether it be Aramaic, Hebrew, or Greek?
The best clue to the language Nicodemus and Jesus spoke is not the use of ῥαββι, but the fact that Nicodemus and Jesus were both Jewish, and they would have probably spoken the street language of Jews. If you agree with Fitzmeyer (BAR, October 92), that would probably be Aramaic, though Jews in some areas spoke nothing but Greek. I've also seen some argue that the would have spoken Greek, others argue that this language would be Hebrew. So I am not confident that I know what language they were speaking.

If they spoke Greek you would expect some Hebrew and Aramaic phrases sprinkled in. I once knew enough Yiddish to get by, and Yiddish is basically German with Hebrew and Aramaic and some Slavic language mixed in. There's a similar language called Ladino spoken by Spanish-speaking Jews, mixing Spanish with Hebrew. So I do wonder if there could have been a similar "Yiddish" based on Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic, but that's pure speculation. I really don't know the answer.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

S Walch
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by S Walch » February 2nd, 2018, 4:28 pm

PhillipLebsack wrote:
February 1st, 2018, 5:54 am
I'm kind of perplexed. Ῥαββί is just the transliterated form of the Hebrew רַבִּי, which means διδάσκαλος.
Actually, רַבִּי means 'My Great one' or 'My Master'; Hebrew for 'Teacher' is מוֹרֶה or מֵבִין.
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Jason Hare
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by Jason Hare » February 2nd, 2018, 6:30 pm

S Walch wrote:
February 2nd, 2018, 4:28 pm
PhillipLebsack wrote:
February 1st, 2018, 5:54 am
I'm kind of perplexed. Ῥαββί is just the transliterated form of the Hebrew רַבִּי, which means διδάσκαλος.
Actually, רַבִּי means 'My Great one' or 'My Master'; Hebrew for 'Teacher' is מוֹרֶה or מֵבִין.
I was going to comment that רב rav means "master" in Hebrew, too. That's also what رَبٌّ rabbun means in Arabic, like in the phrase "master of the worlds" رَبُّ الْعَلَمِؾن rabbu l-ʿālamīn in the beginning of the Qur'an.
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Jason A. Hare
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RandallButh
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by RandallButh » February 3rd, 2018, 9:45 am

If you agree with Fitzmeyer (BAR, October 92), that would probably be Aramaic,
It is fair that you qualified the comment with "if". However, many people are unaware of the mistakes included Fitzmyer's methodology/data. For example, in his Luke commentary he claims that Luke's impersonal egeneto structure could not be assumed to be from a source in the Gospel, because it also occurs in Acts [sic]. That was factually false, it is part of a false narrative from Dalman and following, widely re-quoted in NT scholarship. Contrary to Dalman and Fitzmyer, et al, Luke NEVER used the impersonal egeneto structure in Acts, although Luke frequently used a similar, Greek-friendly Greek-based structure. This datum is one of several, telling examples. See articles in Buth and Notley, 2014, especially the article on EBRAISTI showing how otherwise respected scholars could mis-read clear statements in the primary literature.
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Jonathan Robie
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by Jonathan Robie » February 3rd, 2018, 10:22 am

RandallButh wrote:
February 3rd, 2018, 9:45 am
See articles in Buth and Notley, 2014, especially the article on EBRAISTI showing how otherwise respected scholars could mis-read clear statements in the primary literature.
The Language Environment of First Century Judaea

Is there a good article with your own conclusions about the language they would have been speaking? I tend to remain agnostic when people who know the evidence much better than me do not agree, but I'd like to hear more from all sides.

So far, my own conclusion remains this:
So I am not confident that I know what language they were speaking.
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ἐξίσταντο δὲ πάντες καὶ διηποροῦντο, ἄλλος πρὸς ἄλλον λέγοντες, τί θέλει τοῦτο εἶναι;
http://jonathanrobie.biblicalhumanities.org/

RandallButh
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by RandallButh » February 3rd, 2018, 12:27 pm

Jonathan,
You've asked a complicated question. The three articles in the volume Buth&Notley 2014, cited above, would be a good start depending on what you wanted to ask or see. One deals with the word EBRAISTI and corrects many misconceptions and mis-quotes. It's an article that should never have been needed to be written, but unfortunately has been needed, and of which I doubt if many of those needing the info are yet aware. The article on discerning Semitic languages behind Greek is rather technical but also useful, and the article on the words on the cross may illustrate how an accurate knowledge of the languages and situation can help us in reading texts. Supporting footnotes may also be helpful in these articles. (Articles available at www.biblicallanguagecenter.com)

However, on John 3, the conversation has gone through many layers. First, there was a conversation between Nicodemon and Yeshua. That was related to John at some point, perhaps in the original language, then that was preached 50 years later to a Greek audience along the East Aegean sea, probably more than once, and that audience may have been involved in recording it for posterity (John's disciples). Since parable-teachers taught in Hebrew and most rabbinic teachers orally published their teachings in Hebrew in the first century, we might presume that the conversation was in Hebrew, almost certainly if there was any discussion of supporting texts. But there is no guarantee in a historically and sociolinguistically fluid context. We know that later (20:16) John cited rabbouni and considered it Hebrew. (It was a colloquial mishnaic Hebrew form, western as opposed to eastern vocalization [ribboni].) But that doesn't tell us which language Jesus used in which specific event or situation. I would assume that Nicodemon and Yeshua could have spoken in any one of the three commonly used languages, and as I mentioned, the presumption would be Hebrew according to the Jewish cultural context.
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Jason Hare
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Re: John 3:2 Ῥαββί (רַבִּי) and διδάσκαλος

Post by Jason Hare » March 7th, 2018, 10:15 pm

Randall,

It may not mean much to you, but I re-read your article a couple of weeks ago out of the blue. Someone linked it on the Nerdy Language Majors on Facebook, and I just decided to sit down and really give it a read.

I think you answered all of my objections, and I came away convinced that you're most likely correct. I'll certainly be reading ἑβραϊστί as "in Hebrew" from now on.

Thanks!

Jason
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Jason A. Hare
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