What does Matthew 23:8 mean?
ESV: But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.
NIV: But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' for you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers.
NASB: But as for you, do not be called Rabbi; for only One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters.
CSB: "But you are not to be called 'Rabbi,' because you have one Teacher, and you are all brothers and sisters.
NLT: Don’t let anyone call you ‘Rabbi,’ for you have only one teacher, and all of you are equal as brothers and sisters.
KJV: But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.
NKJV: But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren.
Verse Commentary:
In painful detail, Christ has been describing how the scribes and Pharisees are driven by their own pride. They seek status and respect from the people above everything else. This—not devotion to God—is their true motive for doing good works. They love special privileges, the deference of other people and so forth. They covet the title that comes with their position: "rabbi," given to those who have been designated as Israel's teachers of the law (Matthew 23:1–7).

Jesus pauses His condemnation of the Pharisees and scribes to warn His disciples against this practice. He commands them not to call each other "rabbi" for two reasons. First, Jesus insists they have only one teacher, meaning Him. Jesus is the only rabbi among them. Second, they are all brothers. Jesus forbids them from taking titles meant to elevate one of them over the others.

This is not a condemnation of all spiritual authority, or all titles, of any kind. Nor is Jesus' comment in the next verse meant to forbid all use of the word "father" (Matthew 23:9). Rather, Jesus does not want His followers to be driven by pride of position or the arrogance of power. He wants us to remain humble as we serve each other in love. Seeking or proclaiming a title, for the sake of personal honor, is contrary to the humility expected of Christians.
Verse Context:
Matthew 23:1–12 begins Jesus' condemnation of Israel's religious leaders, summarized with the phrase "the scribes and the Pharisees." He warns those listening not to follow their example, since they don't practice what they preach. Their words imply heavy burdens, but their actions don't reflect the same. They make no effort to help others fulfill those requirements. In fact, everything they do is for show: only to be seen and approved of by others. They make a great show of religious clothes and symbols, jockey for the seats of honor everywhere they go, and take enormous pride in their prestigious spiritual titles.
Chapter Summary:
After thoroughly dismantling scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees in debate, Jesus even more thoroughly condemns these religious leaders for their religious hypocrisy. They do all their religious acts and works to be seen and approved of by other people. Jesus pronounces God's judgment on the scribes and Pharisees in a series of seven "woe to you" statements. He repeatedly calls them "blind" and "hypocrites." He concludes with a lament for Jerusalem and her children who rejected His protection. God's judgment is coming.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 23 concludes Matthew's multi-chapter account of all of Jesus' interactions in the temple during the last week before His arrest and crucifixion. After silencing the religious leaders with parables and brilliant responses (Matthew 21—22), He pronounces God's judgment on the scribes and Pharisees in a series of seven "woe to you" statements. Jesus mourns for the judgment that will come on Jerusalem for her rejection of God. This leads Jesus to leave the temple, sadly remarking on its impending destruction (Matthew 24:1–2). As the disciples ask about this, Jesus begins an extended teaching on the end times in chapter 24.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
Accessed 5/26/2024 11:37:27 AM
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