“Rabbi” vs. “Lord” from the Mouth of Judas

In the two places where Judas addresses Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, Judas calls him “Rabbi.”

  • 26:25, Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
  • 26:49-50, And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.”

This title is woefully inadequate, especially given all that Judas has heard Jesus say and seen him do. At the Last Supper scene, the other disciples called Jesus “Lord” (Matt. 26:22). But Judas didn’t use the title “Lord.” When his turn came, he said “Rabbi.”

The use of “Rabbi” shows the spiritual distance of Judas from Jesus. Is that title really the best he could do?

Jesus had driven out demons, healed paralytics, fed thousands with some bread and fish, walked on water, stilled a storm at sea, and made the blind see. After witnessing all these miracles and more, and after three years of ministry with Jesus, the word Judas decides to use is “Rabbi.”

2 thoughts on ““Rabbi” vs. “Lord” from the Mouth of Judas

  1. Would you limit this observation to the Gospel of Matthew though? Mark records Peter using the title at the Transfiguration and at the withered fig tree (9:5 & 11:21). I think the contrast is really clear at the Last Supper in Matthew (like you brought out), but do you think this is a device Matthew is using to point out Judas disposition rather than an actual an actual fault in the title?

  2. Daniel,

    I haven’t looked carefully at the uses of “Lord” and “Rabbi” in Mark, Luke, and John. So for now, consider my observations as limited to Matthew. And I think it’s totally fine, by the way, if it’s only Matthew who showcases the contrast.

    I don’t think the title “Rabbi” itself is faulty. But if the Gospels (Matthew in particular) report Judas as only using “Rabbi” when addressing Jesus, that seems strange when the other disciples call him “Lord.” I think, literarily, a dissonance is created.

    And yes, Peter does use Rabbi in Mark 9, but he also calls Jesus the “Christ” in Mark 8. The concern I have for Judas’ character in Matthew’s Gospel is that he calls Jesus only “Rabbi” when the other disciples called Jesus “Lord.” And I think the Last Supper scene in Matthew 26 makes this contrast clearest. So Matthew is highlighting a problem in Judas’ disposition.

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