I am focussing this post on “Master”, a particular word from from Luke’s Gospel. The old English translations made frequent use of “Master” as address to Jesus. The KJV Gospels include the word 67 times. In the English of today that word is less frequent and raises issues of translation.

However, the name by which we know the Saviour of the World (Jesus) is not really the central issue. (There is another - see following.)  In addition to “Lord”, think of “Master”, “Teacher” and “Rabbi” as words of address to Jesus (more on this below). We also have differences between Gospels and even some ancient authority support for alternative rendering.

This post will connect with my previous post on “Lord”, or “lord”. Here now are two reports in which Jesus has severe words for community service under his “brand”, however intentioned, or even for lip-service. He has no time for trading on his title. (The same word “Lord” occurs in both places.) First, see this grim warning contains a more central issue than questions about titles actually uttered by me or you…
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’ Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’  (Matthew 7:21-23, NRSV) No light matter this.
And we may compare Luke’s brief question:
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I tell you? (Luke 6:46, NRSV)
Luke’s comparable passage has similar context but is clearly not identical to Matthew’s. We can hardly miss the similarity. (Do you know any substantial reason to exclude the possibility of Jesus saying similar things at different points in the chronology?)

Then the name you or I use for Jesus is so much less significant than what you or I do with him, what you or I do about what he said, what relationship you or I have with him (e.g., my Saviour, or, the Saviour?). Utterance is not the point. (Those who knew their OT would be unsurprised.) Does he know me? Does he know you? Is this not the central issue?

I note that Luke alone five times records a word as a title for Jesus which is sometimes paralleled by a different word in Matthew and/or Mark. Luke’s unique word is today rendered “Master”. This word is not really common with us. Luke's word has the basic meaning of overseer, person placed in charge - “chief”, “boss”, or “sir”, though possibly a little less respectful than “Lord” may signify. It suggests role rather than rank. “Lord” may have been spoken more frequently and this “master” more distinctly associated with Greek language or culture.

Peter’s Master
Consider an early moment not covered by the other Gospels (though they do report Jesus’ use of a boat). Do the two titles for Jesus coming in this short period have significance?
When (Jesus) had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master*, we have worked all night long but have caught nothing. Yet if you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done this, they caught so many fish that their nets were beginning to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken;  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:4-11, NRSV)
Is there a progression there for Peter’s understanding of Jesus? From master to Lord (lord)? An increase in respect?

A later pericope from a crowded time:
And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years,[c] but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master*, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”
Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”
While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”
Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” (Luke 8:43-45, NIV)
 The three synoptics report on the above incident (e.g., see Matthew 9 and Mark 5). Mark, like Luke, has other people referring to the “Teacher”. Only Luke has Peter directly addressing his corrective (!) to Jesus, with that title, “Master”. (What did he mean by his title of respect, coupled with his criticism? Did Peter still think of Jesus as “Lord”? Was “master” a lesser title? How easy was it to grasp the truth about Jesus?)
Incidentally, I checked 54 English versions (see: and found only 6 did not use “Master” in verse 5. (Their alternatives were: Sir; Teacher; Rabbi; Commander - the last was used only in the interesting Wycliffe Bible.)

Further on Luke records the “Transfiguration” event:
Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up on a mountain to pray. While he was praying, his face changed, and his clothes became shining white. Suddenly Moses and Elijah were there speaking with him. They appeared in heavenly glory and talked about all that Jesus' death[g] in Jerusalem would mean.
Peter and the other two disciples had been sound asleep. All at once they woke up and saw how glorious Jesus was. They also saw the two men who were with him.
Moses and Elijah were about to leave, when Peter said to Jesus, “Master*, it is good for us to be here! Let us make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But Peter did not know what he was talking about.
While Peter was still speaking, a shadow from a cloud passed over them, and they were frightened as the cloud covered them. From the cloud a voice spoke, “This is my chosen Son. Listen to what he says!”
After the voice had spoken, Peter, John, and James saw only Jesus. For some time they kept quiet and did not say anything about what they had seen. (Luke 9:28-36, CEV)
In place of “Master”, Matthew has Peter saying “Lord”; Mark has “Rabbi” (see below on that word). This divergence is puzzling, but perhaps the word may fit with Luke’s intended audience.

Disciples’ Master
In chapter 8 we have a stressful moment for the followers:
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.
The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master*, we’re going to drown!”
When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?”
The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:22-25, NLT)
In that pericope, instead of “Master” from the disciples, Matthew uses “Lord”, and Mark uses “Teacher”. Clearly the three words all carry similar weight. Perhaps Luke’s also shows more the followers’ dependence on Jesus to look out for them in that situation - he had brought them there.

Andrew’s Master
Luke reported that John addressed the title “Master” to Jesus:
An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”
John answered, “Master,* we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”
(Luke 9:46-50, ESV).
It may not be clear just what John was answering. Certainly what he said seems to reflect a lack of something. I hope that he (they) did heed their Master. (In his document, Mark has “Teacher”.)

Lepers’ Master 
In another pericope, unique to Luke, the word “master” is used, but this time by a group of other people, perhaps Jews:
On his way to Jerusalem, Jesus went along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men with leprosy[b] came toward him. They stood at a distance and shouted, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
Jesus looked at them and said, “Go show yourselves to the priests.”[c]
On their way they were healed. (Luke 17:11-14,  CEV)
Maybe the “Master” title here particularly suits the content, though I could imagine "Lord" instead.

Jesus uses “Lord”, taken as “Master”
Probably the best known English use of “master” ascribed to Jesus is:
“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.” (Matthew 6:24, NRSV; Luke 16:13 is almost identical.)
That word “masters” is not the word I have discussed above in this post. It is in fact the same word used to title Jesus, “Lord” (κύριος; kyrios). I could fairly render Matthew's clause “no one can be slave to two lords”; which was all too clear at the time to those in servitude. ( gives simultaneous access to 54 English versions of the verse; of them, 49 render the word as “masters”.)

Jesus, Rabbi
Jesus was often referred to as “Teacher”. This is true in all four Gospels. “Rabbi” is equivalent to “teacher”. Rabbi is not a Greek word but a representation in Greek of an Aramaic (and Hebrew) one. It thus is a particularly Jewish word. The word “Rabbi” is much less common in the Greek NT than the Greek for teacher, and in fact Rabbi does not occur in Luke. (Rabbi is most frequent in John.) The absence of the word from Luke may be a pointer to the author’s intended audience, if a pointer was needed. (The prologue makes the intention clear.)

Jesus, “Professor”
Here is a “Rabbi” example, one unique to Matthew, and one which may challenge on more than one level:
But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers.[a] And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. (Matthew 23:8-10, ESV)
This injunction comes to us hardly as ruling out a Hebrew word! If taken seriously, the passage is a little confronting and/or difficult, but does surely, at the very least, call for caution in heeding Bloggers (!), or anyone else. Surely Jesus thinks no one is authorised to dominate, or be superior on the basis of “knowledge”, or of role? (Re “father”: The father was to impart the Law to the young.)

In Matthew here we encounter another word, not found elsewhere in the Greek NT, translated above as “Instructor”. It carries the meaning of one who guides or leads the way. Modern Greek usage of the word is as for English, “Professor”. Looks like Jesus strongly and exclusively claims to be my Professor in knowing God - and maybe yours? (How remarkable that is, really.) None of the English translations use my interpretive “Professor”; many render as “Master”, which apparently harks back to 1392 with Wycliffe!

Many years before Jesus, the Old Testament prophet had anticipated the time when God’s words would be internal with each one of God’s people. (To borrow from Paul, the “schoolmaster” days would be over.) Jesus said in Matthew (above), the disciples would follow his ways from within themselves. Responsibility is personal and individual.  This connects with Jeremiah:
The Lord said:
The time will surely come when I will make a new agreement with the people of Israel and Judah. It will be different from the agreement I made with their ancestors when I led them out of Egypt. Although I was their God, they broke that agreement.
Here is the new agreement that I, the Lord, will make with the people of Israel:
“I will write my laws
    on their hearts and minds.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
“No longer will they have to teach one another to obey me. I, the Lord, promise that all of them will obey me, ordinary people and rulers alike. I will forgive their sins and forget the evil things they have done.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34, CEV)
Do some say “but the heart is just a pump”? Sure, we have better anatomical knowledge. Nonetheless, the notion of heart-felt adherence, of genuine internal alignment with an implanted “handbook”, is not so obscure, even if not welcome.

The topic of this post (“Master”) is of course linked with “Lord” and “Teacher”. Perhaps we find a summary of a kind in what Jesus says to his followers in:
You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. (John 13:13, NLT)
Would Jesus say the same today? To you and to me? Could he?

Parallel account words replacing Master -
Luke 8:24: Matthew 8:25 = Lord; Mark 4:38 = Teacher
Luke 9:33: Matthew 17:4 = Lord; Mark 9:5 = Rabbi
Luke 9:49: Mark 9:38 = Teacher 

Notes re variations to Luke in textual apparatus footnotes (the variants are of secondary significance and none rate mention in the margins, eg, NRSV). Similarly to Matthew and Mark, all of the alternatives involve use of  “Lord” (κύριος; kyrios), or “Teacher” (διδάσκαλος; didaskalos), in place of “Master” (ἐπιστάτης; epistates)
Luke 5:5 - some ancient authorities have “Lord”
Luke 8:24 - an ancient authority has “Lord, Lord”
Luke 9:33 - an ancient authority has “Teacher”
Luke 9:49 - some ancient authorities have “Teacher”

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