RABBANAH

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Lehite PN 1. A LAMANITE honorific title that is glossed with “powerful or great king,” ca. 90 BC (Alma 18:13 (x2)).

Etymology

This honorific title, which the Book of Mormon itself glosses with “powerful or great king,” obviously is derived from the common Semitic root rbb, “large, great, many.” For English speakers, the most widely known use of this root might be Rabbi.[1] For the common Semitic ending -ān used as an abstract marker, confer HEBREW words such as šulḥān, “table,” and, with the Canaanite shift, pittārôn, “meaning (of a dream).”[2] The final /ah/ of RABBANAH is probably from the Semitic feminine ending used as an abstract.[3]

The Book of John 20:16 preserves an Aramaic honorific title from the same root, Rabboni, “my master” (applied by Mary Madgalene to JESUS just after His resurrection) that is probably based on the common Aramaic title rabbânâʾ[4] However, that Aramaic may have influenced the Lamanite title RABBANAH is unlikely. Though in general, Aramaic was known by some Jewish officials a hundred years before LEHI's departure (see 2 Kings 18:26, where “Syrian” in the King James represents the HEBREW word for Aramaic), LEHI's departure is probably too early in the history of the HEBREW language for specific Aramaic forms to have directly influenced Book of Mormon common nouns.[5] Nevertheless, because Aramaic and HEBREW are closely related North-west Semitic languages, they share many lexemes.

In addition to the HEBREW and Aramaic use of this lexeme, East Semitic, and particularly Babylonian, also contains examples of rbb in analogical constructions. The word rab-banûtu, “position of rab banî,” is the abstract form of rab banî, meaning “an administrator of temple property,” and its less frequently attested variant rabbānû. An etymologically related word, rabiānu, means “mayor, headman.”[6]

The title cannot be derived from the Aramaic ʾabbaʾ, “father” (as in Reynolds, Story of the Book of Mormon, p. 294).

Variants

Deseret Alphabet: 𐐡𐐈𐐒𐐁𐐤𐐂 (ræbeɪnɑː)

Notes


  1. Daniel Ludlow recognized this comparison already in A Companion to the Book of Mormon, p. 207.
  2. For the common Semitic ending -ān used as an abstract marker, see Moscati §12.21.
  3. See Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar §122q. It may be that the LAMANITES had conflated the two abstract endings.
  4. The Aramaic form is rabbânâʾ, “chief, teacher” (Jastrow, 1444) and/or “lord… title of the Exilarch or a member of his family” (Michael Sokoloff, A Dictionary of Jewish Babylonian Aramaic of the Talmudic and Geonic Periods [Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002), 1053).
  5. That Book of Mormon RABBANAH reflects a specific Aramaic form for “our master” (JAT) is possible from the Aramaic form of the word, but unlikely that given the early date for LEHI's departure from the Aramaic speaking world of 600 BC.
  6. Chicago Assyrian Dictionary R, 4-5 and 17-9.

Bibliography


Black, Jeremy, Andrew George, and Nicholas Postgate, eds. A Concise Dictionary of Akkadian, SANTAG 5. Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 1999/2000.

CAD = Chicago Assyrian Dictionary = Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the Univ. of Chicago (Chicago: Oriental Institute/Glückstadt: J. J. Augustin, 1956-2010).

Encyclopedia Judaica, ed., Cecil Roth. Jerusalem: Keter/N.Y.: Macmillan, 1970-1971. EJ

Jellinek, Adolph. Bet ha-Midrasch, 5 vols.?? 1853/reprint Jerusalem: Wahrmann, 1967. HEBREW.

Koehler, Ludwig, and Walter Baumgartner, The Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, 5 vols., revised by W. Baumgartner & Johann J. Stamm. Leiden: Brill, 1994. HALOT

Tawil, Hayim ben Yosef. An Akkadian Lexical Companion for Biblical Hebrew: Etymological- Semantic and Idiomatic Equivalents with Supplement on Biblical Aramaic. Jersey City: KTAV, 2009.

Tvedtnes, John A., Brian M. Hauglid, and John Gee, eds. Traditions about the Early Life of Abraham, Studies in the Book of Abraham 1. Provo: BYU/FARMS, 2001.

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