A. A lot more than it does today. Not all scholars were automatically Rabbis back then. The title “Rabbi” referred to the “Smicha” ordination of the earlier generation (represented by one of its outstanding leaders) conferring special authority, transmitted down the generations from Moses, when he vested the 70 elders with Rabbinic leadership. At one point in time, around the first century, the Romans forbade the practice of Semicha (for they were aware of its powerful implications) and a sad story is told in the Talmud of a Rabbi who sacrificed his life to ordain the five outstanding disciples of Rabbi Akiva who were unable to receive ordination from him before he died. Later in the Diaspora, this specific transmission was discontinued, but the title “Rabbi” or “Rav” was still kept up for teachers and scholars and spiritual leaders of Jewish communities, who were ordained by respected Rabbis. Today’s Rabbis study for Semicha as well, but it does not confer the same degree of authority as it did then. Rabbi Yaakov Bei Rav of 16th century Israel wished to reinstate the original Semicha ordination, but did not have the broad consensus of his colleagues.