The Scribes - Jewish Leaders in the New Testament

Halachah and Haggadah


Hasmonaean Coin

Rabbinical Customs and Commentary

In the developing and establishment of the law there evolved a law of custom, besides the written Torah (law), called the Halachah (Heb. halaka, "that which is current and customary").

The treatment of the historical and didactic portions of the Holy Scriptures produced an abundant variety of historical and instructive commentary, usually comprised under the name of the Haggadah (Heb. haggada, "narrative, legend").

The Halachah.

The Halachah contained "either simply the laws laid down in Scripture, or else derived from or traced to it by some ingenious and artificial method of exegesis; or added to it, by way of amplification and for safety's sake; or, finally, legalized customs. They provided for every possible and impossible case, entered into every detail of private, family, and public life; and with iron logic, unbending rigor, and most minute analysis pursued and dominated man, turn whither he might, laying on him a yoke which was truly unbearable. The return which it offered was the pleasure and distinction of knowledge, the acquisition of righteousness and the final attainment of rewards" (Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, 1:98).

The Haggadah.

The Haggadah was "an amplification and remodeling of what was originally given, according to the views and necessities of later times. It is true that here also the given text forms the point of departure, and that a similar treatment to that employed in passages from the law takes place in the first instance. The history is worked up by combining the different statements in the text with each other, completing one by another, settling the chronology, etc. Or the religious and ethical parts are manipulated by formulating dogmatic propositions from isolated prophetic utterances, by bringing these into relation to each other, and thus obtaining a kind of dogmatic system. A canonical book of the Old Testament (Book of Chronicles) furnishes a very instructive example of the historical Midrash (i.e., exposition, exegesis). A comparison of its narrative with the parallel portions of the older historical books (Kings and Samuel) will strike even the cursory observer with the fact that the chronicler has enlarged the history of the Jewish kings by a whole class of narratives, of which the older documents have as good as nothing" (Schurer, History of the Jewish People, div. 2, 1:339 ff.). 


The Scribes - Jewish Leaders in the First Century AD.

The Scribes of New Testament Times The Scribes - Introduction The Scribes - Overview The Scribes - Ancient History The Scribes - Background The Scribes - A Fence Around the Law The Scribes - Teaching The Scribes - Authority The Scribes - New Testament The Scribes - Teachers of the Law The Scribes - Jurists The Scribes - Judges The Scribes - Jesus The Scribes - Halachah and Haggadah The Scribes - Scriptures The Scribes - Historical Quotes The Scribes - Dictionaries The Scribes - Encyclopedias The Scribes - Conclusion

During the time of Jesus Christ there were Jewish teachers who explained the Torah, the law of God, by translating it (The Targums arise from this group), and giving commentary in the form of Haggadah (parables and various sayings) and would carefully show how the instructions of the law, for example, laws relating to the Sabbath and food, were to be lived out in everyday life (Halachah).

At this time, in addition to the written law, volumes of explanations were given, believed to have been handed down orally by men of God. These oral commandments carried with them great authority. It is exactly these oral traditions which is referred to in the New Testament. (Mark 7:9; Matthew 15; Galatians 1:14).

Most of the time the Scribes earned their living by copying and interpreting the law. They were not in absolute agreement as to their explanations of Scripture, which were usually given in the Beth-hamidrash (House of study).

In the New Testament the Scribes are mentioned as the "teachers" of the law, the rabbis and the official leaders of the people, along with the Pharisees, and the Gospels referred to them as "doctors of the Law". According to the New Testament they sat in the Sanhedrin (Matt 16:21).

Jesus came into conflict with the Scribes often because He and His disciples did not observe their traditions. Mark 7 describes an example of Jesus and His followers not observing traditional rules in relation to the Sabbath and cleanness. In Matt. 23, where Jesus pronounces his woes upon the Scribes and Pharisees, He repeated His prophetic curse upon them, "Woe to you" eight times because of their arrogance, hypocrisy, self-seeking ambition and scrupulous observances.




Early History


Fence Around the Law

Their Teaching

Their Authority

NT Scribes




Jesus and the Scribes

Halachah and Haggadah


Bible Dictionaries

Bible Encyclopedias

Historical Quotes