The Scribes were the Recognized Professionals on the Law
passionate about the preserving of the law and the Jewish way of life, and
during the last couple of centuries before Christ the Jewish law gradually
became an extensive and complicated science. This academic development of the
law was unwritten and propagated by oral tradition. If one was to pursue it, it
would take intense study to obtain even a general acquaintance with it.
The Scribes felt it necessary to discover what was definitely binding and then develop minute details (see A Fence Around the Law). In order to make their traditions binding upon all, it was necessary to come as near as possible to a general consensus of opinion. Therefore the entire process of systematizing the law was carried on by oral discussion and the recognized authorities instructed their pupils in the law and debated legal questions with each other.
Gradually the theories of the scribes became valid law, and their "wise" teachings and proverbs were taken as truth.
The recognized authorities would also dwell in central locations to give instruction and render legal decisions. The judgment of the rabbinical scribes determined what was valid law and they were the power of the Sanhedrin. In legal matter if there was any reasonable doubt the matter was brought "before the learned," who pronounced an authoritative decision.
The chief center of Judaism was at Jerusalem until the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 A.D. and then it moved to other localities, such as Jamnia and Tiberias.
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.