The Scribes - Jewish Leaders in the New Testament

Fence Around the Law


Hasmonaean Coin

The Scribes Built a Fence Around the Law

Every generation prior to New Testament times had its "sayings of the wise" and these writings were collected and regarded as essential to understanding the Torah. These writings were considered as equal in power to the written law and even considered higher and more valuable.

It was even believed that the oral law had been given by God Himself along with the written law to Moses on Mount Sinai. It was taught that the written law cannot be understood without the oral, and therefore the oral law was more important just like water and wine, both are important but one is much more valuable in the marketplace.

By building a "hedge about the law" or fence around the law, the Jewish leaders would be able to develop a system of rules and interpretations that would keep people as far from sin as possible. For example, if the law said not to work on the Sabbath day, they would make up volumes of rules that indicated exactly what actions constituted work.

This made a huge separation between the so-called righteous and the sinners. It also made following God a burden that Jesus Himself said was to heavy to carry. It also allowed the leaders appear to be righteous, to approve and disapprove of people and to control all of the religious affairs within Judaism.

Jesus was diametrically opposed to these leaders, their teaching and traditions, and He said that they "made the Word of God void" and they were "making disciples of hell." 


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