The Scribes - Jewish Leaders in the New Testament



Hasmonaean Coin

The Scribes were the Teachers of the Law

The Scribes were called "teachers of the law" and this was their primary task. It was part of the ideal of Judaism that every Israelite should have a professional acquaintance with the law. The rabbis gathered a large number of disciples to sit and learn from them. Because the true oral law was never committed to writing, they believed that constant repetition was necessary so that it would be "fixed" in the minds of the pupils. Therefore in rabbinic circles the words, "to repeat" mean exactly the same as "to teach." Many questions were asked by the rabbis to the pupils and likewise the students were granted the privilege of asking questions to the rabbis.

The Scribes were also called rabbis and they demanded from their students absolute reverence, even more so than the pupils honor for his own father. It was taught that:

"respect to a teacher should exceed respect for a father, for both father and son owe respect to a teacher" (Kerithoth 6.9).

Their influence with the people was exceedingly great. That influence was mainly due to the fact that they appeared to be so learned, they were expounders of the law and they occupied a leading place in the worship of the synagogue (Matt 23:5). Thus all religious instruction of the day was in their hands. They taught in schools, in "houses of teaching", in chambers, in the outer courts (colonnades) of the temple in Jerusalem, in the synagogues, and even in the streets. In fact we can be certain that we have an accurate picture of one of their sittings, when we are told of the time when Jesus at a young age was found by his parents in the temple, "sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions." (Luke 2:46). In a situation like this the Scribes would sit on an elevated platform, and their students would sit around them in a semicircle being literally trained at their feet (see Acts 22:5).

The students had only two duties, to commit everything to memory and to teach only what had been delivered to him.


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