The Scribes

The Scribes were members of a learned class in ancient Israel through New Testament times who studied the Scriptures from age 14 to 40 and served as copyists, editors, and teachers. After the Jews returned from the Captivity in Babylon, the era of the scribes began. The reading of the Law before the nation of Israel by Ezra (Neh 8-10), signaled the nation's return to exact observance of all the laws and rites that had been given. Following the Law and the traditions that had grown up around it became the measure of devotion and spirituality. At first the priests were responsible for the scientific study and professional communication of this legal code. But this function eventually passed to the scribes. Their official interpretation of the meaning of the Law eventually became more important than the Law itself. This position of strength allowed these early scribes to enforce their rules and practices with a binding authority. To speak of the scribes as interpreters of Scripture means that they provided rules for human conduct out of their study. By the time of Jesus, the scribes were a new upper class among the Jewish people. Large numbers of priests in Jerusalem before A. D. 70 served as scribes. One of these was Josephus, the Jewish historian. Some scribes came from among the Sadducees. Others came from the ordinary priestly ranks. But the largest group of scribes came from among every other class of people, including merchants, carpenters, flax combers, tent makers, and even day laborers, like Hillel, who became a famous Jewish teacher. Many writings of late Judaism contained great theological systems that were understood only by the specially initiated. This was left to the confidential teaching of the scribes. They believed that God intended to leave the mass of people ignorant of His reasons for requiring certain things under the Law. These truths were hidden from the masses because they could not be trusted to understand and apply the Law. The city of Jerusalem was the center of this scribal knowledge and interpretation of the Law. Only ordained teachers could transmit and create the tradition; this was the matter studied to perfection by students often beginning at age 14. When they completed their study at the age of 40, they could be ordained. As members with full rights, they could act as judges, be called rabbis, and occupy positions in administration of justice, government, and education. They joined the chief priests and aristocratic families who made up the SANHEDRIN. The people held the scribes in greatest esteem.

The Court of the Gentiles



Chief Priests


Construction of the Temple

Court of the Gentiles


Easton's Bible Dictionary




Herod the Great

Historical Sources

Interpreted Text




Jerusalem City

Jesus and the Temple

Modern Jerusalem Photo

Money Changers

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Smith's Bible Dictionary

Soreg Inscription

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The Columbia Encyclopedia

The Court of the Gentiles

The Court of the Priests

The Eastern Gate and Prophecy

The Fortress of Antonia

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

The Population

The Temple

Warning Inscription

The Court of the Gentiles


The Court of the Gentiles

Bible History Online

The Story of the Bible

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