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Scribe

In the days of the Hebrew monarchy this was the title of a court official, a secretary of state (2 Sam. 8:17; 2 Kgs. 12:10; 18:18). After the captivity we find the title given to Ezra (7:6, 21) and to others who acted as teachers of the law. Scribes are frequently mentioned in the New Testament, being sometimes called lawyers. It was their business to develop the law in detail and apply it to the circumstances of their time; hence grew up the oral or traditional law side by side with the written law. Their method of teaching relied on memorization. Their aim was to reproduce and teach others to reproduce accurately the words of the wise (hence the office is a symbol of fidelity in instruction, Matt. 13:52). The scribes never taught on their own authority (contrast with this the Lord’s method, Matt. 7:29). They taught either in houses of instruction or in the temple courts, their pupils sitting on the ground (Luke 2:46; Acts 22:3). They formed an influential part in the supreme court of the Sanhedrin. Rabbi (my Master) was the title usually given them. As a rule they were Pharisees (Mark 2:16; Acts 23:9), though there were also Sadducean scribes. In theory they received no pay for their work (but see Mark 12:38–40), and it was usual to combine the study of the law with the exercise of some other calling. Their influence considerably increased after the downfall of Jerusalem and the cessation of the temple worship. As a class they offered a determined opposition to the Lord mainly because He disregarded the “traditions of the elders” (Matt. 21:15; 26:3; Mark 8:31; 11:18; 14:1; Luke 5:30; 6:7; 9:22; 11:53; Acts 4:5; 6:12). For His opinion of them see Matt. 5:20; 15:1–9; 23:2–9; Mark 2:17; 12:38; Luke 11:44; 20:46.