Historic Jesus

Scribes, or lawyers, were experts in the Mosaic Law. They meticulously copied the Law and the other Scriptures, thus ensuring its continuity without change from generation to generation. They spent many hours studying the Law, together with the traditions-both oral and written-and its interpretations and applications that had accumulated over the centuries. Because of this knowledge they were accorded great respect as authoritative teachers of the Law and were even recognized as judges who could administer it. With such an extensive responsibility, it can be readily understood why they were sometimes called "scribes other times "lawyers" or "teachers of the law."

Although there were scribes in many ancient cultures, Ezra is the first scribe to be named in the Bible (Neh. 8.9). Sometimes priests served as scribes, but not all scribes were priests. Their rise as a distinct class occurred during the Exile in Babylonia, which happened at the same time as the formation of the synagogue. The, Jewish religious heritage was preserved and expanded through the study of the Law, when the temple was no longer the focus of national worship.

The scribes helped establish a synagogue-oriented religious life that centered on the teaching of the Law and traditions after the people returned to the land of Palestine from Babylon. During the period of oppression under the Seleucid rulers, the scribes became an active political party, eventually spearheading the revolt against the Seleucids. Many of the scribes were Pharisees, although they were generally considered a separate party. There were some Sadducce scribes, but their writings have not been pre served. Scribes were not paid for their services and needed to earn their living if their family was not wealthy

The people were constantly astounded that Jesus taught with direct authority in contrast with the teaching method of the scribes, which contained many complex references to traditional authorities Some scribes accepted Jesus' teaching, but most of them considered him to be pre-sumptuous and, eventually, blasphemous for claiming to be the Son of God. Jesus represented a threat to every value the scribes held sacred, as well as to their privileged position in the Jewish community. Jesus included the scribes -in his castigation of the religious system they fostered (Matt. 23). They, in turn, participated in the Sanhedrin trial that condemned him, and they jeered at him while he hung on the cross (Matt. 27.41).