Who were the scribes

We have not read every article or book that alludes or talks about the scribes of the New Testament. But we feel we have read one of the best explanations for their being labelled as the Essenes.

The few articles, etc. we have seen rarely make this connection. Here is one from a God website but the authors’ of that web page do not make the connection:

In ancient times the Scribes were Jewish officers who performed duties which included various kinds of writing, but when the Jews returned from the Babylonian captivity, the soferim, or Scribes, were organized by Ezra into a distinct body. These Scribes became the interpreters and copyists of God’s law. Among these duties, they copied the Pentateuch, the Phylacteries, and the Mezuzoth. (Deut. 6:9).

Once the Canon of Old Testament Scripture was complete, and inspiration of the prophetic period in Old Testament times had been accomplished, we need to trace the degeneration of these men known as “Scribes” and the position of power by which they assumed.

History reveals that foreign influences pervaded the land of Judea throughout the Inter-Testamental period, and onward to the Christian era. Greek culture and Hellenization threatened the very existence of Judaism and the chosen people, the Jewish religious leaders determined that the law needed to be preserved with the most jealous care.(https://www.bible-history.com/Scribes/THE_SCRIBESBackground.htm)

Here is another short blurb who call the scribes lawyers

In the 1st century, scribes and Pharisees were two largely distinct groups, though presumably some scribes were Pharisees. Scribes had knowledge of the law and could draft legal documents (contracts for marriage, divorce, loans, inheritance, mortgages, the sale of land, and the like). Every village had at least one scribe. Pharisees were members of a party that believed in resurrection and in following legal traditions that were ascribed not to the Bible but to “the traditions of the fathers.” Like the scribes, they were also well-known legal experts: hence the partial overlap of membership of the two groups. It appears from subsequent rabbinic traditions, however, that most Pharisees were small landowners and traders, not professional scribes. (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Jesus/Scribes-and-Pharisees)

then a final example

However, these uses for scribe are mostly found in the Old Testament. The New Testament scribes are a special group among the Jewish religious leaders. Their primary duties were to study the law of Moses, teach it to the people, and even to help settle disputes involving the questions of the law. The New Testament scribes traced their origin back to Ezra who is variously called “a ready scribe in the law of Moses” (Ezra 7:6) ( http://www.learnthebible.org/what-is-a-scribe.html)

While there certainly were these types of scribes in Israel they may have also been part of the Essenes. That group’s reputation and religious practices would certainly qualify them in the group called scribes.

We can’t post the whole article here as it is 13 pages long. But it is one of the best explanations for the identity of the scribes Jesus was talking about and to. it was published in 1958 and remains a definitive work on the topic. A brief quote

The first question that must be answered is whether the Scribes were a party or a profession. In the Old Testament the Soferim were writers, keepers of the records, and in some cases evidently official recorders. The LXX translated this as Scribe grammateus. By the time the New Testament was written, writing must have been a more general skill, and the word ‘scribe’ had taken on other meanings. That some had become teachers and lawyers and doctors of the law is not to be denied. But, that the word did not have a single meaning is indicated by such terms as “Scribes of the Pharisees” (Mk. 2:13-17, Lk. 5:27-32) and “Scribes of the people” (Matt. 2:4). The inter-testament period may have worked a change in the use of the word.

You can find the rest of the article at this link: https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/bets/vol01/scrolls_dampier.pdf  it is worth the time to read and contemplate the author’s argument.

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