{Jewish Sects and Orders}

The word Scribe appears to be used in Scripture with different meanings at different periods in the history. Literally signifying "writer," it would naturally have this variety of application according to the kind of writing required. Thus in the Old Testament it denotes at times what we should term a secretary of state (See 2 Samuel 20:25; 2 Kings 19:2, etc.) in charge of secular (Nehemiah 13:13) or military affairs (2 Kings 25:19; Jeremiah 52:25).

Undoubtedly, however, the chief use of the term was in relation to the Word of God ("scripture"), of which the Scribe was the copyist, depositary, and expounder. In this sense Baruch is the first "Scribe" of whom we read (Jeremiah 36:4, etc.) and Ezra the most illustrious (Nehemiah 8:1). After the time of the latter, when the Old Testament canon was arranged, and the custody and transmission of the sacred books were entrusted to the "Great Synagogue," the Scribes became a recognized order. The arrangement was rendered all the more necessary from the fact that after the captivity the Chaldee, or square letters, were adopted in place of the ancient Hebrew characters, the language of course remaining the same; and the work of transcribing the sacred books became one of great labor and responsibility - nothing less than the rewriting of the nation's literature.

The art of writing was long confined to the few; and very naturally the transcriber and reader of Scripture became its expositor. By degrees, therefore, the Scribes assumed the office of public teachers; the very priests, unless also Scribes, taking a subordinate place. Herod consulted the chief priests and Scribes as to where the Christ should be born; they forthwith examined the sacred writings and informed him (Matthew 2:4-6). They sat as teachers in Moses' seat (Matthew 23:2,3). To their authority on doctrinal matters frequent appeal was made (Matthew 17:10). Their manner of teaching was compared with that of Jesus (Matthew 7:29; Mark 1:22). As the oral as well as the written Law was the subject of their teaching they are constantly coupled with the Pharisees, the great exponents of the former (Matthew 23 throughout; Luke 5:30, etc.). They are reproached as having often abused their calling for purposes of ostentation and extortion (Mark 12:38-40); and in the end they became among the most rancorous enemies of Christ (Matthew 26:3; etc., where "chief priests and scribes and elders" express the Sanhedrin, the great court of the nation), also of His Apostles (Acts 4:5; 6:12).

At the same time the office, from its responsibility and dignity, becomes the symbol of faithfulness in instruction (Matthew 13:52). And it was a Scribe to whom Jesus said, "'You are not for from the kingdom of God'" (Mark 12:34). Then true to his position, the Scribe sat in Moses' seat. He was the successor to the prophet. The prophet communicated new Scripture, the Scribe guarded and elucidated the old. Hence when the people saw that Jesus taught not as the Scribes, they discerned in Him no mere expositor, but an original instructor.