scribes were people whose profession was writing. They recorded and copied important things in writing, such as: legal or administrative documents, historical records, business information and the Scriptures. In the New Testament, scribes were also teachers of Jewish law.
In the past, few people knew how to read and write. Even among those who knew, books and writing material were very expensive and few had the opportunity to practice. Therefore, the scribe had a very important function.
The scribe’s job was to record in writing everything that was important to preserve. Thus, the scribe acts in several different areas. He could act as an accountant, keeping records of purchases and sales for merchants, construction companies or administrative services. He could also serve as a historian, writing accounts of the most important moments of his time or the deeds of kings.
Some scribes wrote fiction or recorded popular stories. In addition, many scribes had a religious function, copying religious texts accurately. Where someone who knew how to write was needed, there the scribe found work.
Scribes in the Bible
Several parts of the Bible were probably written by scribes. Two important scribes mentioned in the Bible are Baruch and Ezra . Baruch worked for the prophet Jeremiah, who dictated his words of prophecy to him ( Jeremiah 36:32 ). Ezra was a priest, scribe and doctor of the Law of God who returned from exile in Babylon and led a Jewish religious revival ( Ezra 7: 6 ).
See the story of Ezra here.
In addition to these scribes, others may have contributed to the Bible. Several of the historical books and / or the original sources that were used to write them were probably written by scribes. Prophets other than Jeremiah may have engaged the scribal service to record his words.
In the New Testament, Jewish scribes were also doctors, or teachers, of the Law . In addition to copying the sacred texts, they were dedicated to the interpretation and application of the Law of Moses. They were like theology professors. The scribes taught the Law and its interpretation to other Jews and were highly respected for their knowledge.
On several occasions, Jesus rebuked the scribes (teachers of the law) for their wrong teachings (
Matthew 23: 13-15
). Many scribes valued the rules of tradition more than the laws of God! Because of this, several scribes became enemies of Jesus and participated in the conspiracy to kill him.
The materials of the scribe profession
A scribe needed several writing materials. In ancient times there were no pencils, pens or paper as today, so the scribes used other materials:
- Feathers or reeds – with a tip shaped to receive ink; served as pens
- Ink pots – in which the tip of the pen was dipped multiple times
- Papyrus or parchment – paper-like materials, usually in rolls
- Clay boards – where the words were inscribed with a sharp stick, then the clay was baked
- Knives – to shape the other instruments
Scribes usually also knew how to create their writing materials, such as ink and scrolls.