(Heb.sopherim ), I. Name . -- (1) Three meanings are connected with the verb saphar , the root of sopherim -- (a) to write, (b) to set in order, (c) to count. The explanation of the word has been referred to each of these. The sopherim were so called because they wrote out the law, or because they classified and arranged its precepts, or because they counted with scrupulous minuteness every elapse and letter It contained. (2) The name of Kirjath-sepher, ( Joshua 15:15 ; Judges 1:12 ) may possibly connect itself with some early use of the title, and appears to point to military functions of some kind. ( Judges 5:14 ) The men are mentioned as filling the office of scribe under David and Solomon. ( 2 Samuel 8:17 ; 20:25 ; 1 Kings 4:3 ) We may think of them as the kings secretaries, writing his letters, drawing up his decrees, managing his finances. Comp ( 2 Kings 12:10 ) In Hezekiahs time transcribed old records, and became a class of students and interpreters of the law, boasting of their wisdom. ( Jeremiah 8:8 ) After the captivity the office became more prominent, as the exiles would be anxious above all things to preserve the sacred books, the laws, the hymns, the prophecies of the past. II. Development of doctrine . --Of the scribes of this period, with the exception of Ezra and Zadok, ( Nehemiah 13:13 ) we have no record. A later age honored them collectively as the men of the Great Synagogue. Never perhaps, was so important a work done so silently. They devoted themselves to the careful study of the text, and laid down rules for transcribing it with the most scrupulous precision. As time passed on the "words of the scribes" were honored above the law. It was a greater crime to offend against them than against the law. The first step was taken toward annulling the commandments of God for the sake of their own traditions. ( Mark 7:13 ) The casuistry became at once subtle and prurient, evading the plainest duties, tampering with conscience. ( Matthew 15:1-6 ; 23:16-23 ) We can therefore understand why they were constantly denounced by our Lord along with the Pharisees. While the scribes repeated the traditions of the elders, he "spake as one having authority," "not as the scribes." ( Matthew 7:29 ) While they confined their teachings to the class of scholars, he "had compassion on the multitudes." ( Matthew 9:36 ) While they were to be found only in the council or in their schools, he journeyed through the cities and villages. ( Matthew 4:23 ; 9:35 ) etc. While they spoke of the kingdom of God vaguely, as a thing far off, he proclaimed that it had already come nigh to men. ( Matthew 4:17 ) In our Lords time there were two chief parties:
[T] indicates this entry was also found in Torrey's Topical Textbook
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
Bibliography InformationSmith, William, Dr. "Entry for 'Scribes'". "Smith's Bible Dictionary".