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Introduction To ADAM II - A Guide For The Walk Home - Jewish Group: Scribes
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Of the five groups we have chosen to study, only one fails to appear by name in our Bible -- the Essenes -- which we will consider last. Of the remaining four, the scribe is the only one appearing by name in both the Old and New Testament records. Although the remaining three do not appear by name in the Old Testament, traces of each's origin can be seen there, and in the New Testament even the leader of the first Zealot uprising in A.D. 6 is identified in Acts 5:37 and corroborated by Josephus in his record (Antiq.8.1.1; Wars 2.8.1 - pp. 376, 476). However, since the scribes are the first to appear in the early days of Jewish national life, we have chosen to examine them first.

Unlike the remaining four groups to be studied, the scribes are not identified as a political or religious party, or sect, within the Jewish state. This is not to say that they were not individually involved in matters of Jewish affairs, for indeed they were quite active, as we shall see in our study. However, according to a well respected contemporary Jewish historian, the scribes as a group merely "represented a function rather than a sect" (Simon, p. 86). Indeed, it is precisely the evolution of this function that gave rise to this large group in Jesus' day and was arguably His greatest antagonist. But numbers alone do not constitute a sect. Without exploring the difficulties and technicalities of a literal definition, suffice it to say then for our purposes that a sect in that period was a viable current within the mainstream of Judaism as seen in the Pharisee, Sadducee, and Essene. Though not a sect, the scribes' function had a significant influence upon the Jewish people and played a direct role in the death of Christ. For this reason we have chosen the term "group" rather than "sect" to refer to these five bodies that we might include the scribes in our study. Let us look now at their name.

In the Old Testament, Young makes no distinction in Hebrew for the scribe, or saphar, meaning "to cypher, number, or write." However, he does separate the scribe more commonly of the former kind, seen in the pre-exilic era, to that of the latter in Ezra's post-exilic days ( Ezr.4:8,9,17,23; 7:12), with the exceptions of Ezr.7:6 & 11 and all those designated in Nehemiah and Esther.

In the New Testament, we find only one Greek designation, grammateus, meaning "scribe, writer, or clerk," or more precisely, nomikoi, meaning "lawyer," and nomodidaskaloi, meaning "teacher of the law," referring in the main to those scribes of the law of Moses (cf., Lk.7:30; Jn.3:2,10). Only in I Co.1:20 do we see in the term an inference to a universal meaning, since the implication there seems to include all world systems, or knowledge, be it government, religion, or otherwise.

A scribe by name clearly had his origin in pre-Hebrew cultures, as evidenced in the many archaeological findings among earlier peoples. Two can be seen in those early times. In the beginning, a scribe was mainly designated as an officer of a government whose function was that of a clerk, or secretary of government affairs and records. Another was called an amanuensis, that is a public writer, or one who takes dictation, as in personal, business, commerce, etc. Characteristics of these two types of scribes would later be seen in the pre-exilic scribe that would eventually produce the Mosaic scribe of the post-exilic era. Both of these examples can be seen within our Old Testament record (for the former, cf., II Ki.12:10; 22:3; 25:19; I Chr.24:6; 27:32; II Chr.24:11; 26:11; Jer.36:20; 52:25; and the latter, Jer.36:3,26,32).

When the Hebrew people appeared on the scene with their religion concomitant with secular life, the lines that were once distinctly drawn between government and religious affairs were no longer applicable. In addition to recording the affairs of state, as did his predecessor, the Hebrew scribe would quite naturally become involved in the responsibilities of recording and preserving the religious annals and archives of his greater community, since these were the laws and practices given by God to be implemented in daily ceremonial life.

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