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Traditions of The Lawyers
by Wayne Blank
"In vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men"
The earliest scribes served as official secretaries, with the responsibility of writing and issuing royal decrees (e.g. 2 Samuel 8:17, 20:25; 1 Chronicles 18:16, 24:6; 1 Kings 4:3; 2 Kings 12:9-11; 18:18-37). Eventually, the scribes performed other authoritative duties of the nation. There was also a secondary level of scribes, most of whom were Levites, who served as writers e.g. Baruch, who was a scribe for Jeremiah the prophet (Jeremiah 36:4,32).
After the return from the Babylonian Captivity (see Why Babylon?), when the people of Judah had lost their independence and had no king of their own to serve, the scribes concentrated their activities on the law, becoming "experts of the law," or "lawyers." (Ezra 7:6,10-12; Nehemiah 8:1,4,9,13).
By the time of the New Testament, the scribes became closely associated with the Pharisees, who added greatly to the actual writings of God's Law with their own opinions and traditions. It was their own "traditions" of the Law that brought them into dispute with Jesus Christ:
"And the Pharisees and the scribes asked Him, "Why do Your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with hands defiled?"
After their participation in the judicial murder of The Lord (see The Trial of Jesus Christ), they were also generally hostile to the early church (Acts 4:5-7, 6:12), including the martyrdom of Stephen, although some, such as Gamaliel, seemed to view Christians in a better light (Acts 5:33-39).
Fact Finder: What more did Jesus Christ have to say about the "experts of the law" who opposed Him?