The Status And Functions Of Jewish Scribes In The Second-Temple Period -- By: Christine Schams

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 49:2 (NA 1998)
Article: The Status And Functions Of Jewish Scribes In The Second-Temple Period
Author: Christine Schams


The Status And Functions Of Jewish Scribes In The Second-Temple Period1

Christine Schams

The thesis conducts a historical investigation into the status and functions of Jewish scribes during the Second-Temple period. The author employs a new approach for the selection and interpretation of the problematic evidence.

Chapter One provides an overview of the various strands of previous scholarship on scribes and its major shortcomings. In general terms, the latter are identified as a lack of distinction between evidence from different periods, the creation of an artificial category of Schriftgelehrter/Torah scholar, and a strong bias towards only one of the major sources. The imposition of an artificial category on the ancient sources has led to a conflation of evidence for scribes, sages, rabbis, sophists, and other teachers and experts in the scriptures. The tendency to accept only one major source as historically reliable results at least partly from several apparent contradictions between sources with regard to the functions and status of scribes. On account of differences in the portrayal of scribes in the New Testament, Josephus’ writings, and rabbinic literature and their functions in non-Jewish contemporary society, many scholars have tended to accept only one major source as historically reliable while others are neglected or ignored. The contradictions are rarely explained and, in most cases, not even mentioned.

It is evident that the selection of relevant evidence for the study of scribes constitutes one of the main sources of disagreement. Therefore, a new ‘exclusive’ approach has been adopted in this investigation to assess the evidence. The approach is ‘exclusive’ in the

sense that it takes only those pieces of evidence into account which provide explicit proof that individuals or groups referred to were scribes. Scribes are identified as such on the grounds of either a title commonly designating a professional scribe (γραμματεύς, λιβλάριος) or a function exclusively requiring professional writing expertise. In addition, an increased emphasis is placed on the evaluation of the information provided by individual sources and their respective value for writing social, political, economic and religious history. The author also considers it to be of extreme importance that all the extant relevant evidence be explained. Individual pieces of evidence or sources cannot be ignored simply because they do not fit a certain theory of the role of scribes.

Chapter Two contains a discussion of the corpus of material which has been selected by em...

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