Scribes: Definition, History & Origins of Scribal

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Scribes: Definition, Meaning, History & Origins

ScribePeople dedicated to being copyists.

Who were the Scribes?

Since ancient times, scribes have been people dedicated to being copyists, cultured characters who wrote and controlled laws, tax matters, architecture, and calculations.

The Latin term “scriba” and the Hebrew so-fer” convey the idea of ​​a secretary, copyist or scribe, and also of an intellectually educated person. The work of the scribes was considered very broad and important, and they were seen as teachers.

In general, these men belonged to the lower class; however, there were many scribes who came to be recognized in their nations.


Representation of the scribes by Boucicaut, 1415.

Origin of the Scribes

The emergence of scribes dates back to the fourth century and the Egyptian culture, which used scribes to copy, count, and classify data on papyri, hieroglyphics, or ostraca.

Thus, the scribes enjoyed a high rank in the house of Pharaoh and were considered the most educated men. In fact, being a copyist was considered an art, since at that time almost no Egyptians could read.

Subsequently, almost all nations began to have scribes and this work became essential both economically and religiously.

Differences Between the Scribes and the Pharisees

The Scribes and Pharisees are almost always mentioned next to each other, but while the scribes belonged to the group of the Pharisees, they were not the same.

The main differences between scribes and Pharisees are as follows:

  • The scribes were in charge of writing important documents, the Pharisees were in charge of representing the nation.
  • The scribes were intellectuals who were in charge of secretarial services, the Pharisees knew the laws and were in charge of oral instruction.
  • The scribes recorded and kept financial accounts, the Pharisees took care of business.
  • The scribes gave more importance to the cult and the intelligentsia, the Pharisees linked the previous ones to religion and its doctrines.
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