Matthew’s sharpening of Jesus’ attacks on the scribes and Pharisees is an embarrassment to many Christian interpreters and an outrage to some Jewish ones. It is commonly alleged that Matthew in fact has no particular knowledge of distinctions between the Jewish leadership groups. In a fresh examination of Matthew’s treatment of the scribes, the author argues that the first Evangelist is actually at pains to protect the esteem in which the office of the Jewish scribe itself was traditionally held, reserving Jesus’ direct criticism for the unenlightened Pharisees.
A thorough survey of biblical and intertestamental texts shows that typically the scribe, like the maskil, is associated with a charismatic gift of insight and inspiration, which usually results in the authorship of authoritative religious literature. The study includes a long-overdue treatment of the apocalyptic scribes, especially Enoch. Mt. 13:52 and 23:34 are exegeted in the light of the strikingly consistent intertestamental picture of the insightful scribe, and it is argued that Matthew sees the disciples, and finally himself – particularly in his concern for the teaching of righteousness and understanding – as standing squarely within this Jewish apocalyptic tradition. The scribal ideal could also offer a rationale for Matthew’s own creativity; as an understanding scribe he had the authority to “bring out of his storehouse new things.”
- Title: The Understanding Scribe
- Author: David Orton
- Publisher: T&T Clark
- Publication Date: 2004
- Pages: 280
About David Orton
David Orton has served as a pastor, teacher, and ministry leader for over 30 years.