“And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he [Jesus] entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for He taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.” ~ Mark 1:21-22
When Jesus taught in the synagogues of Judea, the people were shocked by the authority with He taught compared to the scribes who were their usual teachers. In Jesus’ day, the Scribes were the scholars and protectors of the written Law. They were the best of the best in their knowledge and study of the Hebrew Scriptures: The Books of Moses. In today’s world a Scribe would be a combination of legal professor, judge, and archivist/conservator. Their expertise in The Law was such that they had superseded the Priests as teachers of God’s Word and this caused at least two problems that Believers today must also be careful of avoiding. Specifically, the Scribes valued and taught the people to value Academics over Appointment and Traditions over Truth. However, Scripture teaches us exactly the opposite.
Appointment over Academics
The Scribes used their scholarship to set themselves apart from the “common” people. In their calculus knowledge equaled superiority. Therefore, they expected to have the best/honored position in social gatherings (Matthew 23:1-6) and in the synagogues they assumed the role of teachers. However, this was never the way God had planned it. Scripture plainly shows that God had appointed the Priests [the sons/descendants of Aaron] and the Levites to be the teachers of His people.
- “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, saying Do not drink wine nor strong drink, thou, nor thy sons with thee… that ye may teach the children of Israel all the statutes which the LORD hath spoken unto them by the hand of Moses.” ~ Leviticus 10:8-11
- “And of Levi he said… They shall teach Jacob thy judgments, and Israel thy law…” ~ Deuteronomy 33:8-12
In other words, the qualification for teaching God’s word was not academic scholarship; rather, it was divine appointment. The academic ability of the Priest/Levite was not relevant, they were appointed to teach by God and therefore God would enable them to do the task He appointed them to fulfill. Similarly, someone not appointed by God would NEVER be able to teach the Scripture, regardless of their academic excellence, regardless of how much they studied it, because they would have no authority to do so.
This principle remains true for Believers today. Jesus warns us not to let anyone call us “Rabbi” or “Master”, because He alone is our Teacher (Matthew 23:1-12). In other words, ALL knowledge comes from Him and goes into us for our edification and through us for the edification/blessing of others. We are never the source of Spiritual knowledge/insight. God’s Word cannot be understood (and then taught) by human effort. Instead, God’s Word is accessible ONLY through the intervention of His Spirit: The Holy Spirit makes it possible for us to understand His Word (John 14:26; 2 Peter 1:20).
- “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” ~ 1 Corinthians 2:12-14
Therefore, He can appoint/authorize anyone—even uncultured, unlettered fishermen—to teach His Word. Indeed the office of teacher in the Body of Christ is by appointment ONLY: The ability to “teach” Scripture is a Gift of God (Ephesians 4:8-12; 1 Corinthians 12:28; Romans 12:5-7).
- “And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” ~ Ephesians 4:11-12
The scribes taught without “authority” because they had none, let us as Believers be wary of falling into that same trap. Let us never think that our academic ability qualifies us in any way for any office in the Kingdom of God. AND, let us be wary of those who claim authority because of their academic excellence. To be clear, academic aptitude is a blessing, BUT it neither qualifies nor disqualifies us from service in God’s Kingdom.
Truth over Traditions
The Scribes further leveraged their academic advantage to undermine the authority of the Scripture and promote man-made traditions, which were to their profit. Traditions are defined as:
“…of the body of precepts, esp. ritual, which in the opinion of the later Jews were orally delivered by Moses and orally transmitted in unbroken succession to subsequent generations, which precepts, both illustrating and expanding the written law, as they did were to be obeyed with equal reverence”
The traditions the Scribes emphasized were never part of the written Word of God (The Scripture), but appealed to them because of how they could be used to manipulate the society to their favor:
- “But he [Jesus] answered and said unto them [the Scribes and Pharisees], Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? …Thus have ye made the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition… This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” ~ Matthew 15:3, 6, 8-9
For example, they taught that money dedicated to paying their tithes could not be used to help others in need; not even their parents (Matthew 15:3-9). But Jesus pointed out that this tradition was being used to cancel the very commandment of God to honor their parents (Exodus 20:12, Deuteronomy 5:16).
Moreover, it appears they were using this tradition as a trick, to say in effect: “The only money I had to help you, is the money for my tithe/gift to God” (Mark 7:9-13). This sin was particularly obnoxious because Scribes were among the wealthiest individuals in Jewish society since they usually worked as Rabbis, lawyers, notaries, judges and politicians (which were the highest paying jobs at that time).
Consequently, instead of teaching the Scripture, the Scribes taught the people how difficult it was (for the uneducated) to know the Scripture. And presented their own traditions as a convenient substitute more suitable for the commoners; thus elevating themselves above their fellowmen and above God. A further effect of this ploy was that the people could mature spiritually under the teaching of the Scribes. After years of listening to the Scribes teach in the synagogues, a person would have been no better off than if they had not attended. They would not have learned anything more about God or God’s Word.
- “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.” ~ Matthew 23:13
Though they claimed to be scholars of the Law, the Scribes had forgotten this instruction:
- “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.” ~ Deuteronomy 4:2
They didn’t teach with God’s authority, and they didn’t want God’s authority they we satisfied to operate on their own authority.
Sadly, there are many modern-day Scribes occupying the pulpits of our churches today. They teach opinion instead of the Word of God. They train their congregants to rely on them, on their scholarship, instead of on the Word of God and the Holy Spirit for instruction. They take advantage of the gullible, the Spiritually immature and the weak to gain for themselves power, popularity and prosperity.
Some examples of modern man-made traditions vs. Biblical truths include:
|Not all of the Bible is true||All scripture is given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16)|
|People are basically good||There is none righteous, no, not one (Rom. 3:10)|
|All religions are equal, they all lead to God||Jesus saith… “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)|
|If I live okay I will go to heaven||…Except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3, 5)|
|There is no Hell||And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire. (Rev. 20:15)|
BUT, Believers do not have to be victims of false teachers with false teachings. Every Believer CAN know the Word of God for himself/herself, BECAUSE we have the Holy Spirit indwelling our hearts! We can know the truth we don’t need to depend on any traditions.
- “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you… the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” ~ John 14:16-17, 26