A Torah scholar. In Hebrew sofer. Plural sofrim.

During the Old Testament days most people were illiterate, and so a class of professionals called sofrim, scribes, arose to do this exacting work. “He taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” Mk 1:22. The sofer’s work had to be perfect, every letter had to be “kosher.” Each Torah scroll contained more than 300,000 characters. A single error, an “unkosher” letter or mark, invalidated the entire scroll, causing it to be buried with the next person to die.

Observant Jews know that Moses’ original Book of Deuteronomy was lost some time after Moses wrote it down. It was discovered in the time of King Josiah. “And Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the secretary, ‘I have found the book of the law [sefer haTorah] in the house of the Lord [b’beit YHWH]’” 2 Kings 22:8Sefer is something written by a sofer, a scroll written by hand. HaTorah is “the Torah,” or “the teaching.” Be means in, beit means house, so b’beit YHWH means “in the house of God” (the Temple of Solomon). An even more explicit passage reads, “Hilkiah the priest found the book of the law of the Lord given through Moses” 2 Chron 34:14. In the original Hebrew, et sefer torat YHWH beyad Moshe. This original Hebrew shows us that it is Moses’ original scroll. Et is “the,” not just any but the one. Sefer again is a sofer’s hand written scroll. Torat is the possessive form of Torah; followed by YHWH it means “God’s Torah.”  Be again means “in.” Yad is “hand.” Beyad moshe means “in the hand of Moses,” or more colloquially, “hand written by Moses.”

“And they were astonished at [Rabbi Yeshua’s] teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” Mk 1:22.

The scribes were learned rabbis among the Pharisees. They taught from about 130 BC to AD 200, during the time of Rabbi Yeshua, when their teachings were written down as the Mishna. When asked a question about the Mosaic Law, the scribes always quoted many authorities. In the Mishna we read that, in response to a particular question, Rabbi Issachar says this, but Rabbi Levi says this, and Rabbi Nachmann says this. Rabbi Judah ha-Nasi wrote down all of these rulings, categorized in 63 tractates gathered into six orders. The six orders together constitute the Mishna, which contains the rulings accumulated up to that time on the Mosaic Law, especially how to live the Mosaic Law without the Temple that was the heart of the Mosaic Law.

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