From the Latin word meaning ‘writers’. The learned class of many ancient societies, responsible for administration and diplomacy, as was Baruch, Jeremiah's secretary who wrote down his words. Ezra, who had been a high official in the Persian civil service, was well versed in Israelite law (Ezra 7) and this tradition was continued through the Maccabean age (167–63 BCE) into NT times.

As a group, scribes belonged to different parties, as is implied by Mark (2: 16), who mentions those who belonged to the Pharisees. In the gospels they are presented as opponents of Jesus, associated with the high priests and elders (Mark 11: 27) and hostile to the Church (Acts 4: 5; 6: 12). Their work was to pass on their knowledge of the Law and of the interpretation of scripture; they were active in the Temple. Jesus' teaching is said (Mark 1: 22) to have possessed an authority unlike that of the scribes, meaning that he could not only interpret existing law but actually make law.