Difference Between Scribes and Pharisees

Since time immemorial, we have had professions that have been associated with the work of writing down laws, interpreting them, and imposing them. These professions were given names and, at times, emerged as power-yielding groups. Scribes and Pharisees are two distinct groups of people who were associated with tasks of interpreting the law and of imposing laws, respectively.

 Scribes vs Pharisees

The main difference between Scribes and Pharisees is that the former were people whose task was limited to interpreting the Bible, whereas the latter were an elite class who influenced the law. Scribes and Pharisees also differed in their roles, the civilizations they were a part of, and so on.

Scribes vs Pharisees

Scribes, as the name suggests, were a group of people whose profession was of writing and, at times, interpreting the laws of the Bible. Scribes were associated with tasks that involved administration and having a thorough knowledge of the established laws, the legal language, and its interpretation, etc.

Pharisees, on the other hand, were known to belong to an educated class. They were people who were included in the elite class. Pharisees were political and religious leaders who influenced the common folk. Yet another task of theirs was to impose the written laws on the people. They were alleged to have misinterpreted the Bible and the laws therein.

Comparison Table Between Scribes and Pharisees

Parameters of ComparisonScribesPharisees
DefinitionScribes were a group of common people whose work was to write.Pharisees were known to be religious and political leaders.
RoleTheir role and profession were to write and perform tasks that were administrative.The Pharisees were an elite class who had a hold over the imposition of the written text.
PresenceThe scribes, as a group, have been prevalent in all times and civilizations.Their presence has been specific in Palestine after the time when Jews became rulers in 165 BCE.
HierarchyScribe as a profession was hierarchical as well as could be learned by the already existing scribes.Pharisees could only be the people who were already a part of the old elite Pharisee families.
KnowledgeScribes had to have legal knowledge in order to draft and write laws.Pharisees did not require any special knowledge, but they were expected to be leaders.

What are Scribes?

A Scribe is usually referred to as a person who is adept at writing and is familiar with legal terms and language. Scribes were in demand back in time. As opposed to the laborious manual work that the people usually had to do, a scribe’s job entailed more mental labor, and hence they were a respected group.

Having its origin in Ancient Greece, scribe as a profession was required to frame laws and even interpret them. In earlier times, people used signs to identify objects, and this tradition was taken up in fields of commerce, architecture, and other avenues. The profession, with time, became a hierarchical one.

The kind of script or symbols initially used were cuneiform in appearance. This meant that the characters were wedge-shaped. Apart from being used in areas of commerce, scribes at times wrote down stories and tales about the lives of the people in general. These documents have come to be very useful in knowing about the early periods and the life of the people that existed then.

According to the Bible, the function of scribes was of clerical nature. All they were required to do was rewrite and record royal orders and manuscripts. Later, the profession spread far and wide across the entire globe. Scribes were supposed to be wise men who could write and interpret documents.

What are Pharisees?

Pharisees were a group of intellectual people. These people belonged to an elite upper class. They were respected as they were religious and political leaders. They had the ability to impose the law on the common people. They had the authority of interpreting the law that the Jews followed.

This was a group of people that came to action in Palestine only after the Jews had overtaken the power from the former Greek rulers. The timeline of this event can be placed somewhere after 165 BCE. It was possible only for the individuals of the old Pharisee families to become Pharisees. Anyone outside of the family could hold such a position.

In the New Testament, the group of Pharisees has been described to be often in conflict with Jesus and His Apostles. It is believed that they interpreted the laws in a wrongful and hence fell into tiffs and conflicts with Christ and his followers. Theirs was not a profession but a position that had immense power to impose the laws.

The word Pharisee means ‘the separate one’. This was because the Pharisees thought of themselves as a superior body. Their duties included studying, doing charity, and spreading the word of the Lord around. It was their role to ensure that the common folk followed the rules that had been laid by the Almighty.

Main Differences Between Scribes and Pharisees

  1. Scribes were a group of people whose profession was mainly writing, whereas Pharisees were an elite group of political and religious leaders.
  2. Scribes needed to be adept at writing, drafting, and being familiar with legal knowledge, whereas Pharisees need not necessarily possess the skill of writing.
  3. Scribes had the role of recording and interpreting laws, whereas Pharisees worked to impose the already laid down laws on the general public.
  4. While scribe as a profession was hierarchal and could be learned, one could be a Pharisee only if they belonged to an already existing Pharisee family.
  5. Scribe as a profession spread far and wide into almost all civilizations, but on the other hand, Pharisees tradition remained specifically associated with Palestine of 165 BCE.


Scribes and Pharisees are groups that were in some sense associated with the framing and imposition of laws, but their roles were varied. Scribes were people who were, by profession, writers. They recorded events, stories, drafted laws, and other such details. Their requirement was in multiple fields such as commerce, architecture, and so on. The profession of scribes was existent and even prevalent in almost all civilizations.

Pharisees were a group of people that worked to impose the laws over the Jews. They were leaders in a political and religious sense and hence were in possession of immense power and stature. Pharisees were usually educated men belonging to an elite family. The position of Pharisees has been associated with the time when Greeks were overthrown by the Jews in Palestine in 165 BCE.


  1. https://brill.com/downloadpdf/book/9789004378414/B9789004378414_s026.pdf
  2. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=9X1Vc393iPAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA3&dq=%22Scribes%22&ots=odDu7ltqVR&sig=f7MUhhwda9QZ-WX5ssUsNiHmF5U
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