In Matt. 7:28-29 the author inserts a narrative remark,"And it came to pass, when He had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at His doctrine: for He taught them as having authority, and not as the scribes."

In another instance(Matt.23:2-3) it says,"The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses seat, all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do", so from this passage we understand that Jesus said they had authority to teach, and their followers must observe their teachings.

So my question is, based on this passage, "How is Jesus' teaching authority different from the scribes authority"?

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    When any prophet spoke, they used the words, "Thus saith the Lord.....". But when Jesus spoke he used , "......but I'm saying....."
    – user3661
    Commented Mar 9, 2014 at 2:08

9 Answers 9


It was a habit of the scribes (and others) to lend credence to their proclamations by appealing to others. We do this today. We make points in our writings and speeches and buttress those points with "as noted by [insert authority figure here]" as though that somehow makes our point true, or more impactful. Perhaps it does!

It was the 1st Century equivalent of name-dropping. "I was speaking with Chuck Swindoll the other day, and he agrees with me that... [some issue here]."

When Jesus spoke, really, the highest authority he could appeal to was himself. The fact that he did not name-drop was what was so striking to those who listened to Jesus speak and teach.

Please cite sources for your assertions (oh, the irony) :P – Daи♦

Certainly. I trust one will suffice?

"The Scribes were accustomed to appeal to the authority of this and that Rabbi, and so encumbered their discourses with 'authorities' in the technical sense as to take away all real authority from their teaching. The Old Testament prophets spoke with divine authority, but they prefaced their statements with 'Thus saith the Lord.' but Jesus, in giving utterance to the strangest and most startling declarations, truths new to His hearers, and the most novel expositions of the Scriptures, prefaced them with 'Verily I say unto you.'"

Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School. (1882). In the synagogue at Capernaum. Union Wesleyan Methodist Sunday School Magazine and Journal of Christian Education, 8, 35.

Another for good measure:

"The scribes only told what the Rabbis or doctors taught. They were the writers of the law, and their business was to transcribe the text of Holy Scripture, to preserve and expound it. They admitted the authority of teachers higher than themselves, and paid deference to them; Christ recognised no superior."

Tait, A. (1886). The charter of Chritianity. London, Hodder and Stoughton.

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    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 19:01
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    Thank you Sarah for the suggested edit. You're absolutely correct, and I have made that update.
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    – Dan
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 1:05

How did Jesus's ”teaching with authority“ differ from the Scribes?

The most significant difference between the Scribes and Yeshua is that very authority. It was the authority of Yeshua that amazed the crowd. That authority sprang from Yeshua's relationship with God; cf. Matthew 28:18; Luke 4:18 ff; John 4:34; 6:38; 7:16 (AV). Yeshua taught as God's spokesman, whereas the Scribes taught from their own reflections or understanding of the law and its authority.

Since Yeshua was filled with the Holy Spirit, and was led and guided by that same Spirit, it is correct to state that Yeshua's words were also Spirit filled. We know from Scripture (Romans 8:1 as an example) that it is the Holy Spirit who gives life. In contraposition to the Spirit we find the law. The law cannot give life, the law only reveals what is sinful. The law cannot justify, it can only condemn. All the Scribes had to go on was the law; they were seriously devoid of that personal relationship which Yeshua had with the covenant God of Israel. They had not words of life, no words of grace and no words of justification.

While the Scribes operated in the letter of the law, Yeshua operated in the Spirit of the law. In Matthew 5, Yeshua repeatedly states, "Ye have heard that it has been said by them of old," and goes on to quote the letter of the law as had been asserted by the Scribes and Pharisees. After having quoted the letter of the law, he then states, repeatedly, "But I say unto you," and Yeshua then declares the Spirit of the law. It is in the Spirit of the law that we find God's grace.

Yeshua's words give life and hope; they were an encouragement to many who heard them, because Yeshua spoke with authority outside the law. He spoke with an authority that came from a place the Scribes had never been, and that is what was so astounding to the people.


Authority and tradition are often at odds with one another, particularly when a new--or seemingly new--authority bursts on the scene. Sometimes the new authority (and for our purposes here, let us assume the authority is a single person, such as Jesus) puts forward a new paradigm, which is simply a new way of looking at something.

Today, we say this person has a way of "thinking outside the box." In other words, he or she provides a "new set of eyes" to the scene, and sees things

  • in a new light

  • from a new perspective

  • without the blinders of tradition clouding their vision

Now tradition can certainly be a good thing in virtually any area of endeavor, be it science, technology, medicine, or religion, and progress in any field owes a great deal to specialists and authorities from previous generations who have laid the foundation for subsequent generations.

When Jesus burst on the scene in the first third of the first century A.D., Judaism, a respected and honorable religion for almost two thousand years (assuming it had its nascency in Abraham), had many noble traditions in place, based on the Hebrew Scripture. In synagogue, Jesus Himself read from the scroll containing the book of Isaiah, for example. Both He and the teachers and scribes from perhaps the two biggest "denominations" within Judaism, the Pharisees and the Sadducees, were conversant in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Writings, the three-fold division of the Tanakh, or "Old Testament."

In Jesus' day, however, many non-biblical traditions had become part and parcel of Judaism, and the number of laws, or commandments, in the Law of Moses, which numbered 613, according to one tradition, had increased significantly to perhaps thousands! Some of these "new" commandments had a clear and non-controversial basis is scriptures; others did not. Evangelist Mark commented on some of the accretions of tradition which had attached themselves to some of the original 613 commandments contained in the Torah.

"The Pharisees and some of the scribes gathered around [Jesus] when they had come from Jerusalem, and had seen that some of His disciples were eating their bread with impure hands, that is, unwashed. (For the Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they carefully wash their hands, thus observing the traditions of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they cleanse themselves; and there are many other things which they have received in order to observe, such as the washing of cups and pitchers and copper pots" (Mark 7:1-4 NIV).

In a subsequent verse, Jesus remarked in the Pharisees' hearing,

"'You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men" (Mark 7:8 NIV)

In other words, the basis of God's commands in the Law of Moses was no longer just the Torah but also non-biblical traditions (the accretions over time) which in some cases took the front seat and pushed the former to the back seat.

In His typically direct and authoritative way, with irony, Jesus also said,

"'Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN. Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. . . . . . You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition'" (Mark 7:6-9).

What a stinging indictment. Jesus then went on to illustrate the ways in which God's commands were trumped by the accretions of tradition.

As you indicate in your question, Jesus did not advocate that His fellow Jews ignore the teaching they received from the "clergy" of their day. No. Notice, however, what Jesus said in the second part of the verse you quoted (viz., Matthew 23:3b):

"'. . . but do not do according to their deeds, for they say things and do not do them.'"

Put differently, Jesus was saying, in effect, "Obey only those non-biblical commands of the scribes and Pharisee which they themselves obey, not the ones they do not."

In another famous teaching, Jesus said,

"'Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former'" (Matthew 23:23 NIV; cf. Luke 11:42 NIV).

Notice that Jesus did not condemn their tithing; He condemned their neglect of weightier things, such as justice, mercy, and faithfulness.

Jesus illustrated how this neglect revealed itself:

"'. . . but you say, 'If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),' you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother ; thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that" (Mark 7:11-13).

In conclusion, the common people in Jesus' day detected an authority in Jesus which went well beyond the authoritativeness of the men who were supposedly their spiritual leaders, but whom Jesus roundly condemned as hypocrites.

What Jesus said made eminently good sense to the common people. His teaching, while not ignoring the good traditions rooted firmly in the Holy Book, concerned itself primarily with the weightier issues which undergird the letter of the Law; such things as love, compassion, mercy, inner purity, humility, integrity, and so much more.

Jesus' reliance on God's word and His marginalizing the non-biblical traditions which had grown up around God's word, impressed the common people, and initially they flocked to Him in droves. Only when they realized that the spirit of the Law sounds great in theory but is difficult to put into practice, did they then start to fall away and stop following Jesus (see, for example, John 6:66).

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    @rhetorician-Thank you for your contribution, Don! I sensed you had 'fun' with this one. On another note, do you think there was anything to His style or method of delivery than the scribes?
    – Tau
    Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 2:58
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    @user2479: You're welcome. Yes to your question. I'm at a loss as to how I would describe the style and delivery of Jesus, however. He certainly did not mince words; He called a spayed a spayed. He went to the heart of issues and did not pussyfoot around the hot-button issues of His day. He condemned hypocrisy, which was endemic, particularly within Pharisaism. To this day, the very word denotes hypocrisy! He also re-interpreted the Law of Moses in a particularly powerful way: "You've heard it was said . . . , but I SAY UNTO YOU . . .." Saying that sort of thing took guts! Commented Feb 20, 2014 at 15:49

The rabbis of the time would quote and debate among themselves. An example:

R. Simeon b. Eleazer [T5] says:

The School of Shammai say:

One should not kill a louse on the Sabbath.

But the School of Hillel permit [it].


In contrast Jesus doesn't say which other teachers he agrees with, but simply declares what God says. If he does quote anyone it is always to correct them, not to agree with them.

His authority was different because he never supported his statements by quoting others who agreed with him.

  • @curiousdannil-I agree with you and I hoped you could expand on that....I believe the clue is "but I say this..", in other words not looking for a consensus of opinion but having a revelation of the truth. The fact that the scribes had authority isn't the question, but how they used it is...+1
    – Tau
    Commented Mar 10, 2014 at 11:45
  • What do you mean with "rabbis of the time"? Simeon b. Eleazar lived a long time after Jesus.
    – fdb
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 19:59
  • Fair point. Do we have the words of the rabbi's of Jesus' time? I'm not familiar with this very much at all.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 22:14
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    Rabbis (in the sense that this term acquired after the destruction of the second Temple) did not exist at the time of Jesus. "Rabbis of the time" is an anachronism.
    – fdb
    Commented Mar 12, 2014 at 20:06

Etymology: the Greek word for authority, ἐξουσία (G1849), comes from the Greek word, ἔξεστι (G1832). ἔξεστι is a compound word comprised of the Greek words ἐκ (G1537) meaning from, and εἰμί (G1510), meaning I am.

Analysis of word Usage: In Ordinary Greek Usage, Jewish and New Testament Usage, and The New Testament Concept of ἐξουσία--documented in Vol. 2, page 567 of The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament in Libronix, indicates that this is not intrinsic power but rather, the right or ability which is permitted, allowed or given extrinsically and its origin is seen as ultimately & entirely from God.

There were authorities chosen by Moses and empowered by God to judge in matters of the law and judgements of God (Exodus 18:13-24). Note especially they were to be trained in the statutes and laws as well as the way they must walk and do. Notice also, the character of these men chosen to judge (v20-22):

And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do. Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times.

The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says this in regard to the magistrates:

In early Hebrew history, the magisterial office was limited to the hereditary chiefs, but Moses made the judicial office elective. In his time the "heads of families" were 59 in number, and these, together with the 12 princes of the tribes, composed the Sanhedrin or Council of 71. Some of the scribes were entrusted with the business of keeping the genealogies and in this capacity were also regarded as magistrates.

Observe that Jesus echoes the instruction from YHWH (He-Is), in Deuteronomy 17:8-13:

“If a matter arises which is too hard for you to judge, between degrees of guilt for bloodshed, between one judgment or another, or between one punishment or another, matters of controversy within your gates, then you shall arise and go up to the place which the Lord your God chooses. And you shall come to the priests, the Levites, and to the judge there in those days, and inquire of them; they shall pronounce upon you the sentence of judgment. You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the law in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you. Now the man who acts presumptuously and will not heed the priest who stands to minister there before the Lord your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall put away the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear, and no longer act presumptuously.

Observe also, that Jesus subjected Himself to the judgement of those who sat in Moses' seat and to the governing officials, when He was condemned to the cross.

The passage in question indicates, that the religious leaders in question did not appropriate their authority in their teaching. In fact, we find from other accounts that they instead, taught from their own traditions, making the laws of God of no affect (Matthew 15:6). This they did, not just in one regard, but in many (Mark 7:13). They actually abused their office using it to elevate themselves. This was clearly contrary to Torah, as seen above, and for this Jesus reproved them! (Matthew 23; Luke 11:37-53).

In stark contrast, Jesus has authority from the Father, "All authority has been given me on heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). Jesus appropriated the authority given Him; He taught with it, preached with it, healed with it, drove out demons with it (John 14:9-11). Matthew 28:16-20 indicates that Jesus even delegated this authority, ". . . therefore go and make disciples of every nation, . . . teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you."

One more thing I would like to note in regard to the authority in which Jesus operated. Matthew 8:9 records the centurion's words to Jesus,

For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

This centurion observed that one has this authority by being under authority. He also recognized that Jesus was under authority because he said, "I too am a man under authority." Back to the question at hand, Jesus spoke with authority because He was under His father's authority. The religious rulers did not speak with authority because they were not subjecting themselves to God--they were not putting themselves under God in their judgements.

  • @Sarah-Thank you for your response! Question: Did Jesus's authority differ at all from theirs, based on Rom. 13:1? Or, as you somewhat suggested in your answer, did the manner in which He 'manifested' His authority differ greatly from theirs-so much so they remarked,"all men will believe on Him, and the Romans will come and take away our place and nation..."(John 11:48)?
    – Tau
    Commented Feb 28, 2014 at 2:32
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    @Sarah(and All)-Something to consider....Authority consists of 2 elements: 1) The Right(or position) to act, and 2) The Power to act(this is from Watchman Nee's Spiritual Authority). The Scribes certainly had the RIGHT-Jesus said so. But without revelation, and the "unction" that also comes with giving it-they lacked the POWER(dunamis), which was evident by how the people were amazed. Instead(I believe) they substituted a "consensus of opinion" for that "dunamis"-it made sense to them, but the people recognized it right away...
    – Tau
    Commented Mar 11, 2014 at 5:11

Jesus came from Galilee, a region populated by farmers. He was likely uneducated, having been a labourer until that point. Yet after His reappearance from the wilderness, the change must have been startling to everyone who knew Him. Miracles started happening, the first of many being at the marriage of Cana. He began to gain a following.

Jesus also began to teach, something only the Pharisees had official designation to do. It must have raised eyebrows because Jewish civil and ecclesiastical law were nearly the same at the time. Jesus was teaching crowds outside the synagog and healing the sick and afflicted outside the temple - and without the prescribed ordinances.

  • Hello Jason, it looks like you have been introduced to the site tour already. Welcome! Here are the core essentials I have discovered for BH-SE. With Questions--Start with the text; state the question; show that you have done some work on it already. For Answers--keep the text the focus with the question in mind; show your work step by step; support all assertions with credible sources using references/links/citations; stop short of application. You can strengthen this particular post by supporting your assertions from credible sources.
    – user2027
    Commented Mar 17, 2014 at 13:56

The Scribes were professional academicians, whose teaching was the basis of religious traditionalism (Matt 15:1-3). What is worse is that these Bible academicians tended to miss the forest for the trees. The following example is brilliant.

Mark 11:27-33 (NASB)
27 They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, 28 and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?” 29 And Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question, and you answer Me, and then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven, or from men? Answer Me.” 31 They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. 33 Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus *said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

The could not see that Jesus actually answered their question with a question. That is, Jesus told them (through a question) that his authority stemmed from his baptism, which made him the anointed Christos. In other words, the Scribes could not see the forest for the trees--they jumped and inferred fanciful conclusions when listening to Jesus. Their academic "razz matazz" and cogitation blinded them from seeing the forest for the trees.

  1. He is God the Son and the Creator of world. Inherent self authority.
  2. He is under the Father's authority. Deriving authority from the Father.
  3. He is empowered by the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit giving Him authority.

The above is the Trinity in unity.

  1. He is authentic - who he is matches his words
  2. He displays power in words and actions/miracles.
  3. He communicates life rather than legalism.
  4. He is willing to give up His life for others, rather seeking self gain.
  5. He is passionate.
  6. He communicates beyond mere information, into emotion. Truth that is intellectually and emotionally relevant.

10.He bids us to be like Him as we are made in His image from the creation moment itself.

  1. etc.
  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack Exchange! Thank you for taking the time to share your insights. Be sure to visit the tour to learn more about this site. Due to the nature of this site, references may be required in order to support your conclusions. Commented Nov 14, 2014 at 0:28

Some in the crowd may have being within earshot of Jesus during his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapter 5). In that discourse Jesus did not expound upon the law of Moses, as second temple Jewish scribes did using the Targum, he voiced the spiritual requirements necessary to be members of his kingdom. Their perception of this authority was very clear.

So Jesus' independence from scribal and pharisee traditions prompted these folks to recognize Jesus as an authority in his own right.

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