The rise of the scribe: the transition from oral tradition to the hegemony of text and the orthodoxy of the book<
Remember that different forms of Yahwism were each characterised by their own particular brand and interpretation. Even in traditional Yahwism with its pagan associations, there was a competition between rivals, as they merged with one another or took over a rival’s territory, but the radical Yahweh-alone group was building up a power base, and in the seventh century these tensions came to a head when Josiah became monarch in 640 BCE largely because he followed this particular brand of Yahwism.
At the same time, there was also competition between the prophets, who hitherto possessed a monopoly over the interpretation of the divine and the emerging scribes. The prophets had long been the interpreter of an oral tradition, and if the king had a vision or a dream, the prophet was called to provide an interpretation, generally laced with theological undertones. Isaiah was Hezekiah’s adviser throughout the 29 years of his reign (726-697 BCE), and his counsel was used to good advantage during the Assyrian invasion and Sennacherib’s siege of Jerusalem per medium of his various intercessions with the Lord as recounted in Isaiah: 37:38 and 2 Kings: 20, the result being that not only was Sennacherib defeated, but Hezekiah was endowed with an additional 15 years of life following a stroke. So the prophets were in a very powerful position, but that position was gradually being usurped by the power of the written word as the scribes became the new prophets.
Writing had been invented in Mesopotamia as long beforehand as 3200 BC in the form of the cuneiform script, which began as a system of pictographs, one of the earliest known forms of written expressions, and the scribes were the inheritors of this endowment, which was considered a gift from the gods. Initially, the oral tradition was considered the most important and it was only necessary to refer to scrolls when things were uncertain. However, scrolls only lasted for 2 or 3 generations, and when they deteriorated and were in danger of perishing, the scribes, of whom there was a hierarchy, would update or amend the text. Each new edition necessitated the production of a new scroll on which the entire text had to be rewritten. The copying of the scrolls was a very lengthy process, mistakes were undoubtedly made, and the scribes added their own comments. The size of the scroll determined what could be written upon it. Papyrus was the cheaper medium, and later there emerged vellum with a binding, or in other words “books”.
The scribes were very important in the post-exilic period. They provided the medium for the exclusive worship of Yahweh when they came south from Israel and were heavily influenced by the Shiloh tradition. They changed what had formerly been an oral tradition to one in which the written word was paramount. The scribes turned the whole context of prophecy on its head. They could include visions in the text simply by writing them down. The revelation was now mediated from being an oral tradition to the hand of the priestly scribe. The scribes preserved and maintained the stream of tradition in text, giving rise to a <em “mso-bidi-font-style:=”” normal”=””>Deuteronomistic History, which in reality was theology masquerading as history.
However, as Cameron Freeman, a student in Social-cultural Anthropology and Religions at the University of Toronto, <span “font-size:12.0pt;font-family:=”” “times=”” roman”,serif;mso-fareast-font-family:”times=”” roman”;mso-ansi-language:=”” en-us;mso-fareast-language:en-us;mso-bidi-language:ar-sa”=””> points out in a powerful passage, not everyone was happy with these developments, and not everyone surrendered to the supremacy of the text. The prophet Jeremiah, a contemporary of Josiah, declared:
8 How can you say, “We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us,” when, in fact, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie? (My emphasis)
9 The wise shall be put to shame, they shall be dismayed and taken; since they have rejected the word of the Lord, what wisdom is in them?” 
In this fashion, “Jeremiah makes a clear distinction between the falsely written Torah and the authentic word of Yahweh and rejects the notion that Torah can be contained in a book rather than in the ear of the prophet. Canonisation was coup by the temple priests to the overthrow of prophetic authority by means of writing and textuality. Jeremiah was naturally concerned and suspicious of written, edited and authoritatively interpreted law that bound priests, scribes and salaried prophets, like Huldah (the salaried prophet who pronounced upon the validity of the Law Book found in the Temple) to the official political and religious leadership. Writing is more powerful than speech – it fixes boundaries and establishes precedents that constrain the improvisational qualities of prophecy. Prophetic powers were thus brought under control. Canonisation pitted the oral prophet against the written Book of Deuteronomy, whereby conflicts would now be resolved by the hegemony of text”. 
Freeman goes on to argue that the development of written authority in the pre-exilic and post-exilic period was a response by literate elites to cultural circumstances that required “the boundary maintenance of Judean identity and governance”, and that this necessitated neutralising the oral tradition with scribal texts that would, under the institutional authority of the state and temple priests, eclipse prophetic authority by centring Yahwism in text.
Ancient Israel had been an oral culture where emerging literacy was confined to state elites in the form of state officials such as scribes, priests, kings and other bureaucrats. This coincided with the rise of early city-state structures. With the establishment of the monarchy, royal scribes became an essential component of a king’s administration. Scribes kept written records of payments, royal correspondence and accounts of certain temple liturgies. The scribal tradition also used written reproductions of earlier traditions to not only teach the student to read, but to educate the scribe in memorising aspects of their cultural tradition and to develop their ability to recite and perform it. Texts were critical in transferring key cultural traditions from one scribal generation to the next generation of scribal administrators and state elites. As Israelite literacy expanded beyond the confines of royal elites and permeated the state bureaucracy, it generated a proliferation of written texts, and ultimately archives and libraries. The power of the written text is that nothing need be forgotten, and written texts could substitute for memory. The scribes thus challenged the oral tradition and these literate elites were able to compete for cultural and religious authority.
The Assyrian campaigns and the subsequent destruction of Israel in the north, created a flood of new immigrants into the area of Jerusalem – not farmers or pastoralists who would have likely stayed tied to their ancestral lands, but elites such as, nobles, government bureaucrats, scribes, craftsman and temple priests. This influx of social and cultural elites from northern Judea also fostered the growth of urbanisation. The result was a religious-political centralisation in Jerusalem, which had already begun under the reign of Hezekiah earlier in the eighth century BCE. (2 Kgs 18:4, 22). By locating the centre of state control in Jerusalem, it made the Temple and the Palace the heart of the Judean economy. Tribal leaders throughout the Judean state found themselves marginalised by the political centralisation.
Judean society had been maintained by the oral tradition. Stories and the tradition of wisdom had traditionally been transmitted by oral means, but the rising growth of the written word in urban Judean culture undercut the oral tradition and gave power to individuals to circumvent these community held traditions. By the time of Josiah, social, cultural and political conditions such as increased literacy, urbanisation and political centralisation in Jerusalem, had set the stage for the orthodoxy of the book.
Freeman concludes by pointing out that what started out in Ancient Israel as oral components of stories, songs, prayers, and wisdom sayings, eventually were written down and sewn together by literate priests and scribal elites to form the complexities of the Judean tradition under the institutional authority of temple and state. As Judean urbanisation grew so did the literacy rate and with it the number of biblical texts. The hegemony of text, authorised and legitimised by priestly and state elites, broke the oral bonds of the unbridled prophetic tradition in the pre-exilic period and centred “the word of YHWH” in a handwritten scroll that would serve as a divine constitution in post-exilic times of religious and political crisis, and galvanise the boundaries of Judean identity, practice, and ritual. 
“By the end of the of Second Temple period, the authority of Torah had been firmly established. It had grown beyond the boundaries of the temple cult and adopted into legal and civil matters. The vast number of scrolls referencing the authority of Torah on civil and criminal laws, stories and rituals had been firmly established and its application had grown in scope as various sects, such as the Sadducees, Pharisees, and Essenes expanded religious and cultural boundaries of the community. With the demise of the Second Temple, the Torah’s civil laws and narratives rendered ritual instruction impotent. Correct ritual performance was replaced with an impetus to understand and interpret the text correctly, making written scripture the centre of worship”. 
 The initial portion of this section is drawn from Scribal Culture and the Making of the Hebrew Bible. Karel Van Der Toorn, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 2007, 150-172. The remainder is from Cameron Freeman, Scribes, Prophets, & Temple Priests: The process of establishing and maintaining Judean boundaries through the canonization of scripture: http://cameronfreeman.com/socio-cultural/anthropology-religion-christian-tradition/process-establishing-maintaining-judean-boundaries-canonization-scripture/ and is published here in summary form with his kind permission.
 Images: www.vimeo.com; www.biblicalarchaeology.org
 See  above.
 Jeremiah 8:8-9.
 - inclusive Freeman, op cit.