This article is divided in two parts. Part one examines scribal education and scribes
in the ancient Near East and Israel. Although no real evidence exists for scribal schools and
education in Israel, it is argued that some form of institutionalised training must have taken
place in order to produce literary texts of such a high quality as are found in the Hebrew Bible.
Comparative material from Mesopotamia serves to trace the education of scribes in general.
Part two focuses on the Second Temple period in ancient Israel. Ezra the scribe emerges as
a typical scribe from that era. Post-exilic Israel was grappling with its identity, and sought
guidance from כַּכָּת֖וּב בַּתּוֹרָה [as was written in the Torah]. However, it appears that there
were different interpretations of the written Law during this period. Scribes of the Ezra circle
advocated a radical policy of exclusivity on the basis of what was written in the Law; others
who wrote the texts of Trito-Isaiah and Ruth pleaded for a more inclusive attitude towards
foreigners. The conclusion is that the battle was fought not with the sword, but with the pen,
therefore: ‘The pen is mightier than the sword.’