4And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born.
4 Verse 4. The chief priests] Not only the high priest for the
time being, called cohen ha-rosh, 2Ki 25:18, and his
deputy, called cohen mishneh, with those who had
formerly borne the high priest's office; but also, the chiefs or
heads of the twenty four sacerdotal families, which David
distributed into so many courses, 1Ch 24. These latter are styled
sarey ha-cohanim, chief of the priests, 2Ch 36:14;
Ezr 8:24; and
roshey ha-cohanim, heads of the priests, Ne 12:7.
Josephus calls them by the same name as the writers of the New
Testament. In his Life, sect. 8, he mentions πολλουςτων
αρχιερεων, MANY of the chief priests. The word is used in the
singular in this last sense, for a chief of the priests, Ac 19:14.
Scribes] The word γραμματευς, in the Septuagint, is used for a
political officer, whose business it was to assist kings and civil
magistrates, and to keep an account in writing of public acts and
occurrences. Such an officer is called in Hebrew seper
hamelech, ογραμματευςτουβασιλεως, the king's scribe, or
secretary. See LXX. 2Ki 12:10.
The word is often used by the LXX. for a man of learning,
especially for one skilled in the Mosaic law: and, in the same
sense, it is used by the New Testament writers. γραμματευς is
therefore to be understood as always implying a man of letters, or
learning, capable of instructing the people. The derivation of
the names proves this to be the genuine meaning of the word
γραμμα: a letter, or character, in writing: or γραμματα,
letters, learning, erudition, and especially that gained from
books. The Hebrew or sopher, from saphar, to
tell, count, cypher, signifies both a book, volume, roll, &c., and
a notary, recorder, or historian; and always signifies a man of
learning. We often term such a person a man of letters.
The word is used Ac 19:35,
for a civil magistrate at Ephesus, probably such a one as we would
term recorder. It appears that Herod at this time gathered the
whole Sanhedrin, in order to get the fullest information on a
subject by which all his jealous fears had been alarmed.