First-century Judaism was a complex web of authority structures. Pharisees were the popular leaders of the people, while Sadducees controlled the temple, and both groups populated the Sanhedrin—the ruling council—along with various elders, priests, and scribes (teachers of the law). Then there were famous rabbis who had their own followings and whose opinions were treated as near-infallible—like Gamaliel, the rabbi who was mentor and teacher to Saul of Tarsus (Acts 22:3).
While teaching in Judaism originated with God's laws contained in His covenant given through Moses, by Jesus' day many traditions and opinions of Judaism's various teachers and leaders had achieved a status of parity with, even superiority over, Scripture: "For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men" (Mark 7:8). Those traditions had their origin in man, not God.
When Jesus appeared, He was not part of "the system." He didn't quote this scribe or that teacher as the basis of His teachings. Yet His teachings rang with the same tone of authority the people were used to. As a result, people were amazed when Jesus taught, as if to say: "Where did He get this stuff He's saying?" After Jesus spoke in a synagogue in Capernaum, ". . . they were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes." "Not as the scribes" means Jesus wasn't quoting anyone; there were no footnotes attached to what He taught. He, a carpenter and son of a carpenter from the backwaters of Galilee, spoke with His own authority.
Everywhere Jesus went, as a result of His words and deeds, people were "astonished" and "amazed" at Him (Mark 2:12; 5:20, 42; 6:2, 51; 7:37; 10:26; 11:18; 15:5)—even when He was a child (Luke 2:46-47). Jesus was a living demonstration of Psalm 119:99: "I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation."Back to Mark