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Magistrate

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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(the representative in the Auth. Vers. of several Heb. and Gr. words, as below), a public civil officer invested with authority. Among the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, the corresponding terms had a much wider signification than the term magistrate has with us. The Hebrew שֹׁטְטַים, shophetimn', or judges, were a kind of magistrates (Deuteronomy 1:16-17; Ezra 7:25). See JUDGE. The phrase in Judges 18:7, "And there was no magistrate in the land, that might put them to shame in any thing," ought to be rendered, "And there were none to harm (כָּלִם ) at all in the land; and they were possessed (יוֹרֵשׁ, yoresh') of wealth." So, also, the terms שָׁפְטַין וְדִיָּנַין , shaphetin' ve-dayanin', rendered "magistrates and judges" (Ezra 7:25), would be better rendered "judges and rulers." The

סְגָנַים, seganim', rendered "rulers," properly nobles, were Babylonian magistrates, prefects of provinces (Jeremiah 51:23; Jeremiah 51:28; Jeremiah 51:57; Ezekiel 23:6). The same name was borne by the Jewish magistrates in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 9:2; Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:14; Nehemiah 13:11). The word ἄρχων, archon, rendered magistrate (Luke 11:53; Titus 3:1)? properly signifies one first in power, authority; hence "a prince" (Matthew 20:25; 1 Corinthians 2:6; 1 Corinthians 2:8); "a ruler" (Acts 4:26; Romans 13:3). The term is also used of the Messiah as "the prince of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5); and of Moses as the judge and leader of the Hebrews (Acts 7:27; Acts 7:35). It is spoken of magistrates of any kind, e.g. the high-priest (Acts 23:5); of civil judges (Luke 12:58; Acts 16:19); also of a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41; Matthew 9:18; Matthew 9:23; Mark 5:22): and of persons of weight and influence among the Pharisees and other sects at Jerusalem, who also were members of the Sanhedrim (Luke 14:1; Luke 18:18; Luke 23:13; Luke 23:35; Luke 24:20; John 3:1; John 7:26; John 7:48; John 12:42; Acts 3:17; Acts 4:5; Acts 4:8; Acts 13:27; Acts 14:5). The term is also used of Satan, the prince or chief of the fallen angels (Matthew 9:34; Matthew 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15; John 12:31; John 14:30; John 16:11; Ephesians 2:2). So likewise the kindred ἀρχη (Luke 12:11; Titus 3:1). The word στρατηγός, rendered "magistrate," properly signifies leader of an army, commander, general.

So of the ten Athenian commanders, with whom the poleamarch was joined. Afterwards only one or two were sent abroad with the army, as circumstances required, and the others had charge of military affairs at home, i. q. war-minister. In other Greek cities the στρατηγός was the chief magistrate, praefect. The term is also used of Roman officers, the consul and the praetor. In Roman colonies and municipal towns, the chief magistrates were usually two in number, called duumviri; occasionally four or six, quatuorviri, seviri, who also were sometimes styledprmetors, the same as the Greek στρατηγοί. Hence, in the New Testament, this term is used for the Roman dueumviri, praetors, magistrates of Philippi, which was a Roman colony (Acts 16:20; Acts 16:22; Acts 16:35-36; Acts 16:38). The word ἐξουσίαι is also used collectively for those invested with power, as in English we might say "the powers" for rulers, magistrates (Luke 12:11; Romans 13:2-3; Titus 3:1). The "higher powers" (Romans 13:1) are "the ruling authorities" the magistrates in office all invested with civil power, from the emperor or king, as supreme, to the lowest civil officer-all who are employed in making and executing the laws. The Roman emperor and some of the subordinate magistrates wore a small sword or dagger, the symbol of punishment, as a part of their official costume. (See GOVERNOR).

In the earliest periods of Jewish history the magistrates were the hereditary chieftains, but afterwards the judicial office became elective. In the time of Moses, the larger collections of families were fifty-nine in number, and the heads of these families, together with the twelve princes of the tribes, composed a council of seventy-one members; but the subdivisions afterwards were more numerous, and the number of heads of families greater, for we find no less than two hundred and fifty chiefs of this rank included in the rebellion of Koralh, Dathan, and Abiram. The שׁוֹטְרַים, shoterim', or genealogists, are mentioned in connection with the eldersthat is, the princes of tribes and heads of families. (See OFFICER).

They kept the genealogical tables. Under Joshua, they communicated the orders of the general to the soldiers; and in the time of the Kings, the chief shoter had a certain control over the army, although he was not a military commander. The shoterims, who were superintended by this chief, were distributed into every city, and performed the duties of their office for it and the surrounding district. As they kept the genealogical tables, they had an accurate list of the people, and were acquainted with the age, ability, and domestic circumstances of each individual; but they are not to be confounded with another officer who kept the muster-rolls, and whose name had a similar etymology. Moses added a new class of magistrates for the administration of justice, which, he informs us, was not of divine appointment, but was suggested by his father-in-law Jethro. He divided the people into tens, fifties, hundreds, and thousands, and placed wise and prudent judges over each of these divisions. They were selected, for the most part, from the heads of families, genealogists, or other people of rank (Exodus 18:13; Exodus 18:26). Difficult questions were brought before Moses himself, and, after his death. before the chief magistrate of the nation. These judges Moses included among the rulers, and Joshua summoned them to the general assemblies; and they are mentioned, in one instance, before the genealogists (Deuteronomy 31:28; Joshua 8:33). When the magistrates of all the cities belonging to any one tribe were collected, they formed the supreme court, or legislative assembly of the tribe; and when the magistrates of all the tribes were convened together, they formed the general council of the nation, and could legislate conjointly for all the tribes they represented. After the settlement in Canaan, although the chief magistrate of the Jewish state was, in reality, Jehovah, the invisible King, a supreme ruler for the whole community could be legally chosen when the necessities of the state required it, who was denominated a judge, or governor. (See JUDGE).

In the book of Deuteronomy 17:14-15 we find Jehovah telling the Hebrews that if, when they arrived in the Promised Land, they wished to have a king like the other nations round about them, they were to receive one whom he would appoint, and not a stranger. Josephus and others have correctly understood this passage not to mean that God commanded the Israelites to desire a king when they were settled in Canaan, but that, if they would have a king, he was to be appointed by God, and that he should invariably be a Hebrew, and not a Gentile. (See KING).

Judges, genealogists, the heads of families or clans, and those who, from the relation they sustained to the common class of people, may be called the princes of the tribes, retained their authority after as well as before the introduction of a monarchical form of government, and acted the part of a legislative assembly to the respective cities in or near which they resided (1 Kings 12:1-24; 1 Chronicles 23:4; 1 Chronicles 26:29). The headship of the tribes and families was hereditary, though probably subject to the royal approbation: but the judges and genealogists were appointed by the king. Besides these, we read of certain great officers, as "the royal counsellors" (1 Kings 12:6-12; 1 Chronicles 27:32; Isaiah 3:3), among whom the prophets were included by pious kings (2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Kings 22:7-8; 2 Kings 19:2-20); while others of a different character imitated the example of heathen princes, and called in to their aid soothsayers and false prophets (1 Kings 18:22; 1 Kings 22:6; Daniel 1:20). The secretary or "scribe" (2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 20:24; 1 Kings 4:3) committed to writing not only the edicts and sayings of the king, but everything of a public nature that related to the kingdom; and it was likewise his business to present to the king in writing an account of the state of affairs. The high-priest may be also reckoned among those who had access to the king in the character of counselors (2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Chronicles 18:16). (See COUNSELLOR).

During the Captivity and after that period the Hebrews continued among them that class of officers denominated heads of families, and perhaps likewise the princes of the tribes, who, under the direction of the royal governors, ruled their respective tribes (Ezra 1:5; Ezra 4:3; Ezra 4:5; Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 6:17-18; Ezekiel 14:1); but it is most probable that Jehoiachin,an and afterwards Shealtiel and Zerubbabel, held the first rank among them, or, in other words, were their princes. After their return to their native country the Hebrews obeyed their פָחָה , pachoh', or president. Such were Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah, who were invested with ample powers for the purposes of government (Ezra 7:25). When, from any cause, there was no person authorized by the civil government to act as president, the high- priest commonly undertook the government of the. state. This state of things continued while the Jews were under the Persians and Creeks, until the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, in whose reign they appealed to arms, shook off the yoke of foreign subjugation, and, having obtained their freedom, made their high-priests princes, and at length kings. The Jews, likewise, who were scattered abroad, and had taken up their residence in countries at a distance from Palestine, had rulers of their own. The person who sustained the highest office among those who dwelt in Egypt was denominated alabcarch (q.v.); the magistrate at the head of the Syriafi Jews was denominated archon. (See RULER).

While the Jews were under the Roman government they enjoyed the privilege of referring litigated questions to referees, whose decisions in reference to them the Roman praetor was bound to see put in execution.

After the subjugation of the Jews by the Romans, certain provinces of Judaea were governed by that class of magistrates denominated tetrarchs, an office said to have originated among the Gauls; and this appellation, although originally applied to the chief magistrate of the fourth part of a tribe, subject to the authority of the king, was afterwards extended in its application, and applied to any governors, subject to some king or emperor, without reference to the fact whether they ruled or not precisely the fourth part of a tribe of people. (See TETRARCH).

Herod Antipas, accordingly, and Philip, although they did not rule so much as a fourth part of Judaea, were denominated tetrarchs (Matthew 14:1; Luke 9:7; Acts 13:1). Although this class of rulers were dependent upon Caesar, that is, the Roman emperor, they nevertheless governed the people who were committed to their immediate jurisdiction as much according to their own choice and discretion as if they had not been thus dependent. They were inferior, however, in point of rank, to the ethnarchs, who, although they did not publicly assume the name of king, were addressed with that title by their subjects, as was the case with respect to Archelaus (Matthew 2:22). A class of magistrates well known among the Romans, termed procurators, are denominated in the New Testament ἡγεμόνες, but it appears that they are called by Josephus ἐπίτροποι . Judaea, after the termination of the ethnarchate of Archelaus, was governed by rulers of this description, and likewise during the period which immediately succeeded the reign of Herod Agrippa.

Augustus made a new partition of the provinces of the Roman empire into provinciae senatoriae, which were left under the nominal care of the senate, and provinciae imperatoriae vel Caesarum, which were under the direct control of the emperor. To their provinces the senate sent officers for one year, called proconsuls, with only a civil power, and neither military command nor authority over the taxes: those sent to command in the imperial provinces were called legati Cetessris pro consule, etc., and had much greater powers. In each of these provinces, of both kinds, there was, besides the president, an officer called procurator Caesaris, who had the charge of the revenue, and who sometimes discharged the office of a governor or president, especially in a small province, or in a portion of a large one where the president could not reside; as did Pilate, who was procurator of Judaea, which was annexed to the provincia imperatoria of Syria; hence he had the power of punishing capitally, which the procurators did not usually possess; so also Felix, Festus, and the other procurators of Judaea. Some of the procurators were dependent on the nearest proconsul or president; for instance, those of Judaea were dependent on the proconsul, governor, or president of Syria. They enjoyed, however, great authority, and possessed the power of life and death. The only privilege, in respect to the officers of government, that was granted by the procurators of Judaea to the nation was the appointment from among them of persons to manage and collect the taxes. In all other things they administered the government themselves, except that they frequently had recourse to the counsel of other persons (Acts 23:24-35; Acts 25:23). (See PROVINCE).

The military force that was granted to the procurators of Judaea consisted of six cohorts, of which five were stationed at Cesarea, where the procurator usually resided, and one at Jerusalem, in the tower of Antonia, which was so situated as to command the Temple (Acts 10:1; Acts 21:32). It was the duty of the military cohorts to execute the procurator's commands and to repress seditions (Matthew 8:5; Matthew 27:27; Mark 15:16; John 19:23). On the return of the great festivals, when there were vast crowds of people at Jerusalem, the procurators themselves went from Caesarea to that city in order to be at hand to suppress any commotions which might arise (Matthew 27:2-65; John 18:29; John 19:38). (See GOVERNMENT).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Magistrate'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​m/magistrate.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
 
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