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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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chēf : The English word is in the King James Version of Old Testament the translation of some 17 different Hebrew words, most frequently of rō'sh , "head," sar , "prince," and rē'shı̄th , "beginning." The principal changes made by the Revised Version (British and American) are: (1) Hebrew bēth'ābh , "house of a father," being recognized as a technical term denoting a subdivision of a tribe, rō'sh is rendered literally "head," when it occurs in connection with this phrase, so that "chief fathers" (Numbers 31:26 ) and "chief of the fathers" (Ezra 1:5 ) become "heads of fathers' houses"; (2) Hebrew nāghı̄dh and nāsı̄' are more accurately translated "prince" in such passages as 1 Chronicles 5:2 ; Numbers 3:32 ; (3) The misinterpretations which brought about the translation "chief" for 'acı̄lı̄m , "corners," Isaiah 41:9 , and for ma‛ăleh , "ascent," in 2 Chronicles 32:33 , are corrected.

In the New Testament "chief" is in most of its appearances the translation of Greek prō̇tos , "first"; the Revised Version (British and American) reads "first" for the King James Version "chief," "chiefest," in Matthew 20:27 ; Mark 10:44 ; Acts 16:12 . The reading in the latter passage is a difficult one, but the King James Version "Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia," seems to imply a political authority which Philippi did not possess; the Revised Version (British and American) "a city of Macedonia, the first of the district." Greek árchōn , "prince," "ruler," is rendered by the King James Version "chief," by the Revised Version (British and American) "prince," in Luke 11:15 ; the King James Version "chief Pharisees," the Revised Version (British and American) "rulers of the Pharisees," in Luke 14:1 .

The original meaning of "chief" having been weakened, the comparative and superlative were admitted into English, the latter only appearing in the King James Version or the Revised Version: 1 Samuel 2:29 ; Song of Solomon 5:10 ; 2 Corinthians 11:5 , etc. On "chief of Asia" (Acts 19:31 the King James Version) see ASIARCH .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Chief'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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