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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Tetrarch

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(τετράρχης, from τέτταρα, four, and ἀρχή, government), properly denotes the governor of a province or district which was regarded as the fourth part of a larger province or kingdom, while the district itself was called a tetrarchy (τετραρχία or τετραδαρχία ). The earliest use of the word which seems to have been discovered is in connection with the division of Thessaly as originally constituted (Eurip. Alcest. 1154; Strabo, 9:5) and as reconstructed in the time of Philip of Macedon (Demosth. Phil. 3, 26), and of Galatia before its conquest by the Romans, B.C. 189. The first of these countries was then divided into four parts, each of which was named a tetrarchy, and its ruler a tetrarch, subordinate to the tagus (Thirlwall, Hist. of Greece, 6:13 sq.). The second was divided into three sections, each of which was again subdivided into four smaller ones, to which and to their governors the same terms were applied (Fischeri Prolusiones, p. 428, note); and these were ultimately fused into one ἐπαρχία under Deiotarus, cir. B.C. 54 (Strabo, 566; Plutarch, De V. M. [ed. Wytt], vol. 2). In the later days of the Roman republic, and during the empire, the etymological meaning was almost entirely lost sight of, and it was applied, like "ethnarch" and "phlylarch," to the petty tributaries," the creatures of a proconsul's breath, and the puppets of his caprice" (Merivale, Hist. of the Rom. 4:167), whose importance did not warrant their receiving the title of "king" (see Sallust, Cath. 20:7; Cicero, Milo, 28:76; Vatin. 12:29; Horace, Sat. 1, 3, 12; Veil. Pat. 2, 51; Tacitus, Ann. 15:25). It is in this secondary sense that in all probability the word is used in the New Test. of the tetrarchs of Syria, the heirs and successors of Herod the Great. Niebuhr (Hist. of Rome, 2, 135) compares them to the zemindars of Bengal after their recognition by lord Cornwallis (179L-93) as proprietors of the soil, and enjoying some amount of sovereign rights within the limits of their zemiudary. The title of tetrarch was certainly given by Antony to Herod the Great in the early part of his career (B.C. 41) and his brother Phasael (Josephus, Ant. 14:13, 1), without reference to territorial divisions; and though it appears that the tetrarchs Antipas and Philip did actually receive a fourth part of their father's dominions, while Archelaus as "ethnarch" inherited half (ibid. 17:11, 4; War, 2, 6, 3), this correspondence of the name and the share may be considered accidental, or, at furthest, the exact use of the term in the New Test. must be confined to Antipas and Philip.

In the New Test. we meet with the designation, either actually or in the form of its derivative τετραρχεῖν, applied to three persons:

1. Herod Antipas (Matthew 14:1; Luke 3, 1, 19; Luke 9, 7; Acts 13:1), who is commonly distinguished as "Herod the tetrarch," although the title of "king" is also assigned to him both by Matthew (Matthew 14:9) and by Mark (Mark 6:14; Mark 6:22 sq.). Luke, as might be expected, invariably adheres to the formal title which would be recognized by Gentile readers. This Herod is described by the last-named evangelist (3, 1) as "tetrarch of Galilee;" but his dominions, which were bequeathed to him by his father, Herod the Great, embraced the district of Peraea beyond the Jordan (Josephus, Ant. 17:8, 1): this bequest was confirmed by Augustus (War, 2, 6, 3). After the disgrace and banishment of Antipas, his tetrarchy was added by Caligula to the kingdom of Herod Agrippa I (Ant. 18:7, 2). (See HEROD ANTIPAS).

2. Herod Philip (the son of Herod the Great and Cleopatra, not the husband of Herodias), who is said by Luke (Luke 3:1) to have been "tetrarch of Itursea and of the region of Trachonitis." Josephus tells us that his father bequeathed to him Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, and Paneas (Ant. 17:8, 1), and that his father's bequest Nas confirmed by Augustus, who assigned to him Gaulonitis, Trachonitis, and Auranitis, with certain parts about Jamnia belonging to the "house of Zenodorus" (War, 1, 6, 3). Accordingly, the territories of Philip extended eastward from the Jordan to the wilderness, and from he borders of Persea northward to Lebanon and the neighborhood of Damascus. After the death of Philip his tetrarchy was added to the province of Syria by Tioerius (Ant. 18:4, 6), and subsequently conferred by Caligula on Herod Agrippa. I, with the title of king (ibid. 18:6, 10). (See HEROD AGRIPPA I;) (See HEROD PHILIP I.)

3. Lysanias, who is said (Luke 3:1) to have been tetrarch of Abilene, a small district surrounding the town of Abila, in the fertile valley of the Barada or Chrysorrhoas, between Damascus and the mountain range of Antilibanus. (See ABILENE). There is some difficulty in fixing the limits of this tetrarchy, and in identifying the person of the tetrarch. SEE LYSANIAS. We learn, however, from Josephus (Ant. 18:6, 10; 19:5, 1) that a Lysanias had been tetrarch of Abila before the time of Caligula, who added this tetrarchy to the dominions of Hero Agrippa I an addition which was confirmed by the emperor Claudius.


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Tetrarch'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/t/tetrarch.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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