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English Bible Dictionary

Patriarch

 

(father of a tribe), the name given to the head of a family or tribe in Old Testament times. In common usage the title of patriarch is assigned especially to those whose lives are recorded in Scripture previous to the time of Moses, as Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ("In the early history of the Hebrews we find the ancestor or father of a family retaining authority over his children and his children's children so long as he lived, whatever new connections they might form when the father died the branch families did not break off and form new communities, but usually united under another common head, and you can find more about that here on st-takla.org on other commentaries and dictionary entries. The eldest son was generally invested with this dignity. His authority was paternal. He was honored as central point of connection and as the representative of the whole kindred. Thus each great family had its patriarch or head, and each tribe its prince, selected from the several heads of the families which it embraced."--McClintock and Strong.) ("After the destruction of Jerusalem, patriarch was the title of the chief religious rulers of the Jews in Asia and in early Christian times it became the designation of the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem."--American Cyclopedia.)

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