The term patriarch (from Greek πατήρ (pater) meaning "father" and ἄρχων (archon) meaning "leader") has several distinct meanings: originally, in antiquity, it referred to a man who exercised autocratic authority over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males was called patriarchy, from which we derive the modern use of the term.
In the Hebrew Bible, the Patriarchs (also known as the Avot in Hebrew) are Abraham, his son Isaac and his grandson Jacob. Collectively, they are referred to as the three patriarchs (shloshet ha-avot) in Judaism, and the period in which they lived is known as the patriarchal period.
Their primary wives – Sarah (wife of Abraham), Rebeccah (wife of Isaac), and Leah and Rachel (the wives of Jacob) – are known as the Matriarchs. Thus, classical Judaism considers itself to have three patriarchs and four matriarchs.
In addition, the title patriarch is often applied to the ten antediluvian figures Adam, Seth, Enos, Cainan, Mahalaleel, Jared, Enoch, Methuselah, Lamech, and Noah. According to the Book of Genesis, these ten men are the ancestors of the entire human race. Moses and Joseph are also known as patriarchs.
The Pentarchy of Christianity
The Pentarchy, a Greek word meaning "government of five," designates the Five Great Episcopal Sees or early Patriarchates that were the major centres of the Christian church in Late Antiquity. The following five patriarchs, later known as the Pentarchy, were the ancient, established patriarchates listed below (in traditional order of precedence):
- The Patriarch of Rome
- The Patriarch of Constantinople
- The Patriarch of Alexandria
- The Patriarch of Antioch
- The Patriarch of Jerusalem
The respective apostolic founders of each city were:
- Rome (Saint Peter and Saint Paul), the only Pentarch in the Western Roman Empire (now Italy).
- Constantinople (St. Andrew), in the Eastern Roman Empire (now Turkey)
- Alexandria (Saint Mark), in the Eastern Roman Empire (now Egypt)
- Antioch (St. Peter), in the Eastern Roman Empire (now Turkey)
- Jerusalem (St. James), in the Eastern Roman Empire
In the fourth century, these constituted the four most important cities of the Roman Empire, plus Jerusalem. Some traditions see this as a process of development: At first, only the church leaders in Rome, Alexandria and Antioch were widely acknowledged as having spiritual and juridical authority in the Christian church; the position of Jerusalem gained importance at the First Council of Nicaea, and Constantinople at the Council of Chalcedon. The Council of Nicea also established the supremacy of honor of the apostolic sees as follows: Rome, followed by Alexandria, followed by Antioch, followed by Jerusalem. This hierarchy was only one of honor among four equal Apostolic Sees. When Constantinople joined the group it was ranked second after Rome.
After the Arab conquests of the seventh century C.E., only Constantinople remained securely within a state calling itself the "Roman Empire," whereas Rome became independent (see Gregory the Great), Jerusalem and Alexandria fell under Muslim rule, and Antioch was on the front lines of hundreds of years of recurring border warfare between the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Caliphate. These historical-political changes, combined with the northward shift of the center of gravity of Christendom during the Middle Ages, and the fact that the majority of Christians in Muslim-ruled Egypt and Syria were Non-Chalcedonians who refused to recognize the authority of either Rome or Constantinople, meant that the original ideal of five great co-operating centers of administration of the whole Christian church grew ever more remote from practical reality.
As part of the Pentarchy, the Pope's Patriarchate of Rome was the only one in the Western Roman Empire. It was roughly coterminous with present territory of the Latin Rite. In the past, popes have used the title Patriarch of the West. However, this title was removed from a reference publication issued by the Vatican in 2006.
Today, it would be difficult to identify a leading claimant to the patriarchate of Antioch. There are five claimants to the patriarchal throne of Jerusalem dating from the time of the Crusades. These include Maronite Catholics, Melkite Catholics, Syriac Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and Syriac Orthodox.
Patriarchs of the Eastern Orthodox Churches
- The Ecumenical Patriarch, head of the Orthodox Church of Constantinople and the Spiritual Leader of Eastern Orthodoxy
- The Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria in All Africa
- The Patriarch of Antioch and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East in the Near East
- The Patriarch of Jerusalem and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem and Holy Zion in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and All Arabia
- The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church in Russia
- The Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia and the head of the Georgian Orthodox Church in Georgia
- The Patriarch of Serbia and the head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Serbia, Kosovo and Montenegro
- The Patriarch of All Romania and the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Romania
- The Patriarch of All Bulgaria and the head of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church in Bulgaria.
Patriarchs in Oriental Orthodox Churches
- The Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of All Africa and the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria in Egypt and All Africa and the Spiritual Leader of Oriental Orthodoxy
- The Patriarch of Antioch and All the East and the head of the Syriac Orthodox Church of Antioch and Supreme Leader of the Universal Syriac Orthodox Church in the Near East
- The Catholicos of India and the head of the Malankara Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church in India
- The Catholicos of Etchmiadzin, Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church and the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church
- The Catholicos of Cilicia and head of the Armenian Apostolic Church of the House of Cilicia in Antelias, Lebanon and the Middle East
- The Patriarch of Constantinople for the Armenians in Turkey
- The Patriarch of Jerusalem and of Holy Zion for the Armenians in Israel, Palestine, Jordan and the Persian Gulf
- The Catholicos of the East and the head of the Indian Orthodox Church in India
- The Archbishop of Axum and Patriarch Catholicos of All Ethiopia and the head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Ethiopia
- The Archbishop of Asmara and Patriarch of All Eritrea and the head of the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church in Eritrea.
Patriarch of the Assyrian Church of the East
- The Catholicos-Patriarch of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, head of the Assyrian Church of the East in the Near East.
Patriarch of the Nasrani (Assyrian) Church of the East
- The Catholicos of Jerusalem of the Church of the East and Abroad.
Latin Rite Patriarchs
- The Patriarch of the East Indies a titular patriarchal see, united to Goa and Daman.
- The Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem
- The Patriarch of Lisbon
- The Patriarch of Venice
- The Patriarch of the West Indies a titular patriarchal see, vacant since 1963
Patriarchs of the Eastern Catholic Churches
- The Coptic Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria and head of the Coptic Catholic Church
- The Syrian Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and the head of the Syrian Catholic Church
- The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch and the head of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church; united to it are two now titular patriarchal sees, both in Middle Eastern Pentarchy cities:
- Melkite Catholic Patriarch of Alexandria (in Egypt)
- Melkite Catholic Patriarchs of Jerusalem (in Palestine/Israel)
- The Maronite Patriarch of Antioch, head of the Maronite Church
- The Chaldean Catholic Patriarch of Babylon and the head of the Chaldean Catholic Church
- The Armenian Catholic Patriarch of Cilicia and the head of the Armenian Catholic Church
Historical Patriarchs in the Roman Catholic Church
- The Latin Patriarch of Antioch
- The Latin Patriarch of Alexandria
- Patriarch of Aquileia
- The Latin Patriarch of Carthage
- The Latin Patriarch of Constantinople
- The Patriarch of Grado
Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs out of the Orthodox Communion
- Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia head of the Russian Old-Orthodox Church
- Patriarch of Kiev head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - Kiev Patriarchate
- Patriarch of Kiev of the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church Canonical
In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a patriarch is one who has been ordained to the office of Patriarch in the Melchizedek Priesthood. The term is considered synonymous with the term evangelist. One of the patriarch's primary responsibilities is to give Patriarchal blessings, as Jacob did to his twelve sons in the Old Testament. In the main branch of Mormonism, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Patriarchs are typically assigned in each stake and hold the title for life.
- Catholic Encyclopedia, Kevin Knight, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2008.
- Cindy Wooden, Vatican removes title 'patriarch of the West' after pope's name, Catholic News Service, Retrieved October 31, 2007.
ReferencesISBN links support NWE through referral fees
- Moore, Beth. The Patriarchs: Encountering the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob- Leader Guide. Lifeway Christian Resources, 2005. ISBN 9780633197537
- Ware, Timothy. The Orthodox Church: New Edition. Penguin (Non-Classics); 2 edition, 1993. ISBN 9780140146561
- Whelton, Michael. Popes and Patriarchs: An Orthodox Perspective on Roman Catholic Claims. Conciliar Press, 2006. ISBN 9781888212785
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