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1. government by a deity or by a priesthood
2. a community or political unit under such government


government by a priesthood.



a form of government in which both political power and religious power are centered in the church.

Usually the supreme power in a theocratic state is vested in the leader of the predominant church, so that he is the head of state and is recognized as a “living god,” as “god’s vicar on earth,” or as the “chief priest” (he may be called the pharaoh, caesar, emperor, or caliph). In practical terms, the state’s power is vested in the church hierarchy and in the priests. “God’s will,” as expressed, for example, in the holy scriptures and the sharia, is acknowledged as law, together with the will of the head of state and of the church.

The term “theocracy” first appeared in a work by Flavius Josephus. Examples of theocracies during the era of the slaveholding system were the ancient Eastern despotisms of Egypt, Babylonia, the Judaic kingdom, and the Arab caliphate. In the Middle Ages the theocratic power of the pope was established in the papal domain. In accordance with the political doctrine of Catholicism of that time, the power of a European monarch was considered to be derived from and subordinate to the pope’s supreme power. The material expression of this dependency was the church tithe, a levy exacted in the Catholic countries of Europe. Today, theocratic forms are preserved only as vestiges of the past in underdeveloped countries.

References in periodicals archive ?
Theocracy is a great game that never plays the same way twice - and is what the disappointing Braveheart should have been like.
The theocracy has a Ja'fari (Twelver) faith based on Khamenei's Safawi ideology.
The June 12, 2009 election led to the worst unrest against the theocracy since the fall of the Pahlavi monarchy in early 1979 and caused over 100 deaths as the Green Movement alleged huge rigging.
The Sunnis are leading protests against Maleki, whom they call a dictator and a puppet of Iran's theocracy.
Only America can thwart the long suppressed Shiite desire to control Iraq and establish a theocracy.
The same happened to the Turkoman/Persian theocracy of the Safawi Empire (see sbme5SafawismNov25-13 & rim4SistaniVsWuF13Apr15).
Most Shi'ite Arabs regard Iran's Shi'ite theocracy as a potential enemy because of its Safawi ideology which they believe is a mere cover to divide, control and ultimately destroy the Arab society.
No matter what Tehran says about its economy, with the militarised extremist wing of the Shi'ite theocracy claiming the country to be "independent", Iran's has gained much from paper oil but lost far more from US-led penalties.
Iran's Safawi theocracy, whose national critics call an "extremist Shi'ite regime", is more keen on protecting an Alawite dictatorship under Bashar al-Assad in Syria than on what the US calls a "comprehensive" pact between Tehran and Washington that must include Syria.
Iran's Shi'ite theocracy, leading an axis of "resistance [against Israel]" in the Greater Middle East (GME), is putting its weight behind Syria's Alawite dictator Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey is a key power on the
But central PM Nuri al-Maleki, accused of having turned Iraq into a mere satellite of Iran's Shi'ite theocracy and part of a Tehran-led axis of "resistance" in the Greater Middle East (GME), seems to be trapped by the Saudi-led Sunni front in the Muslim world in which Turkey is a key player and the KRG wants to be part of this vast bloc (see below).
Commercial relations between Russia and Iran have two contradictory aspects: While Russia is acting subtly to prevent Iran from becoming a gas exporter to the EU, just as the Kremlin wants to prevent Iran's Shi'ite theocracy from having atomic weapons, Gazprom and the state-owned National Iranian Oil Co.