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, in the Bible
patriarch (pāˈtrēärk), in biblical tradition, one of the antediluvian progenitors of the race as given in Genesis (e.g., Seth) or one of the ancestors of the Jews (e.g., Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and, sometimes, the sons of Jacob). The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs is the name of one of the Pseudepigrapha.


, in Christian churches

patriarch, in Christian churches, title of certain exalted bishops, implying authority over a number of other bishops. There were originally three patriarchates: the West, held by the bishop of Rome (the pope; see papacy; Benedict XVI dropped the title in 2006), Alexandria, and Antioch. To these were added Constantinople (381) and Jerusalem (451). To the West belonged everything W of the Balkans and Cyrene, and Constantinople ruled most of the Byzantine Empire. Syria and Mesopotamia were under Antioch, Palestine under Jerusalem, and Egypt under Alexandria. The triumph of Monophysitism in Egypt and Syria (5th–6th cent.) created new churches, and since then the three Orthodox patriarchs in Asia have had small, minority jurisdictions; they abandoned (12th cent.) their local rites in favor of the Byzantine.

Besides the five ancient patriarchates there are a number of others. In communion with the pope there are 11: the Latin-rite patriarch of Jerusalem, who is bishop of local Latin-rite Catholics (the purely titular Latin-rite patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch were abolished in 1964); six who are heads of Eastern rites, having generally full patriarchal powers and not usually resident in their official sees, namely, Alexandria (Coptic rite), Antioch (three: Syrian rite, Melchite, and Maronite), Babylon (Chaldaean rite; see Nestorian Church), and Cilicia (Armenian rite); finally, in the Western Church the title patriarch is conferred, purely as an honor, on four prelates, the archbishop of Goa (patriarch of the East Indies), the archbishop of Lisbon, the archbishop of Venice, and the patriarch of the West Indies (normally Spanish). In the Russian Orthodox Church the czar set up (1580) a patriarch of Moscow; the title was abolished (1721) by Peter the Great and revived in 1917 (see Orthodox Eastern Church). The Orthodox archbishops of Belgrade and of Bucharest are called patriarchs. Besides all these there are a Coptic patriarch of Alexandria, a Jacobite patriarch of Antioch, a Nestorian patriarch, and four Armenian patriarchs (of Echmiadzin, Sis, Jerusalem, and Constantinople).

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Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



the highest title of the head of an autocephalous Orthodox Christian church in a number of countries.

The title of patriarch was established at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. After the Christian church separated into the Western Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches in 1054, the title was retained in the Eastern hierarchy. In the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Church was headed by the four patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. When independent Slavic states arose in Bulgaria and Serbia, patriarchs were also created to head those churches.

In Russia, the first patriarch was elected at a council of the Russian ecclesiastical hierarchy in 1589. In the late 16th century and throughout the 17th, the Russian patriarchs were major feudal landowners who took an active part in the political life of the state. The patriarch’s power reached its apex under Nikon. A gradual subordination of the patriarch to secular authority culminated under Peter I. After the death of Patriarch Adrian in 1700, Peter appointed not a patriarch but a locum tenens of the patriarchal see. In 1721 he eliminated the position altogether. Management of church affairs was turned over to the Synod.

The title of patriarch was restored at a council of the Russian Orthodox Church in 1917–18. In addition to the Russian patriarch, there are patriarchs in Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Georgia (catholicos-patriarch), Serbia, Bulgaria, and Rumania. The heads of certain eparchies in the Catholic Church are also called patriarchs.

The patriarchs in Russia have included Iov (1589–1605), Ignatii (1605–06), Germogen (1606–12), Filaret (1619–33), Ioasaf I (1634–40), Iosif (1642–52), Nikon (1652–67), Ioasaf II (1667–72), Pitirim (1672–73), Ioakim (1674–90), Adrian (1690–1700), Stefan Iavorskii (1700–21, locum tenens), Tikhon (1917–25), Sergii (1925–27, deputy patriarch; 1927–43, locum tenens; 1943–44, patriarch), Aleksii (1945–70), and Pimen (from 1971).


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


1. the male head of a tribe or family
2. Old Testament any of a number of persons regarded as the fathers of the human race, divided into the antediluvian patriarchs, from Adam to Noah, and the postdiluvian, from Noah to Abraham
3. Old Testament any of the three ancestors of the Hebrew people: Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob
4. Old Testament any of Jacob's twelve sons, regarded as the ancestors of the twelve tribes of Israel
5. Early Christian Church the bishop of one of several principal sees, esp those of Rome, Antioch, and Alexandria
6. Eastern Orthodox Church the bishops of the four ancient principal sees of Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, and also of Russia, Romania, and Serbia, the bishop of Constantinople (the ecumenical Patriarch) being highest in dignity among these
7. RC Church
a. a title given to the pope
b. a title given to a number of bishops, esp of the Uniat Churches, indicating their rank as immediately below that of the pope
8. Mormon Church another word for Evangelist
9. Eastern Christianity the head of the Coptic, Armenian, Syrian Jacobite, or Nestorian Churches, and of certain other non-Orthodox Churches in the East
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in classic literature ?
Now, in the old days at home, certain audacious doubts respecting the last of the Patriarchs, which were afloat in the air, had, by some forgotten means, come in contact with Arthur's sensorium.
And now, after all, the last of the Patriarchs coolly walked into the parlour, saying in effect,
You would bore the patriarchs when you talked, and when they talked they would shoot over your head.
I wouldn't be used to such grand people as the patriarchs and prophets, and I would be sheepish and tongue-tied in their company, and mighty glad to get out of it.
All the nobility, and all the patriarchs and prophets - every last one of them - and all the archangels, and all the princes and governors and viceroys, were there, - and NO small fry - not a single one.
"I remember, that when a laughing boy," returned the patriarch, with the peculiar recollection of vast age, "I stood upon the sands of the sea shore, and saw a big canoe, with wings whiter than the swan's, and wider than many eagles, come from the rising sun."
Then, elevating her rich features and beaming eyes, she continued, in tones scarcely less penetrating than the unearthly voice of the patriarch himself:
Summary: Pope Francis declared Maronite Patriarch Elias Howayek venerable Saturday, bringing the patriarch who oversaw the creation of the modern state of Lebanon closer to sainthood.
NNA - The Press Office of the Melkite Catholic Church Patriarch of Antioch and All the East issued a statement Saturday indicating that Patriarch Joseph Al-Absi visited today President of the Republic Michel Aoun at Baabda Palace, with talks touching on local and regional developments and the state appointments' dossier.
The patriarch, meeting Patriarch Irinej of Serbia along with Patriarch of Antioch and All the East for Rome Orthodox Youhanna Yazigi X, added that some countries still obstruct the return of Syrian refugees to their home for political purposes.
In remarks by Patriarch Theophilos III, Patriarch of the Holy City and all Jordan and Palestine, delivered on his behalf by Archbishop Christoforos Atallah, Greek Orthodox Archbishop of Jordan, the Patriarch noted the importance of having the Jerusalem awqaf and church councils meet in Jordan.