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1. government by a deity or by a priesthood
2. a community or political unit under such government
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005


government by a priesthood.
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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



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.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Yet many in Iran and elsewhere in the Gulf wonder whether Khamenei, formally the man with the final say over any matter of importance to the theocracy, is really capable of forcing the IRGC and others in the extremist wing to stop all obstacles to the proposed pact.
Yet Rowhani's government, with the support of the theocracy's ailing Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, is carefully navigating its way towards a "comprehensive" pact with the US.
Iran's reformist expert Sadegh Zibakalam later in the week stressed: "Rafsanjani has said what millions of Iranians believe in their heart but they either do not dare to express it or they face censorship [by the theocracy's IRGC].
But powerful US lobbyists had just passed legislation making all the American sanctions much tougher and begun a campaign for the US to contain Iran to the extent of forcing the theocracy to stop all work on its nuclear plan and axis of control in the Greater Middle East (GME).
The nationalist current wants to see the theocracy end.
His comments were an indication that the first poll since his disputed 2009 re-election could turn into a big challenge for the theocracy and Khamenei as he continued to defy his powerful foes.
But it is already engaged in a cold war with the theocracy as in the case of Saudi Arabia.
In Iran, the theocracy is drowning in a power-struggle between Khamenei who claims to represent God and President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad who is subtly questioning the legitimacy of his WuF concept.
And if its nuclear programme ends, this may eventually cause a collapse of the theocracy.
But Iraq, which Iran now controls, is the worst of all the traps being set for the theocracy, which leads an axis of "resistance" in the Greater Middle East (GME) and other parts of the world including Latin America.
Its Iranian critics claim that the theocracy has been militarised by the powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which they describe as being excessively corrupt.
Assad's regime is the most vital element of Iran's axis, providing Tehran with sectarian and geo-strategic bridges for the theocracy to reach its Lebanese Shi'ite unit Hizbullah and key allies in the Mediterranean, as well as other parts of the GME.