International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
maj'-is-trat (shephaT, corresponding to shaphaT, "to judge," "to pronounce sentence" (Judges 18:7)): Among the ancients, the terms corresponding to our "magistrate" had a much wider signification. "Magistrates and judges" (shopheTim we-dhayyanim) should be translated "judges and rulers" (Ezra 7:25). ceghanim "rulers" or "nobles," were Babylonian magistrates or prefects of provinces (Jeremiah 51:23, 28, 57 Ezekiel 23:6). In the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Jewish magistrates bore the same title (Ezra 9:2 Nehemiah 2:16; Nehemiah 4:14; Nehemiah 13:11). The Greek archon, "magistrate" (Luke 12:58 Titus 3:1 the King James Version), signifies the chief in power (1 Corinthians 2:6, 8) and "ruler" (Acts 4:26 Romans 13:3).
The Messiah is designated as the "prince (archon) of the kings of the earth" (Revelation 1:5 the King James Version), and by the same term Moses is designated the judge and leader of the Hebrews (Acts 7:27, 35). The wide application of this term is manifest from the fact that it is used of magistrates of any kind, e.g. the high priest (Acts 23:5); civil judges (Luke 12:58 Acts 16:19); ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41 Matthew 9:18, 23 Mark 5:22); persons of standing and authority among the Pharisees and other sects that appear in the Sanhedrin (Luke 14:1 John 3:1 Acts 3:17). The term also designates Satan, the prince or chief of the fallen angels (Matthew 9:34 Ephesians 2:2).
In the New Testament we also find strategos, employed to designate the Roman praetors or magistrates of Philippi, a Roman colony (Acts 16:20, 22, 35, 36, 38). A collective term for those clothed with power (Eng. "the powers"), exousiai, is found in Luke 12:11 the King James Version; Romans 13:2, 3 Titus 3:1. The "higher powers" (Romans 13:1) are all those who are placed in positions of civil authority from the emperor down.
In early Hebrew history, the magisterial office was limited to the hereditary chiefs, but Moses made the judicial office elective. In his time the "heads of families" were 59 in number, and these, together with the 12 princes of the tribes, composed the Sanhedrin or Council of 71. Some of the scribes were entrusted with the business of keeping the genealogies and in this capacity were also regarded as magistrates.
Frank E. Hirsch