Skip to main content

Chief Priests

CHIEF PRIESTS

The chief priests are a specific group of temple priests, administrators of the temple's liturgy, buildings, and finances. The Greek plural ρχιερε[symbol omitted]ς (chief priests), occurring 62 times in the New Testament books and often in Josephus, refers to this important priestly group; whereas the singular ρχιερεύς (high priest, chief priest), appearing 38 times in the Gospels and Acts, refers to the high priest, president of the Sanhedrin.

The chief priests are sometimes mentioned alone as acting for the whole Sanhedrin (Mt 26.14; Mk 15.3; Lk 23.4; Jn 18.35; Acts 9.14the Sanhedrin) or with "the whole Sanhedrin" (Mt 26.59), the scribes (Mt 2.4; Lk20.19), the elders (Mt 21.23; Acts 4.23), the scribes and elders (Mt 16.21; 28.41; Mt 15.1; Lk 22.66), the captains or overseers (Lk 22.4), the rulers (Lk 23.13), or the pharisees (Mt 27.62; Jn 7.45, 11.47, 18.3). From these passages it is clear that the chief priests were prominent and influential members of the Sanhedrin. According to some scholars (E. Schürer, 2.1:204206) the chief priests comprised the ruling high priest, former acting but deposed high priests, and leading members of the families from which the high priests were selected. But according to others (J. Jeremias, 38; G. Schrenk, 271) it appears more probable that this group was composed of administrators of the Temple, its buildings, and its treasures, e.g., in descending rank, the Temple governor or captain (στρατηγòς το[symbol omitted] ερο[symbol omitted]), who was next in dignity after the high priest (Acts 4.1, 5.24, 36; Schrenk, 271); the heads of the 24 priestly classes conducting the weekly services (cf. Lk1.9); the leaders of those conducting the daily services; the overseers (Heb. 'ămarkelîn ; Gr. στρατηγοί Lk 22.4,52), the treasurers (Heb. qizbārîm ).

Bibliography: g. schrenk, in g. kittel, Theologisches Wörterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935) 3:270272. e. schÜrer, A History of the Jewish People in the Time of Christ, division 2, v.1, tr. s. taylor and p. christie (Edinburgh 1898) 203206. j. jeremias, Jerusalem zur Zeit Jesu (Göttingen 1958).

[j. e. steinmueller]

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Chief Priests." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Chief Priests." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 19, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chief-priests

"Chief Priests." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Retrieved November 19, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/chief-priests

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.