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Chief Seats

CHIEF SEATS (πρωτοκαθεδρία, G4751, first or special seats in the synagogue; πρωτοκλισία, G4752, first seats, places of honor at a banquet).

The two words stand alongside each other in Matthew 23:6; Mark 12:39; Luke 20:46; the first only in Luke 11:43, the second in Luke 14:7ff. Πρωτοκαθεδρία refers to special seats in the synagogue, a semi-circular bench around the Ark and facing the congregation (LT I, 436), πρωτοκλισία, G4752, referring to places of honor at a feast.

The reference to “chief seats” occurs in the Lord’s severe censures of the Scribes and Pharisees (Matt 23; more fragmentary in Mark 12 and Luke 20). Their pride is exposed not only in their ostentatious exhibition of piety, their extravagance in dress, their solicitation of titles of honor—Rabbi—in public places, but also in their love for and eager searching out of the places of honor at religious gatherings as well as at social functions. Against this Jesus counseled His disciples to take the lowest place, encouraging humility against pride. (See also Prov 25:6, 7; James 2:1-4.)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

sets (protokathedria): It was one of the reproaches urged by our Lord against the scribes and Pharisees that they loved the chief seats in the synagogues (Mt 23:6; Mr 12:39; Lu 11:43; 20:46). These were special seats set in front of the ark containing the Scriptures and of the reader’s platform, and facing the congregation. They were specially reserved for those who were held in the highest honor in the congregation. There were seventy-one such seats in the great synagogue of Alexandria, which were occupied by the members of the great Council in that city (see Synagogue).

J. Macartney Wilson