MAGISTRATE (măg'ĭs-trāt, Heb. shephat, judge, Gr. archōn, ruler, stratēgos, commander). The word shephat is found only once (Ezra.7.25), when it is translated “magistrates.” The term archōn is only once rendered magistrate (Luke.12.58). The word stratēgos is translated “magistrates” five times (Acts.16.20, Acts.16.22, Acts.16.35, Acts.16.36, Acts.16.38), where it denotes the rulers of the city of Philippi, a Roman colony. These authorities were called praetors in Latin. They were the highest officials in the government of a colony and had the power of administration of justice in less important cases.

The precise differentiation between the Gr. στρατηγός, G5130, and ἀρχω̂ν, as they appear together in Acts 16:19 is that most likely the second word (RSV) “magistrates” is a subclass of the first (RSV) “rulers” and thus the “magistrate” is used herein to refer to the Rom. judges of the court which would accord with the use in other extra-Biblical sources. The use of the term in the phrase ὁ στρατηγός του̂ ἱερου̂, “chief of the temple,” refers to the Temple hierarchy set up by the Hel. Jewish commonwealth. This official is simply called stratēgos in Jos. Antiq. XX. 131. The Jews knew of this official, the second in command of the Temple behind the high priest as the סְגַן, H10505, an official title borrowed from Assyria by the Jews after the captivity and mentioned in Ezra and Nehemiah. It should be tr. literally as “prefect” or “overseer” of the Temple. Because of the prohibitions against the defilement of the Temple by Gentiles and other unworthy persons the guards of the prefect were armed and drilled.


D. Magie, Roman Rule in Asia Minor (1950); M. Rostovtzeff, The Social and Economic History of the Hellenistic World Vol. I (1953); A. H. M. Jones; The Later Roman Empire, A Social, Economic and Administrative Survey, 2 vols. (1964).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

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