What is the meaning or definition of Theocracy, and what are some examples of theocracies?

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engtchr5's profile pic

engtchr5 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

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The term originally comes from two Greek words, "theos," meaning God, and "kratein," meaning to rule. Putting two and two together, we get "rule of (or by) God." Theocracies are typically prone to focusing their governmental authority upon or around concepts of religion.

Many ancient peoples believed that their god or gods had handed down laws for their government; in fact, the famous Code of Hammurabi was supposed to have been revealed in this way. And while there were twelve tribes of Judah, reference books and resources still point to the Israelites as an example because God gave them their law through Moses. 

Another example would be the Puritan government of Massachusetts, as it was conducted for many years on the principle of obedience to divine law, as interpreted by the clergy of that day. Today's theocracies remain a little harder to spot, as the international community at large tends to shun associations with an almighty spiritual power; perhaps the closest we can come to identifying a "true" theocracy today would be to examine certain middle eastern countries, where much of their governmental procedure is underlaid by tenets of the Qu'ran. Having said that, however, one only needs to examine a dollar bill to find references in our own country to God: "In God We Trust" and similar messages remain on our country's currency, despite the fact that we are technically a democratic republic.  

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Another theocracy was that of Italy during such times as the Renaissance when Pope Leo and his successors were simultaneously secular and religious leaders.  In fact, much of the corruption in the Catholic Church resulted from the tremendous political and religious power that the Pope and Cardinals, who were great landowners, wielded.

While England was never an actual theocracy, there were times when the Archbishop of Canterbury had tremendous political influence.  He was said to have "whispered into the ears of kings." 

Even in this country, there have been times when certain religious sects have wielded political power.  One only has to consider the political and religious control of the Puritans in Salem, for instance.

npdckrsn's profile pic

npdckrsn | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Blaze, think about the word first--theo= God. Ocracy= a form of government. The primary theocracy that I can think of is the rule of God in His nation Israel. Now, you probably immediately thought: Jews. Nope, there were twelve tribes. They were not "divided" until they left Egypt and arrived in the promised land. Part of the tribes stayed on the other side of the Jordan river. Each fall they gathered in Jerusalem to observe the fall holy days in God's calendar. The spring holy days might have been celebrated primarily by the men, but the fall days lasted longer from the day of trumpets, the day of atonement, and the feast of booths , plus the last great day. The feast of lights was MUCH later. Anyway, the laws given to the nation of Israel in the wilderness were basically repeated by the Christ later as: love God; love your neighbor as yourself.

As you may have understood, the nation was unable to follow either judges, kings, or counselors and were split apart by their misunderstandings. Two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) are recognized as those who still keep God's laws--plus the ones they thought they needed to help them KEEP those laws. God said in the Bible that He would eventually change the hearts of men so that they could worship Him in spirit and truth. We are still waiting for the change of our hearts and the return of His government.

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