Augustus as Jove, holding scepter and orb (first half of 1st century AD).[1] The Imperial cult of ancient Rome identified Roman emperors and some members of their families with the divinely sanctioned authority (auctoritas) of the Roman State. The official offer of cultus to a living emperor acknowledged his office and rule as divinely approved and constitutional: his Principate should therefore demonstrate pious respect for traditional Republican deities and mores

Theocracy is a form of government in which a religious institution is the source from which all authority derives. The Oxford English Dictionary has this definition:

1. a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god.

1.1. the commonwealth of Israel from the time of Moses until the election of Saul as King.[2][3]

An ecclesiocracy is a situation where the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation: for example, the prince-bishops of the European Middle Ages, where the bishop was also the temporal ruler. Such a state may use the administrative hierarchy of the religion for its own administration, or it may have two "arms"—administrators and clergy—but with the state administrative hierarchy subordinate to the religious hierarchy. Theocracy differs from theonomy, the latter of which is government based on divine law.[4]

The papacy in the Papal States occupied a middle ground between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, since the Pope did not claim he was a prophet who received revelation from God and translated it into civil law.

Religiously endorsed monarchies fall between theocracy and ecclesiocracy, according to the relative strengths of the religious and political organs.

Most forms of theocracy are oligarchic in nature, involving rule of the many by the few, some of whom so anointed under claim of divine commission.


The word theocracy originates from the Greek θεοκρατία meaning "the rule of God". This in turn derives from θεός (theos), meaning "god", and κρατέω (krateo), meaning "to rule". Thus the meaning of the word in Greek was "rule by god(s)" or human incarnation(s) of god(s).

The term was initially coined by Flavius Josephus in the first century A.D. to describe the characteristic government of the Jews. Josephus argued that while mankind had developed many forms of rule, most could be subsumed under the following three types: monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy. The government of the Jews, however, was unique. Josephus offered the term "theocracy" to describe this polity, ordained by Moses, in which God is sovereign and his word is law.[5]

Josephus' definition was widely accepted until the Enlightenment era, when the term started to collect more universalistic[clarification needed] and negative connotations, especially in Hegel's hands. The first recorded English use was in 1622, with the meaning "sacerdotal government under divine inspiration" (as in Biblical Israel before the rise of kings); the meaning "priestly or religious body wielding political and civil power" is recorded from 1825.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Teokrasie
Alemannisch: Gottesstaat
العربية: ثيوقراطية
asturianu: Teocracia
azərbaycanca: Teokratiya
Bân-lâm-gú: Sîn-chú-chú-gī
беларуская: Тэакратыя
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Тэакратыя
български: Теокрация
català: Teocràcia
čeština: Teokracie
Cymraeg: Theocrataeth
dansk: Teokrati
Deutsch: Theokratie
eesti: Teokraatia
Ελληνικά: Θεοκρατία
español: Teocracia
Esperanto: Teokratio
euskara: Teokrazia
føroyskt: Teokrati
français: Théocratie
Frysk: Teokrasy
galego: Teocracia
한국어: 신권 정치
हिन्दी: धर्मतंत्र
hrvatski: Teokracija
Bahasa Indonesia: Teokrasi
íslenska: Klerkaveldi
italiano: Teocrazia
עברית: תאוקרטיה
ქართული: თეოკრატია
қазақша: Теократия
Kreyòl ayisyen: Teokrasi
Кыргызча: Теократия
Latina: Theocratia
latviešu: Teokrātija
Lëtzebuergesch: Theokratie
lietuvių: Teokratija
magyar: Teokrácia
македонски: Теократија
მარგალური: თეოკრატია
مازِرونی: تئوکرات
Bahasa Melayu: Teokrasi
Mirandés: Teocracie
Nederlands: Theocratie
नेपाल भाषा: धर्मतन्त्र
日本語: 神権政治
нохчийн: Теократи
norsk: Teokrati
norsk nynorsk: Teokrati
occitan: Teocracia
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Teokratiya
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਧਰਮਰਾਜ
Patois: Tiyakrasi
polski: Teokracja
português: Teocracia
română: Teocrație
русский: Теократия
Scots: Theocracy
sicilianu: Teocrazzìa
Simple English: Theocracy
slovenčina: Teokracia
slovenščina: Teokracija
српски / srpski: Теократија
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Teokracija
suomi: Teokratia
svenska: Teokrati
Tagalog: Teokrasya
Türkçe: Teokrasi
українська: Теократія
Tiếng Việt: Thần quyền
Winaray: Teokrasyá
中文: 神權政治