a name employed in the New Testament with reference to Abraham ( Hebrews 7:4 ), the sons of Jacob ( Acts 7:8 Acts 7:9 ), and to David ( 2:29 ). This name is generally applied to the progenitors of families or "heads of the fathers" ( Joshua 14:1 ) mentioned in Scripture, and they are spoken of as antediluvian (from Adam to Noah) and post-diluvian (from Noah to Jacob) patriachs. But the expression "the patriarch," by way of eminence, is applied to the twelve sons of Jacob, or to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
"Patriachal longevity presents itself as one of the most striking of the facts concerning mankind which the early history of the Book of Genesis places before us...There is a large amount of consentient tradition to the effect that the life of man was originally far more prolonged than it is at present, extending to at least several hundred years. The Babylonians, Egyptians, and Chinese exaggerated these hundreds into thousands. The Greeks and Romans, with more moderation, limited human life within a thousand or eight hundred years. The Hindus still farther shortened the term. Their books taught that in the first age of the world man was free from diseases, and lived ordinarily four hundred years; in the second age the term of life was reduced from four hundred to three hundred; in the third it became two hundred; in the fourth and last it was brought down to one hundred" (Rawlinson's Historical Illustrations).
(father of a tribe ), the name given to the head of a family or tribe in Old Testament times. In common usage the title of patriarch is assigned especially to those whose lives are recorded in Scripture previous to the time of Moses, as Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. ("In the early history of the Hebrews we find the ancestor or father of a family retaining authority over his children and his childrens children so long as he lived, whatever new connections they might form when the father died the branch families did not break off and form new communities, but usually united under another common head. The eldest son was generally invested with this dignity. His authority was paternal. He was honored as central point of connection and as the representative of the whole kindred. Thus each great family had its patriarch or head, and each tribe its prince, selected from the several heads of the families which it embraced." --McClintock and Strong. ) ("After the destruction of Jerusalem, patriarch was the title of the chief religious rulers of the Jews in Asia and in early Christian times it became the designation of the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem." --American Cyclopedia .)