The English word is in the King James Version of Old Testament the translation of some 17 different Hebrew words, most frequently of ro'sh, "head," sar, "prince," and re'shith, "beginning." The principal changes made by the Revised Version (British and American) are:

(1) Hebrew beth'abh, "house of a father," being recognized as a technical term denoting a subdivision of a tribe, ro'sh is rendered literally "head," when it occurs in connection with this phrase, so that "chief fathers" (Num 31:26) and "chief of the fathers" (Ezra 1:5) become "heads of fathers' houses";

(2) Hebrew naghidh and nasi' are more accurately translated "prince" in such passages as 1 Chronicles 5:2; Numbers 3:32;

(3) the misinterpretations which brought about the translation "chief" for 'atsilim, "corners," Isaiah 41:9, and for ma`aleh, "ascent," in 2 Chronicles 32:33, are corrected.

In the New Testament "chief" is in most of its appearances the translation of Greek protos, "first"; the Revised Version (British and American) reads "first" for the King James Version "chief," "chiefest," in Matthew 20:27; Mark 10:44; Acts 16:12. The reading in the latter passage is a difficult one, but the King James Version "Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia," seems to imply a political authority which Philippi did not possess; the Revised Version (British and American) "a city of Macedonia, the first of the district." Greek archon, "prince," "ruler," is rendered by the King James Version "chief," by the Revised Version (British and American) "prince," in Luke 11:15; the King James Version "chief Pharisees," the Revised Version (British and American) "rulers of the Pharisees," in Luke 14:1.

The original meaning of "chief" having been weakened, the comparative and superlative were admitted into English, the latter only appearing in the King James Version or the Revised Version:

1 Samuel 2:29; Song of Solomon 5:10; 2 Corinthians 11:5, etc. On "chief of Asia" (Acts 19:31 the King James Version) see ASIARCH.

F. K. Farr

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Entry for 'CHIEF'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". 1915.