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Theocracy facts for kids

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Augusto come giove, 00-50 dc circa
Augustus as Jupiter, holding scepter and orb (first half of 1st century AD).

Theocracy is a form of government in which one or more deities of some type are recognized as supreme ruling authorities, giving divine guidance to human intermediaries who manage the day-to-day affairs of the government.


The word theocracy originates from the Greek word θεοκρατία (theocratia) 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 AD to describe the characteristic government of the Jews. Josephus argued that while mankind had developed many forms of rule, most could fall into the following three types: monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy. However, according to Josephus, the government of the Jews was unique. Josephus offered the term "theocracy" to describe this polity in which God was sovereign and His word was law.

Josephus' definition was widely accepted until the Enlightenment era, when the term took on negative connotations and was barely salvaged by Hegel's commentary. 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" was recorded in 1825.


The term theocracy derives from the Koine Greek θεοκρατία, "rule of God", a term used by Josephus for the kingdoms of Israel and Judah, reflecting the view that "God himself is recognized as the head" of the state. The common, generic use of the term, as defined above in terms of rule by a church or analogous religious leadership, would be more accurately described as an ecclesiocracy.

In a pure theocracy, the civil leader is believed to have a personal connection with the deity or deities of that civilization's religion or belief, such as Muhammad's leadership of the early Muslims with prophecies from Allah. In an ecclesiocracy, the religious leaders assume a leading role in the state, but do not claim that they are instruments of divine revelation.

A related phenomenon is a secular government co-existing with a state religion or delegating some aspects of civil law to religious communities. For example, in Israel, marriage is governed by officially recognized religious bodies who each provide marriage services for their respected adherents, yet no form of civil marriage (free of religion) exists, nor marriage by non-recognized minority religions.

Modern-day states that resemble Theocracies


The Roman Catholic bishop of Urgell is one of the princes of the country. His role is mostly ceremonial.


Iran is a theocratic republic. In Iran, two bodies, the Supreme Leader and Guardian Council consist of members who are not elected by the people. These two bodies are staffed by Shia clerics. The highest elected official is the President of Iran.

Mohammad Khatami, the former president, said that this model is an alternative to democracy, as it brings in religious elements. He called it a religious democracy.

Vatican City

The Vatican City is a true theocracy, with no separation of church and state. The head of the Catholic Church is the leader of the country. The pope is elected by the Papal Conclave. Most popes have stayed for the rest of their lives, but some have resigned. One who resigned was Pope Benedict XVI.

State religion

Many states have a state religion. Israel, for example mixes some aspects of rabbinical law and civil law. Also, the state hires rabbis. In some such states, religious leaders also have civil duties, not only religious ones.

Some historic theocratic states

Some (now extinguished) states throughout history had characteristics of a Theocracy, as for example:

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Teocracia para niños

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