Patriarch: A name employed in the New Testament with reference to Abraham
(Hebrews 7:4) the sons of Jacob
(Acts 7:8,9) and to David
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).