Parnasim (פרנסים = ποιμένες, shepherds) is a name by which the rulers of the synagogue in the time of Christ were called. A place that had at least "ten men of leisure" (batlanim), as they were technically called, i.e. men who could devote the whole of their time to the requirements of the synagogue, enjoyed the privilege of erecting a synagogue. These men filled the different offices required for the administration of the affairs of the synagogue, and were called presbyters or elders = πρεσβύτεροι (because old men were generally selected for those offices), or parnasim or shepherds (because they had both the ecclesiastical and civil affairs of their respective communities in charge). The term parnas, of which parnasim is the plural, is Aramaic, and is used in the Chaldee paraphrase for the Hebrew roeh (רעה), ''shepherd" (comp. Eze 34:5,8,23; Zec 11:15-16, etc.). This appellation was in the Old Testament already given to God, who performs the office of tending and caring for his people in the highest sense (Ps 23:1; Ps 80:1 [2]), and then to his representatives, who exercised religious and civil care over the community (e.g. Jer 3:15). As these rulers had to feed the poor with bread, and their respective congregations with knowledge and understanding, the title "shepherd" was appropriated to them. The Talmud declares that every shepherd (פרנס) who leads his congregation in gentleness; has the merit of leading them in the path for the world to come" (Sanhedr. 92 a); and that "the Holy One, blessed be he, mourns over the congregation, which, has a shepherd who conducts himself haughtily towards his flock" Chagiga, 5 b). From this custom of calling the administrators of the synagogue "shepherds" came the application of the name to those who bear office in the Church. SEE PASTOR. (B. P.)

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