Crown - Trench's New Testament Synonyms


Stephanos (G4735) Crown
diadema (G1238)
We must not confuse these two words, which are both translated "crown." In classical literature Stephanos does not denote the kingly or imperial crown. Instead, it refers to the crown that symbolized victory in the games, civic worth, military valor, nuptial joy, and festal gladness. A Stephanos was woven of oak, ivy, parsley, myrtle, olive, or gold leaves, which imitated these plants, and of flowers such as violets or roses. A stephanos was a "wreath" or "garland" but never the emblem or sign of royalty.
A diadema was a "token of kingdom," a white linen band or fillet that encircled the brow. The phrase peritithenai diadema ("to put on a crown") commonly indicated the assumption of royal dignity. In Latin only the "diadema" is the "mark of kings." Selden's comments on the distinction between "crowns" and "diadems" also agree with this.

However those names have been from ancient time confounded, yet the diadem strictly was a very different thing from what a crown now is or was; and it was no other than only a fillet of silk, linen, or some such thing. Nor appears it that any other kind of crown was used for a royal ensign, except only in some kingdoms of Asia, but this kind of fillet, until the beginning of Christianity in the Roman Empire.
Another passage in Plutarch confirms this distinction. The kingly crown offered by Antonius to Caesar is described as "a crown [diadema] woven with a wreath [stephano] of laurel." Here Stephanos refers to the garland or laureate wreath that is woven into the diadem proper. Indeed, according to Cicero, Caesar was already coronatus (that is, wreathed, which is equivalent to estephanomenos) as a consul when the offer was made. This distinction helps to explain Suetonius's version of the same incident. Someone placed "a laurel wreath [coronam] bound with white bands" on Caesar's statue. The tribunes did not command the removal of the corona (wreath) but of the fascia, or diadem, which alone suggested Caesar's traitorous claim to kingship.
The accuracy of the distinction made in the Septuagint and Apocrypha between diadema and Stephanos may be seen by comparing the passages in 1 Maccabees where diadema is employed and those where Stephanos appears. Compare these with Isaiah 62:3, where Israel shall be "a crown [Stephanos] of glory" and "a royal diadem [diadema]."
In the New Testament, Paul always used Stephanos to refer to the conqueror's, not the king's, crown. Although 1 Peter 5:4 does not necessarily allude directly to the Greek games, it still contrasts the wreaths of heaven that never fade with the garlands of earth that quickly lose their beauty and freshness. It is unlikely that other New Testament passages that use Stephanos refer to the Greek games, for there was a long-standing Jewish antipathy to them as idolatrous and profane. To have used imagery that referred to the prizes awarded at these games would have repelled, not attracted, the Jewish members of the church. In those passages the Stephanos, or the "crown [Stephanos] of life," is not the emblem of royalty but of highest joy and gladness and of glory and immortality. On the three occasions where John referred to kingly crowns, he employed diademaRevelation 19:12 depicts Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords, with the words "on his head were many crowns." This phrase would be difficult to understand if the crowns were similar to those worn by present monarchs, but the meaning is immediately apparent if they are "diadems," the narrow fillets that encircle the brow. The "many diadems" will be the tokens of Christ's many kingdomsearth, heaven, and hell (Phil. 2:10). Satan, the usurper of these kingdoms and of their honors, has his own seven diadems (13:1), but Christ will rightfully assume his lordship. This may be illustrated by the earthly example of Ptolemy, king of Egypt. When he entered Antioch in triumph, he set two "crowns," or rather "diadems" (diademata), on his head, the "diadem" of Asia and the "diadem" of Egypt (1 Macc. 11:13). In Diodorus Siculus (1.47) we read of a queen "having three kingdoms on her head." The context plainly shows that these are three diadems, the symbols of a triple royalty.
The only occasion where Stephanos may refer to a kingly crown is Matthew 27:29 (cf. Mark 15:17; John 19:2). The soldiers mocked Jesus' royalty by placing a crown of thorns (stephanos akanthinos) on his head. The nature of the woven materials, perhaps the Juncus marinus (rush from the sea) or the Lycium spinosum (a prickly thorn bush) would make the word diadema inappropriate, though this word was fit for the purpose the soldiers had in mind.

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