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Synonyms of the New Testament :: Richard C. Trench

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xxiii. στέφανος, διάδημα.

We must not confound these words because our English ‘crown’ stands for them both. I greatly doubt whether anywhere in classical literature στέφανος is used of the kingly, or imperial, crown. It is the crown of victory in the games, of civic worth, of military valour, of nuptial joy, of festal gladness—woven of oak, of ivy, of parsley, of myrtle, of olive, or imitating in gold these leaves or others—of flowers, as of violets or roses (see Athenaeus, xv. 9–33); the ‘wreath,’ in fact, or the ‘garland,’ the German ‘Kranz’ as distinguished from ‘Krone;’ but never, any more than ‘corona’ in Latin, the emblem and sign of royalty. The διάδημα was this βασιλείας γνώρισμα, as Lucian calls it (Pisc. 35; cf. Xenophon, Cyr. viii. 3. 13; Plutarch, De Frat. Am. 18); being properly a white linen band or fillet, ‘taenia’ or ‘fascia’ (Curtius, 3:3), encircling the brow; so that no language is more common than περιτιθέναι διάδημα to indicate the assumption of royal dignity (Polybius, v. 57. 4; 1 Macc. 1:9; 11:13; 13:32; Josephus, Antt. xii. 10, 1), even as in Latin in like manner the ‘diadema’ alone is the ‘insigne regium’ (Tacitus, Annal. xv. 29). With this agree Selden’s opening words in his learned discussion on the distinction between ‘crowns’ and ‘diadems’ (Titles of Honour, c. 8, § 2): ‘However those names have been from antient 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.’

A passage in Plutarch brings out very clearly the distinction here affirmed. The kingly crown which Antonius offers to Caesar the biographer describes as διάδημα στεφάνῳ δάφνης περιπεπλεγμένον (Coes. 61). Here the στέφανος is the garland or laureate wreath, with which the diadem proper was enwoven; indeed, according to Cicero (Phil. 2:34), Caesar was already ‘coronatus’ (==ἐστεφανωμένος), this he would have been as Consul, when the offer was made. It is by keeping this distinction in mind that we explain a version in Suetonius (Coes. 79) of the same incident. One places on Caesar’s statue ‘coronam lauream candidâ fasciâ praeligatam’ (his statues, Plutarch also informs us, were διαδήμασιν ἀναδεδεμένοι βασιλικοῖς); on which the tribunes command to be removed, not the ‘corona,’ but the ‘fascia;’ this being the diadem, in which alone the traitorous suggestion that he should suffer himself to be proclaimed king was contained. Compare Diodorus Siculus xx. 24, where of one he says, διάδημα μὲν οὐκ ἔκρινεν ἔχειν, ἐφόρει γὰρ ἀεὶ στεφανον.

How accurately the words are discriminated in the Septuagint and in the Apocrypha may be seen by comparing in the First Maccabees the passages in which διάδημα is employed (such as 1:9; 6:15; 8:14; 11:13, 54; 12:39; 13:32), and those where στέφανος appears (4:57; 10:29; 11:35; 13:39; cf. 2 Macc. 14:4). Compare Isai. 62:3, where of Israel it is said that it shall be στέφανος κάλλους, but, as it is added, διάδημα βασιλείας.

In the N. T. it is plain that the στέφανος whereof St. Paul speaks is always the conqueror’s, and not the king’s (1 Cor. 9:24-26; 2 Tim. 2:5); it is the same in what passes for the Second Epistle of Clement, § 7. If St. Peter’s allusion (1 Pet. 5:4) is not so directly to the Greek games, yet he too is silently contrasting the wreaths of heaven which never fade, the ἀμαράντινος στέφανος τῆς δόξης, with the garlands of earth which lose their: beauty and freshness so soon. At Jam. 1:12; Rev. 2:10; 3:11; 4:4, it is little probable that a reference, either near or remote, is intended to these Greek games; the alienation from which, as idolatrous and profane, reached so far back, was so deep on the part of the Jews (Josephus, Antt. xv. 8. 1–4; 1 Macc. 1:14; 2 Macc. 4:9, 12); and no doubt also of the Jewish members of the Church, that imagery drawn from the prizes of these games would have rather repelled than attracted them. Yet there also the στέφανος, or the στέφανος τῆς ζωῆς, is the emblem, not of royalty, but of highest joy and gladness (cf. στέφανος ἀγαλλιάματος, Ecclus. 6:31), of glory and immortality. We may the more confidently conclude that with St. John it was so, from the fact that on three occasions, where beyond a doubt he does intend kingly crowns, he employs διάδημα (Rev. 12:3; 13:1 [cf. 17:9, 10, αἱ ἑπτὰ κεφαλαὶ... βασιλεῖς ἑπτά εἰσιν]; 19:12). In this last verse it is sublimely said of Him who is King of kings and Lord of lords, that “on his head were many crowns” (διαδήματα πολλά); an expression, with all its magnificence, difficult to realize, so long as we picture to our mind’s eye such crowns as at the present monarchs wear, but intelligible at once, when we contemplate them as ‘diadems,’ that is, narrow fillets encircling the brow. These “many diadems” will then be the tokens of the many royalties—of earth, of heaven, and of hell (Phil. 2:10)—which are his; royalties once usurped or assailed by the Great Red Dragon, the usurper of Christ’s dignities and honours, who has therefore his own seven diadems as well (13:1), but now openly and for ever assumed by Him whose rightfully they are; just as, to compare earthly things with heavenly, when Ptolemy, king of Egypt, entered Antioch in triumph, he set two ‘crowns,’ or ‘diadems’ rather (διαδήματα), on his head, the ‘diadem’ of Asia, and the ‘diadem’ of Egypt (1 Macc. 11:13); or as in Diodorus Siculus (i. 47) we read of one ἔχουσαν τρεῖς βασιλείας ἐπὶ τῆς κεφαλῆς, the context plainly showing that these are three diadems, the symbols of a triple royalty, which she wore.

The only occasion on which στέφανος might seem to be used of a kingly crown is Matt. 27:29; cf. Mark 15:17; John 19:2; where the weaving of the crown of thorns (στέφανος ἀκάνθινος), and placing it on the Saviour’s head, is evidently a part of that blasphemous masquerade of royalty which the Roman soldiers would fain compel Him to enact. But woven of such materials as it was, probably of the juncus marinus, oy of the lycium spinosum, it is evident that διάδημα could not be applied to it; and the word, therefore, which was fittest in respect of the material whereof it was composed, takes the place of that which would have been the fittest in respect of the purpose for which it was intended. On the whole subject of this § see The Dictionary of the Bible, s. vv. Crown and Diadem; and Dictionary of Christian Antiquities, art. Coronation, p. 464.

[The following Strong's numbers apply to this section:G1238,G4735.]

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