The concept of the crown originates from a cap, turban, or more formal metallic crown that was decorated with jewels. Its placement on one's head indicated that one was set apart (nezer [r,zEn]) for a particular task or calling. Such crowns were used for the high priest ( Exod 29:6 ; 39:30 ; Lev 8:9 ) or for kings of Israel ( 2 Sam 1:10 ; 2 Kings 11:12 ; Psalm 89:39 ; 132:18 ). The crown indicated the consecrated role of its wearer, since it could be profaned ( Psalm 89:39 ). In the case of the king it also reflected his exalted position ( Psalm 89:19-20 ).
Besides the concept of consecration and exaltation, a second term for crown in the Old Testament (atara) indicated the presence of honor. In some cases it pictured the reception of honor because one entered into a special position. Wives were crowned with honor to show their new status, as is indicated in the metaphorical picture of Israel married to God ( Eze 16:12 ). To remove the crown was an indication of shame ( Eze 21:26 ). In other cases, the crown indicated the presence of honor as a cause for glory and joy. These are more metaphorical uses. So a good wife is a crown to her husband ( Prov 12:4 ). So also are grandchildren ( Prov 17:6 ), living to old age ( Prov 16:31 ), riches ( Prov 14:24 ), or a good harvest ( Psalm 65:11 ). God is also a crown in this sense. To experience the blessing of his character and activity on one's behalf is said to be a crown. So his lovingkindness and mercy can be a crown ( Psalm 103:4 ), as can mere relationship with him ( Isa 28:5 ).
In the New Testament the image changes, since the major term for crown is stephanos [stevfano"], which referred in secular contexts either to the victory garland at a race of the sovereign crown that the Roman conqueror wore. This term is used eighteen times in the New Testament.
The image of the crown in Paul's writings is developed in detail in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27 with his image of the race and the perishable crown that the victor wins. In contrast to that crown stands the imperishable crown that goes to the Christian who completes the race. The crown is an honor received as a cause of joy. Its unfading character is highlighted in Peter's description of the "unfading crown of glory" ( 1 Pe 5:4 ). In cases where the crown bears a description, like "crown of righteousness, " the characteristics described represent what is acknowledged as present by God. In other words, God does not hand out literal crowns, but offers the acknowledged honor of the presence of this characteristic in the believer for eternity. So we have the crown that is life ( James 1:12 ; Rev 2:10 ). There is also the crown that is glory in 1pe 5:4, the crown that is righteousness in 2 Timothy 4:8, and the crown that is rejoicing in 1 Thessalonians 2:19. In these uses the image is much like the Old Testament examples from Psalm 103:4 and Isaiah 28:5.
A second New Testament use looks back at the crown as honoring rule or sovereignty. Negative images exist alongside positive ones in Revelation. So the locusts wear crowns ( Rev 9:7 ), as does the woman of Revelation 12:1 and the beast and the dragon ( 12:3 ; 13:1 ). Here is negative, destructive sovereignty. Other images indicate honor and sovereignty of those who stand on the side of God or judgment, such as the elders of 4:4, 10 and the white horse of judgment in 6:2. But in contrast to all these images, both negative and positive, stands the one who is crowned with many crowns, Jesus ( 19:12 ). His superior authority is indicated by the multiplicity of crowns he wears. The honor and consecration he has, as well as his authority are unique.
The many crowns image also contrasts poignantly with the one crown image in the Gospels, where Jesus wears a crown of thorns. This image is designed to mock Jesus' claims to kingship. The biblical reply to that mocking image of the Passion is the decisive image of Revelation 19 and what it represents.
Darrell L. Bock
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The crown was among the Romans and Greeks a symbol of victory and reward. The crown or wreath worn by the victors in the Olympic games was made of leaves of the wild olive; in the Pythian games, of laurel; in the Nemean games, of parsley; and in the Isthmian games, of the pine. The Romans bestowed the "civic crown" on him who saved the life of a citizen. It was made of the leaves of the oak. In opposition to all these fading crowns the apostles speak of the incorruptible crown, the crown of life ( James 1:12 ; Revelation 2:10 ) "that fadeth not away" ( 1 Peter 5:4 , Gr. amarantinos; comp 1:4 ). Probably the word "amaranth" was applied to flowers we call "everlasting," the "immortal amaranth."
This ornament, which is both ancient and universal, probably originated from the fillets used to prevent the hair from being dishevelled by the wind. Such fillets are still common; they gradually developed into turbans, which by the addition of ornamental or precious materials assumed the dignity of mitres or crowns. Both the ordinary priests and the high priest wore them. The crown was a symbol of royalty, and was worn by kings, ( 2 Chronicles 23:11 ) and also by queens. ( Esther 2:17 ) The head-dress of bridegrooms, ( Ezekiel 24:17 ; Isaiah 61:10 ) Bar. 5:2, and of women, ( Isaiah 3:20 ) a head-dress of great splendor, ( Isaiah 28:5 ) a wreath of flowers, ( Proverbs 1:9 ; 4:9 ) denote crowns. In general we must attach to it the notion of a costly turban irradiated with pearls and gems of priceless value, which often form aigrettes for feathers, as in the crowns of modern Asiatics sovereigns. Such was probably the crown which weighed (or rather "was worth") a talent, mentioned in ( 2 Samuel 12:30 ) taken by David from the king of Ammon at Rabbah, and used as the state crown of Judah. ( 2 Samuel 12:30 ) In ( Revelation 12:3 ; 19:12 ) allusion is made to "many crowns" worn in token of extended dominion. The laurel, pine or parsley crowns given to victors int he great games of Greece are finely alluded to by St. Paul. ( 1 Corinthians 9:25 ; 2 Timothy 2:5 ) etc.
The word crown in the Old Testament is a translation of five different Hebrew words, and in the New Testament of two Greek words. These express the several meanings, and must be examined to ascertain the same.
1. In Hebrew:
The five Hebrew words are as follows:
(1) qodhqodh, from qadhadh;
(2) zer, from zarar;
(3) nezer, or nezer, both from nazar;
(4) aTarah, from `atar;
(5) kether, from kathar.
(1) Qodhqodh means "the crown of the head," and is also rendered in the King James Version "top of the head," "scalp," "pate." It comes from qadhadh, meaning "to shrivel up," "contract," or bend the body or neck through courtesy. Both the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard Revised Version, in Deuteronomy 28:35 and 33:16, translation it "crown" instead of "top" as in the King James Version. Jacob in his prophecy concerning his sons says:
"The blessings of thy father .... shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that is prince among his brethren" (Genesis 49:26 the American Revised Version, margin). Other references are: Deuteronomy 33:20; 2 Samuel 14:25; Job 2:7; Isaiah 3:17; Jeremiah 2:16; 48:45. Translated "scalp" in Psalms 68:21 and "pate" in Psalms 7:16.
(2) Zer means a "chaplet," something spread around the top as a molding about the border, and because of its wreath-like appearance called a crown. "That which presses, binds" (BDB). Comes from zarar, meaning "to diffuse" or "scatter." It is used in Exodus 25:11,24,25; 30:3,1; 37:2,11,12,26,27.
(3) Nezer means something "set apart"; i.e. a dedication to the priesthood or the dedication of a Nazarite, hence, a chaplet or fillet as a symbol of such consecration. The word in the King James Version is rendered "crown," "consecration," "separation," "hair." Comes from nazar, meaning "to hold aloof" from impurity, even from drink and food, more definitely, "to set apart" for sacred purposes, i.e. "to separate," "devote," "consecrate." It is found in Exodus 29:6; 39:30; Leviticus 8:9; 21:12; 2 Samuel 1:10; 2 Kings 11:12; 2 Chronicles 23:11; Psalms 89:39; 132:18; Proverbs 27:24; Zechariah 9:16.
(4) `ATarah means a crown in the usual sense. Comes from `aTar, meaning "to encircle," as in war for offense or defense; also actually and figuratively "to crown." Rendered sometimes "to compass." It is used in 2 Samuel 12:30; 1 Chronicles 20:2; Esther 8:15; Job 19:9; 31:36; Psalms 21:3; Proverbs 4:9; 12:4; 14:24; 16:31; 17:6; Song of Solomon 3:11; Isaiah 28:1,3,1; 62:3; Jeremiah 13:18; Lamentations 5:16; Ezekiel 16:12; 21:26; 23:42; Zechariah 6:11,14; "crowned," Song of Solomon 3:11; "crownest," Psalms 65:11; "crowneth," Psalms 103:4. the Revised Version (British and American) translations "crowned," of Psalms 8:5 "hast crowned." the American Standard Revised Version prefers to translation "crowning," in Isaiah 23:8, "the bestower of crowns."
(5) Kether means a "circlet" or "a diadem." From kathar, meaning "to enclose":
2. In Greek:
The two Greek words of the New Testament translated crown are:
(1) stephanos, from stepho, and
(2) diadema, from diadeo, "to bind round."
(1) Stephanos means a chaplet (wreath) made of leaves or leaf-like gold, used for marriage and festive occasions, and expressing public recognition of victory in races, games and war; also figuratively as a reward for efficient Christian life and service (see GAMES). This symbol was more noticeable and intricate than the plain fillet. Only in the Re of John is stephanos called "golden." The "crown of thorns" which Jesus wore was a stephanos (woven wreath) of thorns; the kind is not known (Matthew 27:29; Mark 15:17; John 19:2,5). Luke makes no mention of it. Whether intended to represent royalty or victory, it was caricature crown. Stephanos is found in 1 Corinthians 9:25; Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 2:10; 3:11; 6:2; 12:1; 14:14; plural in Revelation 4:4,10; 9:7; "crowned" in 2 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 2:9; "crownedst" in Hebrews 2:7.
(2) Diadema is the word for "diadem," from dia (about) and deo (bound), i.e. something bound about the head. In the three places where it occurs (Revelation 12:3; 13:1; 19:12) both the Revised Version (British and American) and the American Standard Revised Version translation it not "crowns" but "diadems," thus making the proper distinction between stephanos and diadema, such as is not done either in the King James Version or the Septuagint (see Trench, Synonyms of the New Testament). According to Thayer the distinction was not observed in Hellenic Greek "Diadems" are on the dragon (Revelation 12:3), the beast (Revelation 13:1) and on the Rider of the White Horse, "the Faithful and True" (Revelation 19:12). In each case the "diadems" are symbolic of power to rule.
3. Use and Significance:
There are five uses of the crown as seen in the Scripture references studied, namely, decoration, consecration, coronation, exaltation, and remuneration. (1) Decoration.
The zer of Ex, as far as it was a crown at all, was for ornamentation, its position not seeming to indicate any utility purpose. These wavelet, gold moldings, used in the furnishings of the tabernacle of Moses, were placed about
(c) the altar of incense (Exodus 30:3,1; 37:26,27). The position of these crowns is a debated question among archaeologists. Their purpose other than decoration is not known. The encircling gold might signify gratitude, parity and enduring worth.
The nezer had a twofold use as the crown of consecration:
(a) It was placed as a frontlet on the miter of the high priest, being tied with a blue lace (Exodus 39:30). The priestly crown was a flat piece of pure gold, bearing the inscription, "Holy to Yahweh," signifying the consecration of the priest as the representative of the people (Exodus 29:6; Leviticus 8:9).
(b) Likewise the Hebrew king (2 Kings 11:12) was set apart by God in wearing on his head a royal nezer, whether of silk or gold we do not know. It was set with jewels (Zechariah 9:16) and was light enough to be taken into battle (2 Samuel 1:10).
The ordinary use of the crown. There were three kinds of kingly crowns used in coronation services:
(a) The nezer or consecration crown, above referred to, was the only one used in crowning Hebrew kings. What seems to be an exception is in the case of Joshua, who represented both priest and king (Zechariah 6:11 the American Revised Version, margin).
(b) The `aTarah, and
(c) the kether were used in crowning foreign monarchs.
No king but a Hebrew could wear a nezer--a "Holy to Yahweh" crown. It is recorded that David presumed to put on his own head the `atarah of King Malcam (2 Samuel 12:30 the American Revised Version, margin). The kether or jeweled turban was the crown of the Persian king and queen (Esther 1:11; 2:17; 6:8).
The `atarah, the stephanos and the diadema were used as crowns of exaltation. Stephanos was the usual crown of exaltation for victors of games, achievement in war and places of honor at feasts. The `atarah was worn at banquets (Song of Solomon 3:11; Isaiah 28:1,3), probably taking the form of a wreath of flowers; also as a crown of honor and victory (Ezekiel 16:12; 21:26; 23:42). Stephanos is the crown of exaltation bestowed upon Christ (Revelation 6:2; 14:14; Hebrews 2:9). "Exaltation was the logical result of Christ's humiliation" (Vincent). The Apocalyptic woman and locusts receive this emblem of exaltation (Revelation 12:1; 9:7). The symbolic dragon and beast are elevated, wearing diadema, (Revelation 12:3; 13:1). The conquering Christ has "upon his head .... many diadems" (Revelation 19:12). See further Tertullian, De corona.
Paul, witnessing the races and games, caught the vision of wreath-crowned victors flush with the reward of earnest endeavor. See \GAMES\. He also saw the persistent, faithful Christian at the end of his hard-won race wearing the symbolic stephanos of rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 2:19 the King James Version), of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8), of glory (1 Peter 5:4), of life (James 1:12; Revelation 2:10). Paul's fellow Christians were his joy and stephanos (Philippians 4:1), "of which Paul might justly make his boast" (Ellicott). Long before Paul, his Hebrew ancestors saw the `aTarah of glory (Proverbs 4:9) and the `aTarah of a good wife, children's children, riches and a peaceful old age (Proverbs 12:4; 14:24; 16:31; 17:6). For Apocrypha references see 1 Macc 10:29; 11:35; 13:39.
William Edward Raffety
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