That Royal Diadem

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D is for Diadem

What do you picture when you hear the word diadem? Something like this?

crown1

Or this?

crown2

Or this?

coin of ancient Greek wearing_the_diadem

Our word diadem comes from the Greek word diadema, meaning band or fillet. A diadem was worn by ancient monarchs as a symbol of their status. In ancient times a diadem was typically a thin band, tied around the head, with the ends dangling in the back, as shown in the third photo. Ancient diadems were often a simple ribbon of white or blue, perhaps decorated with pearls or gems, although some were more elaborate, as shown below.

elaborate_Diadem

This spiffy model belonged to a noblewoman of the Ptolemaic dynasty. Photo credit: Wolfgang Sauger

Over the centuries, more elaborate headgear for royalty was invented, and today the word diadem might be applied to any of the photos above. During Bible times, however, diadems were a simple band.

Click here for a detailed discussion of ancient diadems, including numerous photos.

Crown vs Diadem

There is another Greek word normally translated as crown—stephanos, which means a chaplet or wreath. Stephanos could mean a variety of wreaths, such as those won by victors in races, those that honored bravery during battle, or those worn by celebrants at a feast. These wreaths were typically made of some plant, such as laurel, oak or flowers.
Almost all references to a crown in the New Testament translate the word stephanos, meaning an honor or reward, but not a sign of royalty. The word diadema is only used three times in Revelation, twice referring to the beast/dragon and once referring to Christ who is described in 19:12. “His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself.”
Can you picture it? Christ is not wearing an unwieldy pile of hefty medieval crowns, but several slim bands, each signifying royalty. The king of kings indeed!

Now it’s time to check out some other D words.

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