🔼The name Stephanas: Summary
- Corona, Surrounding By A Great Many
- From the noun στεφανος (stephanos), that which surrounds.
🔼The name Stephanas in the Bible
The name Stephanas occurs three times in the New Testament, but only in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians (namely in 1:16, 16:15 and 16:17), and in such a way that it seems to refer to a word joke or even to Paul's signature cunning encryption (see our article on Onesimus for more on that).
We hear first of Stephanas when Paul goes to great length to explain that Christ is not divided, and that he — thank God! (1 Corinthians 1:14) — did not baptize (βαπτιζω, baptizo) anyone. Except, of course, Crispus and Gaius. But beside them, nobody else could claim that they were baptized in Paul's name. Except, of course, Stephanas and his entire household, but other than that, Paul doesn't know whether he baptized anyone. But that's possibly because Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel — foolishness to those who are perishing (1 Corinthians 1:17-18).
The name Crispus means Curly and Gaius means Of The Land, so "Crispus and Gaius" means "Every Turn Of The Land" or simply: the whole earth. And at the end of his letter, Paul calls Stephanas and his household the first-fruits (απαρχη, aparche) of Achaia, which is suspiciously high praise for people he couldn't remember earlier. He continues to urge his audience to be in submission to "such men", and expresses his joy over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus.
🔼Etymology of the name Stephanas
The name Stephanas comes from the verb στεφω (stepho), to place around:
The verb στεφω (stepho) means to put round, mostly of celebratory laurels, wreaths and crowns around celebrants' heads. Noun στεμμα (stemma) means a surrounding or coronation. Noun στεφανος (stephanos) means "that which surrounds"; a corona, wall, hedge or crown (emphasizing that a crown is not placed on top of someone's head but rather around it). From this latter noun comes the verb στεφανοω (stephanoo), to wreathe or coronate or endow with a corona of any kind.
In our article on the very similar name Stephen (Στεφανος) we demonstrate a high degree of similarity between the primary pattern of salvation — from Abraham to Christ — and the mammalian reproductive cycle. When an ovum is fertilized, it virtually immediately enters mitosis: it begins to divide and ultimately produce different cell types. But although the ovum divides, the genetic code does not divide but is massively copied into every newly formed nucleus in every newly formed cell. Paul's evangelism did precisely that: dividing without dividing.
The obvious pun Paul makes is that the curse of Eve contained the harrowing clause "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbirth; in pain you will bring forth children" (Genesis 3:16). As any Greek speaker knew, the name Achaia means Place of Pain (i.e. our entire modern post-Eve world) and Achaicus means Man of Pain, an obvious wink to the Man of Sorrows mentioned by Isaiah (Isaiah 53:3), who came to undo the damage done by Adam and Eve (for Fortunatus, see Ecclesiastes 1:18).
The name Stephanas (Στεφανας) is the same as Stephen (Στεφανος), except for the final vowel. This curious mutation is hard to explain but where the "-os" suffix is very typical for Greek words, the "-as" gives our name a distinctive Latin ring, which perhaps is the whole idea.
The name Stephanas might simply be a Latinized version of Stephen and mean the same: Corona. However, the fairly common Greek "-as" suffix marks participation (like: φυγας, phugas, exile, from φευγω pheugo, to flee) or collectivity (like: νιφας, niphas, snowstorm, from νειφω, neipho, to snow), which suggests that Stephanas means [Massive] Surrounding, or perhaps more melodically: A Crowning With Many Crowns.