🔼The name Stephen: Summary
- From the noun στεφανος (stephanos), that which surrounds.
🔼The name Stephen in the Bible
The name Stephen, or Stephanos, belongs to one of the proverbial seven, who were added to the proverbial twelve, specifically for tasks that had to do with the fair distribution of food among Jewish and Hellenistic members of the congregation (Acts 6:5). Stephen's name is mentioned 7 times in the New Testament; see full concordance.
Stephen was a man of great wisdom, who attracted the inevitable opposition of various sects, and ended up getting stoned to death. Those who did that to Stephen famously laid their robes — ιματια (imatia) — at the feet of Saul, later Paul (Acts 7:58), therewith introducing the great future evangelist into the story. But Paul was no chief wardrobe, and the story of seven-over-twelve (twelve tribes, seven pillars, one house; see Proverbs 9:1), rather obviously, is a synthetically crafted story, perfectly grafted upon the literary super-structure of the Biblical narrative at large.
Like the universe, the Bible is a huge fractal — and a fractal repeats significant structures at different levels of complexity; see our article on the noun αστηρ (aster), star, for more on fractals. The story of Stephen is part of the super-structure that forms the very backbone of the entire Biblical narrative, namely the story that tells of how Israel emerged and subsequently became equipped with a centralizing Law, then solidified into the centralized empire of Solomon, which breached but was restored by Zerubbabel, from which arose the Christ and finally the Body of Christ and the New Jerusalem (hence Stephen's sermon to the council, which tells this whole story: Acts 7).
No single manifestation of any fractal is the one and only true one, so there is no single one true explanation of this story. The Bible often hints at the perfect match between this structure and the natural emergence of language and writing (see our article on YHWH), but probably the most recognizable manifestation of this structure is the emergence of DNA-based life — and note that the Biblical narrative does not progress along a temporal axis but a complexity one: the Biblical story does not tell events in chronological sequence but in the sequence of increasing complexity:
🔼Let there be light
Organic life began on planet earth as a spontaneous electromagnetic economy of complex molecules, but the how and why of this are still noted enigmas to science. The Bible tells this story in the form of Abraham emerging in Ur (means light) and his subsequent journey to Canaan (means trade), where Abraham was followed by Isaac and Isaac by Israel and Israel became the twelve tribes, who went into Egypt as 66 souls (Genesis 46:26) and came out of it, 430 years later, as 600,000 souls (Numbers 11:21), and if these numbers look familiar, see our article on χξς (ch-x-s), or 666.
The next step up in the complexity of life happened when in the global soup of complex molecules suddenly DNA appeared. How that happened is a big mystery to science, although the panspermia hypothesis offers a plausible explanation of how DNA got to earth, namely from outer space. How it came to be in outer space continues to be a mystery, but in our article on αστηρ (aster), star, we briefly hint at our own pet hypothesis (which has to do with Chladni patterns of standing gravity waves). We also don't know if all life on earth started with one single living thing that somehow got assembled and then populated the otherwise barren earth, or whether DNA rained from outer space and became a whole zoo of creatures and our most distant ancestor somehow won from all the others (the Bible's famous creation account appears to support the latter).
But the biological nucleosynthesis is in the Bible described in great detail as the deposition of the Law in Israel. The Law wasn't literally deposited, of course, but Moses had to go up Mount Sinai to retrieve it, and then he broke one set and had to go back for another (Exodus 32:19, 34:1). But Israel's Law, like DNA, was spread out over two tablets: one tablet pertaining to the Fatherly Creator (Exodus 20:1-12), and the other one pertaining to the Motherly society (Exodus 20:13-17). Later these two stone tablets would become paper scrolls, not perfectly similar but also not unlike DNA's helical form.
Whatever thermodynamic goings on had governed the original complex soup, the presence of the genetic law organized the cell body into a unified and autonomous creature. The prokaryotic lifeform that thus emerged moved around, toting its tent-like nucleoid along with it, until it began to develop membranes for its organelles and a temple for it genetic code: it had become a eukaryote (and see our article on endosymbiotic eukaryosynthesis for a more detailed look at this).
🔼Let there be lights
The next step up for life is told in the Bible as the loss of the united kingdom under king Rehoboam, which marks the end of the First Temple Period, then the exile under king Zedekiah and the restoration under Zerubbabel, which marks the beginning of the Second Temple Period. And the difference between these two templar periods is enormous. The first temple was dedicated to YHWH, which was the Hebrew way of saying Alphabet — not suggesting that God is the alphabet, but that if the Son may be called the Word, then the Father would be aptly named Alphabet; but see our article on YHWH for a more detailed look at this. The Hebrew alphabet was completed in the days of king David, and the crucial contribution to alphabetical writing (which really is the crib in which the Word was received) was wrought in Persia, namely the postal service.
The postal service made complex correspondence possible, which in turn gave rise to the typical synagogue structure of the Second Temple Period. No longer was Jewry a single cellular creature, wholly centered on the Temple in Jerusalem, but rather a multi-cellular creature, whose multiple cells contained copies of the original law, and which maintained unity by continuous correspondence and a continued, collective discussion on the explanation and expounding of the law (hence also the famous Ethiopian tabot tradition, which is typical Second Temple). The Second Temple in Jerusalem was no longer the genetic nucleus of a single cellular creature but began to be the governing brain of a much more complex organism, whose social "body" extended far beyond local borders and literally wafted the world over.
The next step up on our journey through the phases of life's complexity comes with sexual reproduction, in which Jesus of Nazareth matches the description of a female gamete: an ovum, to the inattentive observer just another cell in a much larger body. Jesus' single set of genes came from his mother, Mary, who, like her cousin Elizabeth, was a Levite. Also because humanity is the feminine partner in all of this, Jesus was genetically speaking a Levite ovum. His earthly ministry resulted in the raging of social hormones first, and then of course his rejection and crucifixion. (And to preempt an obvious objection: in the Hebrew language, and the Bible at large, masculinity is the tendency to be alone or an individual, whereas femininity is the tendency to be collective; this is why God, the Father, is masculine, and mankind, Israel, Jerusalem are consistently called mothers; see our article on אמם, 'amam, motherhood)
🔼Let there be man
When a woman ovulates, the ovum is expelled from the ovary and lands in the Fallopian tube, where it exists wholly severed from the maternal bodily economy, which means that the ovum is by all accounts as dead as a chopped off finger. Right after the ovulation, the ovum is literally already outside the woman's body since it doesn't have to pass a membrane to travel to the place of waste and be gone. In the Fallopian tube the ovum is as outside the body as anything held on one's hand.
But, fortunately for all of us, Jesus was the lucky ovum that was resurrected. Just like the Temple stopped being a cellular nucleus and the restored Temple began to be a collective brain, so Jesus stopped being an ovum and began to be a zygote — no longer one single cell of the mother's larger body, but a whole new being, in form equal to one cell but in essence equal to the entire mother: a single-cellular human or a single-person people. And to rain on any potential parade a bit: this whole process naturally results in a birth, of course, but neither the mother nor the child can be expected to understand when that has happened. The mother will only know that she felt very sick at some point, and that a part of her came out and is now wriggling in her arms. But since she has or had never given birth before, she does not possess the faculties to begin to comprehend that there are two of them now until the child becomes autonomous and starts to disagree with her.
Three days after his very real death, Jesus resurrected and for forty days appeared to Mary Magdalene and company, the twelve, the two on the road to Emmaus, the five-hundred (1 Corinthians 15:6), and whoever was present at the ascension. This demonstrates that Jesus was not an ovum by himself, but together with his close circle — suggesting that Jesus embodied the genetic material within the ovum and the others the rest of it (the ovum is the largest cell in the mammalian body and contains, beside the haploid nucleus, organelles like mitochondria, with their own DNA, and cortical granules and such).
Stephen, to go back to our story, represents what's called the Corona Radiata, which is a layer of follicular cells (with their own nuclei) that surround the ovum and protect it while it is open for fertilization. The fertilization of the ovum is described in Acts 2, an event colloquially known as the outpouring of the Holy Spirit — the verb famously used in Joel 2:28 is שפך (shapak), to pour out, is used for a great many liquids, but the derived noun שפכה (shopka) means penis (Deuteronomy 23:1). See for more on this particular detail of the story our article on כבוד יהוה (kabud YHWH), or the "glory" of the Lord. For the mystery of the 100 liters of myrrh oil (everybody knows that the Jews never embalmed their dead), read our article on Nicodemus.
🔼Let there be woman
When the Jews returned from Persia, blessed and heavily funded by the emperor, suddenly everybody wanted to be one and the leaders of the restoration movement were forced to carefully check whether enthusiasts were actually Jews. Those who could not prove their lineage were rejected and became the Samaritans. Likewise the ovum. First the entire maternal body conspires in rejecting and ejecting it, but then very quickly all sorts of volunteers line up to enter it. One of the jobs of the Corona Radiata, and the Zona Pellucida it's part of, is to prevent entry of any of mankind's many ideas that are wonderfully exiting but can't prove their consistency with the Word of God (Acts 6:9-10).
The Zona Pellucida is able to prevent entry of such foreigners because it understands not only its own genetic constitution but also that of its entire species, which means that it is wired to recognize the male spermatozoon when it sees it. Only when the two gametes — the paternal spermatozoon and the maternal ovum of the same species — touch and fuse laterally, the Zona Pellucida becomes hard and impenetrable (which corresponds to the dying of Stephen).
As history tells, the Body of Christ reconnected with the maternal body it had sprang from, and thanks to Roman emperor Constantine, the world at large came to grips with the formal church, which served as the placenta between world and Child. It's worth to note that the maternal body has no knowledge of the Child growing within her. The maternal body is only aware of the placenta — the world understands the church from its buildings, its business component, its organizational structures and procedures and possibly even some of its psychology — but the world at large has no idea that behind all those visible and relatable components there is an autonomous people waxing.
And the best part, of course, is that the Child too barely has any knowledge of itself, does not realize that it exists within an entity it is bodily equal to, and wholly depends on, but from which it will emerge and which it will come to rule. And that to the great joy of both mother and Child — and Father, of course (Revelation 21:22), but please keep in mind that all these things are part of a monotheistic picture, not some kind of revised pagan pantheon. Also keep in mind that these are self-similar patterns whose correlations break down and go their own way at some point. Or in the word of John: "there are three that testify: spirit, water and blood and these three are as one" (1 John 5:7-8).
🔼A few more notes on the resurrection
In Philippians 3:10-11, Paul says that he wants to (1) know Christ, and (2) the power of his resurrection, and (3a) the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, (3b) becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow (4) to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
But elsewhere he says that in Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3, also see John 21:25), even that Christ is before all things and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:17, also see John 1:1-3). That implies that his wish to "know Christ" is to know everything about everything: to have all the knowledge in the universe.
Christ is the formal code, the "DNA", of the whole of created reality, and simply not enough to bring about an actual whole creation because it's the DNA of the mother. The Child requires both a maternal and a paternal formal constitution. That means that the actual Child is something that goes way beyond "merely" all the knowledge of everything. Hence, in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul writes that if he were to know all the mysteries and all knowledge, but no love, he would be nothing at all. In Ephesians 3:19 he speaks about the love of Christ that surpasses all knowledge. And in Philippians 4:7 he speaks of the peace of God that surpasses all comprehension.
So, yes, knowledge and wisdom are crucially important because without a complete wisdom — that is any iterative instance of the Golden Rule, no matter how simple or complicated, as long as it is whole and complete — there is no ovulation, and there can be no resurrection. The resurrection is what happens beyond all knowledge. It's what all knowledge is for; it's the application of all knowledge. Life may be based on a discrete set of data, but its substance is the most fundamental substance of the universe, namely light, and its essence is the most fundamental principle of the universe, namely freedom (Galatians 5:1).
We all are born as parts of the societal mother, but then we die and end up like waste in the mother's bloodstream. Most of us will get filtered out by the mother's kidneys and liver and be evacuated, but some of us, somehow, make it past the blood placenta barrier and into the Child. How? Well, that's the challenge Paul poses.
🔼Etymology of the name Stephen
The name Stephen is actually Stephanos — in English, most Biblical names were clipped of their Greek and Latin extensions, with the notable exceptions of Jesus and Titus, probably because nobody would want to pray to Jees or read from the Book of Tit. The name Stephanos is identical to the word στεφανος (stephanos), meaning "that which surrounds", from the verb στεφω (stepho), to put 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.
The name Stephen means Corona and came to describe a crown — our English word crown comes from the Latin corona, which transliterates the Greek κορωνος (koronos), meaning curved or bent (this word isn't used in the New Testament) — and the crown itself had evolved from the διαδημα (diadema), or diadem, from the verb δεω (deo), meaning to bind. That means that Stephen was named after the legislative element of a ruling authority: the job of a sovereign to decree law, in order to bind the general population into a unified entity.
A Hebrew name that means crown is Atarah. Still, the Jews didn't coronate their kings but anointed them into office, and since this act of anointing literally marked the anointee's sovereignty — meaning he had no earthly superior and worked directly for God — every office that depended on the sovereignty of their officers was marked by anointing. That means that not only kings but also (high) priests and prophets were anointed. The Hebrew word for anointee, or "anointed one" is Messiah, from the verb משח (mashah), to anoint. The Greek word for "anointed one" is Christ, from the verb χριω (chrio), to anoint.
The government that was promised to be on the Child's shoulders (Isaiah 9:6) is a perfectly decentralized republican government, in which every single member is a sovereign Anointed One, a Christ, and none of them is above any other (1 Corinthians 15:24). The society that thus arises is one signified by ελευθερια (eleutheria), or freedom-by-law, which is collective sovereignty or collective Christhood.