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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
This word is found only once in the NT, and it is used in connexion with heathen sacrifices. In the temples of the ancient world it was customary to make large use of floral decoration, and especially of wreaths or garlands, on the occasion of religious festivals. Often the priests, the worshippers, and, in particular, the sacrificial victims, were adorned with such wreaths of flowers or leaves at the time of sacrifice. The Romans had a specific name for the wreath or garland worn by the priest and worshippers when taking part in sacrificial worship-the corona sacerdotalis, or ‘priestly garland.’ We have repeated references in classical writers of both Greece and Rome to the practice of adorning the sacrificial beasts with garlands or fillets of flowers or leaves (cf. Virgil, aeneid, v. 366; Euripides, Heracleidae, 529). This association of garlands with heathen worship led the early Christians to object to their use altogether (cf. Tertullian, de Corona Militis).
In Acts 14:8-18 we are told that, on the healing of a lame man by the Apostles Paul and Barnabas at Lystra in Asia Minor, the people imagined the wonder-workers to be incarnations of the gods Jupiter and Mercury, and declared, ‘The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men’ (v. 11). In accordance with this idea, and probably also with a view to reaping the fruits of the religious excitement that had been aroused, the priest of Jupiter brought forth oxen and garlands to the gates of the city for sacrifice (v. 13). The garlands here were wreaths or chaplets of flowers or leaves intended for the victims and probably also for those taking part in the service.
The Gr. word στέφανος, which is usually translated ‘crown’ in the English version, is more correctly rendered ‘wreath’ or ‘garland,’ and, like the στέμματα (fillets) of Acts 14:13, consisted of leaves or flowers, and was not only used in sacrifices but awarded as a prize to victors in war or at the games (cf. article Crown).
W. F. Boyd.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Garlands'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/g/garlands.html. 1906-1918.