Deaconess:By Any Other Name Would Still Be a Servant

Standard

Ok, so WhoreChurch said a deaconess is a deacon’s wife, but I question that, so I did a little study to check out the validity of his claim:

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As you probably know the word deacon means
Strong’s number 1249 and 1247
      1. one who executes the commands of another, esp. of a master, a servant, attendant, minister
           a. the servant of a king
           b. a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church,   cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use
           c. a waiter, one who serves food and drink
AND
1. to be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, wait upon
      a. to minister to one, render ministering offices to
              1. to be served, ministered unto
      b. to wait at a table and offer food and drink to the guests,
               1. of women preparing food
       c. to minister i.e. supply food and necessities of life
               1. to relieve one’s necessities (e.g. by collecting alms), to provide take care of, distribute, the things necessary to sustain life
               2. to take care of the poor and the sick, who administer the office of a deacon
              3. in Christian churches to serve as deacons
     d. to minister
             1. to attend to anything, that may serve another’s interests
             2. to minister a thing to one, to serve one or by supplying any thing
~Note the use of ‘women’ above.
And comes from these scriptures:
Php 1:1 – Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:
1Ti 3:8 – Deacons likewise {must be} men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,
1Ti 3:10 – These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach.
1Ti 3:12 –  Deacons must be husbands of {only} one wife, {and} good managers of {their} children and their own households.
1Ti 3:13 –  For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

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In this verse:
1 Timothy 3:8-13 –
8 Deacons likewise {must be} men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 {but} holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 These men must also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women F31 {must} likewise {be} dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Deacons must be husbands of {only} one wife, {and} good managers of {their} children and their own households. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

(there also is references to the widows in 1 Timothy 5 as an example (?) of deaconesses/servants to the church)

Women also must be dignified, is this reference to a woman deacon or a deacons wife?
Notice the little F31 on women, here is the footnote

 (F31: I.e. either deacons’ wives or deaconesses)

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Easton Bible Dictionary
Romans 16:1,3,12; Phil 4:2,3; 1 Timothy 3:11; 5:9,10; Titus 2:3,4). In these passages it is evident that females were then engaged in various Christian ministrations. Pliny makes mention of them also in his letter to Trajan (A.D. 110).

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Smiths Bible Dictionary
The word diakonos is found in (Romans 16:1) (Authorized Version “servant”) associated with a female name, and this has led to the conclusion that there existed in the apostolic age, as there undoubtedly did a little later, an order of women bearing that title, and exercising in relation to their own sex functions which were analogous to those of the deacons. On this hypothesis it has been inferred that the women mentioned in (Romans 16:6,12) belonged to such an order. The rules given as to the conduct of women in (1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:3) have in like manner been referred to them, and they have been identified even with the “widows” of (1 Timothy 5:3-10)

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The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
DEACON; DEACONESS
Paul says, “I commend unto you Phoebe our sister, who is a servant (the Revised Version, margin “or, deaconess”) of the church that is at Cenchrea” (Romans 16:1). This is by many taken as referring to an officially appointed deaconess; but the fact that there is in the earlier group of Paul’s epistles no clear evidence of the institution of the diaconate, makes against this interpretation. Phoebe was clearly an honored helper in the church closely associated with that at Corinth, where likewise evidence of special ecclesiastical organization is wanting.
AND
Deacons in like manner must be grave, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre; holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience. And let these also first be proved; then let them serve as deacons, if they be blameless. Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.” Deacons and deaconesses are here provided for, and the character of their qualifications makes it clear that they were to be appointed as dispensers of alms, who should come into close personal relations with the poor.
We conclude, therefore, that the Seven and Phoebe did not exercise the diaconate in a technical sense, which appears first certainly in 1 Timothy 3, although it is not improbably recognized in Philippians 1:1, and was foreshadowed in the various agencies for the dispensing of alms and the care of the poor of the church instituted in various churches at an earlier date

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The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible
Even so must their wives be grave…
Some instead of “wives” read “women”, and understand them of deaconesses, such as were in the primitive churches; whose business it was to visit the poor and sick sisters of the church, and take care of things belonging to them; but it is better to interpret the words of the wives of the deacons, who must be as their husbands, “grave” in speech, gesture, and dress, of an honest report, a good behaviour, and chaste conversation; which will reflect honour and credit to their husbands.

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People’s New Testament
11. Even so must their wives. The word in the Greek may mean women or wives. It is rendered wife in verse 12. The Revision says, “Women must be, etc.” I believe that the Old Version is nearer right. The duties of women generally are not spoken of in the midst of a discussion of elders and deacons. Either deaconesses are meant, or the wives of bishops and deacons; more likely the latter. We know that an injudicious wife may mar the work of a church officer. Not slanderers. Not given to tattling.

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As for Phoebe on Romans 16:
John Wesley says:
Verse 1. I commend unto you Phebe – The bearer of this letter. A servant – The Greek word is a deaconness. Of the church in Cenchrea – In the apostolic age, some grave and pious women were appointed deaconnesses in every church. It was their office, not to teach publicly, but to visit the sick, the women in particular, and to minister to them both in their temporal and spiritual necessities.

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Some online stuff
http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3818/is_200510/ai_n15745309

Some of the old school commentators don’t even go there, John Wesley, Matthew Henry, skip right over the Timothy passages about it.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the whole Bible at 
http://www.ccel.org/ccel/jamieson/jfb.xi.xv.iv.html

11. their wives—rather, “the women,” that is, the deaconesses. For there is no reason that special rules should be laid down as to the wives of the deacons, and not also as to the wives of the bishops or overseers. Moreover, if the wives of the deacons were meant, there seems no reason for the omission of “their” (not in the Greek). Also the Greek for “even so” (the same as for “likewise,” 1Ti 3:8, and “in like manner,” 1Ti 2:9), denotes a transition to another class of persons. Further, there were doubtless deaconesses at Ephesus, such as Phœbe was at Cenchrea (Ro 16:1, “servant,” Greek, “deaconess”), yet no mention is made of them in this Epistle if not here; whereas, supposing them to be meant here, the third chapter embraces in due proportion all the persons in the service of the Church. Naturally after specifying the qualifications of the deacon, Paul passes to those of the kindred office, the deaconess. “Grave” occurs in the case of both. “Not slanderers” here, answers to “not double-tongued” in the deacons; so “not false accusers” (Tit 2:3). “Sober” here answers to “not given to much wine,” in the case of the deacons (1Ti 3:8). Thus it appears he requires the same qualifications in female deacons as in deacons, only with such modifications as the difference of sex suggested. PLINY, in his celebrated letter to Trajan, calls them “female ministers.”

This one is a pdf and 15 pages long, if you have time, peruse it
http://www.reformedprescambridge.com/articles/Deaconess.03jul02.pdf

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So deaconess could be …
Wife, deacons’ wife, Christian wife, servant, women, women deacons, widows.

Regardless, I think I am called to be a servant, and wife and now a deacon’s wife.

I think I can safely assume I am a deaconess (small ‘d’)
By the way, my pastor’s opinion is ~ a deaconess is a deacons wife.

Blessings, Kristina

1 day to b-day, party that is, with 4 teenage boys. I will be a servant then, cooking and cleaning up after them. And I will do it with Joy, Joy, Joy!

Blessings on your day, Serve the Lord with all your heart, mind and soul!

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5 responses »

  1. I’m sorry I wasn’t more clear in my comment–I was trying to make the same point you just discovered: While our translations say “their wives” the original says “female servants.”

    Good, thoughtful post. And you didn’t use any bad language. Oh wait, that’s not you that has a problem with that, it’s me.

  2. You are the thorough one:) Good job oh deaconess!
    I especially liked yesterdays blog…I think I fit the “fainthearted” category about now…later

  3. Kevin, i think i should state the opening line better, its not that i didnt believe you, i just had some pre-conceived notions of what a deaconess should be because of what popular christian culture does with it.
    I picture the big short-haired cloak wearing methodist type of Deaconess or a falling down in the spirit Deaconess, in essence, a woman with authority, a woman with a title, a big D.
    [Oh Lord please forgive me for those illustrations and those who i might offend with those illustations]:)
    And I really don’t want to be a big D deaconess, I really just want to be a servant, to help where and when I can. I don’t really want the authority and responsibility.
    People could go on and on and argue about what the bible says about women in authority, but we won’t here, amybe another post!
    But I must say, now I can tell people what it means exactly when they harrass me about being a deaconess.
    And that I graciously and humbly accept the role of … servant.
    And deacons wife.
    peace, krislinatin

  4. So, um, Kris, you are saying you are a deaconness with a small D?

    Think about it…think about it…think about it…

    Still don’t get it? Ask your hubby if he would prefer you to be a deaconess with a small D…

    Parts of my mind are not yet transformed by the renewing of my mind. Or maybe this is as good as it gets.

  5. Kristina,

    I agree that you (and my wife) are deaconesses in the small d sense.

    You are part of the reason your husband is a deacon. You are his helpmate. You do have authority and influence, not in exactly the same way. Likewise the requirement put on you are higher, but not in the same way as your husband. The fact that your goal is to serve means you have a deacon’s heart whatever your title may be. A deacon is essentially a servant. The heart and the action must precede the office (or the church is in trouble).

    Tim VP

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