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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary


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A female deacon. It is generally allowed, that in the primitive church there were deaconesses, 1:e. pious women, whose particular business it was to assist in the entertainment and care of the itinerant preachers, visit the sick and imprisoned, instruct female catechumens, and assist at their baptism; then more particularly necessary, from the peculiar customs of those countries, the persecuted state of the church, and the speedier spreading of the Gospel. Such a one it is reasonable to think Phebe was, Romans 16:1 . who is expressly called a deaconess or stated servant, as Dr. Doddridge renders it. They were usually widows, and, to prevent scandal, generally in years, 1 Timothy 5:9 .

See also Spanheim. Hist. Christ. Secul. 1: p. 554. The apostolic constitutions, as they are called, mention the ordination of a deaconess, and the form of prayer used on that occasion. (lib. 8: ch. 19, 20.) Pliny also, in his celebrated epistle to Trajan (xcvii.) is thought to refer to them, when, speaking of two female Christians whom he put to the torture, he says, qux ministrae dicebantur, 1:e. who were called deaconesses.

But as the primitive Christians seem to be led to this practice from the peculiarity of their circumstances, and the Scripture is entirely silent as to any appointment to this supposed office, or any rules about it, it is very justly laid aside, at least as an office.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Deaconess'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. 1802.

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