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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Minister, Ministration

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1. ὑπηρέτης: Luke 1:2 ὑπηρέται τοῦ λόγου, Luke 4:20 ἀποδοὺς τῷ ὑπηρέτῃ.

ὑπηρέτης is originally ‘a rower’ (from ἐρέσσω,—the ὑτό pointing to his being under the direction of the κυβερνητης or steersman, who was the navigating officer: Encyc. Brit.9 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] xxi. 808). It is commonly used in class. Gr. in the sense of ‘a doer of hard work,’ ‘an assistant’ or ‘apparitor’ or ‘inferior officer,’ but still retains the meaning of ‘one who is under the direction or control of another’ (e.g. ὑπηρέται is the term employed by Xenophon for the adjutants or orderlies of a general).

In Bibl. Greek ‘the word covers a wide range of offices,’ but still retains this meaning: e.g. Matthew 5:25 (the officer of a court of justice = πράκτωρ, Luke 12:58), Matthew 26:58, Mark 14:54; Mark 14:65, John 7:32; John 7:45-46; John 18:3; John 18:12; John 18:18; John 18:22; John 19:6, Acts 5:22; Acts 5:26 (the Temple police, or apparitors of the Sanhedrin; cf. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iv. 715b; Encyc. Bibl. iv. 4650; Swete, St. Mark, xii. 329, 335). In John 18:36 our Lord says, ‘If my kingdom were of this world, then would my ὑπηρέται (‘officers,’ (Revised Version margin) ) fight’; with which cf. (for a similar connexion of ὑπηρέται) LXX Septuagint Proverbs 14:35 δεκτὸς βασιλεῖ ὑπηρέτης νοἡμων, Wisdom of Solomon 6:5 (kings) ὑπηρέται ὄντες τῆς αὐτοῦ (i.e. God’s) βασιλείας. In Acts 26:16 ὑπηρέτην points to the service of complete subjection into which St. Paul was called to enter, when Jesus appeared to him as the Risen Lord. He and Apollos and Cephas are ὑπηρέται Χριστοῦ (1 Corinthians 4:1). Lk.’s ὑπηρέται τοῦ λόγου may be due to his having heard St. Paul use this and similar expressions, and describes the αὐτόπται τῶν πεπληροφορημένων πραγμάτων in their service of entire subjection to the gospel (here τοῦ λόγου = ‘the gospel’ as in other Lukan passages, Acts 6:2; Acts 6:4; Acts 8:4; Acts 10:44; Acts 11:19; Acts 14:25; Acts 16:6; Acts 17:11.) ‘ὑπηρέτης and διάκονος are often used interchangeably’ (Hort, Ecclesia, 210; cf. Trench, Synon. ix, (near end); Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iii. 378a).

In Luke 4:20 the ὑπηρέτης is the synagogue official called the hazzân, who during public worship ‘hands the copy of the Scriptures to the reader, and receives it back from the hands of the man who has read the final lesson.… The hazzân rolls up the Torah roll after the reading, and, after holding it up to view, deposits it in the press’ (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iv. 640b; cf. Edersheim, Life and Times of Jesus, i. 438). Chase conjectures that John Mark was originally a hazzân or synagogue attendant (Acts 13:5; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iii. 245b).

2. λειτουργία: Luke 1:23 αἱ ἡμέραι τῆς λειτουργίας αὐτοῦ, ‘the days of his ministration,’ i.e. the week during which he was on priestly duty in the Temple.

λειτουργία is of common occurrence in LXX Septuagint in the sense of ritual service (= עֲבֹדָה Numbers 8:22; Numbers 16:9; Numbers 18:4, 2 Chronicles 31:2; cf. Diod. Sic. i. 21 (of the Egyptian priesthood), τὰς τῶν θεῶν θερατείας τε καὶ λειτουργίας). At Athens the λειτουργίαι (from obsol. ἕργω = ἐργάζομαι, and λεῖτος, λήϊτος [fr. λαός]) were State burdens of a peculiar kind laid on the citizens, e.g. defraying the cost of public choruses, or of the training of athletes, or of feasting one’s fellow-tribesmen (Xen. de Rep. Ath. i. 13; Becker, Charicles, sc. iv. n. [Note: note.] 23; Dict. Antiq. ii. 27). The use of λειτουργία in a ritual sense is not peculiar to LXX Septuagint , the Papyri having shown that it was common in Egypt, and in particular that the services in the Serapeum were designated by this title (Deissmann, Bible Studies, 138; cf. Moulton, Expositor, vi. vii. [1903] 116).

Lk. speaks of the prophets and teachers at Antioch λειτουργούντων τῷ Κυρίῳ, by which prayers to Christ are probably meant (Acts 13:2). λειτουργεῖν and the group of words connected with it are used, as in LXX Septuagint , by the writer of Hebrews of the ministry of the tabernacle (Hebrews 9:21; Hebrews 10:11); metaphorically, of the more excellent ministry of Christ as High Priest in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 8:2; Hebrews 8:6); they are also applied to the ministry of angels (Hebrews 1:7; Hebrews 1:14). St. Paul speaks of civil rulers as λειτουργοὶ θεοῦ, thus ascribing to them a sacred function (Romans 13:6). Evidently the ritual sense of this group of words is always present to the mind of the Apostle when he has occasion to use them (Romans 15:16 ‘Paul the ministering priest, the preaching of the gospel his priestly function, the believing Gentiles his offering’ [Gifford], Romans 15:27, 2 Corinthians 9:12, Philippians 2:17 ‘the Philippians the priests, their faith the sacrifice, the apostle’s life-blood the accompanying libation’ [Lightfoot], Philippians 2:25; Philippians 2:30; cf. Westcott on Hebrews 1 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , p. 231). Those passages also show that Christ’s ministers are sacrificing priests only in the same sense as the rest of the members of the Christian brotherhood, who render λειτουργίαι to God and to men by ‘the work of faith, and the labour of love’ (cf. Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iii. 377a; Lightfoot, Philip.2 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] p. 182).—The application of λειτουργία to the prayers offered at the dispensation of the Lord’s Supper is a comparatively late ecclesiastical usage (Cheetham, Dict. Chris. Antiq. ii. 1018; Lightfoot, l.c. 261; Trench, Synon. xxxv).

3. διάκονος, διακονεῖν, -εῖσθαι (διηκόνουν, διηκόνησα, later impf. and aor. for ἐδιακόνουν, ἐδιακόνησα).—

The derivation of διάκονος is uncertain. If Buttmann’s conjecture is right (Lexil. i. 218), that the root of the word is an obsolete verb διακω = διώκω, it may have originally meant ‘a messenger.’ Prellwitz (Etymol. Wörterbuch, 74) connects it with = ἑγκονέω, ‘to he active,’ the long α being explained as arising from δια + α = a weak form of the ἐν in ἑγκονεω. The original meaning would then be ‘one who is quick and active in service.’ The Greek usage of the word is fully dealt with by Hort (Ecclesia, 202 ff.), who quotes, amongst other passages which bring out its menial associations, Plato, Gorg. i. 518 A, where it is said that, except gymnastics and medicine, ‘all other arts which have to do with the body are servile and menial (διακονικάς) and illiberal.’ Hort also shows that by later Greek writers it was sometimes used in a lofty figurative sense, e.g. by Epictetus, Dissertationes, iv. 7. 20, ‘For I think that what God chooses is better than what I choose. I will attach myself as a minister and follower (διάκονος καὶ ἀκόλουθος) to Him; I have the same movements as He has, I have the same desires; in a word, I have the same will (συνθελω).’ Long’s translation, 348.—‘The true proper Greek sense’ is ‘an attendant whose duty it is to wait on his master at table.’

In the Gospels, διάκονος and its derivatives are used in the sense of preparing or serving a meal, Mark 1:13 (|| Matthew 4:11), Mark 1:31 (|| Matthew 8:15, Luke 4:39), Luke 10:40; Luke 12:37; Luke 17:8, Matthew 22:13, John 2:5; John 2:9; John 12:2; in the same sense, figuratively, Mark 9:35 (not exactly || Matthew 23:11, Luke 22:26-27), Mark 10:43; Mark 10:45 (|| Matthew 20:26; Matthew 20:28), John 12:26; of ministering service generally, Luke 8:3, Mark 15:41, Matthew 27:55; Matthew 25:44. διάκονος does not occur in St. Luke, who uses ὁ διακονῶν (Luke 22:26-27).

The passages in which ‘minister,’ ‘to minister,’ are the renderings adopted in Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 , are the following: (i.) Of the ministry of angels, Mark 1:13 (|| Matthew 4:11) οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ, cf. Genesis 28:12, 1 Kings 19:5, Daniel 10:21, John 1:51, Luke 22:43, Hebrews 1:14, 1 Peter 1:12. Christ’s nativity. His temptation, His agony, His resurrection, His ascension, were all accompanied by their sympathetic ministrations.—(ii.) Of Peter’s wife’s mother, Mark 1:31 (|| Matthew 8:15, Luke 4:39) διηκόνει αὐτοῖς at the Sabbath meal immediately after the fever left her. ‘Et nos ministremus Jesu’ (Jerome, quoted by Swete, in loc.).—(iii.) Of the ministering women, Luke 8:3 (Mark 15:41, Matthew 27:55) αἵτινες διηκόνουν αὐτῷ [αὐτοῖς] ἐκ τῶν ὑπαρχόντων αὐταῖς, and continued doing so till the close of Christ’s life on earth. αἵτινες (= tales quœ) may imply that they had the heart as well as the means to minister to Him. Lk. has much to tell us about the women friends of Jesus (e.g. Luke 10:38-42; Luke 11:27; Luke 23:27; Luke 24:22).—(iv.) The great sayings about service being the path to true greatness, Mark 9:35 πάντων διάκονος, ‘minister of all,’ Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 (not exactly || Matthew 23:11, Luke 22:26-27), Mark 10:43; Mark 10:45 (Matthew 20:26; Matthew 20:28, which is followed by an extensive interpolation of a similar tenor in DΦ, Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , Ext. Vol. 345a) ἔσται ὑμῶν διάκονοςκαὶ γὰρ ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οὐκ ἦλθε διακονηθῆναι ἀλλὰ διακονῆσαι.—Promotion to true greatness is not effected by such methods as are adopted by ‘the princes of the Gentiles’ to gain or to retain supreme power; nor does it depend on an act of partiality, such as the sons of Zebedee imagined might be exercised in their favour if they applied for it in time. It is regulated by fixed spiritual laws, or by the general principle that honour comes in the Kingdom of God by disinterested love. As ‘to get pleasure you must forget it’ (Seth, Ethiopic Principles, 66; W. L. Davidson, Theism, 372), so to be great you must cease to think of greatness and humble yourself to serve others, which includes the being quick to discern and open-hearted to minister to their needs, even to the sacrificing of yourself for their good. They who shall have the highest place in God’s household are they who take the duties of its humblest member, the δοῦλος, upon themselves; and they who shall be qualified to sit down at the feast of salvation are they who fulfil the work of the διάκονος at table, who wait upon those whom God regards as His guests, and minister to their wants (cf. Menzies, Mark, 200). Jesus sets forth this principle in the most touching manner as that of His own life (cf. Acts 10:38). He is Himself the living embodiment of the truth which He teaches. In saying that He ‘came not to be ministered unto, but to minister,’ He does not mean that the ministrations He is receiving are not welcome, but He defines the main object of His sojourning in this world, and speaks of Himself not as the Guest whom the whole world will delight to honour, but as the humble attendant upon those who are in want; not as the Benefactor who is to be raised by men to the highest earthly glory, but as One who is come to serve them (seeing that on account of the state they are in there is no other way in which He can effectually and completely serve them) by the surrender of life itself (cf. Mark 15:31). This was Jesus’ path to the most exalted greatness. It led to there being given Him by God ‘the name which is above every name’ (Philippians 2:9, cf. Hebrews 2:9), and also to His receiving from man the undying homage of his heart, together with the confession of the tongue that his highest ideal of human goodness and service is now realized in Jesus. So, when we follow His example and are lifted out of ourselves by His Spirit of ministering love, everything that came to Him will come to us, according to the measure in which we, who are infinitely inferior to Him, will be found meet for it,—God’s approval of our life, increasing influence for good, that true greatness which consists in our becoming better able to elevate and bless our fellow-men (cf. Caird, Univ. Serm. 260), and to minister to them in the highest way by leading them to righteousness (Daniel 12:3), and which may also comprehend the power to minister to them in a higher state of being (cf. Matthew 25:21, Luke 19:17).* [Note: ‘My idea of heaven is the perpetual ministry of one soul to another’ (Tennyson, Memoir by his Son, ii. 421).] —(v.) Matthew 25:44 πότεοὐ διηκονήσαμέν σοι; those words supplement in a solemn way the sayings just commented upon. Ministering love is not only the path to true greatness, it is also the indispensable condition of future exaltation with Christ. He who ‘for our sakes became poor,’ who turned the light of His infinite pity upon the world of hunger, poverty, and misery, still calls the hungry and poor and miserable ‘His brethren,’ and accounts their cause His own. Not to have ministered to their needs is not to have ministered to His (cf. Lowell, ‘The Vision of Sir Launfal’; and ‘The Legend of St. Martin’s Cloak,’ Farrar, Lives of the Fathers, i. 630). At His coming in glory, Christ will declare His love to those who have loved, and will admit them as ‘joint-heirs with Himself’; but He will reject as unmeet for companionship with Him those who have not taken the position among their fellow-men which He showed them how to take when He said, Ἐγὼ δέ εἰμι ἐν μέσῳ ὑμῶν ὡς ὁ διακονῶν (Luke 22:27, cf. John 13:5).—These sayings of Jesus virtually create a new standard of social ethics. They give to the prophetic teaching of the OT on considerate and brotherly conduct (חֶסֶד, see W. R. Smith, Proph.1 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] 160, 407; Driver, Sermons on OT, 221, 232) the breadth and completeness which it yet lacked. ‘If we wish to feel the contrast of the Pagan and the Christian ideals of greatness, we have only to compare the Aristotelian picture of the μεγαλόψυχος, the proud aristocrat who lives to prove his independence and superiority, with that other picture of a Life that poured itself out in the service of others’ (Seth, Ethiopic Principles, 264).

Later Stoicism ‘sometimes expressed with much warmth the recognition of the universal fellowship and natural mutual claims of human beings as such’ (Sidgwick, Hist. of Ethics, 120), but this was really inconsistent with the hard isolation of the individual that was the fundamental basis of Stoicism (Lightfoot on Philippians 2, ‘St. Paul and Seneca,’ 296), and the practical results of such teaching were small (Lecky, Europ. Morals12 [Note: 2 designates the particular edition of the work referred] , ii. 78–79). Numerous coincidences are found between the teaching of Jesus and the humane sayings of Seneca, Epictetus, and Marcus Aurelius. But, as Lightfoot observes (l.c. 291), ‘an expression or a maxim, which detached from its context offers a striking resemblance to the ethics of the Gospel, is found to have a wholly different bearing when considered in its proper relations.’ Stoicism was wholly wanting in humility, which is the very foundation of ministering love as taught by Jesus (cf. Westcott in Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] ii. 857b, iii. 1380). With Him, such love is not an occasional precept of benevolence, but, as Harnack says (What is Christianity? 98), it is ‘the religious-maxim.’

The following passages will show some of the results produced by our Lord’s teaching in Christian thought and life. There are differences of διακονίαι (1 Corinthians 12:5), but the manifold faculties for ‘the work of ministering’ are gifts from the Exalted Lord (Ephesians 4:12), and each disciple has received a gift of some kind to be laid out in Christian service (1 Peter 4:10-11). Some are called to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4, 2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Corinthians 6:4, Colossians 4:17, 1 Thessalonians 3:2, 2 Timothy 4:5), to testify the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24) and win men to faith (1 Corinthians 3:5); God has committed to such ‘the ministry of reconciliation’ (2 Corinthians 5:18). Some as attendants and comrades can strengthen the hands of those engaged in this work: St. Paul was thus helped by Timothy and Erastus (Acts 19:22), by Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7), by Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18), by Mark (2 Timothy 4:11), by Onesimus (Philemon 1:13). Some can render invaluable help in the local churches, as Stephanas and his household at Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:15), and Phœbe at Cenchreae (Romans 16:1). Ministering to the wants of the poor, the sick, the stranger, the prisoner, was constantly called for (Acts 6:1-2, Romans 12:7, Hebrews 6:10; cf. Hebrews 10:34, Revelation 2:19). A collection (two are mentioned) is a διακονία (Acts 11:29; Acts 12:25, Romans 15:31, 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 8:19-20; 2 Corinthians 9:1; 2 Corinthians 9:12-13), and St. Paul speaks of his journey in charge of the latter as itself a part of the ministration (Romans 15:25 πορεύομαιδιακονῶν τοἵς ἁγίοις, see Gifford’s note). The above passages show that ‘a faithful minister of Christ’ (Colossians 1:7, cf. 1 Timothy 4:6) is one who combines with the stated ministry of the gospel the service of his fellow-men in things temporal and external.—Thus διάκονος, διακονεἴν, in showing men the path to greatness, have themselves attained to greatness. It is true of words as well as of persons, that God as revealed in Christ ‘hath exalted them of low degree’ (Luke 1:52).

Literature.—Stephanus, Thesaurus (Hase and Dindorf’s ed.); Hastings’ and other Dictionaries of the Bible; Dict. of Antiquities; Dict. of Christian Antiquities; Hort, The Christian Ecclesia; Lightfoot, Philippians; Deissmann, Bible Studies; Swete, St. Mark; Menzies, Mark; Trench, Synon. ix, xxxv; F. W. Robertson, Human Race, 143; R. W. Dale, Fellowship with Christ, 247; P. Brooks, Mystery of Iniquity, 327; R. W. Church, Human Life, 125; W. Sanday, Conception of Priesthood, 35.

James Donald.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Minister, Ministration'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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