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Fausset's Bible Dictionary


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Romans 16:1; "Phoebe, servant" (Greek text: "deaconess") of the church at Cenchrea." 1 Timothy 3:11; "even so (marking a transition to another class from deacons) must the women (i.e. the deaconesses) be grave," etc. Domestic duties are omitted, though specified in the case of the deacons (1 Timothy 3:12). The same qualifications are required in deaconesses as in deacons, with such modifications as the difference of sex suggested. Pliny in his letter to Trajan calls them "female ministers."

The earliest instance of such female ministers (though of course not then formally appointed) is in Luke 8:2-3; "Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, and many others which ministered unto Him of their substance." The social seclusion of women from men in many parts of the East would render necessary the services of women in teaching those of their own sex. See WIDOWS; an ecclesiastical order of widowhood, a female presbytery, existed from those of at least 60 years old, standing in the same relation to the deaconesses of younger age (1 Timothy 5:9-11) that the male presbyters did to the deacons.

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Bibliography Information
Fausset, Andrew R. Entry for 'Deaconess'. Fausset's Bible Dictionary. 1949.

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