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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Deaconess

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DEACONESS . The word does not occur in EV [Note: English Version.] except as a RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] reading in Romans 16:1 . In this verse Phœbe is described as ‘a diakonos of the church that is at Cenchreæ.’ AV [Note: Authorized Version.] and RV [Note: Revised Version.] render ‘servant,’ RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ‘deaconess.’ Against the latter must be noted: (1) There is no evidence of the deacon (wh. see) in the NT till we come to the Ep. to the Philippians, and it is most unlikely that when Romans was written there would be an official deaconess. (2) Cenchreæ was one of the ports of Corinth; and in St. Paul’s letters to the Corinthian Church there is a notable absence of any signs of a definite ecclesiastical organization in that city. The conclusion is that the diakonia of Phœbe in Cenchreæ, like the diakonia (‘ministry’) of Stephanas and his household in Corinth ( 1 Corinthians 16:15 ), was a gracious but unofficial ministry to the saints (cf. Romans 16:2 b).

In 1 Timothy 3:11 , however, although the word ‘deaconess’ is not used, it is almost certain that female deacons are referred to. AV [Note: Authorized Version.] misleads us by making it appear that the wives of deacons are spoken of; RV [Note: Revised Version.] corrects this by rendering ‘Women in like manner must be grave, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.’ And when the whole passage (vv. 8 13) is read, it seems evident that the women referred to in v. 11 are diakonoi ‘in like manner’ as the men described both before and after. We know from Pliny, writing early in the 2nd cent., that by that time there were deaconesses in the Christian Churches of Bithynia ( Ep . X. 96). And in the ancient world the need must have been early felt for a class of women who could perform some at least of the duties of the diaconate for their own sex in particular.

J. C. Lambert.


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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Deaconess'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/hdb/d/deaconess.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Friday, October 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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