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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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from the Greek word διακονος , in its proper and primitive sense, denotes a servant who attends his master, waits on him at table, and is always near his person to obey his orders, which was accounted a more creditable kind of service than that which is imported by the word δουλος a slave; but this distinction as not usually observed in the New Testament. Our Lord makes use of both terms in Matthew 20:26-27 , though they are not distinctly marked in our translation: "Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your deacon; and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant." The appointment of deacons in the first Christian church is distinctly recorded, Acts 6:1-15 . The number of disciples having greatly increased in Jerusalem, the Greeks, or Hellenistic Jews, began to murmur against the Hebrews, complaining that their widows were neglected in the daily distribution of the church's bounty.

The twelve Apostles, who hitherto had discharged the different offices of Apostle, presbyter, and deacon, upon the principle that the greater office always includes the less, now convened the church, and said unto them, "It is not reasonable that we should leave the ministration of the word of God, and serve tables: look ye out, therefore, among yourselves, seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost, and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word." And the saying pleased the whole multitude; and they (the multitude) chose Stephen, and six others, whom they set before the Apostles, &c.

The qualifications of deacons are stated by the Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 3:8-12 . There were also, in the primitive churches, females invested with this office, who were termed deaconesses. Of this number was Phoebe, a member of the church of Cenchrea, mentioned by St. Paul, Romans 16:1 . "They served the church," says Calmet, "in those offices which the deacons could not themselves exercise, visiting those of their own sex in sickness, or when imprisoned for the faith. They were persons of advanced age, when chosen; and appointed to the office by imposition of hands." It is probably of these deaconesses that the Apostle speaks, where he describes the ministering widows, 1 Timothy 5:5-10 .

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Deacon'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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Monday, June 1st, 2020
the Week of Proper 4 / Ordinary 9
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