Saturday, November 12, 2016

Can Women Be Deacons?

Some churches say that women cannot be deacons while some churches say that women can be deacons. Which is the correct view? As with any opposing biblical views, the Greek needs to be consulted in order to determine the truth.

In the Greek, there are three words we need to be concerned with: diakoneō (διακονέω), which means to minister/to serve; diakonia (διακονία), which means ministry/service; and diakonos (διάκονος), which means minister/servant. Diakoneō appears 38 times in 32 verses. Diakonia appears 36 times in 32 verses. Diakonos appears 31 times in 29 verses. Only thrice in Scripture is diakonos translated as deacons: Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8 and 12. Only twice in Scripture is diakoneō translated as deacon: 1 Timothy 3:10 and 13. It is best to understand these words in their usual translations as either ministers or servants and minister or serve, respectively.

There is no "office of a deacon," as found in the KJV. In the 1560 Geneva Bible, 1 Timothy 3:10 reads: "And let them first be proved: then let them minister (διακονέω), if they be found blameless." In the same Bible, 1 Timothy 3:13 reads: "For they that have ministered (διακονέω) well, get themselves a good degree, and great liberty in the faith, which is in Christ Jesus." Other translations have "serve as deacons" (v.10) and "served as deacons" (v.13), which is a redundancy. "As deacons" is not required or necessary in either verse. The translation of verse 10 should simply be "then let them minister" or "then let them serve," and the translation of verse 13 should simply be "they that have ministered" or "they that have served." Period.

Diakoneō (διακονέω) means "to serve, wait upon, with emphasis on the work to be done and not on the relationship between lord and servant." This word is used in 1 Timothy 3:10 and 13. Diakonos (διάκονος) means "a minister, servant, deacon." This word is used in Romans 16:1 of Phoebe and, interestingly enough, it is also used in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 12.

Romans 16:1-2
1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a [deacon/servant/minister] (διάκονος, diakonos)[predicate/anarthrous,noun] of the church which is at Cenchrea; 2 that you receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of the saints, and that you help her in whatever matter she may have need of you; for she herself has also been a helper of many, and of myself as well.

1 Timothy 3:8-13
8 [Deacons/Servants/Ministers] (διάκονος, diakonos)[anarthrous,noun] likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain, 9 but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let these also first be tested; then let them [serve/minister] (διακονέω, diakoneō)[present imperative active] if they are beyond reproach. 11 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let [deacons/servants/ministers] (διάκονος, diakonos)[predicate/anarthrous,noun] be husbands of one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households. 13 For those who have [served/ministered] (διακονέω, diakoneō)[definite article,aorist participle active] well obtain for themselves a high standing and great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.

Predicate is part of a sentence that states, affirms, or asserts something about the subject. Anarthrous refers to a word that appears without a definite article—"the." Present Imperative Active describes the verb. Imperative is a grammatical mood that forms commands or requests, including the giving of prohibition or permission, or any other kind of advice or exhortation. Aorist Participle Active also describes the verb. Aorist is a verb tense expressing action or, in the indicative mood, past action, without further limitation or implication. Participle is a “verbal adjective”: it is like a verb, in that it has Tense (past, present, perfect—future participles are rare in the NT)  and like an adjective, in that it has to agree with  the noun or pronoun which it qualifies (goes with) in Number (singular or plural), Case (Nominative, Accusative, etc.) and Gender.

In 1 Timothy 3:11, Paul uses the word likewise, which means "in the same way, in a like manner, similarly, also, too, as well." It relates back to what was just said. Paul was not talking about wives of deacons because no pronoun was used to refer to them. If that is what he meant, he would have said their wives or their women. Since there are no comments about the wives of elders, why would there be comments about the wives of deacons? There is no feminine form of diakonos (διάκονος); the same form of the word diakonos is both masculine and feminine. If Paul were to use just the term diakonos if he wanted to refer to women servers, it would have been unclear to his readers. He had to identify them as women. Hence why he refers to women in verse 11 with the Greek word gunaikas (γυναῖκας): Γυναῖκας ὡσαύτως... (Women likewise...).

Based on the words used, Phoebe is referred to by using the exact same word that appears in 1 Timothy 3. This tells me that women are allowed to be deacons. In the early church, women were full and active members. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 informs us that both husbands and wives could pray and prophesy in the worship service. Paul's chief concern was that no woman should attempt to usurp the position of their husbands in the home or in the church. God has appointed specific roles and tasks for both men and women.

On the other hand, however, women are not allowed to be elders or pastors (see Women Pastors: What Does the Bible Say?). "Let the women keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but let them subject themselves, just as the Law also says. And if they desire to learn anything, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is improper for a woman to speak in church. Was it from you that the word of God first went forth? Or has it come to you only? If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord's commandment" (1 Corinthians 14:34-37). "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve" (1 Timothy 2:12-13). These verses—God-breathed, inspired by the Holy Spirit, have no bearing on women being deacons as they are under the authority of a male elder within the church.

Verses 1-7 of 1 Timothy 3 are best understood as "Qualifications To Be An Overseer/Elder," while verses 8-13 are best understood as "Qualifications For Servants." When we understand these passages in this way, and the language being used, it removes any confusion on the issue. Do not cherry pick at verses 11 and 12, trying to justify your desire for exclusion of women as deacons. Romans 16:1 uses the exact same word regarding Phoebe as is found in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 12. In order to grasp the truth here, let us eliminate the use of the word deacon and use the more accurate translation of either minister or servant, which is why 1 Timothy 3:8-13 is best understood under the heading, "Qualifications For Servants." These servants are especially qualified for ministering to the church, each other, and the surrounding community. The word "minister" here does not mean "preacher"; it means "someone who is qualified to attend to the needs of someone else."

Can women be deacons? According to Scripture, yes, they can.

Diakoneō (διακονέω) Diakonia (διακονία) Diakonos (διάκονος)
Matthew 4:11
Matthew 8:15
Matthew 20:28
Matthew 25:44
Matthew 27:55
Mark 1:13
Mark 1:32
Mark 10:45
Mark 15:41
Luke 4:39
Luke 8:3
Luke 10:40
Luke 12:37
Luke 17:8
Luke 22:26
Luke 22:27
John 12:2
John 12:26
Acts 6:2
Acts 19:22
Romans 15:25
2 Corinthians 3:3
2 Corinthians 8:19
2 Corinthians 8:20
1 Timothy 3:10
1 Timothy 3:13
2 Timothy 1:18
Philemon 1:13
Hebrews 6:10
1 Peter 1:12
1 Peter 4:10
1 Peter 4:11
Luke 10:40
Acts 1:17
Acts 1:25
Acts 6:1
Acts 6:4
Acts 11:29
Acts 12:25
Acts 20:24
Acts 21:19
Romans 11:13
Romans 12:7
Romans 15:31
1 Corinthians 12:5
1 Corinthians 16:15
2 Corinthians 3:7
2 Corinthians 3:8
2 Corinthians 3:9
2 Corinthians 4:1
2 Corinthians 5:18
2 Corinthians 6:3
2 Corinthians 8:4
2 Corinthians 9:1
2 Corinthians 9:12
2 Corinthians 9:13
2 Corinthians 11:8
Ephesians 4:12
Colossians 4:17
1 Timothy 1:12
2 Timothy 4:5
2 Timothy 4:11
Hebrews 1:14
Revelation 2:19
Matthew 20:26
Matthew 22:13
Matthew 23:11
Mark 9:35
Mark 10:43
John 2:5
John 2:9
John 12:26
Romans 13:4
Romans 15:8
Romans 16:1
1 Corinthians 3:5
2 Corinthians 3:6
2 Corinthians 6:4
2 Corinthians 11:15
2 Corinthians 11:23
Galatians 2:17
Ephesians 3:7
Ephesians 6:21
Philippians 1:1
Colossians 1:7
Colossians 1:23
Colossians 1:25
Colossians 4:7
1 Thessalonians 3:2
1 Timothy 3:8
1 Timothy 3:12
1 Timothy 4:6