Vol.V No.VII Pg.7
September 1968

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Brother Turner:

Was Phoebe (Rom.16:1) a deacon(ess) in the church in the same sense as in Phil.1:1 and 1Tim. 3:8-13? LB


Bagster's Lexicon gives "kiakonon" (the word used in Rom. 16:1) as "accusative, singular, masculine and feminine" of "diakonos", the same word used in Phil. 1:1 and 1 Tim. 3-8. The word means, basically, "one who renders service". It is often translated "minister" with no "official" connotation. In fact, Vine's Expository Dictionary (under "minister" says, "Speaking broadly, diakonos views a servant in relation to his work; doulos, in relation to his master; huperetes, in relation to his superior; leitourgos, in relation to public service."

Significantly, in the writings of the early church "fathers", when the "deacon" began to be regarded as an "officer" in the church, they used the "leitourgos" describing him. This is a perversion of NT usage, both in concept and terminology. If we could erase the "official" concept of "deacon" from our minds, seeing such one as "servant" we would have little difficulty understanding the application of the term to Phoebe.

All who "serve" are deacons or deaconess in the general sense of the word. But the scriptures recognize certain ones as "servants" in a special sense. 1 Tim. 3:11 says "women in like manner — " even as in verse 8.(RV). These are obviously qualifications in some special sense — not simply listing characteristics of Christians. In 1 Tim. 5:9-f some function of the widow indeed is under consideration involving a "pledge" (vs. 11, RV). I do not know all I wish I knew about this passage, but it seems "the number" is more that the "count" of those helped. It was not wrong for a young widow to marry (vs. 14) but it would be wrong for her to promise some service, and then leave this to marry.

Of course, even if we conclude that specially qualified women were used as "servants" of the church in a special sense; (1) this would not remove them from their God-given place under man (1 Cor. 11:3) and their work would have to be something consistent with this place; (2) no "official" position is contemplated, for either men or women "servants"; (3) and we still could not prove conclusively that Phoebe was one of those special type of servants — although this would be my judgement in the matter.

(Took me a page and one-half to say "I do not know". Hmmmmmmmmmmm!!)

Bro. Turner:

What is meant by "lording it over" the church -- 1 Pet. 5:3?? ET


The word for "overlord" (a single greek word) is used in Mar. 10:42 with reference to an abuse of civil rule, as seen among "the Gentiles". Jesus did not condemn "making decisions" within an allotted authority given these rulers (Rom. 13) and "making decisions" within the proper sphere of bishops (or "business meetings) is not "lording it over" the church. Unjust, arbitrary rule is forbidden.