This is the feminine form of the term diakonos (accusative singular feminine). It is the general Greek term for minister/servant. It is used

1. of Christ in Mark 10:45; Rom. 15:8

2. of Paul in Eph. 3:7; Col. 1:23,25

3. of deacons in Phil. 1:1; 1 Tim. 3:11

There is evidence in both the NT and early post-biblical church writings for the office of deaconess. Another example of women in local church ministry in the NT is "the widows' roll" of the Pastorals (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:3-16). The RSV, Amplified, and Phillips translations have "deaconess" in Rom. 16:1. The NASB and NIV have it in the footnotes. The NEB has "who holds office." All believers are called, gifted, full-time ministers (cf. Eph. 4:12). Some are called to leadership ministry roles. Our traditions must give way to Scripture! These early deacons and deaconesses were servants, not executive boards.

M. R. Vincent, Word Studies, vol. 2, pp. 752 and 1196, says that the Apostolical Constitutions, dating from the late second or early third century, makes a distinction between the duties and ordination of female church helpers.

1. deaconesses

2. widows (cf. 1 Tim. 3:11; 5:9-10)

3. virgins (cf. Acts 21:9 and possibly 1 Cor. 7:34)

These duties involved

1. caring for the sick 

2. caring for those physically persecuted 

3. visiting those in prison who were persecuted for the faith

4. teaching new believers

5. assisting in baptism of women

6. some overseeing of female church members


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