Such women were called deaconesses as served the church in those offices in which the deacons could not with propriety engage; such as keeping the doors of that part of the church where the women sat, privately instructing those of their own sex, and visiting others imprisoned for the faith. In Ro 16:1, Phebe is said to be a "servant" of the church at Cenchrea; but in the original Greek she is called deaconess.
Ro 16:1,3,12; Php 4:2-3; 1Ti 3:11; 5:9-10; Tit 2:3-4). In these passages it is evident that females were then engaged in various Christian ministrations. Pliny makes mention of them also in his letter to Trajan (A.D. 110).
Ro 16:1; "Phoebe, servant" (Greek text: "deaconess") of the church at Cenchrea." 1Ti 3:11; "even so (marking a transition to another class from deacons) must the women (i.e. the deaconesses) be grave," etc. Domestic duties are omitted, though specified in the case of the deacons (1Ti 3:12). The same qualifications are required in deaconesses as in deacons, with such modifications as the difference of sex suggested. Pliny in his letter to Trajan calls them "female ministers."
The earliest instance of such female ministers (though of course not then formally appointed) is in Lu 8:2-3; "Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna, and many others which ministered unto Him of their substance." The social seclusion of women from men in many parts of the East would render necessary the services of women in teaching those of their own sex. See WIDOWS; an ecclesiastical order of widowhood, a female presbytery, existed from those of at least 60 years old, standing in the same relation to the deaconesses of younger age (1Ti 5:9-11) that the male presbyters did to the deacons.
The word does not occur in English Version except as a Revised Version margin reading in Ro 16:1. In this verse Ph
The word diakonos is found in
(Authorized Version "servant") associated with a female name, and this has led to the conclusion that there existed in the apostolic age, as there undoubtedly did a little later, an order of women bearing that title, and exercising in relation to their own sex functions which were analogous to those of the deacons. On this hypothesis it has been inferred that the women mentioned in
belonged to such an order. The rules given as to the conduct of women in
have in like manner been referred to them, and they have been identified even with the "widows" of