My Thoughts. . .
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well” (Romans 16:1-2 ESV).
Paul refers to Phoebe as “a servant of the church.” In the RSV the word “deacon” is found rather than “servant.” The word “deacon” caused an uproar which created multiple articles denying she was a 1 Timothy 3:8-12 “deacon.” Bible students know that the male deacons in 1 Timothy 3:8-12 required a “wife” before being appointed. Therefore, most have denied that Phoebe was a “deacon” since she cannot fulfill that requirement.
If we read the New Testament in Koine Greek, most of the objections would be pointless. Paul wrote Romans in Greek, not English. Paul did not translate the Greek New Testament into English. Paul used the word diakonos in both passages. The King James Version did not translate the word diakonos in 1 Timothy 2:8 but spelled the Greek word into the English word “deacon.” This was not a translation of the Greek word, only a transliteration. This cause readers to create a “church office” rather than a working class of men in the congregation. 1 Timothy 3:8-12 gives us the qualifications necessary for a man to serve as a worker with the elders or bishops. The only difference between the diakonos in 1 Timothy 3:8-12 and the diakonos Phoebe is that one is referring to a female servant of the church and the other to the church’s male servants. One qualification required for the male to become a servant of the church is to be married. The female servant of the church was not required to have a husband. So, there was the female diakonos and the male diakonos in different congregations.
The problem lies in the fault of the King James translators. They refused to translate the word diakonos as “servant” in 1 Timothy 3:8-12 which mislead future readers. A doctrine developed from that refusal to translate so that from 1611 to 2021 Bible students refused to acknowledge that the church had female servants who were also called a “diakonos.” It apparently did not occur to some that the church had two different kinds of diakonos. One was male and the other female. The qualifications for a male servant are personal qualifications whereas the woman servant is different. Notice what Paul says about Phoebe, the female diakonos.
1). She is to be received in the Lord by other congregations as a female diakonos.
2). Her reception based upon her being “worthy” as a saint.
3). They are to assist or help her in whatever way she needs help with.
4). Since they are to help her with her church business, she is in charge of that work.
5). She is referred to as a diakonos because she has helped many others.
6). As a diakonos she has helped Paul with his church work.
The refusal of the KJV, and following English translations, to consistently translate the word diakonos as “servant,” is responsible for the incorrect views on this subject. This path is responsible for creating an English title, which is “Deacon,” which establishes an office that is honored rather than worked. This is not true of all who serve as church servants, but some have been led astray thinking it is an honorary appointment rather than the work of the church.
It is interesting that Paul lists the six things a female diakonos does which brings her honor. However, a male diakonos is not described doing any of those things which diakonos Phoebe has accomplished. In fact, verse 10 states that they must “be tested” first before being appointed to that work. The work itself is not detailed.
Notice that the female diakonos is not identified as one who prepares meals, serves people at a table, washes dishes or clothes, nor keeps houss. They may have done all of those things, but those activities are not mentioned in Paul’s praise for Phoebe as he describes her work as a servant “of the church in Cenchreae.”
Does today’s church not have the female diakonos as did the church in Cenchreae? Have we restored the church with both the male and the female diakonos?