DIAKONON in Romans 16:1

B. Ward Powers bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
Thu Mar 28 03:25:38 EST 2002

At 08:23 PM 020327 -0500, Polycarp66 at aol.com wrote:
>In a message dated 3/27/2002 6:42:01 PM Eastern Standard Time, 
>aei_didaskomenos at hotmail.com writes:
>> > Cindy Smith        I have further observed under the sun that
>> > cms at dragon.com        The race is not won by the swift,
>> > cms at 5sc.net        Nor the battle by the valiant;
>> > cms at romancatholic.org    Nor is bread won by the wise,
>> >             Nor wealth by the intelligent,
>> > Me transmitte sursum,    Nor favor by the learned.
>> >     Caledoni!        -- JPS Ecclesiastes 9:11
>>DIAKONOS is obviously a feminine here, but it could be either a masculine
>>or a feminine noun. There are certain cases in Greek where a noun's genre
>>can only be defined either by the context or the article before it: hO, hH
>>SYZYGOS (=husband), hO, hH PAIS (= child).
>One slight addition here.  This is a second declension noun.  Most 2nd 
>decl. nouns are masc.; however, the gender can only truly be determined by 
>the article as Manolis has stated (as you know, gender as used in 
>grammatical terms does not invariably indicate physical gender).  It is 
>other indications here which in the absence of the definite article 
>indicate that this is a female - viz. name and the use of ADELFHN.  I'm 
>wondering whether DIAKONOS might be only exhibited in the 2nd decl. due to 
>its being a terminus technicus.  It would not be unusual for a word to 
>appear in both the 1st and 2nd declensions as is evidenced by ADELFOS and 
>ADELFH, but DIAKON- doesn't occur in the 1st decl.

Comment: there are fifty Second Declension nouns which either are or can be 
feminine; 28 of these are always feminine; 11 of these can be either 
masculine or feminine (and take the corresponding feminine article, 
adjective, etc.) without any difference of meaning; 11 can be either 
masculine or feminine, indicating the sex of the person or animal referred to.
[Anyone wanting the details of these will find them all on pages 264 and 
265 of my Grammar book "Learn To Read the Greek New Testament.] DIAKONOS is 
one of these latter. For example, in John 2:5 the reference is clearly 
masculine, because the article is masculine. But (as has been noted) in 
Romans 16:1 the reference is clearly feminine because of the name and the 
use of THN ADELFHN. Cindy noted in her post that she had seen this 
sometimes translated "deacon" and sometimes "deaconess". This latter is 
unjustified and sexist. It implies that there is a different word in the 
Greek for "deacon" and "deaconess", and thus by implication that there can 
be a difference of meaning and role between these two words. But there are 
not two words - just the one word DIAKONOS. And it should be rendered the 
same way whether it is masculine or feminine when indicating this role and 
office in the church. There is no more a distinction to be drawn between 
men and women by using the terms "deacon" and "deaconess" than there is 
justification for referring to male and female believers as "Christian" and 

>Since you seem interested in dealing with the role of women in the N.T. 
>(and early church?), you might look at _When Women Were Priests_, by Karen 
>Jo Torjesen - if you haven't already.  I can't say that I think too highly 
>of it.  It has some interesting material; however, she fails to deal 
>adequately with the question of the role of women in the catholic church 
>as opposed to sects and to examine whether the failure of the catholic 
>church to establish/maintain women in positions of authority was due to 
>their prominence in the sects.  In fact, sometimes it is difficult to 
>remember (or possibly to discern - it's been some time since I read this) 
>whether the women she speaks of in positions of authority were in the 
>catholic or sectarian tradition.

Anyone interested further in these issues is invited to reader the chapters 
on deacons and elders (and all other related topics, and relevant biblical 
references) in my book "The Ministry of Women in the Church".

>gfsomsel ---
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Rev Dr B. Ward Powers        Phone (International): 61-2-8714-7255
259A Trafalgar Street          Phone (Australia): (02) 8714-7255
PETERSHAM  NSW  2049      email: bwpowers at optusnet.com.au
AUSTRALIA.                         Director, Tyndale College

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