Monday, April 23, 2012


If I had a quarter for every time I've been asked about the office of "deacon" and whether or not women are qualified, I'd be rich. Were you to add a quarter for the number of times I've heard someone declare that anyone who believes women can be a deacon is not standing on the bible but has become a theological liberal, it would make my fortune even larger.

To prove their point when talking with me, they always take me to their proof text in 1 Timothy 3:13 in the King James translation where it says..."For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus." [KJV] They then remind me of what was said in 1 Timothy 2:12 and that settles it for them. 

They rest their case with arms crossed and daggers in their eye just waiting for me to admit my folly and cry for mercy from the Almighty for having become a Liberal myself. 

What's a guy to do? Maybe translate the scripture correctly? That might really help. [I'll save a "my view of a correct" translation of 1 Tim. 2:12 for another time.]

The 47 translators who did the KJV were told by brother James the King in 1604 [completed in 1611] to be sure and stay with the [his] proper ecclesiology and the episcopal structure of the Church of England which, in that day, had its ordained clergy intact. Well, when the King says that, you'd better please the King.

Lest you think I'm out in left field by myself, Dr. Daniel B. Wallace of Biola University and Dallas Seminary says this.."It is not altogether unfair to say that the motive to produce this grand work was more to protect the status quo than to meet the needs of the people. In this respect, the King James Bible resembled the Roman Catholic Rheims-Douai version rather than its own Protestant predecessors of the sixteenth century."

So they took the word "diakoneo" in 1 Timothy 3:13, which means "serve" or "minister," and paraphrased it with "have used the office of a deacon.They wound up with an entire carefully articulated and constructed phrase used as the supposed meaning of one Greek word, [diakoneo] but which only winds up, as intended, undergirding and even promoting the ecclesiastical system of that day rather than giving a true translation of the meaning of the text. They did brother King James proud.

But along came brother Strong [Strong's Concordance] a good bit later and rights the ship by translating it as simply..."to serve." Brother W.E. Vine agrees with brother Strong by saying it this way, "The R.V. rightly omits "office" and translates the verb diakoneo "to serve." 

So not surprisingly, in every other place in scripture that Greek word "diakoneo" is found, it is translated "serve" or "serving" or the equivalent English words "minister" or "ministering". No problem! That's the way it's suppose to be. 

An illustration using a method that I saw some time ago in one of the finest articles I've ever read on the subject will make my point quite well. These are just a few although many such verses in other books could be used as well.

First is Matthew 8:15 where it says, "And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose and ministered [served/diakoneo] unto them."

Then there is Matthew 20:28 which says, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, [served/diakoneo] but to minister [serve/diakoneo] and to give His life a ransom for many.

Finally, John 12:26 says, "If any man serve [diakone] me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall my servant [diakoneo] also be: if any man serve [diakone] me, him will my Father honor." [Here is is used three times in one verse.]

Now....To make this point very clear let's insert the paraphrase used by the 47 James boys in 1 Timothy 3:13 for that very same word into those Matthew and John verses and let's see what happens.

Matthew 8:15: "And He touched her hand, and the fever left her: and she arose and used the office of a deacon [diakoneo] unto them."

Matthew 20:28: "Even as the Son of man came not to be used the office of a deacon [diakoneo] unto, but to used the office of a deacon [diakoneo] and to give His life a ransom for many.

John 12:26: "If any man use the office of a deacon [diakoneo] me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall my office of deacon [diakone] be: if any man use the office of a deacon [diakoneo] me him will my Father honor."

You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a Greek scholar to see that doesn't make any sense! That's because the word was never intended to mean "The office of deacon" or "deacon." That is paraphrase or a transliteration of that single Greek word "diakoneo." 

It simply and only means to minister or to serve or to be a minister or servant when translated rather than transliterated or paraphrased for a purpose.

The previously mentioned article used one more illustration I also want to borrow that shows yet another twist to the sinister plot we're uncovering and then I'll draw some personal conclusions from all this.

In Romans 16:1 Paul said, "I commend into you Pheobe our sister, which is a servant [minister/diakoneo] of the church which is at Cenchrea...." 

Notice the 47 James boys doing the KJV [all men remember] saw a woman being talked about here. Well, they thought, that means it's safe to correctly translate the Greek word "diakoneo" as "servant" here because a woman is being talked about and everyone knows women are always supposed to serve anyway. 

But, then, the King's boys chose to transliterate it as "deacon" when it applied to a man. Could that be because they needed to be careful of ever putting men in the place of JUST serving? That really could mess up the "clergy" gig they were playing and that would be unthinkable! My goodness..what tangled webs we weave! 

That the language reveals the 47 guys bias is pretty clear when you understand where they were coming from IMHO. To them, a woman was not ever to be able to hold "the office of deacon" so they used the correct translation of "servant" even though the word is exactly the same as in 1 Timothy 3:13. They probably thought,, "Shoot! Who's to know anyway!" This was probably the last big translation ever in their view anyway. [Maybe I'd better try to stay out of their heads.]    

But the point I'm making is that the word was never intended to mean "office of deacon." It was describing a servant or serving or minister or ministering. 

There is, in fact, no "office of deacon" invisioned by the biblical writers at all and there were clear indications from them that both men and women served in special ways in the New Testament, such as Pheobe in that Cenchrean church and even with Paul in his own ministry and were called "servants." [Transliterated 'deacon.']. 

But later translations would, indeed, correct the plot they hatched. So__to have an "office of deacon" that is for men only__ is only a church tradition__and not a biblical interpretation at all. [Thank the Lord for brothers Strong and Vines and some later real good translations.] 

Come to think of it, maybe those who hold that women can serve are the biblical ones and those who hold to a male office of deacon are the___well, not liberal maybe___but certainly not biblical!!

CONCLUSION? As I see it....

1___What you have in the KJV is an adopted hierarchy of male over female and certain offices established with men only filling them, but which are not in the clear meaning of the text of scripture. I'm not saying it's evil to have "deacons" as we do today. You just have a man made system when you do. 

2___This also means that when reading about women in the KJV, you may need to really BE CAREFUL with your translation and make sure of what you're hearing is said in context and you are interpreting the text correctly.

3___What we do with the well established "office of deacon" [not evil necessarily, just not biblical] in Southern Baptist churches is anyone's guess and each churches decision, but to make it a male over female thing and then to try to make that a test of biblical orthodoxy as a Baptist is so far removed from the scriptures themselves it is incredible.

4___In this matter at least, it looks like the people in the SBC___ who hold to an office concept where women are excluded___ have tragically ceased being "a people of the book." Well I'll be, who'd of thought!

Paul B.


Off The Cuff said...

Bro. Paul,
As usual, you are right on target. I might also add that, according to Luke 8: 2-3, Jesus had at least two Women Deacons, Mary Magdalene and Joanna the wife of Chuza. :)

Paul Burleson said...

Off the C,

Thanks for commenting.

I'm going to address my views on this whole idea of "office" being in the scriptures before too long. I've come to see much of this from guys like John Zens and a few others over the past twenty years or so as I've read, researched, and grown in a new direction of understanding about the Church of the NT.

By the way, you're also correct about Mary and Joanna I believe.

Bob Cleveland said...

Wouldn't it be ironic if God had arranged, in Old Testament times, for there to be women as judges, as prophets and as rulers (like Queens)? And then, somehow, when Jesus died, rose again, and sent the Holy Spirit to indwell believers, for women to then be unable to fill such "roles"?

Especially since God said that, in Christ, there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, etc.

Oh, and that our daughters would prophesy?

Let's hear it for INCONSISTENCY!

Paul Burleson said...



Mark Burleson said...

Awesome. Love it.

Rational νεόφυτος said...

Bigger issue is that, with women serving in a function like the deaconate, doesn't this model an incorrect image of women as the authority? Maybe this would work for a Laodicean denomination like united methodists, but not a church that takes the Bible seriously.

Aussie John said...


What a breath of fresh, Biblical air!

Hmmmnn! I can hear the gnashing of teach from here!

Watch out for the darts, they can hurt!

Paul Burleson said...

Rational v,

The "diaconate" and any authority it or women might have, along with pastors, elders, and any other ministry in the Body of Christ will be addressed as I said, when I give.. "my view of a correct translation of 1 Tim. 2:12... at another time."

At that time I'll give my view on the misuse of and misunderstanding about "authority" which will CERTAINLY pertain to ANY perceived authority in a body of deacons, male OR female.

Suffice it to say at the present time that the idea of "office" is entirely foreign to the New Testament when properly understanding the text IMHO.

Aussie J,

I'm a racquetball player and have to be "quick on my feet" in every game. It serves me well on occasion when discussing theology too. LOL

Thanks my friend.

Paul Burleson said...


A point was made on my FB page that I think is so relevant to the post I wanted to copy and paste my response.

A friend of mine made this comment..."I like what David Watson wrote in his book I Believe In The Church. He said the real question isn't, "When are we going to start ordaining women?" The real question, he said, is "When are we going to stop ordaining men?"

I answered this way.. "You've raised a very good point. I'm wondering if the present day "ordination" is even a second cousin to, much less the same as, the New Testament version of ordination.

It seems to me the "laying on of hands" of scripture had more to do with setting apart for some kind of brief ministry and, perhaps, a point of recognition that the Spirit is doing something special in and through the one on whose head those hands are laid. I

f what I'm saying is in the ballpark of correctness, then maybe "gender" has little or nothing to do with it just as "office" has little or nothing to do with it. I think I'm deciding the "nothing " is correct on both counts."

Aussie John said...


To your FB response: Exactly!

Both "office" and "ordination" are a means to a humanistic end, no matter how decorated with pomp and ceremony.

Anonymous said...

I look forward to your discussion on 1 Timothy 2:12 - will you also address the verses in Chapter 3 where "husband of one wife" is used in the description of an overseer/ deacon?

In light of this (which is something I've often questioned but never really found answers to) I'm compelled to abstain from voting in our next church election.

Faith Hope and Cherrytea said...

so good..
reminded of the book '10 Lies the Church Tells Women!' by J Lee Grady
def freedom!
no respecter of persons..
go Deborah! et al via G_D