Exegetical Paper

1 Timothy 3:8-13 

"The Importance of Qualified Wives in Qualifying Husbands for Church Office"  -Joel H. Linton, Summer 2004


“Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching.  

Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.”  

1 Timothy 4:16 (ESV)

Our task as watchmen will never truly end until the Lord Jesus Christ returns.  In every generation, the Church must always be reforming Herself.  Through lively debate in the assembly of elders, we keep each other from falling asleep at the watch.  

The debate continues in the Church today on two inter-related issues:

1. the role of women   

2. the nature and extent of the exercise of authority in the Church.  

Consonant with the culture of this age, there has been a trend in the Church to expand the role of women as much as possible while taking away as much as possible any ideas of submission or exercise of authority.  The cherished value of egalitarianism drives people either to ignore or to redefine any Scripture which points to distinctions between man and woman.  Likewise, authority structures of rule and submission laid out in Scripture are flattened by the free-wheeling  introduction of the concept of “mutuality” .

A similar trend can even be seen in reformed circles who hold to the inerrant Word of God. Pastors are exploring ways to expand the role of women in their congregations, attempting to rectify what they see as an inherited extrabibilical cultural limit from past generations on resourcing half of their congregation.  And increasingly, the thinking of seminarians sees a constricting of the Biblical concept of authority to the limited realm of the activity of the office of elder.  

Does this trend in reformed circles evince a blindspot to the cultural values of today, or is it representing an open-eyed analysis and rejection of cultural blindspots of previous generations?

Though the topic of this paper focuses on the question of female “deaconesses”, in addressing this issue, it also intersects the above questions on multiple levels.  Following are a few examples of arguments posited by some presbyters and candidates to that office these days.  Many of these are addressed in the paper.

• Heard commonly by presbyteries is the phrase, “a woman can do anything that an unordained man can do.”  This statement is founded on the underlying assumption that there is no possible exercise of authority outside of the ordained office in the church.  Or if there is, it is assumed that the prohibition of women exercising authority over man in
Timothy 2:12 pertains only to that authority exercised by an ordained officer in the church. (This passage is analyzed in page 12.)  

People who hold such a view need to consider just where unordained men serve in the church these days.  Is there really no exercise of authority when an undordained man leads the worship service or the musical part of the worship service (including interspersed prayers and exhortation related to the songs)?  When a man leads a home fellowship group, does his teaching and leadership of that small group really have no authority to it?  Were it just his family in that small group, it would be an exercise of authority of his position as father and husband; what of it when more people join the group at his home?

• People have even begun to take exception to the Westminster Standards where the office of deacon is restricted to men.   Some of supporting arguments lean on the assumption that deaconal work carries no authority.  (See page 14 and page 23.)

• The notion that the word “diakonon” describing Phoebe in Romans 16:1 is only masculine and so indicates office is examined on page pp. 15-17.

• Ordination itself is then called to question.  Is ordination really a vesting of authority if deacons are ordained?  Can we have un-ordained “deaconesses” who are installed and then at the same time up at the front “ordain” deacons so as to be officially compliant with our standards.

May this paper contribute to laying out the facts and principles on the table, as well as analyzing some of the arguments -- so that the plurality of elders sitting in session may arrive at a careful consideration and conclusion on the matter.  

Exegetical Paper

1 Timothy 3:8-13 

"The Importance of Qualified Wives 

in Qualifying Husbands for Church Office"

-Joel H. Linton, Summer 2004


This paper examines one of the main Bible passages on church polity, 1 Timothy 3, and, in particular, in verses 8-13, the list of qualifications for those who would aspire to the office of deacon.  In recent years, many have revisited the question “Can women be deacons?”  On the whole, the question arises from the Greek text itself, or more precisely, the ambiguity of the word, γυναικας, used in this text which semantic range can include either meaning of “wives” or “women.”  This paper purposes to show that rather than teaching the office of female deaconess, the passage in 1 Timothy 3 teaches the positive importance of the wives of officers in the church in assessing their husbands’ qualifications for office.

Translation of the Passage

(1 Faithful is the word: if anyone aspires to oversight, he desires a good task.

2 It is proper, therefore, for the overseer to be without reproach ...)

8 Servants, similarly, (it is proper to be) respectable, not double-tongued, not holding onto much wine, not greedy for material gain, 9 keeping the mystery of the faith with a clean conscience.  10 But also, these must be tested first, then let them, being without reproach, serve. 

11 Wives, similarly, (it is proper to be) respectable, not slanderous, sober, faithful in all things.

12 Servants, let them be of one wife husbands, well managing over children and their own households. 

13 For the ones having well served acquire for themselves a good standing, even much boldness in the faith in Christ Jesus.

(Note: A general discussion of the Greek words and interpretive choices for this translation can be found in Appendix B.  The main exegetical issue dealt with in the body of the paper is the interpretation of the word γυναικας in verse 11.) 

Structural Analysis

The broader grammatical section of this passage falls into an extended exhortation on the ordering of the church from chapter 2 verse 1 παρακαλω "I exhort" to chapter 3 verse 15 πος δει εν οικωι θεου αναστρεφεσθαι  "how to behave in God's household."  In this section, Paul describes various facets of how people should conduct themselves when they assemble together as a body of believers.  The section on deacons (3:8-13) is directly connected to the section on overseers (3:1-7), and the two then immediately follow the rule Paul explains regarding women's roles in the church, particularly, that they are not allowed to teach or exercise authority over the men in the church.  

Inherent in a passage with a list is that the structure is relatively simple.  Following is a basic outline of the structure beginning with 1 Timothy 3:2 and ending with 3:14.

δει “it is proper”

  ουν τον επισκοπον ανεπιλημπτον ειναι “therefore the overseer without reproach to be”

          μιας γυναικος ανδρα “of one wife husband”

          νηφαλιον “temperate/sober”

          σοφρονα “sensible”

          κοσμιον “orderly/respectable”

          φιλοξενον “hospitable”

          διδακτικον “apt to teach”

          μη παροινον “not a drunkard”

          μη πληκτην “not a bully”

             αλλα       “but”

          επιεικη “gentle”

          αμαχον “peaceable”

          αφιλαργυρον “not greedy for money”

          του ιδιου ιοκου καλως προισταμενον “well-ruling his own household”

          τεκνα εχοντα εν 'υποταγηι μετα σεμνοτετος “children having in full subjection ...”

               (ει δε τισ του ιδιον οικου προστηναι ουκ οιδεν,     (if anyone does not know how to rule

                     πος εκκλησιας θεου επιμελησεται;)     his own household, how...)

          μη νεοφυτον “not a neophyte”

                   'ινα μη τυφωθεισ εισ κριμα εμπεσηι του διαβολου

          δει δε και μαρτυριαν καλην εξειν απο των εξωθεν “a good witness to have with outsiders”

                  'ινα μη εις ονειδισμον εμπεσηι και παγιδα του δαιβολου

8 Διακονους 'ωσαυτως “servants similarly”

        σεμνους, “respectable”

        μη διλογους, “not double-tongued”

        μη οινωι πολλωι προσεχοντας, “not holding onto much wine”

        μη αισχροκερδεις, “not greedy for material gain”

     9 εχοντας το μυστηριον της πιστεως “keeping the mystery of the faith”

                εν καθαραι συνειδησει.         “with a clean conscience”

   10 και 'ουτοι δε δοκιμαζεσθωσαν πρωτον, “but also these must be tested first”

           ειτα διακονειτοσαν       “then let them serve”

        ανεγκλητοι οντες.       “being without reproach”

   11 Γυναικας 'ωσαυτως    “wives similarly”

            σεμνας,   “respectable”

            μη διαβολους,   “not slanderous”

            νηφαλιους,   “sober”

            πιστας εν πασιν.   “faithful in all things”

12 διακονοι εστωσαν “servants, let them be”

         μιασ γυναικος ανδρες,      “of one wife husbands”

         τεκνων καλως προισταμενοι      “well managing over children”

                 και των ιδιων οικων.      “and their own households”

13 'οι γαρ καλως διακονησαντεσ βαθμον 'εαυτοις καλον περποιουνται 

                και πολλην παρρησιαν εν πιστει τηι εν Χριστωι Ιησου.

14 Ταυτα σοι γραφω ... 'ινα ειδηις πως “these things to you I write... in order that

“you may know how...”

δει ... αναστρεφεσθαι  “it is proper to behave”

(εν οικωι θεου) “in the household of God”

Discussion of γυναικας 

Although the grammatical structure of Paul’s lists is basically simple, there is a definite disjunction in the flow of the list of qualifications for deacons here. Verse 11 arrives somewhat abruptly.  The same structure of the wording of verse 8, Διακονους 'ωσαυτως σεμνους, and verse 11, Γυναικας 'ωσαυτως σεμνας,  puts verse 11 in some kind of equivalent comparison either referring back to verse 2, δει ουν τον επισκοπον ανεπιλημπτον ειναι, or in a nested subset referring back to verse 8. This interruption in the flow of the list is further confirmed by the repetition of the noun, διακονοι, bringing the discussion back directly to deacons' qualifications.  

There are three possible interpretations suggested by the structure and wording of verse 11: either it refers to “women,” that is female deacons, or to “wives” of deacons, or “wives” of both overseers and
deacons.  (A fourth option of interpreting it to mean “women” as referring to both female overseers and female deaconesses would violate the 1 Timothy 2:12 prohibition of women teaching men because overseers have a teaching role, so this interpretation is not as viable as the other three.)

The first interpretive option would be to regard the parallelism as setting up a distinct list of qualifications for a distinct group of office-holders; that is, if there be a list of qualifications, the subject of the list is therefore an office holder.  Support could be cited by the parallelism of the wording between verse 2, verse 8 and verse 11.  Necessary to this view, then is that the word, γυναικας, must be translated, "women." And "women" must refer to the office of female deacon, since its qualification list is nested in the deacon list.  So two types of deacons are listed and then verse 12 and 13 conclude the diaconal office.  The structure would look like: A1, A2, A (general).  

However, the structure of the passage is a little more complicated and presents a difficulty for this position.  The final two qualifications listed in verse 12, one-wife husbands ruling children and households, cannot have a parallel with the women, because the women, office-holders or not, are not the rulers of their households (See 1 Peter 3:1, Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18).  Both the immediate wording and grammar as well as the broader Biblical context seem to constrain verse 12 as referring only to the male deacons.  To take verse 11 as referring to female deacons, the structure of the list then looks like: A1 (verses 8-10), A2 (verse 11), A1 (verse 12), and, finally, A in general (verse 13).  The problem that needs to be addressed if there are two kinds of deacons, male and female, both being given qualification lists here by Paul, is why verse 12 was not listed before verse 11.  

An additional problem is that the list for "women" is not completely parallel to the requirements for overseers and deacons.  Not only are they not able to meet the qualification of ruling the household well, but another qualification is absent. The "women" were not given the requirement of being a wife of one husband, although later Paul gives this exact requirement for a widow to be supported by the church. She must be  'ενος ανδρος γυνη (1 Timothy 5:9). Yet Paul does not mention it in regard to the γυναικας of 1 Timothy 3:11.  In contrast to a distinct parallel class of deaconesses, the absence of this qualification would seem rather to indicate that verse 11 refers to "wives."  In addition the reading of "female deacons" raises exegetical questions about other verses in the Bible which will be discussed below, but briefly stated here.  If it be "women" then it establishes a category of female deacon, and thereby restricts the reading of 1 Timothy 2:12 to apply only to the office of elder.  This reading would then tend to support a reading of Romans 16:1 that Phoebe held the Office of Deacon.  

A second possible interpretation would be to view the disjunction of verse 11 as one qualification in the list of qualifications for διακονους of verse 8.  This reading would require γυναικας not to be another kind of διακονους, but instead be part of the deacon's household and directly connected to verse 12.  This reading would then be that deacons must have qualified wives in addition to each only having one wife and managing his household and children well.  

This view downplays the verse 11 disjunction.  But if the "in the same way" of verse 11 is taken to refer to verse 8, instead of verse 2, then the positioning of verse 11 has a ready explanation.   Paul wanted to say the "wives" should be similarly qualified as their husbands.  But, as noted above in the discussion for the first view, the final two qualifications, one-wife husbands, and ruling children and households cannot have a parallel with the wives, because the wives are not the rulers of the households.  So at the point in the list where the qualifications match, Paul interjects the wives "similarly."  But then he continues the final two qualifications that are not applicable to wives.  The nesting of comparisons – deacons in the same way as elders, wives in the same way as deacons – is consonant with there being one kind of "deacon."  If there were two kind of deacons a male deacon and a female deacon, then the "in the same way" of verse 8 would be referring to verse 2.  And in this case, it would be more logical to arrange the qualifications in an un-nested fashion, that is:  The overseer, then male deacons in the same way, and finally female deacons in the same way.

One difficulty that must be explained for option 2 is why deacons' wives are given careful consideration, but overseer's wives are not (e.g. see question raised by Strimple, p. 18).  One possible explanation that has been put forth is that deacons' wives would more likely be assistants in a role of service that the deacons carry out, since activities of service are not excluded from women, but only the office.  In contrast, overseers' wives would not be able to assist in the activities of the overseer – teaching and ruling – because that activity in the church is limited to men.  However, a presupposition of this explanation is that the qualifications for the wives are related to the fact that they will be assisting in the activities of the office-bearer.  

This presupposition need not be assumed here.  The qualifications for wives could be related rather to the general need for the office-holders along with their wives to be above reproach, and this understanding would then allow for the third option below as well as being consistent with the second option.  Indeed if one looks at Paul's list for overseer in Titus 1:6-9, two purposes seem to be related to the qualification of family members.  First, if the officer rules his family well, then he will be able to rule the church well.  Second, if the family members are above reproach, then that helps keep the officer himself above reproach.  (See the comparison of lists in Appendix A.) 

The third view would be to conclude verse 11 refers not only to wives of deacons but also to wives of overseers, too.  This interpretation would view the verse 11 disjunction in a stronger sense as a digression, one from which Paul returns in verse 12.  (Paul exhibits this writing characteristic of interupting the main flow of the argument by digressing to another topic somewhat related to the argument in several of his letters: see e.g. Romans 11:33, Ephesians 3:20, 5:32, 1 Timothy 1:17).  As a digression, accordingly, verse 11 could then apply to both the overseer of verse 2 and the deacons of verse 8.  (Even in this reading, one who wishes to support ordaining women to the office of overseer, could not then appeal to verse 11, because 1 Timothy 2:12 would constrain the reading for this third option to be "wives.")  So this reading would be that Paul lists the qualifications for overseers, then for deacons, then upon moving on to the qualifications for a deacon's family, he lists the qualifications for wives of both officers in verse 11, and then finishes the list for deacons in verse 12 and 13.  John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion interprets verse 11 as referring to the wives of both overseers and deacons (Institutes, Bk. IV, Ch. 12, Sec. 24, p. 1250).  His reading might come as a surprise to those who have heard that Calvin held to the office of deaconess, but he does not derive that office from the text of 1 Timothy 3:11.  

Apparently, Calvin interprets 1 Timothy 5:9 χηρα καταλεγεσθω followed by the list of service works in 5:10 to be where the office of deaconess is described (Institutes, Bk. IV, Ch. 13, Sec. 19).  He additionally cites Romans 12:8 in establishing two grades of deacons, those "serve the church in administering the affairs of the poor," and those who serve the church in "caring for the poor themselves" (Institutes, Bk. IV, Ch. 3, Sec. 9). Calvin understands this second grade of deacon to be the role of deaconesses, one filled by the widows of 1 Timothy 5:9-10 (ibid.).  

However, in contrast to Calvin's view, the phrase ταις οντως χηραις επαρκεσηι, “the church may relieve the real widows,” in 1 Timothy 5:16 seems to indicate that the purpose of the qualification list given there is not for office-holders but rather for those who could be designated to receive the service of the deacons.  Accordingly, the acts of service listed in 1 Timothy 5:10 describe activities of non-officeholders.  The passage supports the principle of that exercise of spiritual gifts in a church does not require or imply holding an office in the church.  

A lengthier discussion on this separate passage in chapter 5 will take us beyond the scope of this paper.  But two points can be taken.  First, even though allowing for the office of deaconess, Calvin does not think that 1 Timothy 3:11 refers to deaconesses, but rather takes the third option above that γυναικας refers to the wives of both elders and deacons. Second, a description of diaconal-type service does not imply office-bearering, for non-office bearers are also called to perform such works of service.  

Exegetical Issues Bearing Upon Deciding Which Interpretive View is Correct

The choice for translating, γυναικας will then interact with the exegesis of some other passages of scripture, either constraining their meaning, or the 1 Timothy 3:11 passage being constrained by their meaning.  

If it be "women" then it establishes a category of female deacon, and thereby restricts the reading of 1 Timothy 2:12 to apply only to the office of elder.  This restriction would work out in either of two ways.  Either 1: Women cannot teach or have authority over men. The category of female deacon would mean that the Office of Deacon must not be authoritative  (or at least ala Calvin, then the class 2 deaconess is not authoritative, but even in this case the implication would be that not all offices of the church are authoritative).  Or 2:  Women cannot exercise "teaching authority" and the office of Deacon is not a teaching office so the authority exercised is not prohibited.  In either case, this reading would then tend to support a reading of Romans 16:1 that Phoebe held the Office of Deacon.  

So the first issue is whether or not the immediate grammatical context of 1 Timothy 3:11 narrows the possible semantic range to mean "women" instead of "wives."  Or, in contrast, if the grammar forces the other reading of "wives."  From the prior discussion and the three following considerations, I feel the weight of the immediate grammatical context supports the reading of wives (See also the discussion of Paul’s use of lists in Appendix A).  However, it does not force it.  The other reading, "women," is a possibility.  

Two considerations related to the immediate grammatical context bear on the question of how to interpret verse 11. First, the usage of the noun form γυνη itself tends to support a meaning of "wives" instead of female deacons.  For if the intent had been "female deacons," a more natural usage would have been either to write γυναικειας διακονους "female deacons" or as is commonly done in the Greek for conciseness to use the adjective alone and write γυναικειας "the female ones." (Although Peter uses the adjective γυναικειωι in the context meaning wife, actually its usage refers to the "female kind" as a "weaker vessel" the nature of being a woman (1 Peter 3:7)).  Likewise, Paul could easily have chosen that usage to mean "the female kind" in a more restrictive sense of "the female kind of deacon."  But Paul does not use the adjectival form in 1 Timothy 3:11.  If Paul, in contrast, wanted to refer to "wives," he had only one option open to him, that is using the noun, γυνη.  Indeed, the word is used with that meaning in the immediate context.  In this verse, there is no textual variant; all the manuscripts attest to the noun usage.  Second, from the comparison of qualification lists in 1 Timothy and Titus, one learns that qualifications for families of officers are important (See Appendix A). It would then stand to reason that specific qualifications would be given regarding wives. Although these two points above support the reading, “wives,” they do not force it.  

There is a third issue which some suggest bears on the question: Paul in drawing up the qualification  lists uses the articulated singular form of the word “overseer,” but a plural unarticulated form of the words “deacon” and “wife/women.”  Although at first it might seem to be germane to the argument, a closer examination reveals that it does not bear on the issue. 

Some argue that because the word γυναικας being plural is only parallel to “deacons”, it could not be referring to the singular overseer.  However one need not give much weight to the singular/plural difference.  It has a ready grammatical explanation.  In 1 Timothy 3, Paul begins with a general saying: "If anyone aspires to oversight, he desires a good work."  This saying focuses on a group of men who are aspiring to an office, as opposed to the officeholder, himself.  So Paul then moves from indirectly referring to the aspirants to directly detailing the office-holder's needed qualifications.  Use of the articulated singular noun is natural here. The fact that επισκοπον is singular but διακονους is plural also does not then imply that there is only one overseer in each church, but multiple deacons.  The article is a categorical article specifying a class of people, that is, those who have the role of overseeing.  (See Wallace p. 101 for discussion of this type of article.)   In the larger structure of the passage, this construction also serves to highlight the overseer's role of importance in contrast to the deacon's.  The deacon's role is secondary.  

The anarthrous plural noun, διακονους, need not be articulated because use of 'ωσαυτους  refers the reader back to verse 2.  Use of 'ωσαυτους indicates that a specific category is under consideration, so the article is not needed.  The continued structure in verse 11 regarding γυναικας serves the same function; the passage is not talking about women in general but a class of women specifically in relation to the overseers and deacons.  This emphasis applies whether it is specifying the class of female deacons as opposed to other women or the class of wives of deacons (and overseers) as opposed to wives in general. 

Since the immediate grammatical context is not definitely restrictive on the meaning of γυναικας, then we must move on to examine whether the meaning can be determined from the broader context of 1 Timothy, specifically understanding 1 Timothy 2:12, and then the broader context of the New Testament, specifically understanding Acts 6 and Romans 16:1.  

The Broader Biblical Context

Discussion of 1 Timothy 2:12 

διδασκειν δε γυναικι ουκ επιτρεπω ουδε αυθεντειν ανδρος,

αλλ' ειναι εν 'ησυχιαι

This passage must be considered when interpreting 1 Timothy 3:11 because in it Paul speaks to the role of women in the church and it immediately precedes and is linked to the officer qualification lists.  If 1 Timothy 2:12 can be understood to limit office-holding to men, then it could constrain the meaning of γυναικας in chapter 3 verse 11 to be “wives.”

In the ruling of the church, Paul draws a specific parallel to the ruling of the family.  And he calls the church, “the household of God.”  This close connection is reflected in the fact that men's and women's roles in the family are consistent with their roles in the church.  The fact that both officers of the church, deacons and overseers, must rule their own households well gives credence to the position that both have a role of exercising authority described in 1 Timothy 2:12.  It is not enough to say that ruling one’s household well is merely a part of keeping an officer above reproach, for Paul specifically links the ruling of the household well to ruling well over the household of God (1 Tim. 3:5, 15). (This calls to question those who would hold the position that 1 Timothy 2:12 only applied to Overseers). 

Another key issue here is whether διδασκειν "to teach" and αυθεντειν "to exercise authority over, to domineer" are two distinct activities or are to be taken collectively as "authoritative teaching."  Taken collectively, this prohibition for women could only apply with regard to the office of overseer with this reading, since only the overseer exercises the teaching role in the church.

However several reasons indicate the two words should be taken separately.  For verses 11-13, Paul’s reasoning proceeds as follows corresponding to the ordering of words in the Greek.  “A woman in silence let learn in full submission.  But to teach, I do not permit a woman, nor to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first...”  The command to “learn” in silence, and corresponding prohibition from teaching, does not therefore imply that the exercise of “authority” spoken of is necessarily “authoritative teaching.”  Rather, Paul starts with the specific command of how women should behave in the church, let learn in quietness.  Then he moves to the more general principle of submission on which it is founded.  He then prohibits teaching, then moves to the more general principle of prohibition of exercise of authority on which the teaching prohibition is founded.  Finally he founds all of these principles on the order of creation.  

We see Paul moving to the general principles behind the specific behaviors commanded/forbidden in church.  (Paul’s parenthetical ending of verse 12 “but to be in silence” serves to bring to a conclusion Paul’s commands/prohibitions concerning women here, but it does not constrict the meaning of “exercise authority over.”)  So the issue is that teaching is a subcategory of exercising authority.  The issue is NOT the reverse as some have taken it -- that the exercise of authority referred to here is somehow a type of teaching.  In verse 13 Paul establishes the general, universal nature of men having the position of authority in the church and in the home by appealing to the order of the Creation and also the order continued after the Fall.  

Proponents of interpreting verse 12 as “authoritative teaching” do so because they seek to reconcile other passages that might indicate women exercising a kind of teaching, e.g. women prophetesses.  Those who take this view say the women were not teaching with authority, but were teaching under the elders’ authority.  (John Stott takes this view to defend the Anglican church’s practice of having women preachers but formally under a bishop’s authority.)  Whether or not it is possible to teach “under authority” without exercising authority in teaching, itself, the larger category is exercising authority.  

The passage in Acts 6 will illustrate in what way a deacon’s role, in particular, could be authoritative even though it clearly does not include a teaching element.

Discussion of Acts 6

6 Vs. 1  τηι διακονιαι τηι καθημερινηι "the daily service"

6 vs. 2  διακονειν τραπεζαις "serve tables"

6 vs. 3 καταστησομεν επι της χρειας ταυτης "we will appoint over this office"

Some may object to appealing to Acts 6 because the word deacon is not used.  Though not named "deacon" in this passage, the creation of the office seems to be indicated. Calvin holds this view saying this passage describes "their origin, institution and office" (Institutes Bk. IV, Ch. 3, Sec. 9).  In constrast, Strimple appeals to analogy rather than equivalency: the Seven to aid the Apostles as deacons now help elders. But he seems not derive any further understanding regarding deacons from this passage than their subsidiary relationship to elders.  His comment that “the deacon is not a ruling office” indicates that he thinks deacons do not exercise any kind of authority (Strimple, p. 18). 

However, the use of καταστησομεν "put in charge/appoint over" for this position in contrast to καταλεγεσθω "let be enrolled" regarding the position of widows (1 Tim. 5) seems to show the authoritative position of those appointed in Acts 6. The authority can be explained in that deacons oversee the serving functions in the church, an area that was mishandled by regular Christians because it previously lacked management.  So in verse 4 the Apostles kept to themselves τηι διακονιαι του λογου "the service of the word" (an authoritative position) but in verse 3 handed the responsibility (that the church would have had the Apostles manage) of the διακονειν τραπεζαις "service of tables" (verse 2),  also called τηι διακονιαι τηι καθημερινηι "the daily service"  (verse 1).  They gave the responsibility to seven men whom they ordained to the office (vs. 3 καταστησομεν επι της χρειας ταυτης “we will appoint/ordain over this office” and vs. 6 επεθηκαν αυτοις τας κειρας “they placed their hands on them”).  The contrast is between two kinds of service, one of prayer and the word, the other the management of meeting physical needs in the church.  Both are kinds of service, but at the same time both seem to be authoritative offices.  Although this early period in the church was distinguished by extraordinary offices (e.g. Apostles), the two kinds of services - of the word and of tables - are continued in the ordinary offices of overseer and deacon.  

I argue here that the role of deacon is one of service, but specifically the management of meeting physical needs and of non-officeholders (such as supported widows) doing this kind of service in the church.  In Acts it carries with it authority, such that the diaconal office-holders needed to be publicly elected by the whole church and ordained by the Apostles.  The office in first Timothy is equivalently (or even analogously) authoritative (See Appendix A).  If this is true, and the exercise of authority over men is forbidden to women in 1 Timothy 2:12, then this passage constrains the reading of 1 Timothy 3:11 to refer to wives and not to female deacons.

Finally we come to a passage where the word “deacon” is used but as will be argued does not necessarily refer to the office of deacon, so will actually not help resolve the question of translating 1 Timothy 3:11.

Discussion of Romans 16:1

As a supporting argument for the interpretation of “deaconesses,” people often mention the verse in Romans 16:1 of Phoebe, a (S?)servant of the church of Cenchrea.  (Robert Strimple even uses it to title his article, “Phoebe was a Deacon.”)  All sides agree that in this verse the word, διακονον, is clearly describing Phoebe, as the word is in context of the sentence and agrees in case and gender (since the word διακονον can be used for either masculine or feminine sense).  

All those supporting women office-holding invariable want to translate διακονον (the accusative case of διακονος) as Deacon, or in my translation Servant with a capital “S”, the office, even though this word can have either meaning servant or Servant.

Secondarily, the argument of prominence comes up.  Surely Paul mentioned Phoebe first in his personal greeting.  Therefore she must be an office-holder.  The underlying assumption, however, cannot be applied here.  In verse 2, Paul does say that Phoebe has been a "patron/protectress/helper) to many people including Paul.  One thing that is clear is that Phoebe has been serving people.  Indeed, that is the characteristic of her actions (versus teaching or preaching or other activities).  No one would argue that office-holders are the only ones who do enough service in the church to deserve prominant recognition.

Further, the fact that Phoebe was mentioned first may indicate merely that she is the one bringing this letter to the church in Rome, or that she is coming with the party bringing the letter to the church in Rome.  Either way, Paul is looking out for Phoebe, who is a native of Cenchrea in Greece and will need a place to stay and to be received by the church in Rome where she is not a member.  Her prominence in this part of the letter has to do with her going to Rome and Paul endorsing her and giving her a letter of reference so the Christians will accept and help her there.  In contrast, the following people mentioned are all people that must be already in Rome. He is specifically greeting them.

1 ... την αδελφην 'ημων, ουσαν και διακονον της εκκλησιασ της εν Κεγχρεαις ...  

2 ... και γαρ αυτη προστατις πολλων εγενηθη και εμου αυτου

And finally, it is argued that Phoebe is characterized by doing the work of a deacon which is then construed to support the word διακονον referring to the office.  Verse 2 does describe what kind of service Pheobe performed.  She became a "protectress, patron" of many including Paul.  The word προστατις is not used elsewhere in the New Testament.  It could simply mean that Phoebe hosted many people when they were staying in Cenchrea as Lydia hosted Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:15), or it could take a connotation of helping them escape trouble or persecution (Bauer, p. 718).  Acts does not give us much detail about what happened in Cenchrea, only that Paul took a vow and had his hair cut off (Acts 18:18)  (Strimple argues that the further mention of Phoebe’s serving works προστατις  would be superfluous unless the first reference “διακονον was to designate an office (Strimple, p.18). But Paul’s construction here: help her “και γαρ” (for indeed)  she helped many including me is rather a reinforcement and further testimony of Paul and others knowing first hand, having specifically witnessed and benefitted by her help, rather than just having heard a report of her being a servant.  It does not seem superfluous.)

That she is described as a servant of the church in Cenchrea means that is where she is from and that is the type of activity she contributes to the body of that church.  It does not necessarily imply that she is the office-holder, Servant, of this church.  

From looking at this passage, we can definitely conclude that Phoebe is a servant, but we cannot conclude that she is a Servant.  It seems both positions can continue to maintain their positions in considering this particular text; more definitive help can be found in the other passages discussed above.

Conclusions on Translating γυναικας  

Both the immediate grammatical context and broader context of the New Testament (1 Timothy 2:12 and Acts 6) seems to give weight to constraining the reading of 1 Timothy 3:11 to be "wives."  In my paper I have attempted to show that the more plausible reading is that it refers to wives of both deacons and overseers for the following reasons:  the usage of the noun γυναικας instead of the adjectival form γυναικειας, the importance Paul places on qualifications of the families of office-holders, the fact that Paul calls the church the house-hold of God, and carries over the analogous authority structures of the home, the lack of importance Paul places in the ordering of the lists and Paul’s common tendency to make digressions which explain the abrupt placement of the qualifications for wives, the fact that the list of qualifications for office-holders immediately follows Paul’s prohibition in the church of women exercising authority over men coupled with the indications in Acts 6 that deacon’s do have an authoritative role in the church, and finally, that the other positions seem weaker and some of the support cited for them (e.g. Rom. 16:1) seems on a closer examination not to apply, so the balance is in favor of this position.

However, the two difficulties with this interpretation (although this paper sees it as the best reading) is that the qualification for the wives is found only in the deacon list instead of making them parallel in both lists, and that the wording is an exact parallel of verse 2 and verse 8.  Had Paul simple added one additional word, the masculine plural pronoun αυτους “their” to accompany the word γυναικας, it would have made the case easier to decide in favor of translating the word, “wives.”  Or in the converse, had Paul simply used the adjective γυναικειας “female ones” instead of using γυναικας, it would have given more clear weight to the reading “female deacons.”  

The other interpretations of 1 Timothy 3:11 considered were that it refers to 1. wives of deacons only or 2.women deacons.

The strengths of the “wives of deacons” interpretation is that its placement only in the deacons list is natural, and this view would fit with 1 Tim. 2:12 and would not seem to put women in an authoritative role that Acts 6 describes deacons having.  But the corresponding difficulty is this view must maintain that elders’ wives are not an important qualification for office even though their children are.  

The strengths of the “women deaconess” interpretation is that it is consonant with the placement in the deacons list, and gives full force to the word “likewise”.  But this view has a number of problems.  The list for the women is notably absent of the parallel requirement that women must be of-one-husband wives.  And deaconesses cannot meet the requirement of ruling their own households and children well, since women are under their husband’s authority in the home.  Additionally the presence of female deacons would restrict the office of deacon from being authoritative, which is not consonant with Acts 6.  In essence it relegates the diaconal office to that of doing service only rather than also having the task of managing the service of non-officeholders in the church.  

Implications of This Study

A major implication of the conclusion of this paper is that churches need to give careful consideration regarding a candidate’s wife when selecting a man to hold an office in the church, whether elder or deacon.  Additionally, in light of Acts 6, some deacons might need to consider expanding their ministry from individually doing the service (e.g. cutting lawns, paying bills) to recruiting and managing non-officeholders gifted in service to work alongside of them in serving the needs of the church.  

There are also some practical implications regarding church polity.  The same church cannot hold to the practice of ordaining women to serve as deacons and at the same time hold the opposite position of excluding women from the office of deacon in the church.  The church will have to decide which view to put into practice.  However people with both views can coexist in the same church.  This is possible because the issue of whether or not to ordain women deacons is not a Gospel issue (unlike the holders of the circumcision position in the Galatian church, whom Paul anathematized [Galatians 1:8-9]).  Likewise, it is not an issue arising out of whether or not one holds the Biblical innerancy.  People who hold the Bible as the inerrant Word of God can and do come out on either side because in this passage both interpretations of the Greek word are possible.  This debate comes rather under those issues where Paul says, “and if any point you disagree, that, too, God will make clear to you, only live up to what you have already attained.”   On the operational level in the church, one view must defer to the other, because both are mutually exclusive in practice.  

For a missionary who holds to the position of this paper, I am willing to work with denominations who ordain female deacons.  But I do not wish to establish it as a pattern in the new churches I plant if I can help it because I do not think ordaining women to office is correct church polity.  

The PCA currently has a clear stance on not ordaining women to either office of elder or deacon.  For those who hold to deaconesses, it would be appropriate to work towards persuading the majority to change the view in an orderly process, while deferring to the majority position in practice until such a time as the rule may change.  In the meantime, women with gifts of service can still exercise them outside of the office. 

For the peace and unity of the church, one cold imagine a situation where one denomination allows for two practices to be held since the deacons only operate on the local church level.  The denomination could leave individual churches to decide on whether or not to ordain deaconesses.  But this situation is not ideal.  An example from the American Civil War can serve as an analogy.  Henry Clay’s Great Compromise only forstalled but did not prevent the Civil War. And in the mean time it made almost inevitable internal State battles, one of which was so bad that the term “bleeding Kansas” became proverbial.  In the same way, it would probably be better if the denomination makes a definite polity decision on this issue for all churches.  Neither would different local churches then divide around the practice, nor would there be internal fights over what position each church would take.  Also, the minority view would then be encouraged to concentrate their efforts on the normal, orderly process of persuasion and change.  But in doing so, they would need to balance the priorities of time, following Paul’s example who presented his argument, but then concluded “only live up to what you have already attained” before moving on to a different issue.  

Ultimately, if one has rightly divided the Word of Truth, one can hope that the Holy Spirit will eventually bring people to see the truth, as He brought the Council of Jerusalem to understand the freedom Gentile Christians had from the rite of circumcision and following Jewish ceremonial law (Acts 15).

Appendix A

Ordering of Lists in Paul's Pastoral Epistles:

A Comparison of the Qualification Lists for Overseers in 1 Timothy and Titus, (and secondarily the List for Servants and for the Wives/Women in 1 Timothy).  

A full study could be made specifically of comparing different descriptive lists Paul puts to use in the pastoral epistles, both for office-holders and for non-office-holders. (See 1 Tim. 3:2-7, 3:8-13, 5:9-10; 2 Tim. 3:2-7; Titus 1:6-9, 2:2, 2:3, 2:4-5, 2:9-10, but that is beyond the scope of this paper.)

The fundamental assumption here is that the office of Overseer and Elder is one and the same office, and therefore the list of qualifications is for the same office.  The list in Titus is regarding appointing elders (1:5) and then these same men are called overseers (1:7).  Paul changes expressions from "if anyone is" to "it is necessary to be."  This explains his repetition of the word "ανεγκλητος." That an overseer only has one wife and his children exhibit qualities characteristic of being well governed by their father is a mark of the overseer being above reproach.  In the same way the overseer must be a steward of the household of God (vs. 7).  1 Timothy's overseer list is used as the reference order. 

1 Timothy 3:2-7 (Overseers) Titus 1:6-9 (Elders/Overseers)

1. ανεπιλημπτον "without reproach" (1) ανεγκλητος "unreprovable"

2. μιας γυναικος ανδρα "of one-wife husband" (2)       μιας γυναικοσ ανηρ "of one wife husband"

3. νηφαλιον "temperate, sober" (14) τεκνα εχων πιστα "children believing"

4. σωφρονα "sensible" μη εν κατηγοριαι ασωτιας 

5. κοσμιον "orderly, well behaved, respectable"       "not in accusation of profligacy

6. φιλοξενον "hospitable"       η ανυποτακτα  "or unruly"

7. διδακτικον "apt to teach"     ανεγκλητον... 'ως θεου οικονομον  (vs. 7) 

8. μη παροινον "not a drunkard" as a household steward of God

9. μη πληκτην "not a bully/pugnacious" μη αυθαδη "not self-pleasing"

10. αλλα επιεικη "but forbearing/gentle" (10, 11?) μη οργιλον "not passionate"

11.    αμαχον "peaceable" (8) μη παροινον "not a drunkard"

12. αφιλαργυρον "not greedy for money" (9) μη πληκτην "not a striker"

13. του ιδιου οικου καλως προισταμενον (12) μη αισχροκερδη "not greedy for base gain"

          "well ruling his own household" (6) αλλα φιλοξενον "but hospitable"

14. τεκνα εχοντα φιλαγαθον "a lover of good"

          εν 'υποταγηι μετα πασης σεμονοτητος (4) σωφρονα "sensible"

          "having children in subjection with all gravity" δικαιον "just"

15. μη νεοφυτον  "not a neophyte" 'οσιον "holy, devout, pious"

16. μαρτυριαν καλην εχειν απο τον εξωθεν  εγκρατη "self-controlled"

           "a good witness to have with outsiders" (7) αντεχομενον του κατα τψν διδαχεν πιστου λογου...  

"holding to that in accord with 

teaching of the faithful word

... so that they may exhort by teaching, 

to convince the ones contradicting

1 Timothy 3:8-13 (Servants) 1 Timothy 3:11 (Wives/Women)

(1, 5, 16) σεμνους,  "respectable" (1, 5, 16) σεμνας, "respectable"

μη διλογους, "not double-tongued" μη διαβολους  "not accusing talker"

(8) μη οινωι πολλωι προσεχοντας, (3) νηφαλιους  "temperate, sober"

(12) μη αισχροκερδεις, πιστας εν πασιν "faithful in all things"

εχοντας το μυστηριον της πιστεως 

εν καθαραι συνειδησει. 

και 'ουτοι δε δοκιμαζεσθωσαν πρωτον, 

(1) ειτα διακονειτοσαν ανεγκλητοι οντες. 

Γυναικας 'ωσαυτως σεμνας, 

        μη διαβολους, 


        πιστας εν πασιν. 

(2) εστωσαν μιασ γυναικος ανδρες, 

(14) τεκνων καλως προισταμενοι 

(13)     και των ιδιων οικων. 

 'οι γαρ καλως διακονησαντεσ βαθμον 'εαυτοις καλον περποιουνται και 

πολλην παρρησιαν εν πιστει τηι εν Χριστωι Ιησου.

The comparison above (for overseers) illustrates that Paul's ordering varies in each list.  Likewise he does not list all qualifications in both places, nor are the same words always used.  One can conclude then that the order of the listing is not of primary significance.  Additionally, within each list, the characteristics seem to interplay, one relating to another, some more precise, some more general, some collectively contrasting positive qualities to those negative qualities forbidden.  

One implication for our present text (on deacons) is that arguments should not be founded solely on the ordering of Paul's qualification list in 1 Timothy 3.  For example, the assumption that order of listing corresponds to order of importance cannot be supported, otherwise each list would be ordered exactly the same. 

Another implication: the varied wording and detail of description in the lists would contribute to an explanation of why Paul did not lists the wives' qualifications directly in the list for the overseer, and instead does not refer to them until taking up the list for the deacons.  In other words, his lists are designed to be sufficient for the task of selecting qualified officers but are not mathematically precise. Some people make the argument that the absence of specific qualifications for the wife of an overseer in the list for overseer has significance.  They say that the presence of word γυναικας could not mean "wives" because surely the same qualification would have been spelled out in the overseer's list.  But this argument gives too much weight on the precise wording and word order.  Qualifications related to family members are given in both lists.

However, there is one glaring lack in the list for the wives/women.  They do not and cannot "rule over their households well" since that is the man's role in the family.  Both the deacons and the overseers have this requirement.  And although not explained in the deacon's list, the reason for this is given in the overseer's list: that if they cannot rule their own household well, they cannot manage the household of God.  Though the parenthetical explanation is not mentioned in the deacons' list, the list's direct coupling with the overseer's list, the inclusion of the requirement for deacons of ruling well one's household, and together with verse 15 imply the same purpose for that qualification.  That is, in the sphere of overseeing the spiritual needs of the church, the overseer must be able to manage the household of God; in the sphere of overseeing the physical needs, the deacons must manage well the household of God. 

Paul drawing an analogy between ruling one's own household and managing God's household also carries over the implication of the exercise of authority.  A woman holding an office in the church is not consonant with the authority over men that either office bears.  So the much more natural translation would be "wives" instead of "women/female deacons."  

Appendix B

Discussion of the Words

Διακονους (from διακονος, −ου) noun, accusative, masc. (could be fem. but not in this case because of modifying adjectives)  plural [second declension] "servants, helpers; ministers"

It is interesting to note that διακονους is plural and no article was used in contrast to the singular articulated “overseer” of verse 2.  The difference was discussed in the body of the paper.

'ωσαυτως adverb "in the same way, similarly" 

It either could refer to the δει εχειν in verse 7 or the δει ειναι in verse 2.  The και of verse 7 makes that clause continuing from the antecedent of verse 2, so together with the structure of a distinct list of qualifications fully supports the conclusion that, verse 8 "in the same way" refers to verse 2.  

(In verse 2 we have: 

δει ουν τον επισκοπον ανεπιλημπτον ειναι

τον επισκοπον is accusative singular 

ανεπιλημπτον "without reproach" is parallel to the adjective in verse 8, the deacon is to be σεμνους "respectable.")

σεμνους (from σεμνος, −η, −ον) adjective, accusative masculine plural, "respectable, grave" It agrees in case, gender and number with διακονους so modifies it; indeed, all the following endings in the list agree with the main noun διακονους

μη   not

διλογους  (from διλογος, −ον) adjective, accusative masculine (or fem.) plural literally "double-tongued"; "two-faced, insincere"

[The present passage is the only case of the word being used in the NT, but it can also be found in Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians.  (Bauer, p. 198)]

μη   not

προσεχοντας,   (from προσεχω), present active participle (3rd person Masc. Plural [3rd declension]) "paying close attention to, holding onto, or being addicted to"

οινωι  (from οινος, -ου) noun, dative masc. sing. "wine"   This is a Dative of Reference (addicted with reference to much wine).

πολλωι (from πολυς, πολλη, πολυ) adjective, dative masc. sing. "much"

Notice, the inclusion of πολλωι "much" wine is in keeping with the other verses that do not prohibit wine but demand μη μεθυσκεσθε οινωι "not to be drunk on wine" (Ephesians 5:18), or not to be μη οινωι πολλωι δεδουλωμενας "enslaved to much wine" (Titus 2:3).  πολλωι "much" contrasts with Paul's request for Timothy to use οινωι ολιγωι "a little" wine for his stomach in 1 Timothy 5:23. There are no textual variants.  All the texts attest to the inclusion of the word πολλωι.

This and other Bible passages listed above refute modern day rules in churches to bind consciences against drinking any alcohol at all.  Additionally, since this is said both of deacons and a parallel in overseers, μη παροινον "not a drunkard," the Bible gives greater freedom than some modern churches that restrict the officers of the church from drinking any alcohol, or restrict seminary students from drinking alcohol (eg. The C.M. & A seminary at Nyack).  

The moderate drinking of wine comes rather under the law of charity to the weaker brother (1 Corinthians 10:28-29). Since so many churches today teach against 

alcohol, the situation might require the law of love, for a Christian to abstain, yet his conscience remaining free.   (John Calvin gives a good discussion about the freedom of conscience in his Institutes Bk IV, Ch. 10, Sec. 21-31)

μη "not"   αισχροκερδεις, (from αισχροκερδης, -δες) adjective, accusative masculine plural "greedy for material gain"...  

This qualification is understandable in that deacons will be taking care of the money of the church. 

εχοντας  (from εχω) present active participle (3rd person Masc. Plural [3rd declension]), "having, holding, possessing, keeping"

το μυστηριον (from μυστηριον, −ου) articulated noun, accusative neuter singular "the mystery, the secret"  This word in common usage has a connotation of something hidden, but in Biblical usage, it means something hidden in the past or to the world, that has been made known, revealed, unveiled. See e.g. Colossians 1:26-27. It is marvelous, because what was a mystery is no longer. In one sense it continues to be a mystery in that we cannot fully grasp God's mind in this plan of redemption.

της πιστεως  (of πιστις, −εως) articulated noun, genitive feminine singular "the faith, the Christian faith, belief, trust"   

εν preposition, "in, on, with" takes the dative  

(If this is were a Dative of Interest [Wallace p. 68] then the meaning is that holding on to the mystery of the faith for the benefit of a clear conscience.  Since Paul is listing qualifications, it is probably not a Dative of Interest.  It is probably better translated: "along with a clear conscience." [see Wallace, p. 167])

     καθαραι (from καθαρος, −α, −ον) adjective, dative feminine singular "clean, pure; innocent"  

        συνειδησει (from συνειδησις, -εως) noun, dative feminine singular "conscience, consciousness, awareness"  

Question: Is the point that the person has a clear understanding of the Gospel or that the person is not a notorious sinner?  Paul uses the same expression of himself in 2 Timothy 1:3 as serving God with a clean conscience in that he prays night and day for Timothy.  The implication seems to be related to doing what is right -- a clear “conscience” as opposed to a clear “awareness/understanding.”  The issue seems to be that the deacon's walk should be consistent with his belief and profession.  

και "also"  

'ουτοι  pronoun, nominative masculine plural "these" (refers to διακονους  because it is in the middle of the section regarding deacons) 

δε "but or and" ... It carries the sense that, in addition to meeting these previous qualifications, they also need to be tested...  so can be translated "but also"

δοκιμαζεσθωσαν  (from δοκιμαζω) verb, imperative passive 3rd person plural "let them be tested"

(They need to be tested with regard to whether or not they are without reproach.) 

πρωτον, adverb, "first"  

ειτα adverb "then"

διακονειτοσαν  (from διακονεω) verb, present imperative 3rd person plural "let them serve"

οντες (from ειμι) present participle, nominative masculine plural "being"

ανεγκλητοι (from ανεγκλητος, −ον) adjective,  nominative masculine plural "without reproach" refers to 'ουτοι  these, that is, the deacons

This phrase could take two possible meanings "let them serve without reproach" or "having been tested, and being without reproach, let them serve."

I read it adjectivally: those being without reproach... let them serve, as opposed to adverbially.  (See Wallace p. 270 ff. for a discussion of these different types of usage.  )

Γυναικας  (from γυνη, −αικος) noun,  accusative feminine plural "women, wives"   I ended up translating it "wives."

     'ωσαυτως adverb "in the same way, similarly"  The structure and wording of Γυναικας 'ωσαυτως σεμνας is the same as Διακονους 'ωσαυτως σεμνους in verse 8.  But also similar to the structure of verse 2.  

     σεμνας,  (from σεμνος, −η, −ον) adjective, accusative feminine plural "grave, respectable".

μη not

  διαβολους (from διαβολος, −ον) adjective, accusative feminine plural (this declension can be either m. or f.) "slanderous, given to malicious gossip"  NOTE: Here is one of the activities for which Satan is named, "the Accuser." This usage seems parallel to the second category for deacon, μη διλογους, in that it is a qualification for the tongue.

      νηφαλιους (from νεφαλιος, −α, −ον) adjective, accusative masculine plural "sober, temperate, self controlled" 

NOTE: I do not know why this has the masculine instead of the feminine νηφαλιας. There are no textual variants, all manuscripts have this ending.  However, in the immediate context, the adjective is in a list of adjectives describing the noun γυναικας and can be assume to be serving the same function.  It has the implication of both being controlled/clear-headed and temperate in the use of alcoholic beverages (Bauer, p. 538).  This last usage would make it parallel to the third qualification for deacon.

πιστας (from  πιστος, −η, −ον) adjective, accusative feminine plural "faithful, trustworthy, reliable"

εν  "in"

πασιν (from πας, πασα, παν) dative neuter plural (or masc. in this case we take neuter) "all things"    

[Note, this phrase πιστας εν πασιν is a broad category that seems to be parallel to the remaining deacon qualifications already listed: "not fond of base gain, holding on to the mystery of the faith with a clean conscience, being without reproach."]

12 διακονοι  (from διακονος, −ου) noun, nominative masculine plural "deacons" 

εστωσαν verb, imperative 3rd person plural of ειμι  "let them be" 

μιας  (from 'εις, μια, 'εν) genitive feminine singular "of one" (referring to γυναικος)

γυναικος noun, genitive feminine singular of γυνη "of wife" 

(It also can be translated "of one woman" but the context is referring to family affairs, households, and children, and so seems to imply the reading "of one wife.")

ανδρες (from ανηρ, ανδρος) noun, nominative masculine plural "husbands"  The context of verse 12 is family relationships in the household.  Therefore, the nouns ανδρες, γυναικος, τεκνων should be translated husband, wife, and child, as opposed to man, woman, and child.

[Question: Does this mean that only married men can be deacons?  One-wife husbands are here contrasted to multiple-wife husbands, not with those not married.  The emphasis is on how many wives a husband has, not whether or not the deacon is married.  Paul himself holds the office of overseer/elder yet is not married (1 Corinthians 7:8)

Some might seek to get around this by rendering “one-woman men” in stating a quality or orientation towards one woman.  It would then seem to imply that there is a group of men free of the temptation towards lusting after other women. However, the Bible teaches that men do have a sinful nature and can be tempted towards lusting after other men's wives. Even Job, the righteous man, made a covenant with his eyes that he would not look on a woman lustfully (Job 31:1); he needed to make it to counteract his own temptations. The Bible seems more to be concerned, however, not with the temptation, but with the faithfulness in resisting temptation.]

τεκνων (from τεκνον, −ου) noun, genitive neuter plural "children"

    καλως adverb, "well" 

        προισταμενοι  (from προιστημι) verb,  present middle participle  "having authority over, managing, ruling"   

και and

των article, genitive masculine plural  "their”  (serving function of a possessive pronoun [see Wallace p. 96])

ιδιων (from ιδιος, −α, −ον) adjective, genitive masculine plural "own" 

οικων (from οικος, −ου) noun,  genitive masculine plural of   "households" 

(Note: in this section, προιστημι takes the genitive object.  Accordingly, τεκνων and οικων are objects of the verb in the genitive and can be translated ruling "over" their own households and children.)

[Question: May only married men with children become deacons?  Again, it seems the contrast is between those who do rule their children well and those who do not rule their children well, as opposed to the contrast of those who have children versus those who do not have children.]

13 'οι article, nominative masculine plural "the ones"   (It refers to διακονοι.)

γαρ "for" 

καλως adverb "well"

διακονησαντες (from διακονεω) verb, aorist active participle, nominative masculine plural  "having served"

βαθμον (from βαθμος, − ου) noun, accusative masculine singular  "standing, position, status"  (object of περποιουνται)

    'εαυτοις reflexive pronoun, dative masculine plural "for themselves"  (Dative of Advantage)

    καλον (from καλος, −η, −ον ) adjective, accusative masculine singular "proper, good, fitting" (modifies βαθμον)  

    περποιουνται (from περιποιεομαι) verb, present deponent indicative, 3rd Plural "they acquire, win, optain"

Why did Paul include this comment?  First, it could be the parallel to verse 1. "If anyone aspires to oversight, he desires a good work." starts the lists; and that "a deacon having well served acquires a good position" closes the list in verse 13.  So it possibly serves as a phrase parenthetical to the discussion of qualifications for the two offices in the church.  Additionally, it could be that deacons are being given the goal of acquiring a good standing in contrast to acquiring material gain.

και and  (It could be considered a και ascensive... translate "even" meaning the good position is that the deacon has much boldness.  If a regular conjunction, the issue could be that a direct result of having well served is that the deacon has a clean conscience and so is bold in the faith.)

πολλην (from πολυς, πολλη, πολυ) adjective, accusative feminine singular "much" (describes παρρησιαν) 

   παρρησιαν (from παρρησια, −ας) noun, accusative feminine singular   "openness; boldness, confidence, assurance; before the public"

εν "in"

πιστει  (from πιστις, −εω) articulated noun, dative feminine singular "faith"

τηι definite article, dative feminine singular  "the" 

         εν Χριστωι Ιησου   "in Christ Jesus"

(Why did Paul add "acquire a good position" AND "much boldness" in the faith?  Perhaps Paul is alluding to what he himself witnessed in Acts 6 and 7, the first deacons and the boldness of Stephen before his murderers.  This reading would indicate confidence before men and a free conscience before God. Bauer's interpretation focuses more on the relationship to God  "confidence is the result or the accompaniment of faith."  (Bauer, p. 630)

Additionally, verse 13, could be an encouragement to deacons who have a more service-oriented role, since in human terms it would seem a less desirable office than that of overseer.)  

Appendix C

Exercise in Lower Critical Technique

Since the passage under investigation has few textual issues, I will analyze 1 Timothy 3:14's textual difficulties.

Four textual variants are listed in Nestle-Aland's Greek New Testament for 1 Timothy 3:14.

(1) ελπιζων ελθειν προς σε εν ταχει is attested by A C D* P Ψ miniscule 33. 81 pc 

(2) ελπιζων ελθειν εν ταχει is attested by 6 pc vgms sa 

(3) ελπιζων ελθειν ταχιον is attested by F G 1739. 1881. 

(4) ελπιζων ελθειν προς σε ταχιον is attested by Aleph (D2) M 

Discussion of External and Internal Evidence

External: The inclusion of προς σε in reading (1) and (4) is supported by both Alexandrian and Western texts: Aleph A C D P Ψ miniscule 33. 81 M.  It is represented by the earlier texts from a broad geographical base, and seems to be the preferred reading.

Internal: Although it could be argued that προς σε was added as an explanatory note, the omission is also possible. It can be argued that προς σε was omitted because the meaning was implied anyway in the context, and so it was easier to write a shorter text.  The internal evidence is not as conclusive, but the external evidence seems strongly to support the inclusion of προς σε represented by readings (1) and (4).

A harder question is to choose between (1) and (4), whether εν ταχει or ταχιον is the preferred reading.  

External: εν ταχει is supported by A C D* P Ψ 6 33. 81 pc vgms sa.  However, ταχιον is supported by Aleph (D2) F G 1739. 1881. M.  The Alexandrian group is divided in its support as is the Western group. ταχιον is found in 4th Century manuscripts; εν ταχει from 5th Century documents.  

Internal: ταχιον could be explained to have originated by replacing the longer prepositional phrase εν ταχει with the adverb.  The converse seems less likely.  

Both readings (1) and (4) are possible, and have considerable support.  In the 26th edition, Nestle-Aland chose reading (4); however in the 27th edition, they chose reading (1).  Fortunately for us, the meaning is not obscured by either reading.  

Appendix D


Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich, Danker - A Greek-English Lexicon of the new Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 2nd Edition,  publ. University of Chicago Press © 1959, 1979 University of Chicago

Calvin, John, Institutes of Christian Religion translated by Ford Lewis Battles, edited by John T. McNeill, published by Westminster Press, Philadelphia, PA, © MCMLX  W. L. Jenkins

Countryman, L. William, Read it in Greek, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, © 1993 Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Fee, Gordon D., New Testament Exegesis, publ. by Westminster/John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, © 1983, 1993 by Gordon D. Fee

Metzger, Bruce Manning, The Text of the New Testament, 2nd. Ed., Publ. by Oxford University Press, © 1968

Nestle-Aland, Novum Testamentum Graece, 27th edition, publ. by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, Germany © 1898, 1993

Newman, Barclay M., Jr., A Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament, publ. by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, Germany © 1971

Strimple, Robert B. “Phoebe was a Deacon; other women should be, too.” in New Horizons, June-July 1988, pp. 17-18

Wallace, Daniel B., The Basics of New Testament Syntax, published by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, © 2000 Daniel B. Wallace