Sunday, November 22, 2009

How are the Qualities of Deacons Like the Qualities of Elders?

Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:8, saying, "Deacons likewise (Διακόνους ὡσαύτως)," and then he lists eight (not including verse 11) qualities of a deacon. I plan on only considering what Paul meant by writing “likewise” in 1 Timothy 3:8 in this post:

What Does “Likewise” Mean Here?
First, "likewise" is linking the lists of qualities of an officer of the church, not necessarily the aspiration to pursue the office in a local church from verse 1. This is not to say that the aspiration to serve in the diaconate is not a desire to do a noble task, but the "likewise" isn't carrying the emphasis of the "desire" for the office from verse 1 to the office of deacon, "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task." All of that being said it's implied that this next list of qualities is what Timothy was to look for in a person to fill another office in the church, namely the office of deacon. So "likewise" (“ωσαντως” or “hosautos”) links the list that follows to the previous set of qualities that were laid out about elders.

Second, "Likewise" is functioning as an adverb describing how the following "states of being" are the substance of or characteristic qualities of deacons. So there is an implied “it is be” (δεῖ εἶναι) in this phrase.(1) So the phrase would read, "It is necessary for Deacons, likewise, to be...". "Likewise" is describing how 1 Timothy 3:8-11 & 13 is related to verses 1-7 (as I mentioned above).(2) “Likewise” is not, however, transferring any of the qualities of an elder to the qualities of deacon;(3) rather, it setting up a comparison that the relation of characteristics to the deacon is similar to the relationship of the characteristics to the elder. In other words, there are two offices here and the lists that describe them are like each other insofar as they describe that office. The descriptions aren’t interchangeable. So, in the way that the former qualities describe elders, so these latter qualities that follow describe deacons. The same word also appears in verse 12 and sets off another list (of deacons' wives or deaconesses, which I hope to talk about more when I get there).

“Likewise” can also be translated as “also”, “similarly”, “the same way”, etc. By my count there are 14 qualities of elders in verses 1-7 (not including the desire to be one), so some think “likewise” may be setting a direct contrast between the qualities that are similar. I don't think that's the case though. Paul doesn't seem to be trying to make “one to one” connections and comparisons in these lists. Take a look at the following lists (if you click on the picture it will open on another webpage in a larger image):

A case may be made for a “one to one” correspondence between qualities #1 and #3 but other than that it seems that Paul is not following a direct one to one correspondence for the rest of the qualities in any particular order. The only quality that doesn't seem to be reiterated in any way in the lists of deacon and wives/deaconesses is the ability to teach. Wm. Mounce describes Paul's method here by writing, “He presents an official list in that it was intended to be followed, but it is not exhaustive, concentrating as it does on observable traits. It is, rather, an ad hoc list meant to combat the Ephesian heresy; yet in principle it is relevant today.”(4) I don't think it's helpful to think that quality #2, #4, etc. of each of the lists modify and clarify each other directly, but Paul does use some of the same descriptions more than once.

Are These Just Two Lists Describing the Same Office?
These lists are like each other, and not the same as each other. This leads to the question: “Are these lists just different ways of describing the same office?” This doesn’t seem to be the case.

Some folks want to conflate these lists to make the case that there is only one office that Paul had in mind here. That doesn’t seem to be a plain reading of the text though. If we put too much weight on the “likewise”, and make the diaconate into the same office as an “elder” with a different name we are making Scripture say what it doesn’t say. The similarity between the two words seems to be that “elders” and “deacons” are two distinctly recognized roles in a local church. Further, the similarity or “likewise-ness” seems to be that there are qualities and characteristics that a church is to look for in a person who would fulfill these offices, not that they are the same office. This thinking, in this context, puts more weight on the adverb “likewise” than it was meant to carry. It’s also important to notice that when Paul wrote to the Philippians he wrote, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons (Phil 1:1).” If these two offices were the same office why would Paul have made the distinction?

If these were two different ways to describe the same official role in the church, why did Paul use some of the same descriptions more than one time? As I mentioned above, the lists don’t have a one-to-one correspondence, but there are some characteristics that are identical. Paul would have been pretty redundant if these were the same office. Further, if verse 11 is talking about deaconesses then we would be including women into the teaching role of a church as well, and the previous chapter clearly outlines that women are not to be teaching or exercising authority over men (1 Tim 2:12). Mounce writes of the distinction between the offices:

“[Elders and deacons] represent two groups, as is also attested in Phil 1:1. In the [Pastoral Epistles], even though the lists of qualifications are similar, they are distinct, suggesting distinct functions. Never are the two titles interchanged in the [New Testament] in the same way as overseer and elder. In the postapostolic development of the offices, they are clearly distinct.”(5)

In a future post I hope to discuss how an elder is a type of deacon, namely of prayer and of the word. The office of a deacon is a deacon or servant of the physical needs of the church. But, again, I hope to think about that at a later time.

(1) Knight, NIGTC, 168; Mounce, WBC, 197.
(2) Knight, NIGTC, 168; Mounce, WBC, 197.
(3) Marshall, ICC, 489.
(4) Mounce, WBC, 207.
(5) Mounce, WBC, 196.

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