Monday, July 20, 2015

Greek, and the imaginary biblical support for the office of deacon

Translator bias is a very real possibility when we evaluate Bible versions, and that bias can have very substantial and practical implications for how we live and do church, who believe the Bible to be the Word of God.

Consider the case of perhaps the grossest bias I have yet discovered in my years of reading the Bible among Bible translations that are usually considered to be reliable, conservative texts, leaning much more toward formal equivalency than dynamic - that of the inconsistent treatment of the word διάκονος (diakonos) (a noun) and its verb form διακονέω (diakoneō) in the major English versions.

The English word "deacon" is usually explained as a transliteration of the noun diakonos from Greek into English. I lack the resources to dig into the etymological history of the word "deacon", but suffice it to say for our purposes that it appears as early as the Wycliffe Bible, and that probably means it had been part of regular ecclesiastical English usage for quite some time before. I would not be surprised at all to find that it is a holdover from Roman Catholic language, thoughtlessly brought over into the Reformation tradition by men who got much right but also left much unreformed.

I will argue that this traditional language has slipped past the guard not only of pastors and religious service providers, lecturers, and theologians of the past 500 years or so, but even worse, past the guard of Bible translators. I can see no sound reason why either of these Greek words ought ever to be translated with the word "deacon" in any English text of the Bible. To claim "deacon" belongs there is to hold to this translating tradition that is actually at odds with consistent translation and contextual practice. The conclusion that it is translated this way in all these Bibles because of the tradition-colored bias of the translators is very hard to escape.

The Data

In the Greek NT, there are 27 occurrences of διάκονος. The NASB renders those as "minister" or "servant" every single time except Philippians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:8 and 3:12. The ESV similarly says "deacon" only those three times and "minister" or "servant" every other time except Matt 22:13, where it reads "attendants".

In the Greek NT, διακονέω (which is the verb form, you'll recall) appears 32 times. The NASB and ESV render those as "administer", "minister", "wait on", "serve", "take care of", and suchlike. They read "serve as deacon" only twice, in 1 Timothy 3:10 and 3:13.

Thus we find that the NASB and ESV translators continued an established tradition, whose backing we will go on to question, that led them to render 11% of the occurrences of διάκονος as "deacon" and 6% of the occurrences of διακονέω as "serve as deacon". That's a very small amount; when the majority of the translations of a given word are a more general word like "servant" or "minister", but in certain situations one wants to change it to something more specific, one needs a good argument to do so, whether etymological, contextual, whatever.

All the New Testament occurrences of each word can be found at Blue Letter Bible, which is a wonderfully helpful resource:
--διάκονος
--διακονέω

Thus you can review each text in context. It will probably also be helpful to take a look at διακονία, "ministry", which has the same root, a very close relationship to the other two, and note how many times (out of 34 occurrences) it is translated with anything like "office" or "deacon" (never).

Now, let's take a look at some specifics.

The Epistles to Timothy

Of some note is the fact that neither render διάκονος as "deacon" in 2 Tim 1:18, despite the fact that it's the same author as 1 Timothy, Paul, writing to the same recipient, Timothy. Why the different translation?

Even more noteworthy is the same phenomenon in 1 Timothy 4:6. Note the way the  NASB translates the three verses in 1 Timothy that employ διάκονος:
--1 Timothy 3:8 - Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain...
--1 Timothy 3:12 - Deacons must be husbands of only one wife, and good managers of their children and their own households.
--1 Timothy 4:6 - In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.

Here in the very same letter, just a few sentences down from the other two appearances of διάκονος, the NASB translators use a different English word. One may object that the context calls for that different word. Fine; I invite anyone to show me how the context is appreciably different such that one could know that Paul is referring to some sort of specialised office or something that demands the creation of a new English word in the third chapter, but just a little later when identifying what Timothy will be if he does these things, suddenly it's a different meaning entirely. I don't think that argument is sustainable. The only reason one would say this is if he had a pre-existing commitment to the existence of a thing called "the office of deacon". The Greek text certainly doesn't lead anyone to that conclusion, taken by itself, which is pretty much what we're supposed to do if we want to go ad fontes as good Sola Scripturists.

Just Who Is A διάκονος?

I don't see a reason not to render διάκονος consistently across the board. To whom is διάκονος applied in the New Testament?

--Phoebe (Rom 16:1)
--Tychicus (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7)
--Epaphras (Col 1:7)
--Apollos (1 Cor 3:5)

Interestingly, I think most people would think of Apollos as more of a teacher or something, and that doesn't fit the traditional "deacon" role.

But it gets better.
--Old Testament prophets (1 Peter 1:12)
--Paul (1 Cor 3:5; 2 Cor 3:6, 6:4, 11:23; Col 1:23-25)
--Jesus (Rom 15:8)

So, does the word mean "deacon" or doesn't it? If you're going to go to the trouble of creating a new English word (back 600+ years ago when it was created, I mean), why wouldn't you apply it to every occurrence? Are these people deacons or not? I can't think of anyone who would contend that they are, with the possible exception of Phoebe. Phoebe is often the center of "can women be deaconesses?" debates, and of course the reasoning behind those debates is that there is an office called "deacon" in the New Testament.

But wait, there's more!

Not only are these individuals referred to with διάκονος; other individuals such as Onesimus (Philemon 13), as well as all believers, are said to engage in διακονέω (the verb), in Hebrews 6:10 and 1 Peter 4:10-11! If Phoebe is possibly a deacon, then so are Jesus, Paul, Apollos, Amos, Jeremiah, Daniel, and everyone else who believes in Jesus.

Also, don't forget that Jesus Himself said that the greatest among His disciples shall be διάκονος (Matthew 23:11). One wonders, then, why deacons don't occupy such a lofty position in modern churches, as usually it's the pastor who's the greatest among the disciples.

A Third Church Office

Now that we mention 1 Peter 4:10-11, it would appear we have approximately equal biblical support for saying that "steward" is an office in the church.
As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves (διακονέω) is to do so as one who is serving (διακονέω) by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:10-11)
If we're going to go around willy-nilly creating church offices out of thin air based on isolated passages in which we translate words in a way that is inconsistent with the way we translate it everywhere else, why not do that with "steward" (οἰκονόμος), given the way Peter uses it here in 1 Peter 4, in the context of local church life?

What's the difference? It is that "steward", in the course of medieval Roman Catholic and proto-Protestant history, never came to be thought of as an office. If it had, I have no doubt the modern pastoral zeitgeist would ensure we're all teaching and seeking men to fill the three church offices of which the New Testament speaks, and there would be whole sermons where the Scripture is butchered to "support" the establishment of the office of steward as we now see for the office of deacon.

You see, holding a church office allows men to feel important and achieve recognition, which is a basic (and usually sinful) human desire. It also allows for people to, when convenient, parry questions about their behavior and teaching, since they have a Badge of Ecclesiastical Approval, to which the hypothetical inquiring "layperson" has not attained. It's the "Touch Not God's Anointed" syndrome, which is common, many claims to the contrary notwithstanding.

Deacons and Women

Further evidence that the Apostle Paul meant something other than to be setting out "qualifications" for "church offices" in 1 Timothy 3 appears in verse 11.

The claim is that Paul is saying "if a man has the following qualities, he can be a candidate for the office of 'overseer/elder/pastor/bishop/presbyter/whatever else' or of 'deacon'." While this is less a question of translation proper, it raises questions with reference to the backing tradition that brought the translation about that included "deacon". If these are indeed qualifications for offices, why do we see parallel sentence structures in verses 2, 8, and 11?

Verse 2 - An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach

Verse 8 - Deacons likewise must be men of dignity, not double-tongued, or addicted to much wine or fond of sordid gain,

Verse 11 - Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.

Is "woman" a church office? I know of no one who thinks so, but one of the most significant arguments in favor of these church offices is the language in 1 Timothy 3, and if "overseer" and "deacon" are offices, then "woman" would seem to be one as well.

A Better Suggestion

Bible translations ought to communicate as clearly and faithfully as possible the meaning of the original language text. I'll just say it like it is - inserting the word "deacon" in 1 Timothy 3 and Philippians 1, instead of sticking with what διάκονος actually means, which is "minister" or "servant", is an unhelpful and false translation that stems from the traditions of man rather than properly passing on the meaning of the Greek text.

The inconsistencies we have seen already. Of course it is preposterous that Jesus be a deacon. Of course it is preposterous that all women hold a "church office", leaving churches that are majority "clergy" and minority "laypeople". That's the point. Whoever it was who thought of the word "deacon" should have cared about these points, enough to not transliterate διάκονος into English. Later translators should have corrected that error - such a thing has been done numerous times, but not in this case. Rather, translators and theologians and the like have, up to this very day, perpetuated and promulgated this mistaken notion and thus led churches into error.

My proposal is simple - remove "deacon" from the English text and replace it with "minister" or "servant", like the word is translated in pretty much every other occurrence. Let us rejoice that the Lord has given us yet another opportunity to be semper reformanda and throwing off the false practices, structures, and teachings that Rome bequeathed to us.

Then, let's consider what 1 Timothy 3 actually means, since it doesn't mean "holder of a church office called 'deacon'", bear fruit in keeping with repentance, walk in the truth in all things, and reform our churches to match true biblical teaching.

20 comments:

Ted Bigelow said...

Maybe I missed it and you answered this objection, but to me, Phil. 1:1 clearly refers to an office.

"Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons (diakonoi)"

First, the overseers (mentioned in Phil. 1:1) are clearly acknowledged as an office in other NT texts, and in Phil. 1:1 they are linguistically grouped, as office holders, not with "the saints" but with the diakonoi by the same greek preposition (sun). Thus both the overseers and the diakonoi are differentiated out from the saints. The best explanation of this is that they are both offices.

2) If the diakonoi are not a separate office but are simply another way of referring to faithful Christians (who are all "saints," 1:5) then Paul has repeated himself in a non-sensical manner: "To all the saints... including the overseers and saints." That makes little sense, but Paul's listing of the 2 offices makes excellent sense.

3) The phrase "in Christ Jesus" is ecclesiastic in 1:1, not soteric (Hansen, Philippians, 32). This can be seen by the listing of the office(s) separated out from the normal salvific term, "saints." Thus, Paul is **not** referring to diakonoi in terms of their saving relationship to Christ Jesus, but their ecclesiastical relationship to Christ Jesus (as also with the overseers). Therefore, the church with qualified elders and deacons reflect the "in Christ Jesus" form of church governance.

In our church we have a good number of female deacons - and in English we call them deaconesses. English as a language is nice that way. But the Greek had no substantive feminine form for 'deacon' and thus Paul used the clear word "women" in 1 Tim. 3:11. Thus the masculine form covers both men and women. Otoh, the feminine "diakonia" (diakonia) means "service in passages such as Acts 6:1, 4, Rom. 12:7, 15:31, and Luke 10:40.

Rhology said...

ArlinReformed said this in criticism as well:

You make an egregious error almost right off the bat.

You assert the possibility of the etymology of Deacon being a holdover of Roman Catholic tradition, then claim that you can't substantiate that notion; then you assume that the English term is a holdover of tradition for the rest of article.

Very poor logical form.

The facts of the case are this:
From a purely historical perspective, the concept of the Church Deacon is an ancient understanding of the text within both the Greek and Latin speaking Churches, preparing the Roman Catholic Church in any recognizable form.

The Office of Deacon exists within every tradition of Christian Faith: Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Coptic, Assyrian, and Latin,

Some of those traditions split off the larger communion as early as the 4th century AD.

Greek speaking Churches, in particular, have always understood the scriptures to teach that there must be an office of Deacon.


I'll reply later to both of these criticisms.

Rhology said...

ArlinReformed continues:

Also, the English word 'Deacon' means something like 'appointed servant'.

If anyone reads Alan's article and simply inserts 'appointed servant of the Church' instead of the word 'Deacon', every time he uses that word, then the rest of the article breaks down into incoherence.

Rhology said...

Ted Bigelow,

Thanks for your comment!

First, the overseers (mentioned in Phil. 1:1) are clearly acknowledged as an office in other NT texts

I don't agree, and we shouldn't appeal to dubious assertions to back up other dubious assertions.
"Presbuteron" means, as it's (rightly) translated in 1 Timothy 5:1, an older mature man. It's not an office. I realise it might be hard to convince you of that, and I think the case is less clear than it is for deacon. I'd ask you, though, to make sense of 1 Tim 5:1 if "presbuteron" means "office-holding elder". Either the context demands it be translated "older man", which it doesn't, or it doesn't actually mean "office-holding elder" and the translators were once again biased in their other translations.


hus both the overseers and the diakonoi are differentiated out from the saints.

What about Phil 1:1, though, makes you think that's an office called deacon? Why isn't he calling out those in Philippi who faithfully serve? Since that's what diakonoi actually means?


"To all the saints... including the overseers and saints."

You misunderstand. It's saints who are active in that function, who do serve a lot. He's appreciating what they do.
But ask yourself how your hypothesis fits with the other 25 occurrences of diakonos throughout the NT.


The phrase "in Christ Jesus" is ecclesiastic in 1:1, not soteric (Hansen, Philippians, 32).

It's hard to take a naked assertion like this with much great gravity; I don't know what the argument is, so I can't respond to it.


Paul is **not** referring to diakonoi in terms of their saving relationship to Christ Jesus, but their ecclesiastical relationship to Christ Jesus

All saints have one of those, an ecclesiastical relationship to Christ Jesus, though, because all are to be part of a church as possible.


But the Greek had no substantive feminine form for 'deacon' and thus Paul used the clear word "women" in 1 Tim. 3:11

1) So your church ought to call them "women".
2) This is after-the-fact justification and invalid reasoning.
3) Paul called Phoebe a diakonos.


Rhology said...

You assert the possibility of the etymology of Deacon being a holdover of Roman Catholic tradition, then claim that you can't substantiate that notion; then you assume that the English term is a holdover of tradition for the rest of article.

I'm happy to entertain other suggestions as to the origin of the term.


From a purely historical perspective, the concept of the Church Deacon is an ancient understanding of the text within both the Greek and Latin speaking Churches

This falls victim to the exact same problem to which the exact same assertions fall prey when they are found on the lips of papists and Eastern Orthodox, all of which I've gone over before. It's disappointing to see someone who's active in James White's own chat channel to make these kinds of errors.

You don't know that what these guys said is what the church of their time believed.
You don't know how what they wrote was received by other churches. Any mere claims to "we believe thus" are not necessarily true. Not without proof, and more proof than their say-so.
You don't know whether they were held in the highest respect by their contemporaries. Maybe you're reading the Charles Stanley of their time - not really all that bad, but quite shallow compared to others, most of the time.
You don't know whether you have all their writings, or even what % their today-extant writings form of the total things they wrote over their lifetime. Thus you don't know if they ever took it all, or part of it, back.
You don't know whether what they said in public or in private teachings actually comports with the extant writings you have.
You don't take everything that is extant from a given "Church Father" and believe it. Why call them "Church Fathers" at all? Seems to me a traditional nomenclature that fails to take the above into consideration, fails to think through the divide between what any of them believed and what modern Rome believes, and has served as a useful tool for you, so you decided to keep it. And it is useful - citing "Fathers" sounds so imperial, so high-fallootin', so mysteriously powerful, that often it causes a brain block within the mind of the Sola Scripturist. I myself have experienced this many times.

Is this overzealous, unreasonably radical skepticism? Depends on whom you're asking, I suppose.
What this illustrates for certain is that our certain guide, our certain lamp for our feet, is the Scripture. The Scripture is simply not subject to these kinds of questions (at least not within the RC/EO/Sola Scripturist circle of debate), for we all accept its authority and sourcing - it is the very Word of God.
Such is demonstrably not the case for "Church Fathers", however. We read them like we read DA Carson today - to understand who they are, what they taught, and their theological contexts. They are not authorities. They (and I, or Billy Graham, or John MacArthur) have power only insofar as they repeat the Word of God. Where they do so, let us praise God for the insight they have shared. Where they have not, let us learn not to repeat their mistakes.

Rhology said...


The only sense in which they are "fathers" is that they are older and came before us. They made many mistakes, however, and we do not necessarily know even the majority of what any one of them believed and/or taught.

Nobody invests them with great authority - not Sola Scripturists, not RCC, and not EOC.
Sola Scripturists - obviously.
RCC and EOC, for reasons mentioned above - if these men really were their authorities, they would teach like them: inconsistently. And they certainly wouldn't anathematise Sola Fide, for example.
No, for the RC and EO, the modern church is the only authority in practice. "By their fruits you shall know them."

But for us who love and follow Jesus and believe His words in Mark 7:1-13 [Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)] wherein He told us to test traditions by Scripture, our Church Fathers are named: Jesus, Mark, Luke, Paul, Peter and John and the rest of the 11, James, Jude, and the guy who wrote Hebrews. Do you want to know what the earliest church believed? Read the New Testament.




The Office of Deacon exists within every tradition of Christian Faith: Eastern Orthodox, Oriental Orthodox, Coptic, Assyrian, and Latin,

And they all get baptism wrong. And the Eucharist. And Sola Scriptura. And icons.


Greek speaking Churches, in particular, have always understood the scriptures to teach that there must be an office of Deacon.

Begs the question against my position; some of the earliest churches spoke Greek and the NT was written in Greek. See my challenges above.


the English word 'Deacon' means something like 'appointed servant'.

1) And it refers often to an office in the church, which I said in the post. I could've made it clearer, it's true, so I apologise for any lack of clarity. I meant to assail the idea of the office, specifically.
2) "Appoint" can suffer from equivocation, so we'd need to flesh out precisely what we mean by it. It can be something like "set a guy into an office where he wasn't before" or something more like "affirm a guy before others in what he's already been doing".

Ted Bigelow said...

Rhology,

Thanks for your interaction with my prior. You have a difficult row to plow because you are teaching something very few hold, and some who have held it have not been good representatives of godly love for all the saints, and because, well, it diminishes the local church's institutional authority. None of those things are necessarily bad in themselves so long as they accuratley represent the teaching of the holy apostles Christ appointed. Men will carp at anything, won't they (!), but as you take an unpopular position you should take frequent breaks, and be willing to let men search the positions you've taken. Sometimes the constant criticism of men can blunt your power to hear their arguments.

Now, i say that so that you might hear this. In your argument with me (taken the right way) you take the position that "elders" are not an office - and hence the overseers in Phil. 1:1 are not an office. Now, I didn't specifically argue that "elders" are an office (I beleive they are) but that "overseers" is an office. So you missed the actual words of the apostle and argued for something else, prompting me to think this all going a little fast for you right now.

Hopefully, you can see that overseers is not simply a spiritual gift without an office, for that would require all those under the overseers to somehow recognize their giftedness, but giftedness is, in God's design, an invisible thing. As an overseer myself there are lots of people who refuse to recognize my gifting, but less so my gifting.

So hopefully you can see that the word overseers necessitates an office, and if so, then diakonoi in Phil. 1:1 must also be an office as per my linguistic reasons given above. And unless I'm greatly mistaken, you didn't actually interact with any my **linguistic** reasons I used.

Then I am prompted to remind you of the cul de sac you offer when you write, ""Presbuteron" means... an older mature man. It's not an office." Yes, it does mean an older man, absolutely right.

But Paul did not ask Titus to appoint certain men to be older men in Titus 1:5. Titus didn't have that power if Paul was talking about age! Such language, again, necessitates an office, not simply an age marker.

Anyhow, my goal is not only to correct but to edify, and if all I do is the latter i am happy. Go slow, and not everyone who challenges you wants to see you torn down, OK?

Rhology said...

Ted,

Rest assured I don't necessarily find dissent among commenters on my blog as purposely trying to tear me or anyone down. It happens, but I think we can discuss the issue on its merits.


You have a difficult row to plow because you are teaching something very few hold

Perhaps; the Bible teaches consistently the theme of the remnant, so I am not surprised to be swimming against the mainstream on topics like this, as I see these ecclesiastical structures as being quite detrimental to the growth to maturity of Christians in general, squelching people so that they won't be salt and light in the culture but rather comfy pew-sitters who rely on their church officers to be REALLY holy.


some who have held it have not been good representatives of godly love for all the saints

Doubtless that's true, as it's a common human failing. Many, many more who do hold to the Ecclesiastical Offices view also fit that description.


it diminishes the local church's institutional authority

Another human tradition. I'd be interested in where you find any biblical description of "the authority of the local church". I've studied all NT occurrences of "authority", mostly exousia but also other words... I don't see it. Where do you see it?


In your argument with me (taken the right way) you take the position that "elders" are not an office - and hence the overseers in Phil. 1:1 are not an office

Correct. I believe oversight is a function or a role one might temporarily fill for a purpose and for a season.


I didn't specifically argue that "elders" are an office (I beleive they are) but that "overseers" is an office.

Fair enough; many other people conflate the two consistently.


prompting me to think this all going a little fast for you right now.

Your exercise in patronising me is duly noted.


you can see that overseers is not simply a spiritual gift without an office

Sorry, a gift? May I ask what makes you call it a gift?


So hopefully you can see that the word overseers necessitates an office

No, sorry. :-) We don't have agreement on that.


you didn't actually interact with any my **linguistic** reasons I used.

I saw numerous naked assertions, but nothing I'd call a reason. And I *did* interact with them. Did you see my comment?


But Paul did not ask Titus to appoint certain men to be older men in Titus 1:5.

You assume the wrong meaning of "appoint" in the case of Titus 1:5. Therein lies your error. Let me try to help.
In Crete were false teachers and a young church that didn't have many (or any) people that knew the apostolic message super well. Being that this was before the NT was complete or widely distributed, they relied on oral teaching to know truth. Paul sends Titus, a man he trusts and a man known to be Paul's friend and companion, to fix the situation in Crete. He is to identify who the older mature men are, who have held faithfully to the apostolic deposit, and identify (or appoint) them to fulfill a function of oversight for a time, as Ephesians 4 says, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ." After which point those Cretans would no longer be "children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming" (Eph 4:14). They'd have "grow(n) up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ", and be ready to "(cause) the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love" (Eph 4:16).

Appointing is not the act of transforming a person into an office-holder. It's the act of IDENTIFYING what someone already is (an older, mature man), calling it out so others can see it and trust that this person is generally a solid individual.


Lockheed said...

"You assume the wrong meaning of "appoint" in the case of Titus 1:5. Therein lies your error. Let me try to help. ... Paul sends Titus... to identify who the older mature men are"

So you're saying Titus wasn't to APPOINT elders, he was to simply point out the old guys?

Lockheed said...

So in 1 Tim 3 Paul writes:

1 The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task...

Is it your position that Paul is saying "if anyone aspires to be an old man..."?

Next Paul writes:

8 Deacons likewise must be dignified...

If deacon isn't a different office than overseer (old man), why would Paul separate them here and repeat many qualifications?

Rhology said...

So you're saying Titus wasn't to APPOINT elders, he was to simply point out the old guys?

I've seen better paraphrases before. :-)
He was supposed to point out the mature men who were holding faithfully to the deposit of faith and who had been acting in godly ways, according to proper oversight. Titus would find out who they were and then call them out, giving them, as it were, the Apostle Paul's seal of approval. That way, the people could know that they and not the other guys were the true teachers, whereas before there wasn't really a way they could've known.


If deacon isn't a different office than overseer (old man), why would Paul separate them here and repeat many qualifications?

I'd say this:
1) Assuming these are offices is not an argument that they are offices.
2) I invite you to deal with the appearance of "Women" in the same chapter with the same language.
3) I don't see him listing qualifications per se. These are marks of holiness that everyone ought to strive for.

Ted Bigelow said...

(1/2) Hi Rhology, you wrote:

"I'd be interested in where you find any biblical description of "the authority of the local church". I've studied all NT occurrences of "authority", mostly exousia but also other words... I don't see it. Where do you see it?"

Sure - Mat. 18:17 - an error here is to presume Jesus is only talking about the people of the church and not the church as institution when He says, "let him be to you." The "you" is singular, not plural.

This verse doesn't teach that a person, now to be considered a tax collector/Gentile, loses his relationship with the people of the church (i.e, no ongoing personal interaction) but with an ongoing institution of the church as a church.

Other verses that teach the church is an institution, off the top: Phil 4:15, 1 Tim. 3:15, 2 Cor. 8:19, 1 Cor. 11:18.

You wrote,

"In Crete were false teachers and a young church that didn't have many (or any) people that knew the apostolic message super well. Being that this was before the NT was complete or widely distributed, they relied on oral teaching to know truth. Paul sends Titus, a man he trusts and a man known to be Paul's friend and companion, to fix the situation in Crete. He is to identify who the older mature men are, who have held faithfully to the apostolic deposit..."

Can you see the logical error here - appointing older men who have faithfully held to the apostolic deposit, but they are allegedly in young churches? So how can they have held to the apostolic deposit in any meaningful way if they too are young in the faith, and being young, how can they avoid being unqualfied by 1 Tim. 3:6?

No one in young churches but mature Christians can hold to the apostolic deposit. Its a matter of growth and testing.

Ted Bigelow said...

(2/2)

You write,

"Appointing is not the act of transforming a person into an office-holder. It's the act of IDENTIFYING what someone already is (an older, mature man), calling it out so others can see it and trust that this person is generally a solid individual."

So, appointing is identifying, because others needed to trust in the person's solidity? But the identifying is only relational, and not institutional?

This is silly. The people needed Titus Titus to tell them who to identify as older men?

Listen, the word appoint is NOT identify. Are you making this up as you go? Could you point to even lexicon that makes such a claim about the word kathistemi? Look at these other texts that use the word "appoint":

"For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. (Heb 8:3)

Your claim means that men appointed to the office of high priest are actually those identified for the high priest they already were.

or did Pharoah identify Joseph as the Prime minister of Egypt, and then appoint him?

"and rescued him from all his afflictions, and granted him favor and wisdom in the sight of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and he made (kathistemi) him governor over Egypt and all his household." (Act 7:10).

I'm sorry, I've taken too much time here. You would dismiss "overseers" in Phil 1:1 as not overseers. But what i find most grievous, and that which you will likely have to learn by personal suffering, is your dismissal and cruelty of words towards Christ's true prize, His people.

You write:

"I see these ecclesiastical structures as being quite detrimental to the growth to maturity of Christians in general, squelching people so that they won't be salt and light in the culture but rather comfy pew-sitters who rely on their church officers to be REALLY holy."

No doubt, many church officers are an abomination. And many, perhaps most men, who fill a paid office are unworthy and deserve sharp reprimand.

But to call Christ's sheep pew-sitters is despicable and betrays a keen lack of tenderness. Christ loves them and bled out painfully so He would have them forever and has none but love for them. You do not know their struggles and heart-aches and you do not sympathize with them but rather castigate them.

So while you argue for a more people-inclusive church form (no offices) it comes from a heart that is not in sympathy with Christ's bowels of affection for exactly those people you think you will free.

Rhology said...

Seems like it always comes back to "attacking the Bride of Christ". Sir, that is a sinful thing for you to say and you ought to repent of it and apologise immediately. Also, I bet that's not the first time you've said something like that to someone. You ought to go to them in repentance and beg their forgiveness for abusing them with this awful false accusation. Shame on you for your ecclesiolatry.

Now, to the merits of what we were talking about, which is where I'd hoped we could stay (despite my doubts you'd be capable of staying on topic, which proved correct):


Sure - Mat. 18:17 - an error here is to presume Jesus is only talking about the people of the church and not the church as institution when He says, "let him be to you." The "you" is singular, not plural.

1) The word "authority" is not used in that passage.
2) Perhaps you'd argue the idea is. Please prove the authority is in the church and not in the Lord.
3) Please prove it's necessary to invoke authority in this situation at all. Matthew 18 in that section is discussing church discipline. What people are to do when others in the church won't repent of sin. The authority here is Jesus' - He's telling us what to do in that scenario. We oughta follow what He said. I don't see the "authority of the church" here. Please clarify.


This verse doesn't teach that a person, now to be considered a tax collector/Gentile, loses his relationship with the people of the church (i.e, no ongoing personal interaction) but with an ongoing institution of the church as a church.

This idea thrusts against the other church discipline passages in the NT. It's BOTH the church as a whole and each individual in the church.
1 Cor 5: 9I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one.

Titus 3:10Reject a factious man after a first and second warning, 11knowing that such a man is perverted and is sinning, being self-condemned.

Do those sound like "Don't let him gather with y'all when it's 'time for church', but it's totally cool if you want to hang out with him and have a beer any other time"?


Other verses that teach the church is an institution

1) I'd need to know what you mean by "institution" to know how to reply.
2) I don't recall suggesting the church is not an institution. We were talking about your phrase "the authority of the local church".
3) Speaking of which, when you say "the local church", which local church are you talking about? You said "the", rather than "a", or "local churches". Please clarify. It sounds like a tagline you throw out there for rhetorical effect, rather than a carefully-considered and -weighed biblical expression.


Rhology said...

appointing older men who have faithfully held to the apostolic deposit, but they are allegedly in young churches? So how can they have held to the apostolic deposit in any meaningful way if they too are young in the faith, and being young, how can they avoid being unqualfied by 1 Tim. 3:6?

1) You assume without argument that 1 Tim 3 is giving a list of qualifications for some office. "Office" is not in the Greek text of 1 Tim 3, as I'm sure you're aware. It's a translational liberty that also reflects the bias of the translators.
2) There's far more to being a faithful man of God than knowing doctrine, as I'm sure you're aware. (Whether you speak like you know it on a consistent basis is an entirely separate question, and I doubt you do.)
3) That being the case, one could believe the truth about the doctrines to which one has been exposed, even if of limited scope, and one could be living out those doctrines with a heart possessed by the love of the Lord and of His truth, over and against false teachers who do what they do for satanic and/or personal reasons and gain. Titus as an experienced and knowledgeable man would be able to figure who was who.
4) And then to all the rest of the people who didn't necessarily know to whom to listen he could bring the message of influence from the Apostle Paul. "You know I am with Paul all the time. You know he is trustworthy and godly. He sent me to help sort out who's who here."


No one in young churches but mature Christians can hold to the apostolic deposit.

There is a world of difference between knowing a lot of data and faithfully holding to the truth.


Its a matter of growth and testing.

Part of the testing would have been before Titus arrived, which he could then examine by interviewing everyone to find out the potential overseers' way of living. Then he could himself continue testing them to find out who's who.

I know this is a different way of thinking about the situation than is normal, but one of the many advantages is that it doesn't have Paul acting in such a way as to contradict Jesus in Matthew 20:24-28 and 23:1-10. You would have Paul encouraging men to take on titles for themselves. I think Paul loved the message of Jesus too much to gainsay that message.

Rhology said...

But the identifying is only relational, and not institutional?

Primarily relational. I don't know what meaning you're pouring into "institutional", so I need more clarification before I can answer.


The people needed Titus to tell them who to identify as older men?

Is that what I said? Are you sure you're correctly representing my position?


Could you point to even lexicon that makes such a claim about the word kathistemi?

What matters is not what some lexicon says. What matters is USAGE. And the word is used in the way I am using it in the following verses:
Matt 24:45-47 - here it's a role. The slave is still a slave, and he takes on the role of distributing food and such. Same in Matt 25:21-23 and others.
Romans 5:19 - was our office changed materially into sinners by some declaration? No, it's our ACTIONS that make us sinners, and there's the subsequent identification of that status.
James 3:6 - ditto with the tongue.
James 4:4 - ditto with one who "appoints himself" an enemy of God. He's an enemy because of his actions and loves; the enemy part is the identification.
2 Peter 1:8 - the qualities that are possessed by the believer are those which make him fruitful. The identification comes later.


You would dismiss "overseers" in Phil 1:1 as not overseers

Nonsense. You're creating strawmen now. If you don't understand, merely ask for clarification and I'll be happy to provide it.



is your dismissal and cruelty of words towards Christ's true prize, His people.

Repent of your evil speech toward me, sir.



No doubt, many church officers are an abomination. And many, perhaps most men, who fill a paid office are unworthy and deserve sharp reprimand.

Why is this not a "dismissal and cruelty of words towards Christ's true prize, His people". Is it because you're speaking of hirelings, false converts, who serve Jesus in name only?
Why do you assume that's NOT what I'm talking about?



But to call Christ's sheep pew-sitters is despicable and betrays a keen lack of tenderness.

I never said that, you twister of words. Repent of your quibbling over word meanings.
True sheep of Christ don't only sit in pews. There are tons of false converts in our church buildings. But sometimes true sheep may be for a time squelched, kept immature, and held down by men like yourself, twisters of words who domineer over those in their "flocks". I would have them know freedom ALL the time, not later. Now.



You do not know their struggles and heart-aches and you do not sympathize with them but rather castigate them.

False accusations from a man like you are a badge of honor.



So while you argue for a more people-inclusive church form (no offices) it comes from a heart that is not in sympathy with Christ's bowels of affection for exactly those people you think you will free.

Please clarify your meaning, if it were indeed written out of rational thought rather than unbounded emotion tied up in defending your own position and status and name-plate on office door.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

The "you" in Matt. 18:17 is singular because it is the same "you" in Matt. 18:15. Jesus is speaking to the hypothetical individual believer, not to the church as an institution - unless, of course, you want to maintain that vv. 15-17 only apply if you see a brother sin against the church as an institution, which you would have to do in order to be consistent.

As such, I can only see two reasons for interpreting the "you" in Matt. 18:17 as referring to the church as an institution:

1. A lack of reading comprehension, or
2. A desire to drum up some kind of Biblical support to justify/protect one's ecclesiastical traditions.

Matthew C. Martellus said...

Regarding kathistemi, another meaning is that of escorting or taking someone somewhere, as used in Acts 17:15. However, such alternate meanings are not required for proving Rhology's point. Rather, it is simply required that kathistemi does not necessitate appointment to an office. Rather, if the word can mean something like "establish in a position of responsibility" or "enjoin a specific duty," then his point follows. And indeed, this more general sort of meaning is what we find in heading A.II of the LSJ entry, which gives glosses such as "set in order, array" or "set as guards" (speaking of soldiers). Other glosses such as "ordain, appoint" as well as "bring into a certain state" as well as "make, render so and so" (among others) are all subsumed under this heading.

Putting a group of soldiers in a certain formation does not mean you are appointing them to an office. Quite the opposite - you are putting them in a particular position to perform a particular task (such as attacking the enemy) and/or fulfill a particular responsibility (such as protecting the flank).

Likewise, charging a soldier to stand guard over a particular group of men doesn't require the soldier to hold an office of "guardian." While there may indeed certain roles of this type that can be arguably construed as "offices" (such as a royal bodyguard), in general, a soldier being assigned to watch over the camp while the army is on the march is not being appointed to an office - he is being assigned a specific task; he is being charged with a particular responsibility that arises from a particular contextual need.

So also, in Titus 1:5, it does no violence to the lexical meaning of the term to assert that Paul is charging Titus to find some mature, responsible men and charge them with the duty of maintaining the integrity of the apostolic message (in the absence of a written New Testament present in the Cretan churches) over and against false teaching being brought into the church. Indeed, such a reading is much more consistent with the context of what Paul is actually saying in Titus 1 (and the rest of the letter) than the traditional institutional reading. And nothing in such a reading requires anything approaching a traditional institutional office to be brought into play to explain the nature of such responsibility.

As for Rhology's point regarding identifying such men, that is simply the flip side of enjoining such a responsibility upon them - the church must know which men the apostles (and apostolic workers, by proxy) trust to safeguard the integrity of the apostolic message in their absence. Publically identifying such men would be a vital part of such a process.

The Blogger Formerly Known As Lvka said...

Deacon means, as you rightly put it, minister or servant. However, these are of two kinds: those that "serve tables" (Acts 6:1), and those that are involved in "the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). It is usually clear from context which is which.

1 Timothy 3:11 refers to their wives, so the connection to the rest of the chapter is clear, especially in light of verses 2, 5, and 12, which stress the importance of family life. (In Orthodoxy, for instance, if the priestess is caught cheating on her husband, the innocent priest can no longer serve at the altar).

You also say that presbyter means elder: true indeed, but this same word also referred to the leaders of the Jewish synagogue in Christ's time. Again, the meaning is usually clear from context. Arabs, who are related in both language and customs to the Hebrews, also call their leaders "elders", since this is what the word "sheikh" literally means. Likewise, Romans (and, by extension, the modern Western world) is ruled by "senators", which, just like its cognate "seniors", means elders. Obviously, not all old men are sheikhs and senators.

Rhology said...

Deacon means, as you rightly put it, minister or servant

That's not what "deacon" means. It's what diakonos means.


However, these are of two kinds

Not in the Bible. In current tradition, sure.


those that "serve tables" (Acts 6:1), and those that are involved in "the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:4). It is usually clear from context which is which.

Interestingly, Stephen is one of the 7 guys chosen for the limited-time provisional need of serving tables. You beg the question in assuming that was supposed to institute some sort of church office, especially since there's no evidence of its perpetuation anywhere in the NT. And what does Stephen do? The very next thing mentioned, not only about him but in the book itself, is that he engaged in ministry of the Word - preaching, evangelising, and healing. They didn't put him on trial and stone him for serving tables. They did so for preaching.


1 Timothy 3:11 refers to their wives

It doesn't say "their wives". There is a way in Greek to say "their wives". It says "women".


In Orthodoxy, for instance, if the priestess

All believers are priests according to the New Testament.


if the priestess is caught cheating on her husband, the innocent priest can no longer serve at the altar

Service at the altar is far more an Old Testament concept than a New Testament concept. It's been done away with. You worship a dead system.


You also say that presbyter means elder: true indeed, but this same word also referred to the leaders of the Jewish synagogue in Christ's time.

No, I say that presbuteron means "older man", because that's what it is. "Elder" in certain cases. 1 Tim 5:1 would be an example of consistent translation.


Arabs, who are related in both language and customs to the Hebrews, also call their leaders "elders"

Fine, but not relevant.


Obviously, not all old men are sheikhs and senators.

There is also the needed angle of maturity and godliness.