A couple weeks ago Arthur Sido posted about Academic Responsibility. His post was about a popular Christian History textbook’s misuse of Scripture regarding the description of a “Deacon”. I spent a few moments gathering some data for a comment on his post and felt like “Deacon” should be my next, “Words Not Found in Scripture.”
Deacon is a really good word for this series because it is more than just a meaningless word. In Christendom we have whole theologies built around the idea of the deacon office. But do we really understand what a deacon is? The word “deacon” occurs five times in the NKJV (Philemon 1:1 & 1 Timothy 3:8,10,12,13). However, the word itself is a transliteration of the Greek word, “διακονος”. διακονος (and it’s verb version διακονεω) occur in the New Testament a total of 66 times. Basically, around 7% of the time, the word is transliterated (or added to the translation)… obfuscating the true definition of the word. According to BDAG the meaning of διακονος is:
1. one who serves as an intermediary in a transaction, agent, intermediary, courier
2. one who gets somethign done, at the behest of a superior, assistant
and the meaning of διακονεω (the verb form) is:
1. to function as an intermediary, act as go-between/agent, be at one’s service
2. to perform obligations,
2a. perform duties, render assistance, serve
2b. wait on someone at table
3. to meet an immediate need, help
4. to carry out official duties, minister
5. care for, take care of
- διακονος (n.) occurs in the Greek New Testament 29 times
- Translated “servant” (and it’s derivatives) 18 times – NKJV.
- Translated “minister” (and it’s derivatives) 8 times – NKJV.
- Transliterated “deacon” (and it’s derivatives) 3 times – NKJV.
- διακονεω (v.) occurs in the Greek New Testament 37 times.
- Translated “serve” (and it’s derivatives) 20 times – NKJV.
- Translated “ministered” (and its derivatives) 14 times – NKJV.
- Translated “administered” twice (2 Corinthians 8:19,20) – NKJV.
- Translated “provided” once (Luke 8:3) – NKJV.
- 1 Timothy 3 has the word διακονος twice, in 3:8 and 3:12.
- Both times it is transliterated as “deacon”, but in 4:6, it is translated as “servant” or “minister”.
- 1 Timothy 3 has the word διακονεω twice, in 3:10, 3:13.
- In 3:10, the word διακονος is not in the Greek at all, yet the translators felt it was necessary to add “as deacons” after “let them serve”. Where “serve” is the actual translation of the word διακονεω.
- Similarly with 3:13, the word διακονος is not in the Greek at all. The translators add “as deacons” after the “for those who served.”
- Jesus was called a διακονος (Romans 15:8).
- Paul was called a διακονος (1 Corinthians 3:5, 6; Ephesians 3:7; Philippians 1:1; Colossians 1:23,25).
- Jesus came to διακονεω (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45; Luke 22:27).
Based on my research and studies, I have come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a “deacon” in the traditional sense of the word. A “deacon” is merely a servant, not an office to hold. The noun and verb in the Greek is translated “serve” 38 times, “minister” at least 22 times (25 if you count “administered” and “provided”). Only 3 times is it transliterated as “deacon” and twice it is added to the English text. So why did the translators believe that they should not translate the word in those places? Frankly, I find this very disturbing.
So, for all of you churchers who argue about deacons during business meetings. I’m sorry to tell you, you’ve wasted a lot of time. A “deacon” is not an office, it’s not someone who is voted on, a deacon is the person next to you who has been serving you and ministering to your needs. A deacon is the person who does not care about the title “deacon” as much as they care about the needs of those around them.