Interesting Article on Phoebe as a Deacon

Posted By on September 25, 2009

I hope to post again on baptism this weekend, but in the meantime, here is an interesting (short) article on the Greek descriptions of Phoebe. I’ve posted on the “women in ministry” issue a bit before, so I figured some of you might be interested in this.

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7 Responses to “Interesting Article on Phoebe as a Deacon”

  1. cwmyers007 says:

    Mike, An idea for after Baptism: Another cool topic would be the relationship that should exist between systematic theology and biblical theology. The latter has surely ruled the roost recently. And you are clearly a biblical theologian. I am more the latter (although I have a passion for the original languages, please don’t bash us systematist like we cannot read the originals, we can). We just do not spend so much time with our nose in the text so that we cannot see the big pictures (said with tongue in cheek). And surely we are not afraid to describe the Biblical text with “non-biblical” names such as Trinity, Triunity, hyperstatic union, covenant of grace, hermeneutics etc. That said, I cannot agree with you that we need to get everything straight from the text so to exclude harmonization: how would biblical theologians come up with the Trinity without the systematic guys? Anyways, I love biblical theology and systematic theology, but they need to complement one another and not compete with one another! I think the issue is deeper than merely communication.

    Grace be with you,

  2. cwmyers007 says:

    I am sorry, I met to say that generally systematic theology has ruled the roost lately…would you agree?

  3. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: within evangelicalism, that’s probably the case, at least into the late 90s. A move toward more serious exegesis leading to theology marked progressive dispensationalism at Dallas Seminary in the mid to late 90s, and that has influenced evangelicalism in an academic sense. Outside the evangelical orbit, it’s really about exegesis of the text (and few care about using it to “do theology” – and that’s a problem). When people who wouldn’t be evangelical do theology, it’s typically philosophical theology or some sort of neo-orthodox systematic theology.

  4. MSH says:

    @cwmyers007: This is a good one, and a subject I really care about. It’s also a source of frustration. I can recall (must be ten years ago) Wayne Grudem’s address at the ETS dinner lamenting the state of this relationship – how ST’s don’t know squat about exegesis and don’t care (they are largely English Bible based) and how the text geeks gloried in the minutiae for its own sake. The two really operate separately. There are some exceptions (Greg Beale comes to mind;Darrel Bock; Dan Block). It ought to be the norm, but it isn’t.

  5. Jonnathan Molina says:

    This is my prayer: that God unites these two forces to that iron sharpens iron. I believe that this will happen. Ever since I found blogs like this one (and other similar authors) I have to say I’m biased toward biblical theology. I just see people taking ST and abusing the heck out of it (ha, sometimes literally I guess). Anyways, I had this thought that if you pictured all the great ST’s as glass houses so that you could see what each one is made up of, and you could then group only what’s common in each house, you’d end up with biblical theology in pure form and, hence, all we’d need for interpretation and living. I’m probably not saying this right (it was so clear in my head lol). I pray so fervently for exegesis to rule doctrine and interpretation…I mean, doesn’t that just make too much sense? It’s not like you’d be able to erase the supernatural away doing this (is that everybody’s fear, I wonder? That a clearer picture of scripture would reveal our pet doctrines as powerless as the Wizard of Oz? Hope for all our sakes it happens; we need our self-satisfied certainties to give way to humility).

  6. Nathan says:


    Just a brief thought, since it’s all I have time for at this moment. First, it seems to me that in the NT (would like to add the LXX sometime as well) most uses of the word deacon are non-technical. Thus calling Phoebe a “deacon,” doesn’t necessarily mean she has been “ordained” proper. (And we could digress on the liturgical side of the work of deacons. Justin Martyr’s notes on the Eucharist immediately jump to mind here.)

    I’m a bit confused of the attempt to read prostatis as a position of leadership. GIven that, it would seem Paul would be directly saying that he was under the authority of a woman (“προστάτις of many and of myself as well”).

    • MSH says:

      I’m in agreement on your deacon comment — and the same can be said for “apostle” but not as great of an extent (i.e., the fact that Julia is called an apostle really isn’t impressive — there are other people in the NT called apostles who were not of “the twelve” and are never described on that level). An “apostle” generally is someone sent to a church for ministry — probably some sort of leadership would be involved. It’s sort of how we think of missionaries.

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