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OFFICERS OF THE ECCLESIA IN THE PASTORAL EPISTLES.
FROM Titus and Timothy themselves we pass naturally to the officers of the Ecclesiae of which they were set for a time in charge.
In Crete, as we saw before, there were apparently no Elders previously; and the duty most definitely named as laid on Titus was to set (or establish or appoint) Elders in the several cities. The verb καθίστημι is used in Acts vi. 3 for the Apostles setting or appointing the Seven over the business of attending to the widows of the Greek speaking part of the community at Jerusalem: it is a word implying an exercise of authority, but has no technical force. In 1 and 2 Timothy it is not used, nor any other word approximately similar in sense.190
The qualifications of an Elder in Crete.
The first qualifications mentioned (Titus i. 5-9) are not capacities but, so to speak, primary moral conditions affecting men’s personal or family relations, “if a man is under no charge or accusation (ἀνέγκλητος, probably not ‘blameless’ but ‘unblamed’), the husband of one wife, having children that believe (i.e. Christian), who are not accused of riotous living, or, unruly.
Then St Paul goes on, Δεῖ γὰρ τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνέγκλητον εἶναι, “For the ἐπίσκοπος must needs be under no charge.” It is now pretty generally recognized by those who [do] not break up the Pastoral Epistles into fragments that we have not here a different office, held by one person in contrast to the plural ‘Elders,’ a view which implies an incredible laxity in St Paul’s use of particles. But it is hardly less erroneous to take ἐπίσκοπος as merely a second title, capable of being used convertibly with πρεσβύτερος. In examining the language of Acts xx. we found reason to think that when St Paul, addressing at Miletus those who in v. 17 are called the Elders of the (Ephesian) Ecclesia, says, “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit set you as ἐπισκόπους,” he used this word as descriptive, not as a second title, so that we might render it “set you to have oversight.” It is exactly the same here, only on clearer evidence. If ἐπίσκοπον is a title of office, the article before it is without motive, and ἀνέγκλητον 191εἶναι following it is a tame repetition when εἴ τις ἐστὶν ἀνέγκλητος has preceded. But taken descriptively it supplies a link which gives force to every other word. ‘A man who is to be made an Elder should be one who is ἀνέγκλητος, for (γάρ) he that hath oversight must needs be ἀνέγκλητος as a steward of God.’ ‘Elder’ is the title, ‘oversight’ is the function to be exercised by the holder of the title within the Ecclesia. The nature of the oversight is not defined except as being that exercised by a steward in a household of God. But, as we saw before, the general conception of the word is closely akin to that suggested by the pastoral relation, if we are to take as our guides the usage of the LXX. the Apocrypha and Philo, and especially 1 Pet. ii. 25 τὸν ποιμένα καὶ ἐπίσκοπον τῶν ψυχῶν ὑμῶν.
Then follow five negative moral qualifications, “not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre”; then six positive moral qualifications (the first alone worthy of special comment), “given to hospitality (lit. a lover of strangers, φιλόξενον), a lover of good, soberminded, just, holy, temperate.”
Last comes a quite different qualification, “holding fast (if that is the meaning here of the difficult word ἀντεχόμενον) by the word which is faithful according to the teaching (διδαχήν), that he may be able both to exhort in the doctrine (διδασκαλία) that is healthful and to convict the gainsayers.” Without pausing at 192the various difficulties of this verse, we can see that at least it requires in the Cretan Elders a hold on Christian principles of at least morality or religion, such as would enable them to give hortatory instruction of a salutary kind to all, and likewise to give competent answers to gainsayers, who are described more particularly in the following verses. On “the doctrine that is healthful” I may be able to say a word farther on5454See p. 220.. It is clear that St Paul here contemplates his Elders as having (at least normally) an office of teaching, both of a positive and of a negative kind. Apart from this, and from what may be included in the comprehensive words ‘having oversight,’ it is difficult to find any distinctive characteristics mentioned. The moral qualities, positive and negative, are such as men officially representing the Ecclesia and having charge of its members would be expected to shew more than other men. But they are no less among the obvious qualities to be looked for in all members of the community. If hospitality seems at first sight a virtue specially pertaining to the leading men of the Ecclesia, we must also remember how it is inculcated on all alike in Rom. xii. 13, 1 Pet. iv. 9, Heb. xiii. 2. Respecting any other officers than the Elders Titus receives no directions.193
Elders in Ephesus according to 1 Timothy.
The same subject is approached in a very different way in 1 Tim., as might be expected from the different circumstances. The earlier of the specific charges given by St Paul to Timothy, which begin with chap. ii., will need a word further on. Having spoken on prayer, and on men and women, St Paul comes in iii. 1 to another theme affecting the Ephesian Ecclesia, “If any man seeketh after ἐπισκοπῆς (a function of oversight), he desireth a good work. He therefore that hath oversight must needs be free from reproach (δεῖ οὖν τὸν ἐπίσκοπον ἀνεπίλημπτον εἶναι).” So I think we should naturally interpret the words in any case on account of the article. But if the passage stood alone we could not tell whether the office intended was one held by one person or by many, and the influence of later usage might naturally suggest that it was held by one, i.e. was what we call an episcopate. In v. 17 ff. there are some secondary references to Elders, but nothing to shew either identity with the ἐπίσκοπος of chap. iii. or their difference. Again the seven careful verses on him that hath oversight (iii. 1-7) are followed by six equally careful verses on διάκονοι, whom we may for convenience call ‘deacons’. Now if the ἐπίσκοπος of this Epistle were a single officer, superior to all others, the only way of accounting for St Paul’s passing next to the διάκονοι, neglecting the Elders here, and dealing 194with them in a quite different way farther on, would be to suppose, as some have of late on other grounds supposed, that the ἐπίσκοπος and διάκονοι exercised one kind of functions and the Elders exercised another altogether different. But none of these suppositions can stand in the face of Tit. 1., for the correspondence of language forbids us to give the word an essentially different sense in the two passages. It follows that the two consecutive careful passages in iii. refer to Elders and to διάκονοι respectively, and that the references to Elders by name in chap. v. are, as we should expect, practically supplementary in character.
In this Epistle Paul is not providing for the institution of an order of Elders but giving instruction respecting a long existing order. Throughout these verses (iii. 1-13) there is not a word addressed to Timothy, directing him what he himself should do in respect of men holding these offices. There is simply, as in all the earlier part of the Epistle, a setting forth in general terms of what ought to be. But it is remarkable how considerably the qualifications recited here agree in essentials with the qualifications laid down in respect of Crete, though there are many differences both of words and of arrangement. The only negative qualities here mentioned are “no brawler (violent, petulant person), no striker”; the omissions generically being of fundamental qualities too obvious to be forgotten at 195Ephesus, such as the final triad “righteous, holy, temperate”; while the moral qualities now added are of the calm and peaceful type. The long final clause of Titus about teaching is replaced by the single word διδακτικόν, “apt to teach,” in the middle of the list, following “a lover of hospitality”, while at the end of this list stands now the clause “one that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity” (expounded further in the next verse). Then come two other qualifications, one negative, “no novice (νεόφυτον), lest he be puffed up,” etc.; and one positive, in a separate sentence, “Moreover he must be well witnessed of by them that are without,” etc., an emphatic expansion and extension of the first requirement, that he be without reproach. Here too we learn singularly little about the actual functions, except what is contained in the former word ‘oversight’, and in the phrase “have charge (ἐπιμελήσεται) of an Ecclesia of God.” Doubtless it was superfluous to mention either the precise functions or the qualifications needed for definitely discharging them. What was less obvious and more important was the danger lest official excellencies of one kind or another should cloak the absence of Christian excellencies. To St Paul the representative character, so to speak, of those who had oversight in the Ecclesia, their conspicuous embodiment of what the Ecclesia itself was meant to shew itself, was a more important thing 196than any acts or teachings by which their oversight could be formally exercised.
Before we consider the διάκονοι who are mentioned next, it will be best to take what further is said of the Elders in chap. v. The ‘Elder’ of v. i is doubtless one so called not for any office or function but merely for age. It is otherwise in vv. 17, 18, “Let the Elders that preside excellently (καλῶς προεστῶτες) be counted worthy of double honour, especially they that labour (κοπιῶντες, i.e. not merely work, but work laboriously) in speech and teaching; for the Scripture saith, ‘Thou shalt not muzzle an ox that treadeth out the corn’ and ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire.” This word ‘προεστῶτες’ standing at the head, includes more than “ruling” (so all English versions). The sentence implies that this was a function common to all the Elders. Those who discharged it not merely well (εὖ) but καλῶς, excellently, are to be esteemed worthy of double honour, an honour exceeding that due to their office; and such honour, he hints, should be shown by a care on the part of the Ecclesia not to neglect the maintenance of those who labour on its behalf. Special honour, St Paul adds, is due to those Elders, coming under this description, who labour in speech and teaching. The distinction implies with tolerable certainty that teaching was not a universal function of the Elders of Ephesus. On the other hand, the language used does not suggest that there 197were two separate and well-defined classes, teaching Elders and non-teaching Elders. Teaching was doubtless the most important form in which guidance and superintendence were exercised. But to all appearance the Ephesian Ecclesia used freely the services of men who had no special gift of this kind, but who were well qualified to act as Elders in other respects.
Then in v. 19 comes the converse case of Elders worthy not of praise but of blame. First, an Elder’s office and position should secure him against coming into suspicion through mere random talk: Timothy, now first addressed directly in this connexion, was to give attention to no accusation which was not supported by the security provided by the Jewish law in accordance with manifest justice, the testimony of three or at the least two witnesses. On the other hand, those who sinned (in this context it can hardly be doubted that the reference is to Elders who sinned) Timothy was to rebuke publicly, that the rest also might have fear.
In all this Timothy is manifestly clothed for the time with a paramount authority, doubtless as the temporary representative of St Paul guided by St Paul’s instructions, St Paul himself having the authority of a founder, and that founder one who had seen the Lord Jesus. But he is not content to leave these instructions about Elders without a further warning. In an adjuration of peculiar solemnity, as though guarding against a danger which might only 198too easily invade Timothy, he charges him against letting himself be guided in these matters by any praejudicium, and especially against meting out honour or censure on the ground of his own personal preferences.
What is required of ‘Deacons.’
Returning now to chap. iii., after the seven verses on “him that hath oversight,” viz, one of the presbyters, we read in a sentence which has no principal verb (the δεῖ εἶναι being carried on from ii.), “Διάκονοι in like manner [must be] grave, not double-tongued5555Or perhaps ‘tale-bearers’; see Lightfoot on Polyc.,” διλόγους, not addicted to much wine, not given to filthy lucre, having the secret of their faith in a pure conscience [said probably with special reference to their opportunities for dishonest gain]; and let these also [these διάκονοι, no less than the Elders] first be proved, then let them minister (act as διάκονοι) if they lie under no accusation. Then comes, “Women in like manner (evidently not as A.V. the wives of διάκονοι, but as Bishop Lightfoot shewed forcibly some years ago at a Diocesan Conference, women who are διάκονοι), grave, not backbiters, sober (probably as Bishop Ellicott in the literal sense, νηφαλίους), faithful in all things.” These four qualities are either repetitions or characteristic modifications of the four moral qualities required for 199men who are διάκονοι; gravity (σεμνότης) being required of both, freedom from backbiting answering to freedom from talebearing, soberness, freedom from addiction to much wine, and faithfulness or trustworthiness in all things to freedom from filthy lucre. Then St Paul returns once more to the men διάκονοι in order to lay stress on the importance of their conduct of their own family relations. “Let διάκονοι be husbands of one wife, ruling (or guiding, προϊστάμενοι) their children well and their own households. For they that have ministered (served as διάκονοι) well gain to themselves a good standing (βαθμόν) and great boldness in the power of faith, even the faith that is in Christ Jesus.”
This is all that we learn about διάκονοι from the Pastoral Epistles. The Epistle to Titus in prescribing the appointment of Elders says nothing about διάκονοι. Probably the Christian communities of Crete were not yet mature enough to make the institution as yet desirable.
Taking the six verses together, it is clear that we have to do not with mere voluntary rendering services of whatsoever kind, but with a definite class of men, not merely ministering to the Ecclesia or its members but formally recognised by the Ecclesia as having an office of this kind. This is implied partly in the parallelism to the Elders just above, partly in the imperative form, partly in the requirement of probation, whether that means probation in the work 200itself or careful examination of qualifications and antecedents. The moral requirements are substantially the same as for the Elders, so far as they go, except that these alone include the absence of talebearing for the men, backbiting for the women, faults which evidently might easily have place in men who came much in contact with various individual Christians and families, but less so in men entrusted with oversight and teaching. On the other hand we find nothing corresponding to three marked qualifications of Elders, viz. cheerful hospitality, capacity for teaching, and freedom from reproach or accusation, to say nothing of positive good testimony from outsiders, while on the other hand equal stress is laid in the two cases on the domestic qualifications implied in “a husband of one wife” (however we interpret this ambiguous phrase) and in “excellent control of children and household.” Evidently a man whose own family constituted a bad example for the rest of the community was to be held disqualified for either kind of office in the Ecclesia, whatever his personal capacities might be. It is a striking illustration of what is practically taught by many parts of the Apostolic Epistles, that the true Ecclesiastical life and the true Christian life and the true human life are all one and the same. To return to the three omissions. The silence about freedom from reproach or accusation in the case of the διάκονοι explains itself if their work, unlike the Elders’, had usually little publicity or conspicuousness. So 201 too the silence about hospitality is natural for men whose place in the Ecclesia did not seem to impose this as a duty upon them more than on the members of the community generally. The silence about teaching may in like manner be safely taken as sufficient evidence that teaching formed no part of the duty of a διάκονος.
The clause “holding the mystery of the faith in a pure conscience,” cannot when carefully examined, be safely interpreted as having reference to a mystery of doctrine which they are to ‘hold’ in the sense of ‘holding fast.’ Τὸ μυστήριον τῆς πίστεως, undoubtedly a difficult phrase, is probably (as Weiss explains it) the secret constituted by their own inner faith, not known to men but inspiring all their work; and then the stress lies on “in a pure conscience” (see the association of faith and a pure or good conscience in i. 5, 19). Thus in this clause a true inward religion and a true inward morality are laid down as required for the office of διάκονοι; that is, the external nature of the services chiefly rendered by them was not to be taken as sanctioning any merely external efficiency. The lowest service to be rendered to the Ecclesia and to its members would be a delusive and dangerous service if rendered by men, however otherwise active, who were not themselves moved by the faith on which the Ecclesia rested and governed by its principles. This however has nothing to do with teaching on the part of the διάκονοι, to which there is 202no reference in the whole passage. On the other hand we may safely say that it would have been contrary to the spirit of the Apostolic age to prohibit all teaching on the part of any διάκονοι who had real capacity of that kind. But this would be no part of their official duty, and so it naturally finds no mention here.
The last verse, iii. 13, has been often understood to say that excellent discharge of the duties of a διάκονος would rightly entitle him to promotion to a higher kind of work, doubtless that of an Elder. Βαθμός undeniably means a step, and so might easily be used for a grade of dignity and function. But the rest of the verse renders this interpretation unnatural; and the true sense doubtless is that διάκονοι by excellent discharge of their duties may win for themselves an excellent vantage ground, a “standing” (R.V.) a little, as it were, above the common level, enabling them to exercise an influence and moral authority to which their work as such could not entitle them.
The words διάκονος and διακονία.
We must turn now to the word or words by which their function is designated. The primary sense of διάκονος, as it meets us in Greek prose literature generally, is a servant or slave within the household, whose chief duty consists in waiting on his master at table, and sometimes in marketing for him. Originally perhaps he was a messenger: but if so, that 203sense was at least too obsolete long before the Christian era to be important to us. Further, to Greek5656Two or three passages of Plato in particular bring out the association connected with it: Gorg. 518 A, 521A; Rep. 370 f. In Gorg. 518 A we have the significant series of epithets δουλοπρεπεῖς τε καὶ διακονικὰς καὶ ἀνελευθέρους. There are clear echoes of these passages in the same sense long after in Plut. Mor. II. 794 A and Aristeid. Orat. 46 (pp. 152f., 187, 193), and doubtless elsewhere; and the same feeling shews itself in a number of passages in Aristotle’s Politics. ears the word almost always seems to suggest relatively low kinds of offices, whether rendered (in the literal original sense) to a master, or (figuratively) to a state. Our word ‘menial’ nearly answers to the sense thus practically predominant. It is a strange mistake of Archbishop Trench’s (his article on this word and its synonyms being indeed altogether less careful than usual) to say that 8talcovos does not represent the servant in his relation to a person. The true proper Greek sense is preserved in several places of the Gospels, e.g. Lk. xii. 37, “he shall gird himself, and make them sit down to meat, and shall come and serve them” (διακονήσει αὐτοῖς); or again, xxii. 26 f. And this last passage leads to what is really the same sense in the great saying (Mt. xx. 28 || Mk.), “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister.”
One great exception there is to the Greek contempt for all pertaining to a διάκονος, but it is an exception in appearance only, it is used of Athenian statesmen who had saved their country. Aristeides5757Orat. 46, pp. 198 f. 204 refuses to call them διάκονοι of the state, but will gladly call them διάκονοι of the Saviour Gods who had used their instrumentality; and in several remarkable passages Epictetus (Diss. iii. 22, 69; 24, 65; iv. 7, 20; cf. iii. 26, 28) makes it the truest dignity of a man to be a διάκονος of God. The Gospel gave the word a still higher consecration of the same kind. The Christian, even more than the Jew, felt himself to be the servant of a heavenly Lord, nay of a Lord who had taken on Himself the form of a servant; and thus for Him every grade and pattern of service was lifted into a higher sphere. It would be superfluous to enumerate the passages in which men are called διάκονοι of God or of Christ, the least obvious being Rom. xiii. 4, when the civil magistrate bears this title. Ministration thus became one of the primary aims of all Christian actions (cf. Eph. iv. 12; 1 Pet. iv. 10 f.; 1 Cor. xii. 5; Rom. xii. 7). Apostleship, the highest form of ministration, is repeatedly designated thus (Acts i. 17, 25; xx. 24; xxi. 19; 2 Cor. iv. 1; v. 18; vi. 3 (cf. 4); Rom. xi. 13); sometimes with the special reference ministration “of the Gospel” (Eph. iii. 7; Col. i. 23); or “of the Ecclesia” (Col. i. 25). But naturally Apostleship does not stand alone in this respect. In 1 Cor. iii. 5 St Paul calls Apollos and himself alike διάκονοι through whose instrumentality the Corinthians had believed. In 2 Tim. iv. 5 Timothy is bidden, “Be thou sober in all things, suffer hardship, do the work 205of an evangelist, bring to fulfilment (πληροφόρησον) thy ministration”; and the Colossian Christians (Col. iv. 17) are bidden to tell Archippus, “Look to the ministration which thou receivedst in the Lord, that thou fulfil it” (πληροῖς).
Again, there are a few passages in which the words are used very differently, viz. for ministrations rendered not to God but to St Paul himself. Thus Acts xix. 22 calls Timothy and Erastus δύο τῶν διακονούντων αὐτῷ) on the occasion of his sending them forward from Ephesus to Macedonia. It is probably in the same sense that Tychicus is called not only a beloved brother but a faithful διάκονος in the Lord (Eph. vi. 21; Col. iv. 7). So in 2 Tim. (iv. 11) St Paul calls Mark right useful to himself εἰς διακονίαν, and tells Philemon (13) how he had purposed to keep with him Onesimus ἵνα ὑπὲρ σοῦ μοι διακονῇ in the bonds of the Gospel; and appeals to Timothy’s knowledge (2 Tim. i. 18) how great had been the ministrations of Onesiphorus at Ephesus, evidently (as the context shews) chiefly though perhaps not exclusively to St Paul himself.
It is doubtful whether this last ministration of Onesiphorus to St Paul was by public labours of some kind or by personal attendance and help to St Paul as a man. At all events this latter sense is likewise amply represented in the Acts and Epistles with reference to the supply of material wants, thus connecting itself directly with what we saw to be the 206most exact sense of these words in Greek daily life. A specially interesting passage for our purpose is Acts vi. 1, 2, 6, the account of the institution of the Seven at Jerusalem. The widows of the Greek-speaking Jews, we hear, had been neglected (ἐν τῇ διακονίᾳ τῇ καθημερινῇ), the daily provision of food for the poor at a common table. The Twelve object to leaving the Word of God in order διακονεῖν τραπέζαις, and propose by the appointment of the Seven to be able to devote themselves to prayer and τῇ διακονίᾳ τοῦ λόγου. This last phrase is probably used in intentional antithesis to the ministration of tables or of meat and drink, to indicate that the Twelve were not refusing to accept the evangelical function of ministering, but only to neglect the ministration of the higher sustenance for the sake of the lower sustenance. In Acts xi. 29, xii. 25, the mission of Barnabas and Saul from Antioch to carry help to the brethren of Judea in the famine is called a διακονία; and St Paul himself several times uses the same word, usually with τοῖς ἁγίοις or εἰς τοὺς ἁγίους added, for the Gentile collections for a similar purpose which occupied so much of his thoughts at a later time (Rom. xv. 25, 31; 2 Cor. viii. 4; ix. 1, 12, 13).
Another instructive passage is 1 Cor. xvi. 15, “Now I beseech you, brethren (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is a firstfruit of Achaia, and [that] they laid themselves out εἰς διακονίαν τοῖς ἁγίοις), — [I beseech you] that ye also be subject (ὑποτάσσησθε) 207to such, and to everyone that helpeth in the work and laboureth.” These words suggest that Stephanas was a wealthy or otherwise influential Corinthian who with his household made it his aim to use his position for the benefit of Christians travelling to Corinth from a distance, all of whom in Apostolic language were saints or holy, as all alike members of a holy community, and consecrated to a holy life. Services like these rendered by a man of social eminence made it good for the members of the Corinthian Ecclesia to look up to him as a leader. He was in fact affording an example of what St Paul meant by ὁ προϊστάμενος in Rom. xii. 8. The same kind of service is implied under other words in what is said of Prisca and Aquila in Rom. xvi. 3 f. And so we come to Phœbe, the subject of the two preceding verses, Rom. xvi. i f. “But I commend to you,” St Paul writes, “Phœbe our sister, who is also a διάκονος of the Ecclesia that is at Cenchrea; that ye receive her in the Lord worthily of the saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever matter she may have need of you: for she herself also shewed herself a προστάτις (patroness) of many, and of mine own self.” These last words shew pretty plainly that Phœbe was a lady of wealth, or position. She had been a προστάτις of many, including St Paul. It is most unlikely that St Paul would have applied to her a word suggestive of the kind of help and encouragement given by wealthy benevolent people to dependents or helpless strangers if she had been 208only a humble member of the community, who shewed kindness, to other Christians no more favourably placed. We may safely conclude that what Stephanas had done at Corinth she had done at Cenchreæ, its seaport on the east, nine miles off. But if this was her position, it is certainly possible, but hardly likely, that διάκονον τῆς ἐκκλησίας etc. means “a deaconess of the Ecclesia that is at Cenchreæ.” The καὶ before διάκονον, which is almost certainly genuine, points likewise to this term as conveying not a mere fact about Phœbe but a second ground of commendation parallel to her being one whom St Paul admitted to the distinction of being called his sister (as he spoke of Timothy and others as ὁ ἀδελφός). Hence we may naturally take it in the ordinary, not the later technical sense, as one who ministered to the Ecclesia at Cenchrea, the nature of the ministration being described in the next verse. To call her a διάκονον meant thus what was meant by saying that the house of Stephanas laid themselves out εἰς διακονίαν. One passage more, from a later writer, remains. The Hebrews are assured (Heb. vi. 10) that “God will not forget their work and the love which they shewed, looking unto His name, in that they had ministered to the saints, and still did minister.”209
The function of ‘Deacons’ in Ephesus.
It can hardly be doubted that the officers of the Ephesian ἐκκλησία, who in 1 Tim. are called διάκονοι, had for their work in like manner, chiefly, perhaps even exclusively, the help of a material kind which the poorer or more helpless members of the body received from the community at large. It is difficult to account for the word, used thus absolutely, in any other way. They would share with the Elders the honour and blessing of being recognised ministers of the Ecclesia. But that would be nothing distinctive. Ministration to the bodily wants of its needy members would be distinctive, and would obviously tally with the associations most familiar to Greek ears in connexion with the word. The analogy of the Seven at Jerusalem points the same way. There is, of course, no evidence for historical continuity between the Seven and either the Ephesian διάκονοι or the developed order of Deacons of later times. The New Testament gives not the slightest indication of any connexion. But the Seven at Jerusalem would of course be well known to St Paul and to many others outside Palestine, and it would not be strange if the idea propagated itself. Indeed analogous wants might well lead to analogous institutions. There is very little reason to think that the διάκονοι of 1 Tim. had its origin in Jewish usage. Some critics have been attracted by the similarity of title for the 210Ḥazân hakknêseth, or servant of the synagogue. He is doubtless the official called ὑπηρέτης in Luke iv. 20. Now ὑπηρέτης and διάκονος are often used interchangeably (though ὑπηρέτης is the vaguer word of the two), and Epiph. 135 A speaks of Ἁζανιτῶν τῶν παρ᾽ αὐτοῖς διακόνων ἑρμηνευομένων ἢ ὑπηρετῶν. But the duties of the Ḥazân were different, and apparently confined to the walls of the synagogue.
Still less could the office have had a heathen origin, despite the two inscriptions cited by Hatch p. 50, C.I.G. 1793 b. add. at Anactorium in Acarnania, where διάκονος is one of ten offices evidently connected with sacrificial feasts, standing between μάγειρος and ἀρχοινοχοῦς; and 3037 at Metropolis in Lydia, where twice over we have a ἱερεύς, a ἱερεία, a (female) διάκονος, and two (male) διάκονοι.
In the Apostolic conception of an Ecclesia such a function as that of these Ephesian διάκονοι had a sufficiently lofty side; the διάκονοι were the main instruments for giving practical effect to the mutual sympathy of the members of the body.
Had then the word already become technical when 1 Tim. was written? It is not easy to answer quite precisely. We cannot safely argue back from later usage without knowing whether later usage was affected by this very passage. But the office can hardly have been without a title from the first, and no other title for the office occurs in the Epistle, while St Paul evidently assumed no other designation 211or description to be necessary. It seems pretty certain, therefore, that διάκονος was already a recognised title among the Christians of Ephesus. On the other hand it seems equally probable that in this context St Paul uses it with express reference to its ordinary associations in antithesis to ἐπισκοπῆς and ἐπίσκοπον above. That is, he treats the two offices as characteristically offices, the one of government, the other of the reverse of government ‘service’. How natural this contrast would seem to Greeks we can readily see by a passage of Aeschines (c. Ctesiph. 13) respecting the classification of public offices at Athens according to the authorities which elected or nominated to them. Thus tested, the lower class of offices, he says, is not an ἀρχή but ἐπιμελεία τις καὶ διακονία, and similarly, further on, he uses the phrase οὐ διακονεῖν ἀλλ᾽ ἄρχειν. Assuredly the ἐπισκοπή of the Elders would count as an ἀρχή or government, and thus the contrast would need no explicit comment.
The salutation in Phil. i. 1.
Let us now return for a moment to the salutation of Philippians, which it would have been unsatisfactory to consider in detachment from the illustration afforded by the Pastoral Epistles. “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, σὺν ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις.” If the verse stood alone, no one would hesitate before assuming that these are two titles of 212two offices, ἐπίσκοποι and διάκονοι. Of course it would not follow that ἐπισκόποις bears here its later monarchical sense: the plural (being addressed to a single Ecclesia) and what is known of the arrangements of the Apostolic age generally would shew the office to be one shared by at least a plurality of persons in the same Ecclesia. But then we have to face the fact that this Epistle stands chronologically between St Paul’s words at Miletus and his letter to Titus and I Tim., which agree in using ἐπίσκοπος, not as a title synonymous with the title πρεσβύτερος, Elder, but as a word describing the function of the persons entitled Elders. In other words, ἐπισκόποις, if a title in Philipp. i. 1, would imply a more advanced state of things than that of the Pastoral Epistles. The clue to what seems the right interpretation is given by those thirteen verses of 1 Tim. iii. which we were considering lately. St Paul does not mean simply two different offices, but two contrasted offices, or (to speak more correctly) two contrasted functions, “with them that have oversight, and them that do service [minister].” On the common view he would be simply sending salutations to the two sets of men independently of the salutation to the ‘saints’ at Philippi generally: and in that case we might find it hard to explain why such a salutation is withheld in writing to other Ecclesiae. In reality he is probably thinking less of the men coming under either head than of the Ecclesia as a whole: these two functions are to him the main outward manifestations 213that the community of saints was indeed an organised body, needing and possessing government on the one side and service on the other. It would matter little how many offices there were, with or without titles, two, or three, or twenty. That was a matter of external arrangement, which might vary endlessly according to circumstances. The essential thing was to recognise the need of the two fundamental types of function.
It might perhaps be suggested that sufficient account has not here been taken of the usage of early Christian writers outside the New Testament. But the fact is, their evidence is of little help. To the best of my belief the only place where θπίσκοποι alone is used of Elders is in the Didache 15, “Choose therefore for yourselves to be ἐπισκόπους καὶ διακόνους men worthy of the Lord, meek, not lovers of money, etc.”; where the precise nature of the usage is as ambiguous as in Philippians, from which Epistle indeed the combination is probably borrowed, whether rightly understood or not. On the other hand both Clement and Hennas use both ἐπίσκοπος and πρεσβύτερος, and apparently in just the same way as St Paul at Miletus and in the Pastoral Epistles: in Clem. 44 τοῦ ὀνόματος τῆς ἐπισκοπῆς, as both Lightfoot and Harnack rightly assume, does not mean the title ἐπίσκοπος but the dignity attaching to the function of ἐπισκοπή, according to the frequent biblical sense of ‘name’.214
‘Laying on of hands’ in 1 Tim. v. 22.
We have not quite done with the Pastoral Epistles, though nearly so. One verse should be mentioned here, because it has been so often understood in a sense bearing on this subject of offices in the Ecclesia, v. 22, “Lay hands hastily on no one, neither be in fellowship with sins of others: keep thyself pure.” This verse stands next to the adjuration against the shewing of favour or prejudice by Timothy in his sanctioning special honour for some Elders, and himself receiving accusations and uttering rebukes in the case of others. It is followed by the verse bidding Timothy be no longer a water-drinker. Thus it stands between five verses relating to Elders and a single verse relating to Timothy’s own imprudent adoption of a questionable form of ἁγνεία or ceremonial purity. In this position the laying on of hands is by most commentators, as also by such Greek fathers as notice the verse, interpreted of ordination, i.e. of the Elders previously mentioned: the other equally familiar laying on of hands, that connected with baptism and eventually known as Confirmation, being evidently out of place here. This view is certainly possible, but it suits rather imperfectly the strong phrase “be not partaker in sins of others”; and it makes an additional precept about Elders come in after that solemn adjuration, the natural place of such a precept being before the adjuration. There is 215much greater probability in the view taken by some Latin fathers, by our own Hammond (who defends it at great length), and by a few recent critics, including Dr Ellicott, that the laying on of hands, the act symbolical of blessing, was here the act of blessing by which penitents were received back into the communion of the faithful (cf. 2 Cor. ii. 6 f.). The practice was certainly widely spread among Christians not more than four or five generations later, and as Hammond points out, the principle of it is involved in the laying on of hands on the sick accepted from others and practised by our Lord Himself repeatedly, as also by St Paul (Acts xxviii. 8), even as by Ananias in restoring St Paul’s own sight (Acts ix. 12, 17), and probably implied in James v. 14 (προσευξάσθωσαν ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν).
‘Laying on of hands’ in ordination.
Neither here then nor elsewhere in the New Testament have we any information
about the manner in which Elders were consecrated or ordained (the exact word
matters little) to their office; the χειροτονήσαντες of Acts xiv. 23 having
of course no reference to a solemn act of appointment but to the preceding
choice, just as in 2 Cor. viii. 19 χειροτονηθείς means that Titus had been
chosen by the Ecclesiae to travel with St Paul. The only passages of the New
Testament in which laying on of hands is connected with an act answering to
ordination are four, viz. Acts vi. 6, the laying on of the hands of the Twelve on the Seven at Jerusalem at
their first appointment; Acts xiii. 3, the laying on of the hands of the
representatives of the Ecclesia of Antioch on Barnabas and Saul in consequence
of a prophetic monition sending them forth; and the two passages about Timothy,
likewise, as we have lately seen, due in all probability to another prophetic
monition sending him forth on a unique mission intimately connected with that
former mission. Jewish usage5858 The transference of the Semichah to the Sanhedrin and Patriarch is of later
date: see Hamburger, Art. Ordinirung ii. 883 ff.
[The Semichah was the ceremony accompanying the appointment of a Rabbi and admission to the Sanhedrin. The root Sāmach is used of Moses laying his hands on Joshua at his appointment, Nu. xxvii. 18, 23 and of putting the hand on the sacrifices, Lev. i. 4, iv. 4, etc.
See Buxtorf, Lex. 1498. Selden, de Synedriis ii. 7.]. in the case of Rabbis and their disciples renders it highly probable that (as a matter of fact) laying on of hands was largely practised in the Ecclesiae of the Apostolic age as a rite introductory to ecclesiastical office. But as the New Testament tells us no more than what has been already mentioned, it can hardly be likely that any essential principle was held to be involved in it. It was enough that an Ecclesia should in modern phrase be organised, or in the really clearer Apostolic phrase be treated as a body made up of members with a diversity of functions; and that all things should be done decently and in order.
We must not stop now to examine the sixteen verses on widows which open chap. v., merely noticing the way in which the Christian community of Ephesus was at this time caring for its most helpless and at the same time deserving members. A widow of at least sixty fulfilling certain moral conditions, among others that of having laid herself out to help other members of the community in their needs, was to be placed on the roll (v. 9 καταλεγέσθω), evidently (see v. 16) the Ecclesia at large was to be charged with their support.218
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