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In I Tim. 3: 11, in the light of the context, it seems the verse must be understood of
`women deacons', as for example Weymouth, who renders `deaconness' and the N.E.B.
margin which suggests the same. The word diakonos is not of course present in this
verse, but it would be strange indeed if, in a passage devoted to the qualifications of
`deacons' (verses 8 to 13) Paul has interpolated a reference to women in general.
The A.V. which sees these `women' as the `wives' of men to be chosen for the
diaconate may possibly be correct, but as J. N. D. Kelly points out:
"it is very strange that only deacons' wives are singled out for mention, since the
overseers' wives occupied an even more influential position" (Commentary on 1Timothy
It is also logical to expect that since women did `serve' in the assemblies (as witness
Phebe at Cenchrea) then Paul would have given some instructions to Timothy for their
The qualifications for these deaconesses can perhaps be best appreciated from
F. F. Bruce's paraphrase of I Tim. 3: 11:
"Similarly, ministering women should be dignified in their conduct, free from any
tendency to spread scandal, sober in their habits and marked by thorough fidelity"
It must not be imagined for one moment that because the woman is not allowed to
hold positions which speak of leadership and authority, that she cannot contribute just as
much as the man to both the spread of the gospel and the building up of believers. Paul
valued highly the labours of those who were associated with him in the gospel, who had
`laboured side by side' with him (Phil. 4: 3). In his salutations he mentions a number of
women, who in various ways had done much to the advancement of the gospel (Phebe,
Priscilla, Mary, Tryphena, Tryphosa, the mother of Rufus, etc., Rom. 16:). "Certain
women" were also associated with the Lord's earthly ministry `which ministered
(diakoneo) unto Him of their substance' (Luke 8: 2, 3). None of these had apparently
either preached or taught, but they will be just as much commended for the part they did
play, as the men they laboured alongside.