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10/14/2009

"Diakonia"

I just finished a dynamic and deep book, "Diakonia: Re-intrepreting the Ancient Sources" by John N. Collins ( Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0-19-539602-7). It is a book reflecting the authors long study of the original language, the use of the term 'diakonia' in both Biblical and non-Biblical sources. The result is challenging and filled with additional questions that I am sure researchers will rush to interact with over the coming years.

Why is this word of note? It is the word that is used to define our current understandings of the word "ministry" and it is the word that has been used to keep women forever in the outer courts of Christian ministry and leadership.

It is the word in Romans where Paul speaks of the Christian woman sent to him with letters and purpose, Phoebe.

It is a word that leaders, translators, and preachers have played a shell game with in order to keep women out of the ministry.

For you see, the word means "servant" in some uses and therefore a reader with a preconception that women can not serve God in leadership or ministry will translate the term to mean Phoebe came as a servant, a slave, a helper.

Elsewhere,where the exact word is used in reference to men it is translated as minister, preacher, and priest.

This shell game of meaning can be found throughout commentaries, writings, sermons, and other sources over the last 1900 years.

If the sweeping work of Collins is taken with the seriousness it deserves, the word also has deep implications for the very nature of the ministry and those who act in those roles in the church.

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