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Answering The Atheist
September 7, 2003 / Volume 3, Issue 36

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Can women be church leaders? Romans 16:1 says yes (“servant” is translated as “deaconess” in many translations), but 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 say no. Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
The Greek word used to describe Phebe in Romans 16:1 is diakonos, which is in other places used of an office in the church (ie. 1 Timothy 3:8; Philippians 1:1), but it is not always used in reference to this office. Paul makes it clear in 1 Timothy 3 that a qualification for being a deacon (the office) is that he be married to one wife. That would exclude women from qualifying.

The word diakonos appears 29 times in the New Testament, almost exclusively in reference to one who serves another. Such is an honourable role, and indeed, all Christians are called to serve one another, but, to do so does not make one a church leader. Those translations which have recorded diakonos in Romans 16:1 are in error, since no such office existed in the church.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible