Phoebe (biblical figure)

Last updated
Saint Phoebe
Deaconess
Born1st Century
Died1st Century
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodox Church
Lutheran Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Feast
  • September 3 (Roman Catholic Church and Orthodox Church)
  • October 25 (Lutheran Church)

Phoebe (Koine Greek Φοίβη) was a first-century Christian woman mentioned by the Apostle Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, verses 16:1-2 . A notable woman in the church of Cenchreae, she was trusted by Paul to deliver his letter to the Romans. [1] Paul refers to her both as a deacon (Gk. diakonon) and as a helper or patron of many (Gk. prostatis). This is the only place in the New Testament where a woman is specifically referred to with these two distinctions. Paul introduces Phoebe as his emissary to the church in Rome and, because they are not acquainted with her, Paul provides them with her credentials.

Contents

Background

Map showing ancient Cenchreae Kenchreai Lechaion.jpg
Map showing ancient Cenchreae

Paul's letter to the Romans was written in Corinth sometime between the years 56 and 58, in order to solicit support for an anticipated missionary journey to Spain. [2] Although he had not yet visited Rome, Paul would have been familiar with the community and its circumstances through Priscilla and Aquila, who were in Corinth, having previously lived in Rome. Biblical scholars are divided as to whether Chapter 16, Paul's letter of recommendation for Phoebe, was intended for Rome, with whose Christian community he was not acquainted, or with the more familiar community at Ephesus. [2]

I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.

Paul [Rom. 16:1-2]

The name Phoebe means "pure", "radiant", or "bright"; and was the name of a Titan in Greek mythology. [3]

Some scholars believe Phoebe was responsible for delivering Paul's epistle to the Roman Christian church. [4]

Greek terms for her titles

diakonos

Apostle Paul used the Greek diakonos (διάκονος) to designate Phoebe as a deacon. "Deacon" is a transliteration of the Greek, and in Paul's writings sometimes refers to a Christian designated to serve with the overseers of a church, and at others refers to "servants" in a general sense. In the letter to the Romans, apart from the debated case of Phoebe, it always refers to "servants" in the generic sense, as opposed to a church office. [5] However, at this inaugural stage in the Church's formation it is no doubt premature to think of offices as being consistent or clearly defined, and Rosalba Manes argues that Paul's use of the term "deacon" suggests that, like Stephen and Philip, Phoebe's ministry may have extended beyond charitable works to include preaching and evangelization. [6] [7]

"Likewise the Women"

While some scholars believe Paul restricted the office of deacon to men, others do not, since, when describing the qualities that the office-holders called "deacons" must possess, Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 3:11 gunaikas (Greek for "women") hosautos (Greek for "likewise"), translated "likewise the women." They, likewise, are to be "worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything." The "likewise" indicated that the women deacons were to live according to the same standards as the men deacons (see also the Apostle Paul's use of the term "likewise" in Romans 1:27 , 1 Cor. 7:3,4,22 , and Titus 2:3,6 ). [8] [9]

prostatis

In classical Greek the word prostates (προστάτης) (feminine, prostatis) was used to mean either a chief or leader, or a guardian or protector, often in a religious context; it was later used also to translate the Roman concept of a patron [10] . The Apostle Paul's use indicates that its range of meanings had not changed by New Testament times. This suggests that Phoebe was a woman of means, who, among other things, contributed financial support to Paul's apostolate, [6] and probably hosted the house church of Cenchreae in her home, as well as, providing shelter and hospitality to Paul when in the town. [7]

Veneration

The Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America commemorates Phoebe with Lydia of Thyatira and Dorcas on January 27, the day after the commemoration of the early male missionaries Silas, Timothy and Titus and two days after the feast of the Conversion of St. Paul. The Episcopal Church does likewise. However, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod remembers her on October 25, while the Eastern Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church place her feast day as September 3.

See also

Related Research Articles

Barnabas one of the earliest Christian disciples

Barnabas, born Joseph, was according to tradition an early Christian, one of the prominent Christian disciples in Jerusalem. According to Acts 4:36, Barnabas was a Cypriot Jew. Named an apostle in Acts 14:14, he and Paul the Apostle undertook missionary journeys together and defended Gentile converts against the Judaizers. They traveled together making more converts, and participated in the Council of Jerusalem. Barnabas and Paul successfully evangelized among the "God-fearing" Gentiles who attended synagogues in various Hellenized cities of Anatolia.

Epistle to the Philippians eleventh book in the New Testament

The Epistle to the Philippians, commonly referred to as Philippians, is a Pauline epistle of the New Testament of the Christian Bible. The epistle is attributed to Paul the Apostle and a co-author named Timothy, and is addressed to the Christian church in Philippi. Paul and Silas first visited Philippi in Greece during Paul's second missionary journey, which occurred between approximately 49 and 51 AD. Philippi was the location of the first Christian community established in Greece.

Epistle to Titus book of the Bible

The Epistle of Paul to Titus, usually referred to simply as Titus, is one of the three pastoral epistles in the New Testament, historically attributed to Paul the Apostle. It is addressed to Saint Titus and describes the requirements and duties of elders and bishops.

Epistle to the Romans book of the Bible

The Epistle to the Romans or Letter to the Romans, often shortened to Romans, is the sixth book in the New Testament. Biblical scholars agree that it was composed by the Apostle Paul to explain that salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the longest of the Pauline epistles.

First Epistle of Peter book of the Bible

The First Epistle of Peter, usually referred to simply as First Peter and often written 1 Peter, is a book of the New Testament. The author presents himself as Peter the Apostle, and, following Catholic tradition, the epistle has been held to have been written during his time as Bishop of Rome or Bishop of Antioch, though neither title is used in the epistle. The text of the letter states that it was written from Babylon. The letter is addressed to various churches in Asia Minor suffering religious persecution.

Saint Timothy Early Christian evangelist and bishop from Roman Anatolia

Timothy was an early Christian evangelist and the first Christian bishop of Ephesus, who tradition relates died around the year AD 97.

Pope Clement I Fourth Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Clement I, also known as Saint Clement of Rome, is listed by Irenaeus and Tertullian as Bishop of Rome, holding office from 88 to his death in 99. He is considered to be the first Apostolic Father of the Church, one of the three chief ones together with Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch.

Deacon ministry in the Christian Church

A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state.

Priscilla and Aquila Christian missionary married couple

Priscilla and Aquila were a first century Christian missionary married couple described in the New Testament. Aquila is traditionally listed among the Seventy Disciples. They lived, worked, and traveled with the Apostle Paul, who described them as his "fellow workers in Christ Jesus".

Deaconess female non-ordained member of ministry

The ministry of a deaconess is, in modern times, a non-ordained ministry for women in some Protestant churches to provide pastoral care, especially for other women. The term is also applied to some women deacons in the early church. The word comes from a Greek word, diakonos (διάκονος), for "deacon", which means a servant or helper and occurs frequently in the Christian New Testament of the Bible. Deaconesses trace their roots from the time of Jesus Christ through to the 13th century in the West. They existed from the early through the middle Byzantine periods in Constantinople and Jerusalem; the office may also have existed in Western European churches. There is evidence to support the idea that the diaconate including women in the Byzantine Church of the early and middle Byzantine periods was recognized as one of the major non ordained orders of clergy.

September 3 (Eastern Orthodox liturgics) day in the Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar

Sep. 2 - Eastern Orthodox liturgical calendar - Sep. 4

In Christianity, the gospel, or the Good News, is the news of the coming of the Kingdom of God. The message of good news is described as a narrative in the four canonical gospels.

First Epistle of Clement

The First Epistle of Clement is a letter addressed to the Christians in the city of Corinth. The letter was composed at some time between AD 70 and AD 140, most likely around 96. It ranks with Didache as one of the earliest—if not the earliest—of extant Christian documents outside the canonical New Testament. As the name suggests, a Second Epistle of Clement is known, but this is a later work by a different author. Neither 1 nor 2 Clement are part of the canonical New Testament, but they are part of the Apostolic Fathers collection.

The roles of women in Christianity can vary considerably today as they have varied historically since the third century New Testament church. This is especially true in marriage and in formal ministry positions within certain Christian denominations, churches, and parachurch organizations.

Outline of Christianity Overview of and topical guide to Christianity

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Christianity:

Paul the Apostle and women

The relationship between Paul the Apostle and Women is an important element in the theological debate about Christianity and women because Paul was the first writer to give ecclesiastical directives about the role of women in the Church. However, there are arguments that some of these writings are post-Pauline interpolations.

Authorship of the Petrine epistles

The authorship of the Petrine epistles is an important question in biblical criticism, parallel to that of the authorship of the Pauline epistles, since scholars have long sought to determine who were the exact authors of the New Testament letters. Most scholars today conclude that Saint Peter was not the author of the two epistles that are attributed to him and that they were written by two different authors.

Acts 18 Acts of the Apostles, chapter 18

Acts 18 is the eighteenth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It records the final part of the second missionary journey of Paul, together with Silas and Timothy, and the beginning of the third missionary journey. The book containing this chapter is anonymous, but early Christian tradition uniformly affirmed that Luke composed this book as well as the Gospel of Luke.

Romans 1

Romans 1 is the first chapter of the Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle, while he was in Corinth in the mid 50s AD, with the help of an amanuensis (secretary), Tertius, who adds his own greeting in Romans 16:22. Acts 20:3 records that Paul stayed in Greece, probably Corinth, for three months.

Romans 16

Romans 16 is the sixteenth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans in the New Testament of the Christian Bible. It is authored by Paul the Apostle, while Paul was in Corinth in the mid 50s CE, with the help of a secretary (amanuensis), Tertius, who adds his own greeting in Romans 16:22. Chapter 16 contains Paul's personal recommendation, personal greetings, final admonition, grace, greetings from companions, identification of writer/amanuensis and blessing.

References

  1. Quient, Allison. "Phoebe: Helper or Leader?" Arise, 14 Mar 2013. Christians for Biblical Equality.
  2. 1 2 Campbell, Joan Cecelia. Phoebe: Patron and Emissary, Liturgical Press. 2015 ISBN   9780814684023
  3. Jewett, Robert. Romans: A Commentary (Minneapolis, MN.: Fortress Press, 2007), p. 943
  4. See, for example, Borg, Marcus and John Dominic Crossan (2009) The First Paul: Reclaiming the radical visionary behind the church's conservative icon. London: SPCK (51)
  5. NIV footnote
  6. 1 2 Manes, Rosalba. "Phoebe a woman of luminous charity", L'Osservatore Romano, January 2, 2018
  7. 1 2 MacDonald, Margaret Y., “Was Celsus Right? The Role of Women in the Expansion of Early Christianity”, Early Christian Families in Context: An Interdisciplinary Dialogue, ed. David L. Balch and Carolyn Oziak (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003), p. 166
  8. Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Deacon, Deaconess'". Evangelical Dictionary of Theology , 1997.
  9. "Deacon, Deaconess - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology Online".
  10. Liddell, Scott & Jones, 1882, Lexicon, s.v.
Further reading