Seven Deacons

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Section of a fresco in the Niccoline Chapel by Fra Angelico, depicting Saint Peter consecrating the Seven Deacons. Saint Stephen is shown kneeling. Angelico, niccolina 17.jpg
Section of a fresco in the Niccoline Chapel by Fra Angelico, depicting Saint Peter consecrating the Seven Deacons. Saint Stephen is shown kneeling.

The Seven, often known as the Seven Deacons, were leaders elected by the Early Christian church to minister to the community of believers in Jerusalem, to enable the Apostles to concentrate on 'prayer and the Ministry of the Word' and to address a concern raised by Greek-speaking believers about their widows being overlooked in the daily diakonia or ministry. The words food or funds never appear in any Greek manuscript of the New Testament. The words first make their appearance in translations of the Bible from the 1940s onwards. In the context of chapter six of Acts the daily diakonia may refer to the ministry of the Word and not food or funds. It is equally plausible that "daily diakonia" deals with the material needs of these widows, given the context provided in Acts 6:2:

Jerusalem in Christianity

Jerusalem's role in first-century Christianity, during the ministry of Jesus and the Apostolic Age, as recorded in the New Testament, gives it great importance.

"And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables."

The word redered "tables"(τραπεζαις ) is used 14 times in the New Testament and in each occurrence deals with either food or money. In verse two, the twelve are specifically appointing these seven disciples for the care of the Hellenists ( ελληνιστων ) so that they, the twelve, can continue preaching the word, instead of working to both preach and provide for the material needs of the Christian community.

The section concludes by stating that the word of God continued to spread and makes no mention of widows receiving more food or funds. The ministry to be undertaken is preaching the word to Greek speakers. The works of Stephen and Philip are the only two recorded and their works concern preaching, catechising and baptising. Philip is simply referred to as "the evangelist" in chapter 18. Their appointment is described in chapter 6 of the Acts of the Apostles ( Acts 6:1-6 ). According to a later tradition they are supposed to have also been among the Seventy Disciples who appear in the Gospel of Luke ( Luke 10:1, 10:17 ). Although the Seven are not called 'deacons' in the New Testament, their role is described as 'diaconal' (διακονειν τραπεζαις in Greek), and they are therefore often regarded as the forerunners of the Christian order of deacons. [1]

Acts of the Apostles Book of the New Testament

The Acts of the Apostles, often referred to simply as Acts, or formally the Book of Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; it tells of the founding of the Christian church and the spread of its message to the Roman Empire.

Gospel of Luke Book of the New Testament

The Gospel According to Luke, also called the Gospel of Luke, or simply Luke, is the third of the four canonical Gospels. It tells of the origins, birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

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.

The Seven Deacons were:

Saint Stephen 1st-century early Christian martyr and saint

Stephen, traditionally venerated as the protomartyr or first martyr of Christianity, was according to the Acts of the Apostles a deacon in the early church at Jerusalem who aroused the enmity of members of various synagogues by his teachings. Accused of blasphemy at his trial, he made a long speech denouncing the Jewish authorities who were sitting in judgment on him and was then stoned to death. His martyrdom was witnessed by Saul of Tarsus, a Pharisee who would later become a follower of Jesus and known as Paul the Apostle.

Prochorus (deacon) early Christian saint and bishop

Prochorus was one of the Seven Deacons chosen to care for the poor of the Christian community in Jerusalem. According to later tradition he was also one of the Seventy Disciples sent out by Jesus in Luke 10.

Nicanor the Deacon Ancient Roman saint

Nicanor was one of the Seven Deacons. He was martyred in 76.

According to the narrative in Acts, they were identified and selected by the community of believers on the basis of their reputation and wisdom, being 'full of the Holy Spirit', and their appointment was confirmed by the Apostles.

Holy Spirit is understood differently among the Abrahamic religions. The term is also used to describe aspects of other religions and belief structures.

Details

Only Stephen and Philip are discussed in much detail in Acts; tradition provides nothing further about Nicanor or Parmenas. Stephen became the first martyr of the church when he was killed by a mob, and whose death was agreed to by Saul of Tarsus, the future Apostle Paul (Acts 8:1). Philip evangelized in Samaria, where he converted Simon Magus and an Ethiopian eunuch, traditionally beginning the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Martyr person who suffers persecution and death for advocating, refusing to renounce, and/or refusing to advocate a belief or cause, usually a religious one

A martyr is someone who suffers persecution and death for advocating, renouncing, refusing to renounce, or refusing to advocate a religious belief or cause as demanded by an external party. In the martyrdom narrative of the remembering community, this refusal to comply with the presented demands results in the punishment or execution of an actor by an alleged oppressor. Accordingly, the status of the 'martyr' can be considered a posthumous title as a reward for those who are considered worthy of the concept of martyrdom by the living, regardless of any attempts by the deceased to control how they will be remembered in advance. Originally applied only to those who suffered for their religious beliefs, the term has come to be used in connection with people killed for a political cause.

Samaria region of ancient Israel

Samaria is a historical and biblical name used for the central region of the ancient Land of Israel, also part of Palestine, bordered by Galilee to the north and Judaea to the south. For the beginning of the Common Era, Josephus set the Mediterranean Sea as its limit to the west, and the Jordan River as its limit to the east. Its territory largely corresponds to the biblical allotments of the tribe of Ephraim and the western half of Manasseh; after the death of Solomon and the splitting-up of his empire into the southern Kingdom of Judah and the northern Kingdom of Israel, this territory constituted the southern part of the Kingdom of Israel. The border between Samaria and Judea is set at the latitude of Ramallah.

Simon Magus religious figure who interact with Peter

Simonthe Knowledgeable or Simon the Sorcerer, or Simon the Magician, is a religious figure whose confrontation with Peter is recorded in Acts 8:9–24. The act of simony, or paying for position and influence in the church, is named after Simon. Simon believed, among other things that human beings can perform what is normally attributable to miracles in Christianity, such as flying.

Tradition calls Prochorus the nephew of Stephen and a companion of John the Evangelist, who consecrated him bishop of Nicomedia in Bithynia (modern-day Turkey). He was traditionally ascribed the authorship of the apocryphal Acts of John, and was said to have ended his life as a martyr in Antioch in the 1st century. [2] According to Caesar Baronius' Annales Ecclesiastici , now considered historically inaccurate, Nicanor was a Cypriot Jew who returned to his native island and died a martyr in 76. Other accounts say he was martyred in "Berj," an unidentified place possibly confused with Botrys. Timon was said to have been a Hellenized Jew who became a bishop in Greece or in Bosra, Syria; in the latter account, his preaching brought the ire of the local governor, who martyred him with fire. After preaching for years in Asia Minor, where Hippolytus of Rome claimed he was bishop of Soli (Pompeiopolis; though he may have been referring to Soli, Cyprus), Parmenas was said to have settled down in Macedonia, where he died at Philippi in 98 during Trajan's persecutions.[ citation needed ]

John the Evangelist Name traditionally given to the author of the Gospel of John

John the Evangelist is the name traditionally given to the author of the Gospel of John. Christians have traditionally identified him with John the Apostle, John of Patmos, or John the Presbyter, although this has been disputed by modern scholars.

Nicomedia ancient city of Vithynia

Nicomedia was an ancient Greek city in what is now Turkey. In 286 Nicomedia became the eastern and most senior capital city of the Roman Empire, a status which the city maintained during the Tetrarchy system (293–324).

Bithynia region in Anatolia

Bithynia was an ancient region, kingdom and Roman province in the northwest of Asia Minor, adjoining the Propontis, the Thracian Bosporus and the Euxine Sea. It bordered Mysia to the southwest, Paphlagonia to the northeast along the Pontic coast, and Phrygia to the southeast towards the interior of Asia Minor.

Nicholas, who came from Antioch, was described in Acts as a convert to Judaism. [3] He was not remembered fondly by some early writers. According to Irenaeus' Adversus Haereses , the Nicolaitanes, a heretical sect condemned as early as the Book of Revelation, took their name from the deacon. [4] In Philosophumena , Hippolytus writes he inspired the sect through his indifference to life and the pleasures of the flesh; his followers took this as a licence to give in to lust. [5] The Catholic Encyclopedia records a story that after the Apostles reproached Nicholas for mistreating his beautiful wife on account of his jealousy, he left her and consented to anyone else marrying her, saying the flesh should be maltreated. [2] In the Stromata , Clement of Alexandria says the sect corrupted Nicholas' words, originally designed to check the pleasures of the body, to justify licentiousness. [6] The Catholic Encyclopedia notes that the historicity of the story is debatable, though the Nicolaitanes themselves may have considered Nicholas their founder. [2]

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The early relationship between Samaritans and Christianity is murky.

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References

  1. This article discusses three different views of what διακονειν τραπεζαις (literally "to serve/minister at tables") involved: 3 Views on the Ministry of the Seven in Acts 6 | Marg Mowczko
  2. 1 2 3 "Seven Deacons". Catholic Encyclopedia. 1913. Retrieved September 11, 2006.
  3. As Joseph Fitzmyer, The Acts of the Apostles (New York: Anchor, 1998), pp. 243 and 350, explains the intent of the word "proselyte".
  4. Irenaeus. Adversus Haereses book I, chapter XXVI, 3; book III, chapter XI, 1.
  5. Hippolytus. Against All Heresies, book VII, chapter XXIV.
  6. Clement. Stromata, book II, chapter XX.