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The question as to whether women should serve as deacons is unclear in the Bible, and so it makes sense that sincere interpreters of Scripture differ on the matter. Thus, we must beware of dogmatism and an uncharitable spirit when adjudicating the evidence.
The issue is addressed directly in only two verses (Rom. 16:1; 1 Tim. 3:11), and the meaning of both is disputed. The disagreement surfaces in English translations. Romans 16:1 in the NIV reads, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae.” The CSB translates the same verse, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae.”
Difference - Timothy - NIV - Way - Women
A similar difference shows up in 1 Timothy 3:11, rendered in the NIV: “In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.” The CSB translates it as, “Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything.” The NIV in using the word “women” suggests they were deacons, while the CSB inclines to “wives” of deacons. Local churches don’t have the luxury of leaving the matter undecided. They have to decide whether women will serve as deacons, and I will argue that the best reading of the evidence supports women serving as such.
First, sometimes those who dissent from women serving as deacons and who don’t know Greek point to English translations which have the term “wives” (e.g., CSB, ESV, KJV), thinking that settles the issue. The ESV and KJV actually translate as “their wives,” but the Greek lacks the word “their,” and its insertion reflects an interpretation by translators. The word used here is gynaikas, which could be translated as either “wives” or “women,” and thus the Greek doesn’t really help us here. However, there...
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