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Was Phoebe a Pastor?

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Mark Corbett, May 24, 2017.

  1. Mark Corbett

    Mark Corbett Active Member

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    upload_2017-5-24_13-8-2.png


    In this post I will address the question of whether Phoebe was a pastor. I will also respond to a new article by Eddie Hyatt, “Did Paul have a Woman as His Pastor” which claims that Phoebe was a pastor.

    Let’s begin by looking at EVERYTHING the Bible says about Phoebe:

    ESV Romans 16:1 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church at Cenchreae, 2 that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well.

    The first thing I hope you notice is that these two verses say nothing about Phoebe being a pastor.

    You might wonder if this is a problem with the ESV translation. I invite you to look up this verse in any translation. I looked it up in these: KJV, NKJV, ASV, CSB, NAS, NET, NIV, NLT, NRS, and RSV. None of these translations say anything about Phoebe being a pastor or teaching. This should immediately cause you to question Hyatt’s claim that Phoebe was a pastor.

    Hyatt claims that the problem is that English translations (apparently, all of them) do a poor job translating the Greek and hide the fact that Phoebe was a pastor.

    Hyatt’s claim boils down to his analysis of two Greek words: diakonos (translated as either “servant” or “deacon/deaconess”) and prostatis (translated "patron" in the ESV and something like “benefactor”, “helper”, “a great help” or something similar in other translations).

    diakonos


    Like most words in most languages, diakonos, has what we might consider a basic, core meaning. The basic meaning of diakonos is “a person who renders helpful service” (from Friberg Lexicon). This basic meaning is almost always present in some form.

    But most words, including diakonos, can have several different specific meanings. Which specific meaning a word has must be determined from the context.

    The word diakonos appears either 29 times in the Greek New Testment.

    The word is used in the following ways:

    1. Diakonos is used by Jesus several times to teach His disciples that they should have a servant attitude. This teaching obviously applies to all Christians and not only to pastors. See Matthew 20:26, Matthew 23:11, Mark 9:35, and Mark 10:43.

    2. Diakonos is sometimes used to describe regular “servants”. See Matthew 22:13, John 2:5, and John 2:9.

    3. Diakonos is used twice in Romans 13:4 to refer to government officials.

    4. Diakonos is used by Jesus in John 12:26 to refer to anyone who is following Him.

    5. The word diakonos is twice used to refer to Jesus (Romans 15:8 and Galatians 2:17).

    6. Paul uses the word diakonos to refer to himself and to gospel coworkers who worked with him. In all cases, some type of service is being rendered. Sometimes, the type of service rendered specifically includes proclaiming the gospel (see 1 Corinthians 3:5, Ephesians 3:7, Colossians 1:23, and Colossians 1:25).

    7. Diakonos is also used to refer to servants of Satan (2 Corinthians 11:15).

    8. Finally, diakonos is used three times to refer to the church office of deacon (Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:8 and 1 Timothy 3:12). In each case, this office is clearly distinct from the office of elder.

    In the case of Phoebe in Romans 16:1, do we know what type of service was being rendered? The context rules out meanings #2, #3, #5, and #7.

    The following possibilities are left:

    #1 A person with a servant’s heart who is constantly serving people as Jesus directed.
    #4 Very similar to #1, referring to anyone who is following Jesus and serving Him.
    #6 A person who is serving others by preaching the gospel and teaching them God’s truth.
    #8 A person who holds the office of deacon in the church

    First, let’s consider the possibility that Paul was referring to Phoebe as someone who held the office of deacon. Would that mean that she was a pastor or that she was like a pastor and that she taught men in the church? No. Deacons are not given a teaching role. Paul says that an elder must be “able to teach” (1 Timothy 3:2). So if Paul was referring to Phoebe as someone who held the office of deacon this would undercut Hyatt’s claim.

    Hyatt insists that Paul was applying option #6 to Phoebe. But his arguments do not show why Paul could not have been simple referring to Phoebe as a person with a servant’s heart who served the church in various unspecified ways (meanings #1 and #4) or as a deaconess.

    In fact, some of Hyatt’s argumentation is misleading and just plain factually wrong. He states:

    Indeed, diakonos is translated as "minister" in 23 places where it is used of men, including Paul, Barnabas and Apollos (1 Cor. 3:4). In this one place where it is used of a woman, these same translators chose to use the word "servant," a clear example of their bias (Hyatt, Paul, Women and Church, 26).​

    This argument makes it sound like diakonos is almost always used in the New Testament to refer to a “minister”, which in English we usually think of as being the same thing as a pastor. The first problem is that I can’t find any English translation where diakonos is translanted “minister” 23 times:

    KJV 20x
    ASV 19x
    NIV 4x
    ESV 8x

    If anyone can find a translation of the New Testament where diakonos is translated “minister” 23 times, please tell me. Beyond the counting problem, there is a second problem. Hyatt neglects to inform his readers that old translations like the KJV and ASV are sometimes using that word in a way which has NOTHING to do with being a pastor. These translations use “minister” to refer to government officials in Romans 13:4.

    The bottom line is that the word diakonos does not mean that Phoebe was a pastor.

    Now let’s consider the next word which Hyatt focuses on:

    prostatis

    Prostatis is used only once in the Bible, here in Romans 16:2. This makes it more difficult to determine the precise meaning. Hyatt claims that the word means someone who is “set over” someone or who “stands before someone”.

    What evidence does Hyatt give for his unusual interpretation of prostatis?

    He notes that Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon refers to “a woman set over others”. However, Thayer’s lexicon goes on to explain in what specific way Phoebe was “set over”: “caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources”. This is not the same thing as being a pastor and teaching men!

    Also, two newer Lexicons which are widely used by evangelical Bible scholars lack any hint of prostatis meaning “set over” and give definitions inconsistent with Hyatt’s claim:

    Friberg Lexicon: “a woman who renders assistance from her resources”

    Luow-Nida: “a woman who is active in helping - 'helper, patroness’”

    Hyatt then offers this explanation:

    These definitions are correct for prostatis is made up of the prefix pro, meaning "before," and "istemi," meaning "to stand." It, therefore, literally means "to stand before" and identifies Phoebe as a leader with the qualities one would expect in a modern-day pastor (Hyatt, Paul, Women and Church, 28)​

    You cannot simply take the two parts of a compound word and assume that if you add them up you get the meaning of the compound. Sometimes this works, but often it does not. Here are some examples, using Hyatt’s flawed method:

    moon + shine = moonshine = the glowing light from the moon (why is this illegal?)

    play + boy = playboy = a boy who is playing (sounds innocent, but do you want your daughter to marry one?)

    butter + fly = butterfly = butter that your mom throws at you? or a fly made from butter?

    The point is that while compound words often do have a fairly clear relationship to the meaning of their constituent parts, you cannot simply put the parts together and assume you have the right definition.

    The Rest of the Bible

    I interpret Paul’s comments about Phoebe as meaning this: she was a wonderful woman with a servant’s heart who served the church in various ways and who helped support (perhaps financially) Paul and others and therefore was deserving of respect and help.

    If Hyatt’s interpretation is correct, than Phoebe would be violating Paul’s own standard of not allowing a woman to teach men in the church (1 Timothy 2:12). She would also be the only exception to the consistent example of the whole Bible where there are no examples of women teaching the gathered people of God (see my blog post on this).

    A slightly longer version of this post was originally posted on my blog here.
     
  2. AndyMartin

    AndyMartin Active Member

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    To put it briefly, there are no woman "pastors" in the New Testament, which is clearly forbidden by 1 Timothy 2:12. As well as the fact that Jesus did not have any women as part of His inner circle, as in the 12 disciples. It is the Liberalism in the world that has crept into the Church, that questions what the Word of God has made perfectly clear.
     
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  3. AndyMartin

    AndyMartin Active Member

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    Paul instructed Titus concerning the appointment of "elders".

    "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee: If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly." (Titus 1:5-6)

    "Elders" here is from the Greek, "πρεσβυτέρους", which is in the masculine gender, and like "Deacon" also has a feminine word, which is "πρεσβυτέρας", as used in 1 Timothy 5:2). There is not a reference in Scripture, where "πρεσβυτέρας" is used to denote a person who is a "leader" in a Church. The fact that Paul says, "the husband of one wife", when dealing with Church leadership, is clear that they cannot be a woman.
     
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  4. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    However we see Phoebe role in the ealry church, would not be either Elder or a pastor, as the Holy Spirit does not go against Himself and what He inspired!
     
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  5. christina pickle

    christina pickle New Member

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    Nope. I agree she was not a pastor. Women are not to have authority or teach men in the church, it's Bible. That does not mean that woman cannot have ministry, which is Phoebe's case. She had a ministry that church was to help her with. Women's roles are not the same as a man's, but are just as important to the church family and society in general. God Bless!
     
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  6. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    Yes, as while we are all one in Jesus, each one have us have different roles and positions to do in His Kingdom work....
     
  7. AndyMartin

    AndyMartin Active Member

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    Sure, but we must not forget, "For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man" (1 Corinthians 11:7). God's "glory" reflects, on to man, and then from man, deflects to woman, because he is the head.
     
  8. Yeshua1

    Yeshua1 Well-Known Member
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    There is indeed headship authotity in the bible, as head of Christ isd Gos, while men are head over the women, but think that would infer in the marriage primarily, as i am the head over my own wife only among women!
     
  9. Happy

    Happy Well-Known Member
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    "Phoebe, a servant of the church"

    "sister Phoebe"

    Matt 12
    [50] For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.

    Titles, not a requirement to be recognized as a servant of the Lord. :)
     
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