Pheobe the Deacon

This post is part of an ongoing series reflecting upon Women and Gender in Early Christianity.

Pheobe the διάκονος: Reflections on a Program for Assessing Deaconesses in EC

Saint Pheobe

Saint Pheobe

In the article “Deacons, Deaconesses, and Denominational Discussions,”[1] Clarence Agan III tackles the often controversial topic of NT women’s service is diaconal roles, employing Paul’s reference to Pheobe as a διάκονος as a test case. Agan begins this article with some important caveats, namely that a) discussions of women in the early Church must take a holistic approach rather than specifically-targeted rhetorical tactics, b) specific lexical factors surrounding διάκονος must be thoroughly investigated in their particular contexts, and c) a theological reading of prescriptions in the early Church should form only part (though an integral part) of contemporary denominational and theological reflections on women, gender, and church office. Using this approach, Agan argues that Pheobe’s title of διάκονος in Romans 16:1 should be understood as an indicatory of her emissary or representative status. Continue reading

A Brief Introduction to Ephrem the Syrian

“The greatest poet of the patristic age and, perhaps, the only theologian-poet to rank beside Dante.” — Robert Murray

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Saint Ephrem the Syrian

Over the next several weeks, Pursuing Veritas will be running a series on reflections on the theology and hymns of St. Ephrem of Nisibis (often called Ephrem the Syrian). Before launching into these discussions of Ephrem’s theological mind and literary genius, however, I felt it prudent to offer a brief historical introduction to Ephrem. There are two primary reasons for this: first, because while some Christians may have heard Ephrem’s name associated with early Christianity before, few actually know much about the fourth century poet. And second, Ephrem’s context—ancient Syria—is somewhat different than the typical “Greco-Roman” culture that may be safely assumed for engaging most other early Christian writers. Continue reading

PRV2: Other Issues

This post is part of our ongoing series examining Protestant Reactions to Vatican II.

VT@While we cannot consider every facet of the Second Vatican Council that Protestant scholars have engaged, there are three remaining issues worthy of briefly considering here: reactions to Vatican II’s position on the Priesthood, the Liturgy, and Religious Freedom. It is important to note with Martin Marty that during Vatican II very little was actually said concerning contemporary concerns such as female ordination and clerical celibacy, and thus many Protestant and Catholic differences on these issues are not directly the result of Vatican II.[1] The council did weigh in on several matters pertaining to priests however. In the Decree on the Ministry and Life of Priests, the council affirmed that celibacy was to be “embraced and esteemed as a gift” among priests. Additionally, priests were called to avoid greediness, to develop their spiritual lives, to engage the sacred scriptures and Church Fathers, to remain aware of current events, and to take vacation every year.[2] Such praxis-oriented concerns, combined with calls for lay participation in the ministry of the church, suggest a commitment to collegiality of all levels of church hierarchy.[3] This collegial view of the church includes the leveling of authority within the official hierarchy, though maintaining the primacy of the Bishop of Rome, including the restoration of the historical office of deacon.[4] However, significant differences continue to exist between Protestant conceptions of the priesthood of all believers and the Roman conception of a celibate clergy. Continue reading