A Monocultural Usage: διακον - words in Classical, Hellenistic, and Patristic Sources

in Vigiliae Christianae
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A scholarly consensus about the interpretation of the διακον - words has been in place for 70 years. The consensus maintains that early Christian writers adopted διακον - words because of their lowly connotations and imbued them with new meanings specific to Christian living and community arrangements. The new meanings had developed on the model of Jesus who came to serve others in self-giving love. A 1990 study of pre-Christian and early Christian Greek claimed to invalidate the consensus, a claim now supported in specialist publications. This paper extends sampling of usage into patristic usage. Implications for exegesis and ecclesiology are immediate.

A Monocultural Usage: διακον - words in Classical, Hellenistic, and Patristic Sources

in Vigiliae Christianae



  • 3)

    H. W. Beyer“διακονέω”Theological Dictionary of the New Testament 2 (ed. G. Kittel trans. and ed. G. W. Bromiley; Grand Rapids MI 1964) 81-93.

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  • 4)


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  • 17)

    BrandtDienst und Dienen 80.

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  • 20)

    A. Weiser‘διακονέω serve’Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament 1 (eds. H. Balz – G. Schneider) Eng. trans. (Grand Rapids MI 1990; German original Exegetisches Wörterbuch zum NT 1 1980) 304.

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  • 21)

    Weiser“διακονέω serve”303.

  • 25)

    John N Collins“A Ministry for Tomorrow’s Church”JES 32 (1995).159-178; idem “Many Ministries. An unresolved ecumenical issue” “So great a cloud of witnesses”. Festschrift for Lawrence D. McIntosh (eds. P. Harvey – L. Pryor; Melbourne 1995) 220-232; idem “Fitting Lay Ministries into a Theology of Ministry [Part 1] A critique of an American consensus” Worship 79 (2005) 152-167; “Fitting Lay Ministries into a Theology of Ministry [Part 2] Making a fit’ Worship 79 (2005) 209-222; “Ordained and Other Ministries: Making a Difference” Ecclesiology 3 (2006) 12-32.

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  • 30)

    O’MearaTheology of Ministry 76.

  • 32)

    KraemerTheology of the Laity 187.

  • 34)

    See a summary in Collins“A Ministry for Tomorrow’s Church”168-169; also “From διακονία to diaconia today” 142-144; Paula Gooder “Diakonia in the New Testament: A Dialogue with John N. Collins” Ecclesiology 3 (2006) 33-56; idem“Towards a diaconal church: some reflections on New Testament material” The Diaconal Church: Beyond the Mould of Christendom (ed. David Clark) (Peterborough 2008) 103: “. . . sea changes in opinion on New Testament subjects normally go unnoticed within the church. Just occasionally however a change takes place that has an enormous impact on the life and self-understanding of people within the church—this is one of those occasions. If Collins is right in his theory then we have before us a new way of viewing not only the diaconate but ministry as a whole.”

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  • 39)

    HentschelDiakonia 34-89.

  • 43)

    Oxford: Clarendon Press 1961.

  • 55)

    H.-J. Benedict“Diakonie als Dazwischengehen und Beauftragung. Die Collins-Debatte aus der Sicht ihres Anstossgebers”Barmherzigheit und Diakonie: Von der rettenden Liebe zum gelingenden Leben (Stuttgart 2008) 129-37 citing 130 (my translation). See also there idem “Beruht der Anspruch der evangelischen Diakonie auf einer Missinterpretation der antiken Quellen? John N. Collins Untersuchung ‘Diakonia’ ” 114-28 originally Pastoraltheologie 89 (2000) 343-364.

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