The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons


In recent and contemporary scholarship, the deacon as a leader in the Early Church is an often-neglected subject. This book focuses on the roles and functions of the deacon in Augustine’s literary output. The author’s approach is detailed and appropriately cautious and is always attentive to the text. He analyses Augustine’s way of commenting on deacons and how the bishop of Hippo wrote about them, as well as his manner of preaching on saints and martyrs who were deacons. The book thus provides a new perspective on the early deacons who were not social workers, but go-betweens or intermediaries between the bishop and his flock, between the Scriptures and daily life, and between Church and society. He emphasises in particular how deacons were epistle bearers responsible for the world wide web of Early Christianity.

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Bart J. Koet, Ph.D (1989), Tilburg School of Catholic Theology (Netherlands) is Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature. He has published on the relation between the interpretation of Scripture and the interpretation of dreams. For the last ten years he has worked also on leadership in the Early Church.
"The Go-Between is a fine work of scholarship. Koet has analyzed and summarized well the writings of Augustine on the topic and presented a better image of the deacon’s role in the Church at large. The background chapters help the reader understand his evaluation of Augustine’s deacons and strengthens his main thesis. Even though the author comes with a Catholic agenda, I recommend this book to all those who are interested in ecclesiology and more practically to those involved in the ministries of their local church." - Nathaniel Gibbs, in: Andrews University Seminary Studies Volume 58 (Fall 2020).

"Le livre, clair et agréable." - Paul Mattei, in: Bulletin de Patristique latineTome 110.1 (2022).

"Loin du cliché du diacre consacré aux aspects caritatifs de l’encadrement des communautés, le livre de B. K. étend largement, dans la continuité d’analyses sur les siècles antérieurs, notre connaissance des rôles multiples et essentiels des diacres (malgré une perte d’influence de la fonction diaconale par rapport à ce qui existait dans les premières générations) dans la vie des communautés chrétiennes de l’Afrique du temps d’Aug." - Jonathan Cornillon, in: Revue d’études augustiniennes et patristiques Volume 67.2 (2021).

"Suosittelenkin aloittamaan lukemisen siitä. Teos on perusteellinen, tiivis ja kattava. Kauniisti kirjoitetut narratiivit vievät mielen kuin itsestään aiheen äärelle. Koet ei kirjoita tieteellistä tekstiä tylsästi." - Pauliina Pylvänäinen, in: Diakonian Tutkimus Volume 1 (2020).

"En conjunto podemos decir que se trata de una obra sólida, bien estructurada e interesante, que constituye una aportación sumamente rica a los estudios agustinianos al llenar un vacío existente en los mismos, abordando la figura de los diáconos en san Agustín. Cabe señalar que la presente obra es un parteaguas que abre un diálogo e invita a una reflexión más amplia y detallada de la labor y la personalidad de los diáconos en san Agustín." - Enrique A. Eguiarte B., in: Augustinus LXIII (2018), pp. 524-525.

List of Abbreviations
2 The Origin of the Word Diakonos, Classical and Biblical Backgrounds
 2.1 Introduction
 2.2 The Diakon Stem in Plato, Esther, Flavius Josephus, and the Gospel of John
 2.3 Conclusions
3 The Diaconate in the Ancient Church: What is the Origin of the Term ‘Deacon’?
 3.1 The Use of Diakonos as a Function in the Community in the New Testament and Other Very Early Christian Literature
 3.2 Twofold Ministry in the Earliest Post-New Testament Literature
 3.3 The Diaconate in Early ‘Church Orders’
 3.4 The Decline of the Diaconate in the West
4 Augustine, His Ecclesiastical Career, and His View on Ministries
 4.1 Augustine’s Life and Ecclesiastical Career
 4.2 Literature on Ministry According to Augustine
 4.3 Research Question and Initial Orientation
 4.4 Some Comments Regarding the Research
5 The Deacon as Messenger
 5.1 Letters in Antiquity
 5.2 Deacons as Augustine’s ‘Messengers’
 5.3 What More Can We Learn about Deacons from Augustine’s Letters?
 5.4 Conclusions
6 The Deacon as Evangelist and Preacher
 6.1 The Deacon in the Liturgy
 6.2 The Deacon as Preacher
 6.3 De Haeresibusand De catechizandis Rudibus: Advice to Deacons on Their Task of Initiation
 6.4 Conclusions
7 Augustine and the Holy Deacons of the Early Church
 7.1  Saint Stephen
 7.2 Saint Lawrence
 7.3 Saint Vincent
 7.4 Bishop Fructuosus and His Deacons (s. 273)
 7.5 Philip, One of the ‘Seven’
 7.6 Conclusions
8 Conclusions
 8.1 The Ministry is a Shared Ministry: Deacons as Co-operators
 8.2 The Deacon as an Agent of Communication
 8.3 Regional Differences, Also among Deacons
Epilogue: What does this Research Imply for the Diaconate in the Twenty-First Century?

All interested in the history of the Early Church and especially in its leadership and anyone attracted to Augustine and his writings.
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