Obrázky na stránke
PDF
ePub

§ 12. Deaconesses.

Along with this class of helpers we find in the apostolical Church the institute of female deacons or deaconesses, which was supplementary to the other office and continued in the Greek Church down to the thirteenth century. It is generally derived from the Gentile Christian Churches, where the females lived in greater retirement, and were more shut out from intercourse with men than among the Jews.* But besides any rules of propriety, the general want of itself required that for special pastoral service, the care of the poor and sick among the female part of the congregation, there should be established a corresponding office. Here was opened for the sex, a fair and wide field for the development of its peculiar gifts, the exercise of its love and devotion, without any departure out of its natural and proper sphere. By means of this office they might carry the blessings of the gospel into the most private and delicate relations of domestic life; and, unseen of the world, accomplish in all quietness and modesty an unspeakable amount of good. To this care of widows, and of the poor and sick, various other services then came of themselves probably to be joined, as in the case of the male deacons, although they are not expressly mentioned. Among these we reckon the education of orphan children, attention to strangers, the practice of hospitality, compare 1 Tim. v, 10,) and the assistance needed at the baptism of females.

The existence of such deaconesses in the apostolical Church is incontrovertibly clear from Rom. xvi, 1, where Paul commends to the kind interest of the Roman Christians the sister Phebe, who probably carried the epistle, and describes her as a servant of the Church which is at Cenchrea,(ούσαν διάκονον της εκκλησίας της εν Keyxpeais.) Possibly the women Tryphena, Tryphosa, and Persis, who are praised, verse 12, for their labour in the Lord, may have served in the same capacity in the Church at Rome. On the other hand it is still a matter of controversy, whether the widows, 1 Tim. V, 9-15, are to be taken as proper deaconesses, † or as presbyteresses, (trpeoBÚTides, viduæ ecclesiasticae,) such as in the period after the

So Grotius remarks on Rom. xvi, 1: "In Judaea diaconi viri etiam mulierbus ministrare poterant: erat enim ibi liberior ad foeminas aditus quam in Graecia, ubi viris clausa yuvalkwvitis. Adeo duplici in Graecia foeminarum auxilio Ecclesiae opus habuere, etc. Compare Rothe, p. 246.

† As the Cod. Theodos., L. 16, Tit. 2, Lex 27, already supposes: Nulla nisi ėmensis 60 annis secundum praeceptum apostoli (compare 1 Tim. v, 9) ad Diaconissarum consortium transferatur. Among the moderns this view is defended, particularly by Rothe, p. 243, seqq., and Wieseler, Chronol. des apost. Zeitalters,

S. 309, seq.

apostles exercised a certain oversight over the female part of the congregation, * particularly over widows and orphans; or finally, according to Neander's view,t as common widows only, who were supported by the Church and expected, without official character, to set before the rest of the sex the pattern of a walk and conversation entirely devoted to God. We hold the first interpretation to be the most probable. From the beginning, the care of necessitous widows formed an important branch of the practical charity of the Christian Church. (Compare Acts vi, 1.) On the other hand, however, it was in the highest degree desirable to turn the service of this class, if possible, at the same time to account for the Church, even out of regard to the poor themselves, that they might have their bread with honour and satisfaction, without violating the maxim: “If any will not work, neither shall he eat.” (2 Thess. iii, 10.) On this, accordingly, Paul, 1 Tim. v, 3, seqq., furnishes such instructions as the case required. First he speaks of widows in general, and directs that provision be made for the support of such as were widows indeed, that is, truly solitary and helpless, (as the Greek word xúpa, the desolate, of itself implies,) and at the same time led an honourable and pious life in retired converse with God; but not for those who had children or other relatives bound to support them, or who by their irregular behaviour might have already lost the proper spiritual life of the Church, (verses 3–8.) Next he distinguishes, verses 9 and 10, in the circle of the pious widows, a still smaller class of matriculated or enrolled names, and requires of them certain qualifications which fall in most aptly with the idea of the office of deaconess. If karahayéodo, verse 9, be understood of an insertion merely in the list of those who were to be supported from the congregational fund, it is felt to be against reason and Christian charity that such benefit should be restricted to those who were over sixty years of age and had only been once married, since younger widows and those of a second marriage might be just as much also needy and deserving of support; and it goes against the connexion too, inasmuch as Paul himself, verse 14, advises the younger widows to marry again, which would have been in this view to cut themselves off from the prospect of help in case of a new widowhood. We cannot see also, with this exposition, why he should speak, verse 12, of a special vow. This difficulty

So after Chrysostom, above all Mosheim, in his Exposition of the Epistle to Timothy, p. 444-446, (in his Comment. de reb. Christ. a. Const. M., he had before, on the contrary, referred the passage to the deaconesses,) Heidenreich and De Wette ad loc.

† Ap. G., 8. 265, seq. So also Jerome, Theodoret, and others.

[ocr errors]

falls away, if kataleyéoow be understood of choice and ordination to a particular congregational office. And to this also the other qualifications for the position in question would seem to look. For in addition to advanced age, insuring general respect and continuance in service,* and monogamy, which was made necessary also in the case of bishops and deacons, (1 Tim. iii, 2, 12,) the apostle requires of such a widow that she should be of good reputation, should have had experience in bringing up children, and should have gained some distinction for hospitality, benevolence, and general exemplary piety. This regulation, however, does not necessarily exclude virgins from the office of deaconess, if they had the qualifications otherwise required, although they were certainly not so well suited for many of its services as experienced venerable matrons.t

§ 13. The Angels of the Apocalypse. Finally, we meet what seems another class of officers toward the close of the apostolical period, -namely, the angels of the seven Churches of Asia Minor, to whom the epistles of the Revelation of St. John, chap. ii and iii, are addressed. The interpretation of them, however, is a matter of controversy. We must start from the passage, i, 20: “ The seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches; and the seven candlesticks are the seven Churches.” 1st. The view is to be rejected in the first place, that they correspond with the deputies of the Jewish synagogues, (the 7091 7725w, legati ecclesiae.)! For these had an entirely subordinate position, and were simply readers of the standing forms of prayer, and messengers of the synagogues; whilst the angels here are compared with stars, and are represented as presiding over the Churches. 2d. On the other hand, however, we are not to understand either proper angels, the

* The Church subsequently did not feel itself bound strictly by the sixty years ; we find the age of service for deaconesses brought down by the council of Chalcedon to the fortieth year.

† Many expositors, after Chrysostom, take the women mentioned 1 Tim. iii, 11 also for deaconesses. But the term yuvaikes is too general for this, and it lies much nearer to the whole connexion to refer it here to the wives of the deacons and bishops.

I So Vitringa, Lightfoot, Bengel also, and recently even Winer, who in the third ed. of his Reallex., under the article “Synagogues,” Part II, p. 550, Note 2, confidently affirms: "The ayyeros TñS Ékkanoias, Apoc. ii, 1, is no other than the 731177703r," with a reference to Ewald's Comment., p. 104. With reason, how. ever, de Wette, ad Apoc. i, 20, remarks against this: "No explanation can be more in conflict with the spirit of the book. How could the author, who so often speaks of angels, and of their presiding over particular spheres, (vii, 1; ix, 11; xvi, 7,) be led to use the word here in so low and common a sense ?"

heavenly representatives and guardians, as it were, of the Churches, as with Daniel every nation has its supreme angel.* For it agrees in no sense with the biblical idea of angels, that letters should be addressed to them, with exhortations to repentance, fidelity, and constancy, describing them as being rich or poor, neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, as having a particular place of residence, &c. 3d. More may be said in favour of the opinion that the angels here are nothing else than a figurative personification of the Churches themselves.†. It speaks for this, that they are not named, that their persons fall completely into the background, and that what the Spirit writes to them is always for the whole congregation. But decisive against such views is the circumstance, that they are expressly distinguished, chap. i, 20, from the golden candlesticks or Churches; and as these are thus exhibited already under an image, it would be wholly incongruous and confounding to choose a new image again for their personification,--that is, to express one symbol, the candlesticks, by another symbol, the stars. 4th. The only right interpretation then, which is also the oldest and most generally received, is that which makes the angels to be Church rulers and teachers, who, in Dan. xii, 3, also are compared with stars. They are styled angels as being God's ambassadors or messengers to the Churches, I on whom rests their charge, (compare Matt. xviii, 10; Acts xii, 15,) for which they must render account, (Acts xx, 28.) The expression is selected thus, to 'remind the rulers of their divine mission, their high vocation, and their heavy responsibility. So Mal. ii, 7, 8, the priest is named the "angel of the Lord,” and of the prophet who should prepare the way of the Messiah, Mal. iii, 1, it is said, “Behold, I will send my angel,” (compare Hagg. i, 13, “Then spake Haggai, the Lord's angel, in the Lord's message to the people.” Isa. xlii, 19; xliv, 26.)

But now within this interpretation two cases are still possible: either the angels may be regarded as concrete individuals, in which case they must pass for real bishops, (though with very small dioceses indeed,) according to the view of nearly all ancient expositors and of most among English Episcopalians, who find here accord

So some Church fathers, and among modern commentators on the Apocalypse Züllig and de Wette, who, however, approaches toward the third view, making the angels to stand for the Churches themselves in their heavenly relation.

† So Arethas, Salmasius, Gabler, and others.

| Not reversely as messengers of the Churches to God, according to the view of Robinson in his Lexicon, p. 6 of the new ed. of 1850: “The angels of the seven Churches are probably the prophets or pastors of those Churches, who were the messengers, delegates, of the Churches to God in the offering of prayer, servicc, etc."

[ocr errors]

ingly a proof of the existence of their system towards the close of the first century, when the Apocalypse was written ;* or they may be taken to denote the ministry collectively, the whole Church government, the presbytery thus and deacons. For this, it must be allowed, the passages already quoted from the Old Testament have some weight, where the whole priestly and prophetical order is made to bear the name angel, as has also the consideration that certainly not the bishop alone, but all the officers were responsible for the state of each Church and formed its proper representation. (Compare Acts xx, 28; 1 Pet. v, 1-5.)

Even in this last case, however, the impartial inquirer must allow that this phraseology of the Apocalypse already looks towards the idea of episcopacy; that is, to a monarchical concentration of the Church government in one person, bearing a patriarchal relation to the congregation, and responsible in an eminent sense for the spiritual welfare of the whole. This view is confirmed by the fact, that among the immediate disciples of St. John we meet one, at least,namely, Polycarp--who, according to the unanimous tradition of

Irenaeus, his own disciple, of Tertullian, of Eusebius, and of Jerome,** was by apostolic ordination actually bishop of Smyrna, one of the seven apocalyptic Churches. If we take besides the statement of Clemens Alexandrinus,ti that John, after his return from Patmos, appointed “bishops;" also the Ignatian epistles from the beginning of the second century, in which the bishop already stands out in distinction from the presbytery as the head of the congregation, and the three orders culminate pyramidically in a regular hier

In antiquity, the word ayyeầos, like the grammatically-synonymous útróCTO205, is sometimes used to denote à bishop, as e. g, with Socrates H. E. IV, 23, as we meet also in the Anglo Saxon Church the corresponding expression God's Bydels, i. e. Dei nuntii et ministri; comp. Bingham's Nig. 1, 83, and Rothe, 1. C., P. 503. The occasion of this usage, however, lies no doubt in the above interpretation of the Apocalypse, and so proves nothing for the antiquity of episcopacy.

† So among the moderns, Hengstenberg in particular takes it, in his Commentary on the Revelation of St. John. He refers, with some force in the case, to the introduction of the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians: “ Polycarp and the elders with him, (kai oi cùv atrợ mpeoßútepoi,) to the Church of God dwelling at Philippi,” and to the inscription of the epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians : “Especially when they are united with the bishop, and the presbyters and deacons who are with him."

| Adv. haer. III, 3.

§ De praesc. haer., c. 32: Sicut Smyrnaeorum ecclesia Polycarpum ab Joanne conlocatum refert. || H. E., III, 36.

Catal. 8. Polyc.: Polycarpus, Joannis apostoli discipulus, ab eo Smyrnae episcopus ordinatus, etc.

it Quis dives salyus, c. 42.

« PredošláPokračovať »