“The women proclaiming the good news are a large army.”—Psalm 68:11.
[Study 39 from ws 09/20 p.20 November 23 – November 29, 2020]
We will start this review by going off at what may seem to be a tangent, but the relevance will become apparent.
Most brothers and sisters will be familiar with the Greek word “diakonos”. The meaning we are familiar with is “through” from “dia” and “dust” from “konis”, giving the phrase “through the dust”. Hence the congregations are familiar with the term “ministerial servant” as someone who has to do all the dirty work for the elders, you know, sometimes literally through the dust, leading the Kingdom Hall cleaning, the Kingdom Hall maintenance, or figuratively, by leading the Field Service on Christmas Day, or the August Bank Holiday or the like. Certainly, all brothers will be familiar with the Biblical requirements for ministerial servants[i] in the congregation (1 Timothy 3:1-10,12,13). In the Organization, the term refers exclusively to brothers.
- They had to be serious. This would include not frivolously blowing out matches, and showing pleasure at the future death of God’s enemies (compare with 2 Peter 3:9 “he [God] does not desire any to be destroyed” and the JW Broadcasting talk by Governing Body Member A. Morris III) [ii].
- not double-tongued:
- Claim: “*** g 7/09 p. 29 Is It Wrong to Change Your Religion? *** “No one should be forced to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable or be made to choose between his beliefs and his family. Does study of the Bible lead to family breakup? No. In fact, the Bible encourages a husband and wife who practice different religions to remain together as a family. 1 Corinthians 7:12, 13.”
- Reality: “*** w17 October p. 16 par. 17 The Truth Brings, “Not Peace, But a Sword” *** When a family member is disfellowshipped or he disassociates himself from the congregation, it can feel like the stab of a sword. …. Despite our pain of heart, we must avoid normal contact with a disfellowshipped family member by telephone, text messages, letters, e-mails, or social media.”
- Reality: “Deliberately Spreading Teachings Contrary to Bible Truth: (2 John 7, 9, 10; lvs p. 245; it-1 pp. 126-127) Any with sincere doubts regarding the Bible truth taught by Jehovah’s Witnesses should be helped. Loving assistance should be provided. (2 Tim. 2:16-19, 23-26; Jude 22, 23) If one obstinately is speaking about or deliberately spreading false teachings, this may be or may lead to apostasy. If there is no response after a first and a second admonition, a judicial committee should be formed. —Titus 3:10, 11; w86 4/1 pp. 30-31.” Shepherd the Flock of God (April 2020 edition Chapter 12:39.3)
- Reality: If you openly disagree with any current Watchtower teaching such as the “overlapping generations” and you can be disfellowshipped for apostasy. Is that not forcing someone to worship in a way that he finds unacceptable. This also forces that one to choose between his beliefs and his family.
- not indulging in a lot of wine (or whisky). (Compare with Governing Body Member A.Morris III at a Whisky Store)[iii]
Paragraph 2 of this Watchtower Study article states “Why focus on giving support to sisters? Because the world does not always treat women with the dignity that they deserve [bold ours]. In addition, the Bible encourages us to give them support. For instance, the apostle Paul alerted the congregation in Rome to welcome Phoebe and “give her whatever help she may need.” (Romans 16:1-2) As a Pharisee, Paul had likely been immersed in a culture that treated women as being inferior. Yet, now that he was a Christian, he imitated Jesus and treated women with dignity and kindness. – 1 Corinthians 11:1.”
Note the part of the quote in bold. We will now examine the Greek text using a Greek Interlinear for the scripture cited Romans 16:1-2. “I commend now to you Phoebe the sister of us being also a servant [diakonon] of the church in Cenchrea [Port of Corinth]”.[iv] Now the Organization’s explanation is that “the Scriptures make no provision for female ministerial servants. … However, Paul’s reference is evidently to something having to do with the spread of the good news, the Christian ministry, and he was speaking of Phoebe as a female minister who was associated with the congregation in Cenchreae – Compare Acts 2:17-18”. Note the use of the word “evidently” without any “evidence”, an Organization euphemism for “just believe what we say”.
Let us check the context and other occurrences of the word “diakonos”. There are three occurrences, twice in Romans 13:4 and in Romans 15:8. Romans 13:4 reads “for it is God’s minister to you for your good. But if you are doing what is bad, be in fear: for it is not without purpose that it bears the sword; for it is God’s minister, an avenger to express wrath upon the one practicing what is bad.” Romans 15:8 records Paul’s words “For I say that Christ actually became a minister of those who are circumcised in behalf of God’s truthfulness, …”.
It is interesting to note that the other three occurrences have the superior authorities being referred to in an official capacity as God’s servant and the other, of Christ as a minister of the circumcised, on behalf of the circumcised. Note: Not a minister to the circumcised, but “of”. The passage about Phoebe also speaks of her being a servant of the congregation, not serving the congregation, which is subtly different.
In the next verse, Romans 16:2 throws more context onto the statement about Phoebe. The Greek interlinear reads “that her [Phoebe] you might receive in the Lord, worthily of the holy ones, and you might assist here in whatever matter of you she may need. Also for she a patroness of many has been and of me myself.” The interesting word here is “patroness”, Greek “prostatis”[v], for which the primary meaning is “a woman set over others”. That would indicate that she was “set” over the Apostle Paul when he was in Corinth and Cenchreae. In addition, the phrase “receive her in the Lord” would indicate that she was going from the Apostle Paul to the Roman congregation perhaps taking the letter of Romans to them. It is clear that she was trusted by the Apostle Paul because it is interesting to note that he asked the Roman congregation to assist her in any matter where she requested assistance. Whatever conclusions one may wish to draw from this information which is necessarily limited, it is certainly not that Phoebe was like a subservient waitress or attendant serving the male members of the congregation, nor was it anything to do with the usual preaching of the good news.
Food for thought indeed.
As briefly mentioned in paragraph 11, Jesus entrusted the news of his resurrection to the women who came to his tomb (Luke 24:5-8). This was a highly important message, but in many congregations today, if a sister were to pass on a message or a theocratic ministry school assignment to another brother, they would be counseled (and so would the brother who gave her the message or the assignment to pass on!).
[i] Ministerial Servants is a term peculiar to the Watchtower Organization, it is also a misnomer, as a minister is a servant and a servant is a minister, and is therefore saying a minister minister or a servant servant which does not make sense. Most Bibles have “Deacons” or “Ministers”.
[ii] Anthony Morris III on “Jehovah Will “Carry It Out” (Isa 46:11)” on JW Broadcasting https://www.jw.org/finder?docid=1011214&item=pub-jwb_202009_11_VIDEO&wtlocale=E&appLanguage=E&prefer=content