1 Timothy 3:11 Commentaries: Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
1 Timothy 3:11
Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
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(11) Even so must their wives . . .—The position of this solitary charge, respecting deacons’ wives, in the midst of regulations concerning “deacons,” is, of itself, almost decisive against the translation of the English version, adopted also by Luther and many others. The question naturally occurs—why are deacon’s wives especially referred to, while nothing has been said respecting the wives of presbyters? Then, again, why should the choice of Timothy in the matter of his selection of a deacon be hampered with any special requirements in the wife of the candidate for the holy office? The literal translation of the Greek words would be, Women in like manner must, &c. These women, St. Chrysostom and most of the ancient expositors affirm, were deaconesses.

It is certain that there were women holding a kind of official position as deaconesses in the early Church; nor is it probable that these deaconesses were, as a class, confined to the restriction of age referred to in the direction respecting a band of widows devoted to works of mercy (1Timothy 5:9-10). These widows seemed to have been in the first instance a class or order apart from the ordinary deaconesses.

Phebe of Cenchrea (Romans 16:1), Euodias, and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2), probably the organisation alluded to (Acts 9:36-41) as existing at Joppa, of which Dorcas was the chief, may be cited as instances from the New Testament of the employment of these women-servants of the Church. In the next century the Proconsul Pliny, in his famous letter to the Emperor Trajan, distinctly alludes to these Christian deaconesses, in the words, “ancillæ quæ ministræ dicebantur.” “In the Western Church,” says Professor Reynolds, “the order did not cease to exist until the fifth century, and was continued in the Greek Church till the twelfth. The deaconess vanished into the cloister until partially revived in comparatively modern times.”

Be grave.—The same word is used as in the case of the deacons. These deaconesses, too, must, with their modest behaviour, with their sweet, decorous gravity, as it has been well said, “inspire reverence having the halo of purity and sanctity about them.”

Not slanderers.—A woman’s most ready weapon is ever her tongue. She is, with all her noble, generous qualities, often quick-tempered, passionate, impulsive, jealous, and this weapon, always ready for attack or defence, is too often unsheathed. The professed servant of the Lord must show a high example to her sisters in self-control.

Sober.—Should be abstemious, even self-denying in the pleasures of the table.

Faithful in all things.—These deaconesses, from their position, would become the depositaries of many a household secret; to those confiding in them in moments of trouble they must be true; scrupulously honest also in their distribution of alms; faithful, too, in the holy instruction they would be often called on to give in the course of their ministrations.

1 Timothy 3:11. Even so must their wives — Namely, the wives of the deacons; be grave — Serious in their deportment; not slanderers — Or false accusers of the brethren and others; sober — Or watchful, (as νηφαλεους may be rendered,) for occasions of doing good, and guarding against every temptation to evil; faithful — To God, their husbands, and the poor; in all things — Committed to their care, lest their imprudent and unfaithful conduct should bring the character of their husbands under suspicion. The apostle, however, may be understood here, as not only speaking of the wives of the deacons and bishops, but of the believing women in general, and particularly of those who were invested with any office in the church. So the Vulgate interprets his meaning, having here, mulieres similiter pudicas, the women in like manner must be modest. Chrysostom also, and the Greek commentators, with most of the Latin fathers, were of opinion that the apostle, in this passage, is speaking both of those women who, in the first age, were employed in ministering to the afflicted, and of those who were appointed to teach the young of their own sex the principles of religion. As the manners of the Greeks did not permit men to have much intercourse with women of character, unless they were their relations, and as the Asiatics were under still greater restraints, it was proper that an order of female teachers should be instituted in the church for instructing the young of their own sex. These, it seems, were generally widows, Clement of Alexandria reckoning widows among ecclesiastical persons, Pædag., lib. 3. c. 12; and Grotius tells us that these female presbyters, or elders, were ordained by imposition of hands till the council of Laodicea.3:8-13 The deacons were at first appointed to distribute the charity of the church, and to manage its concerns, yet pastors and evangelists were among them. The deacons had a great trust reposed in them. They must be grave, serious, prudent men. It is not fit that public trusts should be lodged in the hands of any, till they are found fit for the business with which they are to be trusted. All who are related to ministers, must take great care to walk as becomes the gospel of Christ.Even so must their wives be grave - Chrysostom, Theophylact, Grotius, Bloomfield, and many others, suppose that by the word "wives," here, (γυνᾶικας gunaikas), the apostle means "deaconesses." Clarke supposes that it refers to women in general. The reason assigned for supposing that it does not refer to the wives of deacons, as such, is, that nothing is said of the qualifications of the wives of bishops - a matter of as much importance as that of the character of the wife of a deacon; and that it cannot be supposed that the apostle would specify the one without some allusion to the other. But that the common interpretation, which makes it refer to the wives of deacons, as such, is to be adhered to, seems to me to be clear. Because:

(1) it is the obvious and natural interpretation.

(2) the word here used - "wives" - is never used of itself to denote deaconesses.

(3) if the apostle had meant deaconesses, it would have been easy to express it without ambiguity; compare notes, Romans 16:1.

(4) what is here mentioned is important, whether the same thing is mentioned of bishops or not.

(5) in the qualifications of bishops, the apostle had made a statement respecting his family, which made any specification about the particular members of the family unnecessary. He was to be one who presided in a proper manner over his own house, or who had a well-regulated family; 1 Timothy 3:4-5. By a comparison of this passage, also, with Titus 2:3-4, which bears a strong resemblance to this, it would seem that it was supposed that the deacons would be taken from those who were advanced in life, and that their wives would have some superintendence over the younger females of the church. It was, therefore, especially important that they should be persons whose influence would be known to be decidedly favorable to piety. No one can doubt that the character of a woman may be such, that it is not desirable that her husband should be an officer in the church. A bad woman ought not to be entrusted with any additional power or influence.

Grave - notes, 1 Timothy 3:4.

Not slanderers - compare Titus 2:3, "Not false accusers." The Greek word is διαβόλους diabolous - "devils." It is used here in its original and proper sense, to denote a "calumniator," "slanderer," or "accuser." It occurs in the same sense in 2 Timothy 3:3, and Titus 2:3. Elsewhere in the New Testament, it is uniformly rendered "devil" (compare notes, Matthew 4:1), and is given to Satan, the prince of the fallen angels Matthew 9:34, by way of eminence, as "the accuser;" compare Job 1:6-11 notes, and Revelation 12:10 note. Here it means that they should not be women who were in the habit of calumniating others, or aspersing their character. Mingling as they would with the church, and having an opportunity to claim acquaintance with many, it would be in their power, if they chose, to do great injury to the character of others.

Sober - notes, 1 Timothy 3:2.

Faithful in all things - To their husbands, to their families, to the church, to the Saviour.

11. their wives—rather, "the women," that is, the deaconesses. For there is no reason that special rules should be laid down as to the wives of the deacons, and not also as to the wives of the bishops or overseers. Moreover, if the wives of the deacons were meant, there seems no reason for the omission of "their" (not in the Greek). Also the Greek for "even so" (the same as for "likewise," 1Ti 3:8, and "in like manner," 1Ti 2:9), denotes a transition to another class of persons. Further, there were doubtless deaconesses at Ephesus, such as Phœbe was at Cenchrea (Ro 16:1, "servant," Greek, "deaconess"), yet no mention is made of them in this Epistle if not here; whereas, supposing them to be meant here, the third chapter embraces in due proportion all the persons in the service of the Church. Naturally after specifying the qualifications of the deacon, Paul passes to those of the kindred office, the deaconess. "Grave" occurs in the case of both. "Not slanderers" here, answers to "not double-tongued" in the deacons; so "not false accusers" (Tit 2:3). "Sober" here answers to "not given to much wine," in the case of the deacons (1Ti 3:8). Thus it appears he requires the same qualifications in female deacons as in deacons, only with such modifications as the difference of sex suggested. Pliny, in his celebrated letter to Trajan, calls them "female ministers."

faithful in all things—of life as well as faith. Trustworthy in respect to the alms committed to them and their other functions, answering to "not greedy of filthy lucre," 1Ti 3:8, in the case of the deacons.

Even so must their wives be grave: must their is not in the Greek, but supplied by our interpreters, and, as some think, ill, judging that he speaks here not of deacons’ wives, but of deaconesses, of such women as had the deacon’s office conferred on them, such a one was Phebe, Romans 16:1; but it may be understood of either, both ought to be not light, airy, tattling persons, but composed, serious, grave people.

Not slanderers; not devils, (so it is in the Greek), that is, persons given to railing and accusing others.

Sober: see the sense of that word, 1 Timothy 3:2.

Faithful in all things; who have approved themselves every way honest, and such persons as may be trusted. Even so must their wives be grave,.... Some instead of "wives" read "women", and understand them of deaconesses, such as were in the primitive churches; whose business it was to visit the poor and sick sisters of the church, and take care of things belonging to them; but it is better to interpret the words of the wives of the deacons, who must be as their husbands, "grave" in speech, gesture, and dress, of an honest report, a good behaviour, and chaste conversation; which will reflect honour and credit to their husbands:

not slanderers; or accusers, and so act like devils, as the word is sometimes rendered; for should they act such a part, and accuse either the poor, or any of the members of the church wrongfully, or on any trifling occasion, as persons addicted to this vice are wont to do, it would be of bad consequence: and they also should be

sober, temperate, not given to wine; excessive drinking is very scandalous in the female sex; and is the rather mentioned here, because women in the eastern countries were too frequently addicted to it:

faithful in all things; as in the marriage bed, so with whatsoever else they are intrusted with in the family, and civil concerns of their husbands; and this is the rather observed, because the wives of deacons may be sometimes intrusted with the church's stock in their husband's absence, to impart to the poor.

{4} Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.

(4) Regard must also be had for the pastor's and deacon's wives.

1 Timothy 3:11. Γυναῖκας ὡσαύτως σεμνὰς κ.τ.λ.] No further hint is given as to what women he is here speaking of; only it is to be observed that these instructions regarding them are inserted amongst the rules for the diaconate, since 1 Timothy 3:12 continues to speak of the latter. They must therefore, at all events, be regarded as women who stand in close relation to the deacons—either the wives of the deacons or the deaconesses. Mack’s supposition, that they are the wives of the deacons and of the bishops, is quite arbitrary. The second view is found as early as in Chrysostom (γυναῖκας διακόνους φησί), Theophylact, Oecumenius, Grotius, and others; de Wette, Wiesinger, and Hofmann also think it correct. The principal grounds for it are—(1) the word ὡσαύτως, which indicates that the apostle here passes (see 1 Timothy 3:8) to a new class of ecclesiastical persons (Wiesinger); and (2) the fact that the instructions given in this whole section are rather directions for election than exhortations to the persons named. On the other hand, the omisson of αὐτῶν (de Wette, Wiesinger) and the expression πιστὰς ἐν πᾶσιν, usually understood, as de Wette wrongly thinks, of conjugal fidelity, are of no weight.

Against this view, however, there are two circumstances which should be considered, viz., that the instruction regarding the deaconesses is inserted among those given to the deacons, and also that the apostle calls them quite generally γυναῖκες, instead of using the definite αἱ διάκονοι (comp. Romans 16:1). This makes it probable that by the γυναῖκες we should understand the deacons’ wives (so, too, Plitt). The reason of the special exhortation would then be, not, as Heydenreich says, that even the domestic life of the deacons should be considered, but that the office of the deacons, consisting in the care of the poor and the sick, was of a kind in which their wives had to lend a helping hand. Hence we can explain why the wives of the bishops are not specially mentioned.[129]

μὴ διαβόλους] διάβολος, as an adjective: “slanderous,” occurs only in the Pastoral Epistles, here and at 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3.

ΝΗΦΑΛΊΟΥς] is not equivalent to ΜῊ ΟἼΝῼ ΠΌΛΛῼ ΠΡΟΣΕΧΟΎΣΑς, 1 Timothy 3:8; it is to be taken in the same sense as in 1 Timothy 3:2 (in opposition to Wiesinger, van Oosterzee).

ΠΙΣΤᾺς ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙΝ] “faithful in all things;” ἘΝ ΠᾶΣΙΝ forbids us to limit the command of fidelity to any one sphere; it is not merely faithfulness at home nor in the duties of the church that is meant.

[129] Van Oosterzee’s view is arbitrary, that those deacons’ wives are meant who at the same time held the office of deaconess.1 Timothy 3:11. γυναῖκας: Sc. δεῖ εἶναι, not governed by ἔχοντας (1 Timothy 3:9). These are the deaconesses, ministrae (Pliny, Ep. x. 97) of whom Phoebe (Romans 16:1) is an undoubted example. They performed for the women of the early Church the same sort of ministrations that the deacons did for the men. In confirmation of this view it should be noted that ὡσαύτως is used in introducing a second or third member of a series. See on 1 Timothy 2:9. The series here is of Church officials. Again, the four qualifications which follow correspond, with appropriate variations, to the first four required in deacons, as regards demeanour, government of the tongue, use of wine, and trustworthiness. And further, this is a section dealing wholly with Church officials. These considerations exclude the view that women in general, as R.V. apparently, are spoken of. If the wives of the deacons or of the clergy were meant, as A.V., it would be natural to have it unambiguously expressed, e.g., by the addition of αὐτῶν.

διαβόλους: slanderers. While men are more prone than women to be δίλογοι, double-tongued, women are more prone than men to be slanderers. See Titus 2:3. The term is predicated in 2 Timothy 3:3, not of men, but as characterising the human race, ἄνθρωποι, in the last days.

νηφαλίους: see note on 1 Timothy 3:2.

πιστὰς ἐν πᾶσιν: It may be that, as Ell. suggests, this has a reference to the function of deaconesses as almoners, a possible inference from Constt. Apost. iii. 16. But more probably it is a comprehensive summary with a general reference, like πᾶσαν πίστιν ἐνδεικνυμένους ἀγαθήν, Titus 2:10.11. Even so must their wives be grave] The R.V. translates literally Women in like manner must be grave, i.e. women deacons, favouring the general view of the earliest commentators, as Chrysostom and Theod. Mops.,’ mulieres quae diaconis officium implere statuuntur,’ and the latest, as Bps Wordsworth and Ellicott. Fairbairn gives well the reasons; ‘the mode of expression “likewise” apparently marking a transition to another class (as at 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 2:9; Titus 2:3; Titus 2:6); also the absence of the article or the pronoun to connect the women with the men spoken of before; the mention only of qualifications for deacon work, while nothing is said of those more directly bearing on domestic duties.’

slanderers] The word is only used in these Epistles, here and Titus 2:3 of women; in 2 Timothy 3:3 of men. It corresponds to the ‘double-tongued’ above. Theod. Mops. Lat. gives ‘accusatrices,’ and this shews well the identity of the word with that for the great ‘accuser,’ the devil (diabolus).

faithful in all things] That is, in all the duties of a deaconess.1 Timothy 3:11. Γυναῖκας, wives) This depends on ἔχοντας, having, 1 Timothy 3:9. ὡσαύτως, in like manner) This refers to 1 Timothy 3:8.—μὴ διαβόλους, not slanderers) especially among those that are without.—πιστὰς, faithful) This refers to 1 Timothy 3:9.Verse 11. - Women in like maturer must for even so must their wives, A.V.; temperate for sober, A.V. Women. What is meant by these "women"? Certainly not women in general, which would be quite out of harmony with the context. The choice lies between

(1) the wives of the deacons, as in the A.V.;

(2) the wives of the episcopi and deacons;

(3) deaconesses.

This last, on the whole, is the most probable. The male deacons had just been spoken of, and so the apostle goes on to speak of the female deacons (at διάκονοι, Romans 16:1). He conceives of the deacon's office as consisting of two branches -

(1) the deacons,

(2) the deaconesses;

and gives appropriate directions for each. It must he remembered that the office of the early deacon was in a great measure secular, so that there is nothing strange in that of the deaconess being coupled with it. The retrain in ver. 12 to the male deacon is in favor of understanding "the women" of the deaconesses, as showing that the subject of the diaconate was not done with. Chrysostom (who says, "He is speaking of those who hold the rank of deaconesses") and all the ancient commentators, and De Wette, Wiesinger, Wordsworth, Alford, and Ellicott among the moderns, so understand it (see following notes). Grave (σεμνὰς; see ver. 8, note). Not slanderers (μὴ διαβόλους, corresponding to the μὴ διλόγους of ver. 8). This use of διάβολος, which is the classical one, is peculiar in the New Testament to the pastoral Epistles (see 2 Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3). Temperate (νηφαλίους; see ver. 2, note). It corresponds here to the μὴ οἴνῳ πολλῷ προσέχοντας of ver. 8. Faithful in all things (πιστὰς ἐν πᾶδιν). This seems to refer specially to their being the almoners of the Church charities, and so favors the explanation of "women" as meaning deaconesses. Πιστός means especially "trusty" (Matthew 24:45; Matthew 25:21; Luke 12:42; Luke 16:10, etc.). Their wives (γυναῖκας)

Probably correct, although some find a reference to an official class of women - deaconesses (so Ellicott, Holtzmann, Alford). But the injunction is thrown incidentally into the admonition concerning Deacons, which is resumed at 1 Timothy 3:12; and if an official class were intended we should expect something more specific than γυναῖκας women or wives without the article. A Deacon whose wife is wanting in the qualities required in him, is not to be chosen. She would sustain an active relation to his office, and by her ministries would increase his efficiency, and by frivolity, slander, or intemperance, would bring him and his office into disrepute.

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