Feba z Kenchr – siostra, diakon, patron
Phoebe: sister, deacon, patron
Languages of publication
The article is a historical-theological study of Phoebe as depicted by Paul in Romans 16,1-2. The background is, on the one hand, the ancient cities of Corinth and Cenchrea with their citizens and, on the other, the young local church in Achaia, being the effect of Paul's missionary work around the half of the first century. In order to describe Phoebe the apostle used three nouns: adelphēn, diákonon, prostátis. The article investigates all three terms against their biblical and cultural millieu. Each one of them carries a different meaning and, juxtaposed with the others, gives a picture of a woman involved in service for the community. The highly specific nature of the text in Romans is exemplified by the fact that this is the only usage of the above terms in the New Testament to describe a woman. The term "sister" is used to describe the affinity of faith but can also be understood in the light of a group of people dedicated to the ministry of the gospel. This conclusion, per analogiam, stems from Paul's use of the term "brother" (also in singular) to denote his close co-workers (Timothy, Titus, and Epaphrodite, among others). The second term (deacon, servant) has usually been translated as "deaconess". That translation runs the danger of anachronism and leads to understanding the ministry of Phoebe in the categories and concepts attributed to deacons and deaconesses by later Christianity. In Pauline texts "deacon" and "deaconry" did not necessarily mean a church office associated with a ministry to the needy and the ill or to widows and orphans, but rather denoted people who functioned as official agents and delegates and was a title of honour in the Messianic Community. Paul used the word to describe his own co-workers, delegates of the Church or local communities (e.g. Timothy and Titus). An ex- ample of such usage may be the ministry of Epaphrodite from Philippi. Based on this, it is concluded that the ministry of Phoebe as a servant cannot be reduced to the role of a deacon or deaconess from a later period (I/II century) but needs to be understood along the lines of Paul's interpretation. The meaning of the third term (patron, protector) in Phoebe's case has often been narrowed down to the role of supporting, helping, and - in general - being helpful. However, the verb proīstēmi and its derivatives in proto- nad deutero-Pauline texts refers to leaders, heads of communities. The analysis of literary texts and inscriptions from that period also indicates that the noun (both in masculine and in feminine forms) was used for people holding honorary positions in their country, city or council. It also concerned women in the diaspora and especially wealthy women in the eastern cities of the Roman Empire. They were often involved in economic and social activities but did not retreat from the world of politics (Plancia Magna, Claudia Metrodora, Junia Theodora). The present study leads to the conclusion that reducing the role of Phoebe to that of supporting and helping does not fully depict her function in the Church during the time of Paul. Taking into account the fact that Christianity of that period was to a large degree a social movement sponsored by wealthy and influential patrons, the status of a patron being an official delegate of the local community in Corinth and Cenchrea to Rome (or Ephesus) and belonging to the broad missionary team of the Apostle best describes the position of Phoebe in the Church.
Publication order reference