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Wherefore, brethren, look ye out seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. 95) clearly describes the institution of deacons along with that of bishops as being the work of the Apostles themselves (Ep. Further, it should be noted that ancient tradition limited the number of deacons at Rome to seven ( Eusebius, Hist.

But we will give ourselves continuously toprayer, and to the ministry of the word ( te diakonia tou logou ). And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith, and of the Holy Ghost (with six others who are named). Stephen as the first deacon -- the similarity between the functions of the Seven who served the tables and those of the early deacons is most striking. ii to the Trallians): Those who are deacons of the mysteries of Jesus Christ must please all men in all ways. Eccl., VI, xliii), and that a canon of the council of Neo-Caesarea (325) prescribed the same restriction for all cities, however large, appealing directly to the Acts of the Apostles as a precedent.

Const., II, xxvii) and on the other hand they were to distribute the oblations ( eulogias ) which remained over after the Liturgy had been celebrated among the different orders of the clergy according to certain fixed proportions. They sought out the sick and the poor, reporting to the bishop upon their needs and following his direction in all things (Apost. They were also to invite aged women and probably others as well, to the agapae.


Ambrose (De Offic., Min., I, xli) has suggested the contrary.

The Council of Laodicea (can, xxi) forbade the inferior orders of the clergy to enter the diaconicum or touch the sacred vessels, and a canon of the first Council of Toledo pronounces that deacons who have been subjected to public penance must in future remain with the subdeacons and thus be withdrawn from the handling of these vessels.

On the other hand, though the subdeacon afterward invaded their functions, it was originally the deacons alone who A question arose as to whether deacons might give communion to priests but the practice was forbidden as unseemly by the first Council of Nicaea (Hefele-Le Clercq, I, 610-614).

These they placed "before the Apostles ; and they, praying, imposed hands upon them." Now, on the ground that the Seven are not expressly called deacons and that some of them (e.g. Stephen, and later Phillip ( Acts 21:8 ) preached and ranked next to the Apostles, Protestant commentators have constantly raised objections against the identification of this choice of the Seven with the institution of the diaconate. Compare, for example, both with the passage from the Acts with 1 Timothy 3:8 sq., quoted above, the following sentence from Hermas (Sim., IX, 26): They that have spots are the deacons that exercised their office ill and plundered the livelihood of widows and orphans and made gains for themselves from the ministrations they had received to perform. For they are not deacons of meats and drinks [only] but servants of the church of God . We seem, therefore, thoroughly justified in identifying the functions of the Seven with those of the deacons of whom we hear so much in the Apostolic Fathers and the early councils.

But apart from the fact that the tradition among the Fathers is both unanimous and early -- e.g. Established primarily to relieve the bishops and presbyters of their more secular and invidious duties, notably in distributing the alms of the faithful, we need not do more than recall the large place occupied by the agapae, or love feasts, in the early worship of the Church, to understand how readily the duty of serving at tables may have passed into the privilege of serving at the altar. A few years later (1 Timothy 3:8 sq.) he impresses upon Timothy that "deacons must be chaste, not double tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy of filthy lucre, holding the mystery of faith in a pure conscience." He directs further that they must "first be proved : and so let them minister, having no crime", and he adds that they should be the husbands of one wife: who rule well their children and their own houses.


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