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Saint Phoebe
Born 1st Century
Died 1st Century
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Anglican Communion
Eastern Orthodox Church
Oriental Orthodox Church
Lutheran Church
Canonized Pre-Congregation
Feast September 8 - Roman Catholic Church
October 25 - Lutheran Church

Phoebe (Koine Greek Φοίβη) was a Christian woman mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Romans 16:1.

Some have interpreted the Greek "diakonos" to relate Phoebe as a deaconess, the most literal interpretation of the word is as a servant which is what all deacons or deaconesses should be. Hence why they are called "deacon" which comes directly from Diakonos.

The Greek of Romans 16:2 uses the term prostatis which may indicate that she was Paul's patroness[1].

Some scholars believe Phoebe was responsible for delivering Paul's epistle to the Roman Christian church[2]. She is commemorated with Lydia of Thyatira and Dorcas in the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America on January 27 and on October 25 in the Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod. Her feast day in the Roman Catholic Church is September 3.

Phoebe was a Christian woman, described in Romans 16:1 as a "deacon" or "servant" in the church of Cenchreae. Some have called Phoebe a "servant," using a general rather than specific translation of the text from the original Greek. Still others have referred to Phoebe as a "deaconess."

The Greek word diakonos, used to describe Phoebe in Romans 16:1, is the masculine form of the noun. Therefore, the word should be translated into English as deacon rather than deaconess. Phoebe was a deacon of the church in Cenchrae, according to a strict translation of Romans 16:1. While the word diakonos is translated in other portions of the New Testament as servant, it is also translated as deacon in still other passages. The Today's New International Version of the New Testament rightly translates diakonos as deacon.

While some maintain that Paul restricted the office of deacon to men, other scholars dispute that assertion. For example, when describing the qualities that the office holders called "deacons" must possess, Paul, wrote in I Timothy 3:11 that the gunaikas (Greek for women) "are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything." Combined with the fact that Paul called Phoebe a diakonos (servant) in the church, Paul's instruction to the "women" in I Timothy makes it apparent that there was an order of deacons in the early church that included both male and female members who were in service to the Christian community.


  1. ^ Website of the Frontline guide to (American) PBS television series From Jesus to Christ - the first Christians
  2. ^ See for example Borg, Marcus and John Dominic Crossan (2009) The First Paul: Reclaiming the radical visionary behind the church's conservative icon. London: SPCK (51)

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