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Diakonia StudiesCritical Issues in Ministry$
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John N. Collins

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199367573

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199367573.001.0001

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How Ancient Greeks Thought of Diakonia

How Ancient Greeks Thought of Diakonia

(p.57) 4 How Ancient Greeks Thought of Diakonia
Diakonia Studies

John N. Collins

Oxford University Press

Much modern writing on ministry rests on a fanciful story about why early Christians introduced Greek terms like diakonia into their narratives and discourses. We are told that they sought to represent in their ministries values of a benevolent and lowly servanthood that they recognized in the ministry/diakonia of Jesus. Linguistic research shows, however, that for ancient Greeks—Christian and non-Christian alike—diakonia never was an expression for benevolent or lowly servanthood. Churches should replace the servant myth with the real values represented for the ancients by diakonia and like terms. These values are apparent in stories about heavenly messages in connection with Josephus, Hermes, and Aesop; in Plato’s observations on roles of priests and seers; and in Athenaeus’s accounts of fine dining. All illustrate the quality of language early Christians were drawn to invoke in referencing the roles of their apostles and ministers.

Keywords:   diakonia, ministry, servant myth, Christian usage, religious mandate

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