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Anastasios D. Salapatas

The Diaconate in Ignatious' Epistles

From: A. Salapatas, "A short essay on Early Church History", Theologia, vol. 70, issue 2-3, Athens 1999 (pp. 513-520).

III. Diakonos: model of Christ

Ιn Ignatius text references are found of the diakonos being a model of Jesus Christ Himself(28). It is quite obvious that Ignatius loves his deacons and regards them very highly.

The diakonos, who is closely working with his bishop, is “respected”(29) as Jesus Christ, having been “entrusted with the service of Jesus Christ”(30).

According to Ignatius the episkopos is set over the people “in the place of God”(31), being “a type of the Father”(32). The presbyters are also compared with the apostles(33).

Ιn all the relevant references the diakonos appears to be a model, or a “symbol”(34), or even a “representation”(35) of Christ. This idea seems to have been based on the New Testament. Our Lord, speaking about Himself and His ministry on earth, states that “the Son of Μan came not to be served (διακονηθήναι) but to serve (διακονήσαι)”(36). Thus, He regarded Himself as a diakonos of the Church and of the people, offering therefore a diaconal prototype to the Christian Church.

It could also be suggested that the diakonos, as an ecclesiastical figure who represents Christ, according to Ignatius, appears to have been more important than the presbyter, at least in the Church of Antioch, although he (the diakonos) certainly stands in the third place(37) of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.

It is interesting to note that the Ignatian view of the diakonos being a model of Jesus Christ, is also found in some other early Christian writings, such as The Letter of Polycarp to the Phrlippians(38), Didascalia Apostolorum(39) and Apostolic Constitutions(40).

At a later stage diakonos becomes the model of an angel. This is due to the liturgical development of the office. Saint John Chrysostom(41) and Theodore of Mopsuestia in Catecheses(42) are clearly stating that the diakonos as he wears his orarion(43) during the Church Services is like a flying angel. He also moves “between the sacred and the profane bearing messages”(44) like the angels.


28. W.R. Schoedel, op.cit, pp. 113-4.

29. Trall. 3,1.

30. Μagn. 6,1.

31. Ibid.

32. Μagn. 13,2; Trall. 3,1; Smyrn. 8,1.

33. Trall. 2,2 & 3,1; Philad 5,1; Smyrn. 8,1.

34. J.M. Barnett, op.cit., pp. 50-1.

35. Ibid.

36. Matt.20,28; Mark 10,45.

37. Smyrn. 8,1; Polyc. 6,1.

38. Polyc. Phil. 5,3.

39. R.N.Connoly, Didascalia Apostolorum, Oxford 1929, p.88.

40. Apostolic Constitutions 2,26,5.

41. Παντ.Χανόγλου, Διaκovικόν, Edessa 1989, p.214.

42. A.Μingana (ed.), Commentary of Theodore of Mopsuestia on the Lord's Prayer and on the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist, Cambridge 1933, p. 84.

43. Diaconal stole.

44. R.F.Grein, The Renewal of the Diaconate and the Ministry of the Laos, Rhode lsland 1991, p. 9.

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