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).
Ignatius Theophorus, the bishop of Antioch, is a great figure of the ancient Christian Church. He is the first most important theologian after the Holy Apostles. By studying his Epistles the modern scholar may find in them many details regarding the actual life of the Church in Ignatius’ era.
Among the main themes in Ignatius’ written thoughts are the ecclesiastical authority and the three ranks of the Christian priesthood. The diaconate which is the first and the lowest rank of priesthood is clearly mentioned in Ignatius’ texts, although this is not his central theme.
The holy writer considers the diakonos and his diaconal ministry to be of a great value for the Church of Antioch and beyond. He, as the bishop of Antioch, is closely co-operating with the deacons in order to secure the best possible ministry for his flock.
Ignatius is related spiritually to the deacons, according to his own writings, in exactly the same way as God the Father is related to Jesus Christ. Thus, the diakonos is considered as a model of Jesus, who according to the New Testament had been the first diakonos of the Church.
The diakonos is always following the orders of his bishop, being answerable to him. But there is no clear reference in Ignatius’ texts as to the actual functions, pastoral, liturgical, or any other, of the diakonos. Finally, there is no direct mention to the deaconesses.