Bible Study Moment: Phoebe

“I’m introducing our sister Phoebe to you, who is a servant of the church in Cenchreae.  Welcome her in the Lord in a way that is worthy of God’s people, and give her whatever she needs from you, because she herself has been a sponsor of many people, myself included.” (Romans 16:1-2 CEB)

I’ve heard that the Greek word translated servant here is the source of the English word deacon, and that it appears in the King James Version as deacon or minister except here, which may be why Phoebe is described as a servant in many translations. Other versions translate the word as either Deacon (Deaconess), Minister, or Helper. All these words are accurate, but they each say something different to the reader.

It appears that Phoebe is the one who is bringing this letter of Paul’s to the church in Rome. According to the custom of the time, she would be the one reading the letter to those assembled, answering any questions that may be asked. So it is reasonable to conclude that Phoebe is the first commentator of Paul’s letter to the Romans, something that we would associate with a person highly trained in theology, like a minister.

Mark Phillips