Saint Stephen, one of the first seven deacons in the Christian Church, holding a Gospel Book in a 1601 painting by Giacomo Cavedone.

A deacon is a member of the diaconate, an office in Christian churches that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions. Major Christian churches, such as the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Anglican church, view the diaconate as part of the clerical state.

The title is also used for the president, chairperson, or head of a trades guild in Scotland; and likewise to two officers of a Masonic lodge.

Origin and development

The word deacon is derived from the Greek word diákonos (διάκονος),[1] which is a standard ancient Greek word meaning "servant", "waiting-man", "minister", or "messenger".[2]

It is generally assumed that the office of deacon originated in the selection of seven men by the apostles, among them Stephen, to assist with the charitable work of the early church as recorded in Acts 6.[3][4]

The title deaconess (διακόνισσα diakónissa) is not found in the Bible. However, one woman, Phoebe, is mentioned at Romans 16:1–2 as a deacon (διάκονος diákonos) of the church in Cenchreae. Nothing more specific is said about her duties or authority, although it is assumed she carried Paul's Letter to the Romans. The exact relationship between male and female deacons varies. In some traditions, the title "deaconess" was also sometimes given to the wife of a deacon.

Female deacons are mentioned by Pliny the Younger in a letter to the emperor Trajan dated c. 112.

“I believed it was necessary to find out from two female slaves (ex duabus ancillis) who were called deacons (ministrae), what was true—and to find out through torture (per tormenta)”[5]

This is the earliest Latin text that appears to refer to female deacons as a distinct category of Christian minister.[5]

A biblical description of the qualities required of a deacon, and of his household, can be found in 1 Timothy 3:1–13.

Among the more prominent deacons in history are Stephen, the first Christian martyr (the "protomartyr"); Philip, whose baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch is recounted in Acts 8:26–40; St. Phoebe, who is mentioned in the letter to the Romans; Saint Lawrence, an early Roman martyr; Saint Vincent of Saragossa, protomartyr of Spain; Saint Francis of Assisi, founder of the mendicant Franciscans; Saint Ephrem the Syrian; and Saint Romanos the Melodist, a prominent early hymnographer. Prominent historical figures who played major roles as deacons and went on to higher office include Athanasius of Alexandria, Thomas Becket, and Reginald Pole. On June 8, 536, a serving Roman deacon was raised to Pope, Silverius.

The diaconate has been retained as a separate vocation in Eastern Christianity, while in Western Christianity it was largely used in cathedrals and as a temporary step along the path toward priestly ordination. In the 20th century, the diaconate was restored as a vocational order in many Western churches, most notably in the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, the Anglican Communion, and the United Methodist Church.

Other Languages
العربية: شماس
ܐܪܡܝܐ: ܡܫܡܫܢܐ
asturianu: Diáconu
беларуская: Дыякан
български: Дякон
català: Diaca
čeština: Jáhen
dansk: Diakon
Deutsch: Diakon
eesti: Diakon
Ελληνικά: Διάκονος
español: Diácono
Esperanto: Diakono
euskara: Diakono
فارسی: شماس
galego: Diácono
հայերեն: Սարկավագ
hrvatski: Đakon
Ido: Diakono
Bahasa Indonesia: Diaken
íslenska: Djákni
italiano: Diacono
עברית: דיאקון
ქართული: დიაკვანი
Kiswahili: Shemasi
Latina: Diaconus
latviešu: Diakons
lietuvių: Diakonas
Limburgs: Diake
magyar: Diakónus
македонски: Ѓакон
Malagasy: Diakra
മലയാളം: ശെമ്മാശൻ
Nederlands: Diaken
norsk: Diakon
norsk nynorsk: Diakon
occitan: Diague
polski: Diakon
português: Diácono
română: Diacon
русский: Диакон
Simple English: Deacon
slovenčina: Diakon
slovenščina: Diakon
српски / srpski: Ђакон
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Đakon
suomi: Diakoni
svenska: Diakon
Tagalog: Diyakono
ไทย: ดีกัน
Türkçe: Diyakoz
українська: Диякон
اردو: شماس
Tiếng Việt: Phó tế