Anglicized form of the Greek word diaconos, meaning a "runner," "messenger," "servant." For a long period a feeling of mutual jealousy had existed between the "Hebrews," or Jews proper, who spoke the sacred language of palestine, and the "Hellenists," or Jews of the Grecian speech, who had adopted the Grecian language, and read the Septuagint version of the Bible instead of the Hebrew. This jealousy early appeared in the Christian community. It was alleged by the Hellenists that their widows were overlooked in the daily distribution of alms. This spirit must be checked. The apostles accordingly advised the disciples to look out for seven men of good report, full of the Holy Ghost, and men of practical wisdom, who should take entire charge of this distribution, leaving them free to devote themselves entirely to the spiritual functions of their office ( Acts 6:1-6 ). This was accordingly done. Seven men were chosen, who appear from their names to have been Hellenists. The name "deacon" is nowhere applied to them in the New Testament; they are simply called "the seven" ( 21:8 ). Their office was at first secular, but it afterwards became also spiritual; for among other qualifications they must also be "apt to teach" ( 1 Timothy 3: : 812 -12). Both Philip and Stephen, who were of "the seven," preached; they did "the work of evangelists."
The office described by this title appears in the New Testament as the correlative of bishop. [BISHOP] The two are mentioned together in ( Philemon 1:1 ; 1 Timothy 3:2 1 Timothy 3:8 ) Its original meaning implied a helper, an assistant. The bishops were the "elders," the deacons the young active men, of the church. The narrative of Acts 6 is commonly referred to as giving an account of the institution of this office. The apostles, in order to meet the complaints of the Hellenistic Jews that their widows were neglected in the daily ministration, call on the body of believers to choose seven men "full of the Holy Ghost and of wisdom," whom they "may appoint over this business." It may be questioned, however, whether the seven were not appointed to higher functions than those of the deacons of the New Testament. Qualifications and duties. Special directions as to the qualifications for and the duties of deacons will be found in Acts 6 and ( 1 Timothy 3:8-12 ) From the analogy of the synagogue, and from the scanty notices in the New Testament, we may think of the deacons or "young men" at Jerusalem as preparing the rooms for meetings, distributing alms, maintaining order at the meetings, baptizing new converts, distributing the elements at the Lords Supper.