Deacon Qualifications - more than one child?

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Deacon Qualifications - more than one child?

Post by email » Sun Jan 03, 2010 9:50 pm

Does 1 Tim 3:12 teach that a deacon must have more than one child?

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Deacon qualifications

Post by m273p15c » Mon Jan 04, 2010 12:24 am

There has been a fair amount of discussion on this point, but even more dispute regarding the same question for elders. I have not thoroughly studied all the arguments, nor am I even acquainted with them all; however, I do currently believe the answer to your question is negative.

Here's the verse, for reference:
Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. (I Timothy 3:12).
In contrast to the qualifications for elders, this qualification for deacons is applied to deacons in general, plural. (The corresponding qualification for elders is required for each and every elder, singular.) Therefore, it is impossible from this context to determine if each and every deacon was to have children plural or singular. The wording is generic, so I am unwilling to enforce a specific conclusion that the text does not necessitate.

To illustrate the possibility of my point, please consider the word, "houses". Of the underlying Greek word, oikos, Thayer defines it as:
  1. a house; a. strictly, an inhabited house (differing thus from domos the building): Acts 2:2; 19:16; tinos, Matt. 9:6; Mark 2:1; 5:38; Luke 1:23, 40, 56; 8:39, 41, etc. ...
  2. by metonymy, the inmates of a house, all the persons forming one family, a household: Luke 10:5; 11:17 ...; 19:9; Acts 7:10; 10:2; 11:14; 16:31; 18:8; 1 Cor. 1:16; 1 Tim. 3:4f; 5:4; 2 Tim 1:16; 4:19; Heb. 11:7; plural, 1 Tim 3:12; Titus 1:11 (so also Gen. 7:1; 47:12, and often in Greek authors); metaphorically, and in a theocratic sense ho oikos tou theou, the family of God, of the Christian church, 1 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 4:17; of the church of the Old and New Testament, Heb. 3:2, 5f (Num. 12:7).
  3. stock, race, descendants of one (A. V. house) ...
In our passage of concern, this word, oikos, refers not to physical domiciles, (example, "my summer home" versus "my winter home"). Instead, it refers to the household or family itself. In this case, based on the context, a house would be comprised of a wife and possibly children.

Now, if we are correct in understanding that a ruled over "house" necessitates a wife, and if we temporarily grant that plurality in this construction is required for each and every deacon, then would this reasoning not lead to the absurd conclusion that a deacon must have more than one wife!? How can a godly man have one wife but multiple households, for which he is responsible and rules? ... Clearly, each deacon is to have only one household. Therefore, if the language permits one household, in spite of the plural case, "houses", then the parallel and conjoined wording for "children" must also permit one child.

The plurality of both children and houses arises from the plurality of the subject, deacons. Consequently, the plurality of the children and houses in relation to individual deacons is indeterminate from the context. ... That the deacons is to have a wife and at least one child is certain, but the number of children cannot be determined from the wording of I Timothy 3:12.

There is a special term to describe this construction, but it escapes me for the moment. It seems like it is called the "plurality of plurals", or something like that. I would have to research it more to recall, but I think the above point from the context demands a possible singular application for children (which point should be sufficient); otherwise, one must accept and even require polygamy by their own argument.

I pray this is helpful. If you have additional insight or opposing thoughts, I would be happy to hear them.

May God help us to have a sincere love of the truth,

May God help us to love truth sincerely and supremely (II Thessalonians 2:11-12)

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