DugALug comments on my suggestion that Phebe was a deacon, in the truest spiritual sense of the word:
Nice try, but we use the work Deacon in english to mean that you are a person of leadership in the church... or you could be someone who attends wake forrest.
With that logic I could also conclude that Jesus was a physical door. It is all about context, and you haven't established that the context is the same.
I like that you keep me honest, sir. :-) As I started answering this, the comment block on the previous post began begging for mercy. So, I gave up trying to fit it all in a little comment. Establishing a context seems to take a little verbiage. ;-)
I commend unto you Phebe our sister, which is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea:
That ye receive her in the Lord, as becometh saints, and that ye assist her in whatsoever * * business she hath need of you: for she * hath been a succourer of many, and of myself * * also.
Let's start with the word, "commend". With this word, Paul defines himself as an apostle (by affirming that he need not defend his commendation from the Lord.)
2Co 3:1 Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?
2Co 5:12 For we commend not ourselves again unto you, but give you occasion to glory on our behalf, that ye may have somewhat to answer them which glory in appearance, and not in heart.
Paul is giving Phebe some exceptionally high praise, if she is just a servant to some member of the church in Cenchrea.
2Co 10:18 For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.
Phebe does not commend herself here, but rather Paul does. And I might say that whom Paul commends is probably worthy of some attention.
Now on to the word, "receive".
Phil 2:29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
(Of Epaphroditus, whom Paul is sending back to Philippi as a faithful servant.)
Col 4:10 Aristarchus my fellowprisoner saluteth you, and Marcus, sister's son to Barnabas, (touching whom ye received commandments: if he come unto you, receive him;)
Php 4:18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
Ga 4:14 And my temptation which was in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus.
2Co 7:15 And his inward affection is more abundant toward you, whilst he remembereth the obedience of you all, how with fear and trembling ye received him.
Paul uses this word, "receive," often to talk about accepting profitable workers into the church's heart. There is no textual reason to assume that he means any less here. Add to that simple command to receive Phebe, the fact that Paul tells this church to receive her "in the Lord," and it becomes an almost irresistible weight pulling us in the direction of seeing Phebe as a worker in the Lord on a similar plane with Epaphroditus, Marcus or Titus.
As to the business she had in Rome. Pragma can mean any number of things. The assumption of many is that she was on a business trip or some such. She was certainly a woman of some means, so there is just cause to lean in that direction. Still,
2Co 7:11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.
The word, "pragma," appears 3 times in this passage, talking about the business of repentance.
Heb 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Again, pragma is the substance and evidence in Heb 11:1. Her business could as easily be spiritual as not.
Succourer is never again used in the New Testament, so it is hard to know what Paul might have meant by his use of that word in that place. A student of Greek could go to extra-biblical references, but I am certainly not one of those. Instead, I turn to a lexicon.
Thayer's and Smith's lexicon has this to say:
1. a woman set over others
2. a female guardian, protectress, patroness, caring for the affairs of others and aiding them with her resources
Hmmm. Leadership and/or guardianship. Paul uses a strong word to describe her position in the church.
Lastly, she was entrusted by Paul to deliver the word of God to the church in Rome! That needs more exclamation points!!! And Paul himself testifies that he knows that what he is writing is the very word of God.
Find me another of Paul's letters that was delivered by a Christian businessman, just because he happened to be heading in that direction. It doesn't exist. And this is not just some simple letter. This is Paul's magnum opus, and he knows it. Paul always, always sent his letters by the hands of church leaders whom he trusted. (Well, there's Onesimus carrying the letter to Philemon, but that was kind of special.) Why would he send this treasure by the first businesswoman who happened to be headed West on Tuesday?
Paul had all of the brothers in Corinth and Cenchrea (they're what, 6 miles apart?) to choose from when he was deciding by whom to send this letter to Rome. Paul chose Phebe. She was not a scullery maid who cooked great biscuits for Paul! She was not even merely a woman of human wealth who opened her home to Paul. She was the single person, of all the members of two commendable churches, whom Paul believed should deliver this letter to a fledgling church with awesome potential.
Phebe was the deacon sent by Paul and the Spirit to minister to a young church made up of elder Christians, and Paul commended her, commanding that she be received as such.
If Phebe had been "Jason" or "John" or "Gaius," we would not be having this discussion. All the textual evidence points to "deacon" meaning "deacon", and emphatically so.