Book Series Studia Traditionis Theologiae, vol. 37

Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication

The Tasks of Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions

Pauliina Pylvänäinen

  • Pages: xi + 275 p.
  • Size:156 x 234 mm
  • Illustrations:6 b/w
  • Language(s):English
  • Publication Year:2020

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58917-6
  • Paperback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-58918-3
  • E-book
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This book is a key contribution to the historical investigation into the place of women deacons in the early Church ordered by Pope Francis in 2020.


“To sum up, this a very nice study discussing the key role of the female deacons in Early Christianity. The study is characterized by a methodically correct use of the sources and an instructive bibliography. The chapters are structured in the right way and the summary of each chapter gives a clear picture of its content. The author’s conclusions help us to better understand the restoration of the institution of the female deacons in the future.” (Spyros P. Panagopoulos, forthcoming in Vigiliae Christianae, 2023)

"Carefully and thoughtfully done, this book offers an important correction to the historical record regarding women’s ministries in the early Christian centuries." (Susan Ashbrook Harvey, in Journal of Orthodox Christian Studies, 5, 1, 2022, pp. 141-143)

“The research work of Pylvänäinen is extremely actual given the attention that Pope Francis has called to the role of women and especially that of female deacons. This work is solid in its scholarship and method and quite illuminating in its conclusions. It is well worth a serious study not only for women’s questions but in the context of ordination and the whole debate around the non ordination of women.” (James F. Puglisi, in Ecclesia Orans, 39, 1, 2022, p. 221-223)


DTh Pauliina Pylvänäinen defended her dissertation on female deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions in the University of Eastern Finland in 2017.


What did women deacons do in the early church? This study is a contribution to resolving this topical question through evaluating the tasks of female deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions. This fourth-century document is the largest among the so-called ancient church orders. Pylvänäinen divides the tasks of female deacons into three categories: liturgical, charitable and communicative. She analyses the individual concepts and verses within their contexts, paying special attention to the context of the document as a whole within the sphere of Jewish Christian interaction and from the viewpoint of the sources the compiler has used in remoulding the document.


1 Introduction

2 Apostolic Constitutions as an Early Christian Source

3 Dogmatic Tendencies in the Apostolic Constitutions

4 Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions
Cognates of διακονέω in Earlier Sources
Invention of διακόνισσα
Stress on γύνη
Unmarried Women
Chosen Women

5 Tasks in Liturgical Context
Blessing and Laying on of Hands
Tasks during Baptism
Function and Tasks in the Assembly
Women in the Role of Levites
Women in the Place of the Holy Spirit

6 Tasks Linked with Charity
Charity in the Apostolic Constitutions
Visiting the Homes
Charitable Serving?

7 Conclusions

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