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1 Timothy 3:11

ESV Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things.
NIV In the same way, the women are to be worthy of respect, not malicious talkers but temperate and trustworthy in everything.
NASB Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things.
CSB Wives, too, must be worthy of respect, not slanderers, self-controlled, faithful in everything.
NLT In the same way, their wives must be respected and must not slander others. They must exercise self-control and be faithful in everything they do.
KJV Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things.
NKJV Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things.

What does 1 Timothy 3:11 mean?

This verse has given rise to much controversy in the modern church. "Their wives" is a literal rendering, yet the same Greek word also means "women" and could be translated as "their women/wives." The controversy consists over whether this reference is to the wives of deacons, or whether this is actually a third group referring to female deacons.

Further adding to this controversy is Romans 16:1, in which some translations call Phoebe a "deacon." It is true that the Greek word used in Romans is "servant," just as it is in 1 Timothy 3:8. This term can be translated either as servant or "deacon." Since it is less clear in the Romans 16 context, the more general word "servant" is probably the better understanding. Here, however, the verse either gives qualifications for a deacon's wife or for a female deacon.

Based on the context of this passage, it is all but certain that Paul's references here are to the wives of potential deacons. This is a single verse sandwiched between other qualifications for deacons. Family qualifications are given for elders as well. And, historically, the earliest churches do not appear to have approved of female deacons based on 1 Timothy 3. A biblical argument can be made for either view, though the context and cultural background better fits the view presented here.

The wives of a potential deacon must be "dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things." "Dignified" is similar to "dignity" as used with elders in verse 4. "Slander" as used here refers to all forms of gossip, backbiting, and other malicious talk (1 Timothy 5:14; 6:4). "Sober-minded" is the same idea mentioned in verse 2 in reference to elders. "Faithful in all things" is a general summary regarding how a woman/wife was to function in the church.

As with elders, this verse does not imply that a deacon must be married. However, those who are should be those whose wives exhibit these traits. The Bible places great importance on the influence spouses can have on each other (1 Corinthians 7:13–14). It makes sense, therefore, that men need spouses whose spiritual lives will support their efforts to properly serve or lead in a church.
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