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DietS - The Original Form of Parish Social Work


  The original form of Parish Social Work

A project about the understanding of the deacons and assistance of those in need of help

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The aim of the project DietS1

The latest discussion about diakonia has been stimulated by the results of language analysis made for example by John N. Collins (1990, 2014) and Anni Hentschel (2006/2013). Although we know about the lexical meanings of the diak-family, we haven't yet used much of this knowledge on the functions of the parish's life (Gooder 2006, Collins 2012b).2

The aim of this meta-project is to collect high-level scientific re-interpretations, organize them and stimulate re-interpretations of the ancient (2nd to 7th c.) sources concerning diakonia. Doing this will trace and reveal correct interpretations and clear misinterpretations. This, in turn, helps to create possibilities for re-interpretations of diakonia, not the least in ecumenical discussions about the ministry of a deacon/deaconess. Therefore, in the context of discussing diakonia, this project is also analyzing the ministry and the functions of a deacon/deaconess and the ways in which the Christians helped each other during the first centuries. Therefore the name: Diakonia et parish Social work = DietS.

The main way to fulfill this aim is to distribute information (via internet pages, mails, meetings, etc.) and in this way to help researcher and other projects to cooperate. This can also lead to new research projects about persons/topics which are not analyzed yet. Some other ways may also emerge.

On this page, I will collect information about topics, which uses the ancient sources in a similar way or in ways which are aware of the ways which John N. Collins in his book shows. This page will not collect discussions about deacons and helping but concentrates on interpretations and analysis of interpretations of the ancient sources in their original language.

The leader of the project: Dr. Esko Ryökäs

1 The name "DietS": We need diets because we need to know, what we are eating and have eaten (about Deacons and Social work). – Click Presentations to go to the visualizations of the aims below. The project started on March 15th, 2013. About the other background of this project, click here.

2 More about the present situation here.

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Structure of the main project

1 Background

  • Collins
  • Hentschel
  • Janhonen etc.

useful texts

  • Diakonische Konturen. DWI 2003
  • Reininger 1999
  • Gooder 2006
  • Collins 2009
  • Koet 2009
  • Latvus 2017

my activities

  • Ryökäs 2014a  (about RGG-dictionaries)

2 Preconstantinian era

2.0 New testament
2.1 Apostolic Fathers
2.2 Early Fathers
  • Justin Martyr
  • Aristides
  • Tertullian
  • Clement of Alexandria
  • Origen
  • Eusebios of Caesarea
  • Irenaeus
  • Hippolytos
  • Cyprian
2.3 Church orders
  • Didascalia
  • Apostolic Constitutions
2.4 Analyses of frequency

useful texts

my activities

  • "Orthodoxia 51", 43–68, 2010. (about Apost. Fathers)
  • Ryökäs - Voitila 2013 about the deacons as letter carrier
  • Supervised doctoral student about diakonia in Apostolic Constitutions
  • Forthcoming: an analysis about frequencies of deacon's activities by fathers
  • Deacons and Diakonia (Ed., 2018, WUNT, more here)

  • ReLeFuD 2019

3 Early middle ages

3.1 East
  • Athanasius of Alexandria
  • Epiphanius of Salamis
  • The Cappadocian Fathers
  • Sozomenus
  • John Chrysostom
3.2 West
  • Ambrose
  • Saint Jerome / Hieronymus
  • Augustine of Hippo
  • Leo the Great
  • Gregory the Great
3.3 Councils and Church Orders
  • The Seven Ecumenical Councils
  • Canons
3.4 Analyses of frequency
3.5 The Buildings called Diaconia

useful texts

4 Reformers (of 16 th c.) and Tridentium

4.1 Luther
4.2 Calvin
4.3 Buzer
4.4 Tridentium

useful texts

my activities

  • Supervising doctoral thesis about deacons by Luther
  • "Diakonian tutkimus", 2/2011, 145–163. (about Luther and diaconia)
  • "Diaconia", a presentation on IDZ/IDC/CID 22.10.2015 (Rome): Ryökäs 2015b
  • Why Luther did not speak about “diaconia”? in: Darkness, Light, and Active Love(2020)

5 The Fathers of 19 th century

5.1 Fliedner
5.2 Wichern
5.3 Löhe
5.4 Local Teachers

useful texts

my activities

  • Supervising Doctoral thesis about understanding of deacons during the latest 50 years in Finland
  • About Fliedner: Diakonische Einblicke, DWI, 2011, 49–71.

6 The way of Reading the Old Texts

  • local analyses

useful texts

  • Wendland Project, look at Dietzel 2013

my activities

  • "Diakonian väärinymmärryksen lyhyt historia", 2009.
  • About Paul Philippi in TRE: Ryökäs 2015.
  • Aikaan sidottu diakonia-käsite ("Diakonia" as a term of its time), 2019.

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Topics done and to do

This project has started. Some activities have been done.

 Some examples can be seen here.

Seminar Idealismista realismiin, 22-23.9.2014 (Joensuu)

A proposal for HERA was written (spring 2015), but without effort

Symposium What Did Deacons Do?, 22-23.9.2015 (Joensuu)

  • a charitative role of a deacon was surely not the main theme on the papers presented at this symposium

Symposium What Did Deacons Do 2017?, 13-15.9.2017 (Joensuu)

  • an analyze of many fathers show clear, a charitative role of a deacon was surely not the main theme on the papers

Symposium What Did Deacons Do 2020?, mid-May (Joensuu)

  • Due CoViD-19 modified to series of on-line conferences
  • more information on the web page

Symposium Understandings of Diakonia, December 2021 (Joensuu)

 One example can be seen here.

We have recently published a book about the two first centuries (WUNT).

We are working with the second volume, too.

This project needs the cooperation of many writers, because of its volume. Now it is essential to collect information about "status quo": what do we know now. This means: what do we know after the introduction of the new paradigm by John N. Collins. This phase may take some years. After that, we can start to analyze deeper that material, which has not been investigated yet.

To start, we need:

  • find out those who have written / are writing about diakonia in the early church
  • collect a book or series of books like Madigan-Osiek 2005 but about the deacons ("where something is written"). We started this with Deacons and Diakonia 2018.
  • collect a similar knowledge about the Parish Social Work in the Early Church
  • find out what has already been written
  • deal the research objects to several researchers, in co-operation

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Results so far

It seems that many books and articles of 19 th and 20 th century want to see its specific (charitative) way of Deacon's service as the only possible (Collins, Dietzel, Ryökäs 2011 [about Fliedner], Latvus 2017).

It seems to be easy to give a charitative understanding to deacon's ministry, even on the highest level of scientific presentation of the 1980s, against sources (Ryökäs 2015).

The deacons work as a humble service seems to be an invention of the 1930s, not earlier (Ryökäs 2014a).
In 4 th Century and Egypt had the deacons almost nothing to do with the sick persons (Barrett-Lennart)

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Barrett-Lennart, Ric (2005): The Canons of Hippolytus and Christian Concern with Illness, Health, and Healing. – Journal of Early Christian Studies, Volume 13, 137–164.
Collins, John N.

 – (1990): Diakonia. Reinterpreting the ancient sources. Oxford University Press - Click here to expand...

– (2001): Gunnel Borgegard, Olav Fanuelsen, Christine Hall (ed.), The Ministry of the Deacon, 2. Ecclesiological Explorations [Book review].  – International Journal for the Study of the Christian Church. Volume 1, Issue 1 (2001), pp. 103 - 106.
– (2009): A German Catholic view of Diaconate and Diakonia. [Book review.] New Diaconal Review, (IDC-NEC) vol. 1 (2009) nr. 2 pp. 41–46. – http://www.idc-nec.org/NDRV1Issue02.pdf.
– (2012a): A Monocultural Usage: διακον- words in Classical, Hellenistic, and Patristic Sources. – Vigiliae Christianae 66 (2012), 287–309.
– (2012b): Theology of Ministry in the Twentieth Century: Ongoing Problems or New Orientations?’ – Ecclesiology 8.1, 11–32.
– (2014): Diakonia Studies. Critical Issues in Ministry. Oxford University Press. 
Diaconia, diaconiae, diaconato (2010). Semantica e storia nei padri della chiesa. Studia Ephemeridis Augustinianum 117. Institutum Patristicum Augustinianum. Roma. .
Diaconia in Christo. Über die Erneuerung des Diakonates. Hrsg.v. Karl Rahner u. Herbert Vorgrimler. Quaestiones Disputatae 15/16. Herder, 1962.
Dietzel, Stefan (2003): Zur Entstehung des Diakonats im Urchristentum. Eine Auseinandersetzung mit den Positionen von Wilhelm Brandt, Hermann Wolfgang Beyer und John N. Collins. – Diakonische Konturen, DWI, 2003, 136–170.
– (2013): Wendland Project: http://www.uni-goettingen.de/de/354866.html
Gooder, Paula (2006): Diakonia in the New Testament: A Dialogue with John N. Collins. – Ecclesiology 3.1, 33–56.
Hentschel, Anni (2006): Diakonia im Neuen Testament. Studien zur Semantik unter besonderer Berücksichtigung der Rolle von Frauen. Mohr Siebeck.
– (2008): Gibt es einen sozial-karitativ ausgerichteten Diakonat in den frühchristlichen Gemeinden? – PTh 97, 290–306.
– (2011): Diakon/Diakonin, WiBiLex, http://www.bibelwissenschaft.de/startseite/.
– (2013): Gemeinde, Ämter, Dienste. Perspektiven zur neutestamentlichen Ekklesiologie. Neukirchener Theologie, Biblisch Theologische Studien, 136.
Janhonen, Hanne (2006): ”JA HÄN LÄHETTI PALVELIJOITAAN”. Sanan διάκονος merkitys UT:ssa ja muissa antiikin teksteissä. [The meaning of διάκονος in the NT and other ancient texts. Masters thesis]  – Joepub.
Koet, Bart J. (2009): International conference on the sources of the diaconate. How it came about and how it turned out. A first report ... - New Diaconal Review, (IDC-NEC) vol. 2 (2009) nr. 3 pp. 29–32.  –  http://www.idc-nec.org/NDRV1Issue03.pdf.
(2019) The Go-Between: Augustine on Deacons. Brill.
Latvus, Kari (2010): Diaconal Ministry in the Light of the Reception and Re-Interpretation of Acts 6.  –  Diaconia, vol. 1, pp. 82–102, ISSN 1869-3261.
(2017): Diaconia as care for the poor?
Madigan, Kevin – Osiek, Carolyn (2005): Ordained Women in the Early Church. A Documentary History. Edited and translated by Kevin Madigan and Carolyn Osiek. The Johns Hopkins University Press. Baltimore & London.
Pylvänäinen, Pauliina (2020): Agents in Liturgy, Charity and Communication, The Tasks of Female Deacons in the Apostolic Constitutions, Studia Traditionis Theologiae, 37, Turnhout 2020.
eininger, Dorothea (1999): Diakonat der Frau in der Einen Kirche. Schwabenverlag.
Ryökäs, Esko (2009): "Diakonian väärinymmärryksen lyhyt historia" [A short history of misunderstanding of diakonia]. Anno Domini, 162–181.
– (2011): Zur Begründung der Diakonie bei Theodor Fliedner. Anmerkungen zum “Gutachten, die Diakonie und den Diakonat betreffend.” – Diakonische Einblicke. DWI-Jahrbuch, 49–71.
– (2012): Book review: Diaconia, diaconiae, diaconato (2010).  – Diaconia. Journal for the Study of Christian Social Practice 3 1: 95–96.
– (2014a): Arbeiter oder Diener – über die Diakonie-Auffassungen des 20. Jahrhunderts. –  Diakoniewissenschaft in Forschung und Lehre. DWI.Jahrbuch, 107–124.
– (2015): Diaconia – A Make-Believe Which Continues?. – Diaconia. Journal for the Study of Christian Social Practice, vol. 6, pp. 61–74.
– (2015b): "Diaconia" - a presentation on IDZ/IDC/CID 22.10.2015 (Rome): a version in YouTube..
– (
2017): Diakonit ja saarna. Diakonian tutkimus 1: 36-53..
– (
2019): Aikaan sidottu diakonia-käsite. Tiedekriittinen yritys ymmärtää suomalaista diakoniakeskustelua. STKSJ 289. Helsinki.
– (
2020): Why Luther did not speak about “diaconia”? in: Darkness, Light, and Active Love, Studies on Theory and Practice in Luther and Lutheran Orthodox Ecumenical Theology, Ed. Antti Raunio, Schriften der Luther-Agricola-Gesellschaft 74, Helsinki 2020, 165–193.
Ryökäs, Esko - Voitila, Anssi (2013): "Varhaiset diakonit kirjeiden kuljettajina" [Early Deacons as Letter Carrier]. - Diakonian tutkimus 2 / 2013, 133–149.
Theology and Ministry 2 (2013), with many articles.

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Visual Presentations

In English

      Click here to go to the page with material in English

In Finnish

      Click here to go to the page with a flash in Finnish

To go to the aims above click Aims

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Add Comments

Would you like to comment on this project or see your Project on this page? Do you know any analysis of diakonia which uses the knowledge we have after the book of Collins (1990)? Please, write to me (esko.ryokas@uef.fi), and I'll put your text below, or, if you are a confluence user,  write a comment below!
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  1. Anonymous

    On Internet explorer you should take the Compatibility View away. Take a look on http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/internet-explorer/use-compatibility-view#ie=ie-10 .

  2. Anonymous

    Ich gratuliere meinem Kollegen Esko Ryökas für seine Arbeiten in der Diakonie, vor allem auch für das für die Diakoniewissenschaft sehr wichtige Engagement, die Arbeiten von unseren KollegInnen John Collins, Bendeict und Anni Hentschel auf die Quellen der ersten Jahrhunderte mit ihren wichtigen Impulsen für die Entstehen eines Diakonieverständnisses zu übertragen. Herzlich Christoph Sigrist