BiblicalTraining's mission is to lead disciples toward spiritual growth through deep biblical understanding and practice. We offer a comprehensive education covering all the basic fields of biblical and theological content at different academic levels.
Read More


PHOEBE (fē'bē, Gr. Phoibē, pure). A woman mentioned in the Scriptures only in Rom.16.1-Rom.16.2. She was one of the first deaconesses, if not the first, of the Christian church and was highly recommended by Paul. In a single sentence he speaks of her Christian status (“sister”), of her position or office (diakonos, “servant”), of her service record (“she has been a great help to many people, including me”), and of the importance of her work (“give her any help she may need from you”). Phoebe was serving as deaconess of the church at Cenchrea, port of Corinth, when Paul arrived there at the end of his third journey, and where he wrote his letter to the Romans. Either she was on her way to Rome to serve that church or Paul sent her with this important letter to the Roman Christians.

PHOEBE fē’ bĭ (Φοίβη, G5833, pure, bright, radiant). KJV PHEBE (Rom 16:1). A deaconess in the church at Cenchreae (a village on Corinth’s E harbor). See Deacon, Deaconess.

Paul describes Phoebe as (1) “our sister,” (2) “a deaconess,” (3) “a helper of many and of myself” (Rom 16:1, 2). Whether διάκονος, G1356, here signifies (1) a definite office or merely (2) social service to a community is unknown. (In the E an independent order of deaconesses existed from the time of the Syrian Didascalia until the early Middle Ages; in the W no such order developed.) Phoebe had undoubtedly ministered to Paul during his visits to Cenchreae. The apostle urged the Roman Christians to welcome her as one of their own number; and that they should “help her in whatever she may require.” It is generally assumed that she delivered this epistle.

The name Phoebe appears once in Scripture but frequently in mythology. In Papiri Fiorentini, Phoebe is a slave. This name also occurs in a striking 5th or 6th cent. inscr. discovered on Mount Olivet (cf. MM).


E. J. Goodspeed, “Phoebe’s Letter of Introduction,” HTR, XXXXIV (1951), 55-57.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Described by Paul as (1) "our sister," (2) "who is a servant of the church that is at Cenchrea," (3) "a helper of many, and of mine own self" (Ro 16:1,2).

(1) "Our (Christian) sister": Paul calls the believing husband and wife "the brother or the sister" (1Co 7:15), and also asks, "Have we no right to lead about a wife that is a sister?" (1Co 9:5 margin). The church was a family.

(2) The Greek word translated "servant" is diakonos. "Servant" is vague, and "deaconess" is too technical. In the later church there was an order of deaconesses for special work among women, owing to the peculiar circumstances of oriental life, but we have no reason to believe there was such an order at this early period. If Phoebe had voluntarily devoted herself "to minister unto the saints" by means of charity and hospitality, she would be called diakonos.

(3) The Greek word prostatis translated "helper" is better "patroness." The masculine is "the title of a citizen in Athens who took charge of the interests of clients and persons without civic rights" (Denney). Many of the early Christian communities had the appearance of clients under a patron, and probably the community of Cenchrea met in the house of Phoebe. She also devoted her influence and means to the assistance of "brethren" landing at that port. Paul was among those whom she benefited. Gifford thinks some special occasion is meant, and that Paul refers to this in Ac 18:18. The vow "seems to point to a deliverance from danger or sickness" in which Phoebe may have attended on him.

It is generally assumed that this letter was taken to Rome by Phoebe, these verses introducing her to the Christian community. In commending her, Paul asks that the Roman Christians "receive her in the Lord," i.e. give her a Christian welcome, and that they "assist her in whatsoever matter she may have need" of them (Ro 16:1,2).