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Pelagius (354 – 418)

by John Wijngaards

Pelagius was a monk, born in Britain. He is mainly remembered in church history and theology because of his views on free will, sin and redemption, for which he was condemned as a heretic by various local councils. After having spent time in Rome and North Africa, he settled in Palestine from 412 AD. The reason why we have, by way of exception, included this Latin author in this anthology of Greek sources, is his acquaintance with the women’s diaconate as practiced in the East. He identified the ‘widows’ mentioned in the Pastoral Letters as women deacons.

On 1 Timothy 3,11. ‘The women too should be chaste’. He [= Paul] orders that they should be chosen on the same terms as deacons. From this we may conclude that he speaks of those women who are still called ‘deaconesses’ in the East.[1]

On Romans 16,1. ‘[Phoebe] who is at the service of the church that is in Cenchreae’. In the eastern regions one sees women deaconesses [diaconissae mulieres], even to this day, serving members of their own sex in baptism and in the ministry of the word. For we find women who teach in private, as Priscilla whose husband was called Aquila.[2]

On 1 Timothy 5,9-11. ‘Choose as widow a woman who is at least sixty years old, who has only been married once.’ He wants that only those women be chosen as deaconesses who would be models of life for all . . . ‘As to young widows, avoid them.’ Avoid proposing them to others in the ministry of the diaconate for fear that they might set a bad example rather than a good one.[3]


1. Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 30, col.880.

2. Migne, Pgiatroloa Latina, vol. 30, col.714.

3. Migne, Patrologia Latina, vol. 30, col.883.