Exploring the biblical theology of Christian egalitarianism

The meaning of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12, with a brief history of authent– words

Papyrus Tebtunis 276, lines 25-34

Papyrus Tebtunis 275, lines 25-43

Because 1 Timothy 2:12 continues to be the main Bible verse—for some, the only Bible verse—used to exclude women from certain ministries, and because Paul’s precise meaning of the Greek word authentein, used in this verse, has been difficult to decipher, I thought it time to take another look at authentein. This article looks at the history of authent– words and at how these words and their meanings developed. Hopefully, this information will help us gain a better understanding of the meaning and nuances of authentein in the statement: “But I am not allowing a woman (or wife) to teach nor authentein a man (or husband); instead, she is to be calm (or still)” (1 Tim. 2:12). [A much shorter and simpler article on authentein is here.]

The noun authentēs in Classical and Atticistic literature: ‘murderer’ and ‘kin-murderer’

Authentein is an infinitive. Infinitives are sometimes described as verbal nouns but they are typically categorised with verbs. Authentein occurs only once in the New Testament, in 1 Timothy 2:12. It is unrelated to the common word exousia which is sometimes translated as ‘authority’ in the New Testament. Rather, authentein may be related to the concrete noun authentēs, a word that was not uncommon in Classical Greek literature.

Authentēs typically meant ‘murderer’ in Classical Greek, and was often used in the context of a person slaying a member of their family. It was also occasionally used of a person who took their own life. Authentēs occurs with the meanings of ‘murderer’ and ‘kin-murderer’ over two dozen times in plays that survive from the fifth and fourth centuries BC. But “after the Golden Age of ancient Greek literature, this meaning becomes relatively rare, occurring mainly in Atticistic writers.”[1]

As one example, authentēs is used with the sense of ‘kin-murderer’ in Wisdom 12:6 where it describes parents who killed their own children.[2] The Wisdom of Solomon is part of the Septuagint and was probably written in the first century BC, but its style is reminiscent of the Classical Greek tragedies of the past that were written in the Attic dialect, that is, Wisdom was written in Atticistic Greek rather than the usual Koine (‘common’) vernacular of its period, the Hellenistic period.[3]

The noun authentēs in Hellenistic Greek: ‘murderer,’ ‘mastermind’ and ‘master’

Linda Belleville writes about the broader range of meanings in Hellenistic Greek.

During the Hellenistic period, the primary meaning of ‘authentēs’ was still ‘murderer,’ but the semantic range widened to include ‘perpetrator,’ ‘sponsor,’ ‘author’ and ‘mastermind’ of a crime or act of violence…. By the first century AD, lexicographers defined authentēs as the perpetrator of a murder committed by others.[4]

A nuance of ‘perpetrator’ is seen in most occurrences of authentēs dating from the Hellenistic period (c. 300-30 BC), as well as later, with the word often used in contexts of murder, suicide, and violence. But a meaning of ‘master’ was also emerging.

Wolters mentions that the two meanings of ‘murderer’ and ‘master’ are distinct and he suggests that “the two senses may go back to separate etymological roots.”[5] Other scholars, such as Linda Belleville and Philip Payne, state that the etymology of all authent– words is autos (‘self’) + hentēs, derived from anuō (‘to effect’), giving the sense of ‘self-achieving.’[6]

Apart from one occurrence in a disputed passage,[7] authentēs meaning ‘master’ does not occur until the first century AD; but ‘master’ became the more usual meaning from the first century onwards in ordinary Koine (‘common’) Greek, gradually eclipsing any sense of ‘murderer.’[8]

There are indications that from the second century AD the usual meaning of authentēs in everyday use was ‘master’ and that “‘murderer’ had become a poorly understood literary sense.”[9] (Belleville prefers ‘mastermind’ to ‘master,’ acknowledging a nuance of ‘perpetrator.’)[10] This change in meaning is demonstrated in disagreements and confusion about the correct definition of authentēs in the lexica (dictionaries), grammars, and scholia (margin notes) written by Roman and Byzantine authors when referring back to authentēs in Classical Greek works. Wolters concludes, “authentēs in the living language meant ‘master,’ and the meaning ‘murderer’ was largely forgotten.”[11]

The abstract noun authentia from the first century BC onwards: ‘sovereignty’

Sometime in the first century BC, the abstract noun authentia was coined. The first known occurrence of authentia is in 3 Maccabees 2:29, but the meaning of the word in this text has puzzled translators. Wolters states that the word refers to ‘authority,’ as it does elsewhere in contemporary literature.[12] But the sense of authentia is usually stronger than just ‘authority.’ It can have a meaning of ‘sovereignty’ or ‘absolute power.’

Authentia is used with the sense of ‘supreme authority’ in Patristic texts in reference to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.[13] In Gnostic texts, it “was the name of the supreme deity in the systems of the early Gnostics Cerinthus and Saturninus, and in the gnostic writing Poimandres (first and second centuries AD).”[14] Authentia is also found in “papyri and inscriptions to refer to the authority of Roman officials.”[15] The word often refers to authority or power at the highest level.

The verb authenteō (and authentein) from the first century BC onwards

Around the same time as the noun authentia was coined, a related verb was also coined. The verb authenteō may be derived from authentia with some sense of sovereignty and absolute power. Wolters, however, writes that the verb authenteō is dependent on authentēs with the meaning of ‘master.’[16]

The verb is rare in surviving papyri that were written before the fourth century AD, occurring only eight times, not counting texts of 1 Timothy 2:12. Of these eight, “three involve debatable readings of fragmentary papyri [P.Herculaneum 220; BGU 1208 P.Tebtunis. 276] while a fourth [an entry in Moeris Atticista Lexicon Atticum] depends on a conjectural emendation.”[17] As well as finite verbs, these eight occurrences include the infinitive (verbal noun) and participles (verbal adjectives).[18]

Let’s look at these occurrences.

P.Herculaneum 220, fragment 4 = Philodemus, On Rhetoric II 133.14 (mid-first century BC).

This papyrus fragment is now lost and we only have a drawing of it which may or may not be an accurate impression of the original. And some letters are missing from the word authent[__]sin which has been thought to be the verb authentousin. Wolters writes, “It is doubtful whether the verb authenteō appears in P.Herc 220 at all. In any case, given the obscurity and fragmentary character of the text, its hypothetical occurrence there cannot make any reliable contribution to determining its meaning.”[19] Moreover, several scholars suggest that authent[__]sin is not a verb at all, but the noun authentaisin functioning adjectivally. Accordingly, Belleville translates the pertinent phrase syn authent[__]sin anaxin as ‘with powerful lords.'[20] Wolters translates it as ‘with murderous lords.’[21]

Tryphon’s Letter, BGU IV 1208 (line 38) (27/26 BC)

In this papyrus letter, Tryphon tells his brother about a dispute he had with someone about payment to a ferryman who had shipped a load of cattle. Belleville translates the pertinent sentence as: “I had my way with him [authentēkotos pros auton] and he agreed to pay Calatytis the boatman with the full fare within the hour.” Belleville disagrees with George McKnight who suggested the interpretation “I had authority over him in his 1984 paper; she points out that the preposition pros with the accusative auton does not have the sense of ‘over him’ in Greek, but likely means ‘I had my way with him’ or ‘I took a firm stand with him.’”[22] Still, Tryphon’s letter presents grammatical and lexical challenges, so any interpretation is conjectural.[23]

Aristonicus Alexandrinus, On the Signs of the Iliad I.694 (9.694) (circa 27 BC)

In this work, grammarian Aristonicus comments on a section of Homer’s Iliad. Aristonicus uses authenteō as an articular participle in the phrase, ho authentōn tou logou.[24]  As an articular participle, authenteō functions as a noun. Belleville translates the phrase as “the author of a message.”[25] Payne translates it more woodenly as “the one self-accomplishing the speech.”[26] Wolters translates it as “the originator of the speech.”[27]

Three Astrological Texts (first–third centuries AD)

The verb authenteō occurs in astrological texts written before the fourth century where the word refers to either “the rulership of one planet over another, or to the superior social position enjoyed by those born under favorable astrological conditions.”[28] These texts are (1) Methodus Mystica (first century AD), (2) Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos (second century AD), and (3) Papyrus Tebtunis 276 (line 28) (second or third century AD). For example, Ptolemy writes, “Therefore, Saturn when he alone takes control of the soul and has gained dominance/mastery [authentēsas] of Mercury and the moon . . .” (Tetrabiblos 3.14.10).

(The noun authentēs with a meaning of ‘master’ is also found in astrological texts, such as a seventh-century astrological anthology compiled by Rhetorius Aegyptius, which contains earlier material. And the noun occurs in a paraphrase of the Carmen Astrologicum (346) of Dorotheus of Sidon (late first–early second century AD).[29] Dorotheus writes, “if the moon decreases it does not make them [i.e. the leaders and chiefs] masters [authentas] but subservient.”)

Westfall cautions, “It is inadvisable to uncritically apply or transfer the meaning of authenteō from one register to another register such as from the register of astrology to the register of church leadership.”[30] I do not think that church leadership is in view in 1 Timothy chapter 2, but I understand Westfall’s caution. However, considering the small sample of pre-fourth century texts which include the verb authenteō, we need to look at every text available.

Moeris Atticista Lexicon Atticum, entry on autodikēn (second century)

The name of this work can be translated as ‘Moeris the Atticist’s Attic Dictionary.’ In his dictionary, Aelius Moeris, a second-century lexicographer, lists Attic words with their Hellenistic (or Koine) equivalent. Next to the word autodikēn (an alternate spelling for autodikein), Moeris has the word authentēn (an alternate spelling for authentein.)[31]

Armin Panning writes:

Moeris was an Atticist, a purist bent on restoring the Greek language to the elegance it formerly had in the golden age of Athens. Hence, he lines up synonyms in parallel columns, suggesting which ones properly reflect Attic elegance and which fall short. Autodikein he approves as “Attic” (attikōs), whereas authentein is disparaged as being hellenikōs. Thomas Magister [a Byzantine scholar and grammarian] does the same. He urges, “Say autodikein, not authentein, for the latter is koinoteron,” i.e. more characteristic of the koine or common speech …[32]

From his entry on the Attic autodikein, we can see that Moeris thought this word had a similar meaning to the common, or non-literary, authentein. The meaning being, ‘to have independent jurisdiction’ or ‘self-determination.’[33] Or, ‘to act on one’s own.’[34]

To sum up so far: The noun authentēs with the meanings of ‘murderer’ and ‘kin-murderer’ was mainly used in Classical and Atticistic Greek. The noun was used with a broader sense of ‘murderer’ in the Hellenistic period, and it typically included a nuance of ‘perpetrator.’ In the literary Koine Greek of the Roman period, the range of meanings increased and included ‘master’ and ‘mastermind’ as well as ‘murderer.’ It seems, however, that the verb authenteō was typically used in non-literary, or colloquial, Koine Greek.[35] First Timothy was a letter written in non-literary Koine Greek, though the style is more literary than that of some of the other New Testament letters. The style of First Timothy is a factor we need to consider when trying to work out what is meant by authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12.

Scholion 42a on Eumenides (date ?)

In this occurrence, the verb authenteō means ‘murder,’ but there is an issue concerning its date. The date of the scholion (a scholarly margin note) on Eumenides (a play by the fifth-century BC playwright Aeschylus), may be from the middle ages. The earliest source of this scholion is in the 10th-century Laurentianus Mediceus 32.9 (or 31.9).

Payne notes, however, that if the scholion was originally written by first-century grammarian Didymus Chalcenterus, as is claimed in the manuscript, then “’to murder’ was a meaning of authenteō in Paul’s day.”[36] Nevertheless, Payne dismisses the idea that ‘to murder,’ in a literal sense, is the meaning of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12.[37]

Wolters is more emphatic:

The meaning ‘murder’ given to authenteō in this scholion is highly unusual. In fact, the only other place in all of ancient Greek literature where the verb might be taken to have this meaning is in the Job commentary of Olympiodorus Diaconus (ca. AD 500), but the text there is almost certainly corrupt. [Wolters believes] that the Aeschylus scholion is late and represents an example of ‘Atticistic hypercorrection,’ that is, a mistake in usage by an Atticist purist who assumed—because the noun authentēs in Attic meant ‘murderer’ and because the verb authenteō is derived from authentēs—that the proper Attic meaning of the verb must be ‘murder.’ In fact, however, there is no evidence that the verb ever occurred in Attic … [38]

Putting aside the considerable problems and difficulties with these eight texts, we have seen that authenteō could have the sense of being powerful (P.Herc 220), of being the author (Aristronicus), of using force (BGU 1208), of rulership and dominance (in astrological texts), of self-determination or acting on one’s own (Moeris), and perhaps of murdering someone (scholion on Eumenides).[39] Belleville sums up and states that the meaning of the verb authenteō in Koine Greek is “to dominate, to get one’s way.”[40]

Later occurrences of authenteō

After the fourth century, the verb occurs more often and a sense of ‘domineering’ and ‘using force’ becomes more evident. Cynthia Westfall has investigated many samples of the verb in ancient Greek and concludes “A basic semantic concept that accounts for the occurrences of authenteō in the database of 60 verbs is: the autonomous use or possession of unrestricted force.”[41]

This sense can be seen in Chrysostom tenth homily on Colossians written in the fourth century. Chrysostom uses the verb authenteō (the exact form is authentei) where he remarks on Colossians 3:19. He writes that husbands should not act this way towards their wives.[42] This verb is translated into English as “act the despot” in A Select Library of the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church.[43]

Does authentein have a pejorative sense in 1 Timothy 2:12?

Some scholars, particularly those who hold to a hierarchical view of the relationship between men and women, argue that authentein does not have a negative or pejorative sense in Greek texts, including 1 Timothy 2:12. And they believe the prohibition expressed in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a universal one which is predicated solely on a woman’s sex; they do not believe the prohibition addresses the bad behaviour of a woman (or women) in Ephesus.

Wolters is one such scholar. He writes, “Translations of authenteō like ‘domineer,’ though still found in contemporary lexica, have no basis in the actual usage of this verb. It is overwhelmingly used in a neutral or positive sense.” I disagree. My problem with Wolter’s statement is two-fold.

First, people who had a normal kind of authority in the highly stratified Greco-Roman world had considerable power over those beneath them.[44] Rulers, magistrates, and masters were not usually known for their kindness. Authentein, with a sense of “to exercise supreme power” or “to have full authority over,” is fine for God, and in astronomy, but this kind of power and authority has no place in Christian relationships, either within the Christian community, the church, or between husbands and wives (Matt. 23:8-12; 1 Pet. 5:3). So, even if ancient writers typically used the Greek verb for the exercising of power in a neutral or positive way, as Wolters claims, though I am not at all convinced, this kind of power is the antithesis of what Jesus wanted among his followers (Matt. 20:25-28).

Second, there are indications that authentein was understood as indeed having a pejorative in 1 Timothy 2:12. Payne makes the statement that “The preponderance of examples of forms of authent– [words] up to Paul’s time have negative connotations.”[45] Kenneth Bailey provides more specific information regarding 1 Timothy 2:12. Bailey comments on the translation of authentein into Syriac (a form of Aramaic) in the Perhsitta (the Syriac Bible), and also in early Arabic.

The Peshitta Syriac (fourth century) translates with MAMRAHA. The root of this word has to do with insolence and bullying. The early Arabic versions, translated from the Greek, Syriac and Coptic, read either ‘YATA’AMARU’ (“to plot; to be domineering; to act as ‘lord’ and ‘master’; to be imperious”) or ‘YAJTARIU’ (“to be insolent”). The last two centuries have preferred ‘YATASALLAT’ (“to hold absolute sway”). Thus middle-eastern Christianity at least from the third century onward has always remembered that something dark and sub-Christian was involved [in 1 Timothy 2:12.][46]

Furthermore, the Vetus Latina (Old Latin) (second-fourth centuries) translates authentein andros as dominari viro (“to dominate a man”) and the Vulgate (fourth-fifth centuries) has dominari in virum (‘to dominate over a man’). To dominate or domineer is unacceptable behaviour for any Christian, man or woman. It has no legitimate place in the Christian community, and it has no place in Christian marriage.

These early translations of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 into Syriac, Arabic, and Latin were done when Koine Greek was a well-known, living language.

Conclusion

I suggest that authentein is used in 1 Timothy 2:12 with the sense Westfall gives in her 2016 book Paul and Gender where she writes:

In the Greek corpus, the verb authenteō refers to a range of actions that are not restricted to murder or violence. However, the people who are targets of these actions are harmed, forced against their will (compelled), or at least their self-interest is being overridden because the actions involve an imposition of the subject’s will, ranging from dishonour to lethal force.[47]

I believe Westfall’s statement accurately captures the essence of authenteō (and authentein.) Nevertheless, we can only speculate how this force or coercion was being used by a woman in Ephesus towards a man, probably her husband.

Paul’s decision to use the word authentein was deliberate. As was his choice not to use any of the many Greek words that can mean “exercise authority” or “govern.”[48] What Paul precisely or specifically meant by this word in 1 Timothy 2:12 continues to elude us.[49]


Footnotes

I have replaced Greek letters in Greek words with Latin letters, except in journal titles and chapter titles, in order to make the information on this page as accessible as possible to my readers.

[1] Albert Wolters, “A Semantic Study of Aὐθέντης and its Derivatives,” Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 1.11 (Spring 2006): 44-65, 45.  This article originally appeared in the Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 1 (2000): 145-175. Authentēs in Classical (Attic) Greek is often equivalent in meaning to the Latin word parricida.

[2] The parents are described as authentas, the accusative plural of authentēs.

[3] Albert Wolters, “ΑΥΘΕΝΤΗΣ and its Cognates in Biblical Greek,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52.4 (December 2009): 719–729, 720-721. (A PDF of this paper is here.)

[4] Linda L. Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15,” Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy, Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothius (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004), 205-223, 212.

[5] Wolters, “ΑΥΘΕΝΤΗΣ and its Cognates,” 719.
Moulton and Milligan writing in the early 1900s believed, “The history of this word has been satisfactorily cleared up by P. Kretschmer, in Glotta iii. (1912), p. 289 ff. He shows that αὐθέντης ‘murderer’ is by haplology for αὐτοθέντης from θείνω, while αὐθέντης ‘master’ (as in literary Modern Greek) is from αὐτ-ἕντης (cf. συνέντης· συνεργός in Hesychius, root sen ‘accomplish,’ ἀνύω).”
James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1929), 91. Moulton and Milligan’s dictionary can be accessed via Internet Archive here.

[6] Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 212. Philip Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009), 363.

[7] The disputed passage is in Euripides’ play, The Suppliants (Supp. 422), first performed in 423 BC.

[8] Wolters, “Semantic Study,” 45. He adds, “Its earliest attestations after [the disputed passage in The Suppliants of] Euripides are in two recently discovered inscriptions from Asia Minor dated to the first century AD, and in the Shepherd of Hermas (first or second century).” This sense of ‘master’ persists, “ultimately leading via the Modern Greek aphentēs to the Turkish word effendi, still meaning ‘master.’” “Semantic Study,” 45.

[9] Wolters, “Semantic Study,” 46. A few authors who wrote in literary Koine Greek (not to be confused with Atticised Greek) did use authentēs with the meaning of ‘murderer.’ In footnote 17 on page 212 of “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” Belleville provides one example from the writings of Philo of Alexandria (early first century AD) (Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat 78.7), and five examples from the Roman historian Appian of Alexandria (mid-second century AD) (Mithridatic Wars 90.1; Civil Wars 1.7.61.7; 1.13.115.17; 3.2.16.13; 4.17.134.40). Wolters provides these same examples in Appendix 1A in “Semantic Study,” 55-56. But, instead of the reference to Appian’s Mithridatic Wars, he has one from Appian’s Roman History 12.4.23. He also provides the examples of Josephus’ Jewish Wars 1.582 and 2.240

[10] “’Master’ can be found but it is in the sense of the ‘mastermind’ of a crime rather than one who exercises authority over another.” Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 213. Nevertheless, the meaning of ‘master’ is plain in a few texts such as the Shepherd of Hermas, Similitude 9.5.6-7, where authentēs is used interchangeably with despotēs (‘master’).

[11] Wolters, “Semantic Study,” 47.
Aphentēs, derived from authentēs, means ‘master’ in Modern Greek and was a title of rulers during the Greek Middle Ages. Dictionary of Standard Modern Greek (Source)

[12] If Wolters is correct, 3 Maccabees 2:29 indicates that certain Jews in Egypt were restored to their “previously restricted/limited authority/power” (tēn prosunestalmenēn authentian) to follow their own customs and laws. Wolters, “Aὐθέντης and its Cognates,” 723-724. Wolters adds, “This interpretation is confirmed by the Syro-Hexapla of [3 Maccabees]. The Syriac word which it uses to render authentia is sultana, meaning ‘power, authority, right.’” “ΑΥΘΕΝΤΗΣ and its Cognates,” 724.

[13] For example, commenting on Paul’s words about the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:11, Chrysostom writes, καθὼς βούλεται, φησίν, οὐ καθὼς προστάτεται˙ διαιροῦν, οὐ διαιροὐμενον˙ “αὐθεντοῦν, οὐκ αὐθεντίᾳ ὑποκείμενον” (“exercising autonomous authority, not being under/ subject to supreme authority”). Chrysostom’s Second Homily on Pentecost PG 50, 464.

[14] Wolters, “Semantic Study,” 50.
References to Saturninus’s and Cerinthus’s use of authentia are found in Hippolytus’s Refutation of All Heresies, also known as Philosophumena, written in the early third century. I consulted PG 16.3 for the following summary. (McMahon uses a different numbering system.)
Saturninus: 7.28 (column 3322): tēs authentias; McMahon’s translation 7.16: “(the Being of) absolute sway”
Cerinthus: 7.33 (column 3342): tēs huper ta hola authentias; McMahon’s translation 7.21: “that absolute sovereignty which is above all things”
Cerinthus: 10.21.2 (column 3438): tēs huper ta hola authentias; McMahon’s translation 10.17: “that sovereignty which is above the entire circle of existence”
Cerinthus: 10.21.3 (column 3438): tēs huper ta hola authentias ; McMahon’s translation 10.17: “the sovereignty that is above the whole circle of existence”

Irenaeus also mentions some of Saturninus’s theology: “Man, too, was the workmanship of angels, a shining image bursting forth below from the presence of the supreme power (tēs authentias) . . .” Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.24.1.

[15] Ibid., 50. “As early as the mid-second century, authentia, was also used in a bilingual Roman inscription as the Greek equivalent of Latin auctoritas [‘authority’].” “Semantic Study,” 50.

[16] Ibid., 48.

[17] Wolters, “An Early Parallel of Aὐθεντεῖν,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54.4 (December 2011): 673–84, 673. (A PDF of this paper is here.)

[18] Only in Methodus Mystica and Ptolomy’s Tetrabiblos does authenteō occur with an object in the genitive case, as in 1 Timothy 2:12. Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[19] Albert Wolters, “The Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” Women in the Church: An Interpretation and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (Third Edition) Andreas J. Köstenberger and Thomas R. Schreiner (eds) (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016), 65-116.

[20] Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 215. Wolters states that authentaisin, the old Attic dative plural of authentēs, is a plausible reconstruction of authent[__]sin. “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[21] Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[22] Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 214.

[23] Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[24] A participle with an article before it gives the participle “the character of a noun.” Herbert Weir Smyth, Greek Grammar (Harvard University Press, 1920, 1984), 454.

[25] Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 214.

[26] Payne, Man and Woman, 362.

[27] Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[28] Wolters, “Early Parallel,” 680.

[29] Wolters, ibid., 682 & 683. Furthermore, two other authent–words occur in early astrological texts.

These are the noun authentēsis, a hapax legomenon meaning something like ‘governorship’ or ‘foremanship,’ found in the astrological treatise of Vettius Valens (second century AD), and the adjective authentikos, ‘authoritative,’ which occurs five times in Ptolemy’s Apotelesmatika (Tetrabiblos) to indicate authority or dominance of some kind. There is also a text attributed to Vettius Valens, which uses authentikos . . .
ibid., 683.

[30] Cynthia Long Westfall, “The Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism, 10 (2014): 138-173, 149-150.

[31] “Scholars have long recognized that these apparently nominal forms are a corruption of the verbal forms autodikein and authentein.” Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[32] Armin J. Panning, “Authentein—A Word Study,” Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly 78 (1981): 185-191.

[33] Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 216.

[34] Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[35] Wolters suggests that the rarity of the verb in surviving Greek literature before the fourth century “is probably due to the fact that it represented a colloquial or subliterary stratum of the language.” ibid., 65ff.

[36] Payne, Man and Woman, 362. In footnote 8 on the same page, Payne mentions an entry in the Suda, a lexicon of Byzantine Greek written in the tenth century AD, concerning the participle authentēsonta. Wilshire also mentions this participle. Wilshire, in his Appendix II on authenteō in Byzantine Lexicographers, first notes that the noun authentēs is glossed twice in the Suda as ho autocheir: ‘one who does things with his own hand.’ Then, in regards to the participle, he writes:

The Suda defines the active participle authentēsonta as a person who has given an order to massacre a specific group and gives the historical example of Mithridates who gave an order to kill every Roman [in 88 BC, Mithridates VI Eupator arranged the massacre of the Romans and Italians residing in the province of Asia with an estimated 80,000 killed]. It then states that the word includes both the autocheira, the perpetrators of a killing, as well as those who order it done.
Leland Edward Wilshire, “The TLG Computer and Further Reference to  ΑYΘΕΝΤΕΩ in 1 Timothy 2.12,” New Testament Studies 34 (1988): 120­-134, 132-133. (His use of square brackets.)

While this entry is interesting, especially the relation between authentēsonta and autocheir, I’m hesitant to use a secondary source from the tenth century as providing support for the meaning of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12.

[37] Payne, Man and Woman, 362.

[38] Wolters, “Meaning of Aὐθεντέω,” 65ff.

[39] Authenteō in 1 Timothy 2:12 (written in the late first century) has been left out of this discussion.

[40] Belleville, “Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 216. In a more recent paper, Linda Belleville writes that “the primary everyday meaning of authentein” in non-literary papyri (and in later ecclesial materials) is “to take a firm stand” and “domineer.”
Belleville, “Lexical Fallacies in Rendering Aὐθεντει̂ν in 1 Timothy 2:12: BDAG in Light of Greek Literary and Nonliterary Usage,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 29.3 (2019): 317-341, 329.

[41] Westfall, “Meaning of αὐθεντέω,” 71.

[42] Scr. Eccl. Vol. 62, page 366, line 29. Source: Thesaurus Linguae Graecae.

[43] Volume XIII, A Select Library of the Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1979), 304.
In his eleventh homily on Colossians, Chrysostom warns against self-centredness: “. . . the time is not yours, but theirs. Do not then wish to have your own way (authentein), but redeem the time.” Translated by John A. Broadus. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co.,1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/230311.htm

[44] Andrew Perriman objects to the idea of authority in authenteō:

In fact, to introduce the idea of ‘authority’ into the definition at all may be misleading if it is taken to mean a derived or ordained authority: it is ‘authorship’, not ‘authority’, that is at the heart of the meaning of authenteō. This distinction is crucial. The idea of authority comes into play only when the object of the verb is not an action or state of affairs but a person: one cannot ‘author’ a person, but one can exercise an ad hoc authority over a person in such a way that he or she becomes instrumental in bringing about an action or state of affairs.
Andrew C. Perriman, “What Eve Did, What Women Shouldn’t Do: The Meaning of Aὐθεντέω in 1 Timothy 2:12,” Tyndale Bulletin 44.1 (1993): 129-142, 37.

[45] Payne, Man and Woman, 378. Commenting on later usage, Payne writes, “In the overwhelming majority of these, the authority that is assumed is an authority that has not been properly granted, so it usually carries a negative connotation.” Man and Woman, 391.

[46] Kenneth Bailey, “Women in the New Testament: A Middle Eastern Cultural View,” Theology Matters 6.1 (Jan–Feb 2000): 1-11, 9. (A PDF of this paper is here.)

[47] Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 292.

[48] Belleville writes,

Within the semantic domain of ‘exercise authority,’ the biblical lexicographers, J.P Louw and Eugene Nida [in their Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains #37.35-47; #37.48-95] have twelve entries and forty-seven entries of ‘rule,’ ‘govern.’ [Authentein is absent from both these domains.] Yet Paul chose none of these. Why not? The obvious reason is that authentein carried a nuance (other than ‘rule’ or ‘have authority’) that was particularly suited to the Ephesian situation.
“Teaching and Usurping Authority,” 211.

[49] Taking 1 Timothy 2:15 into consideration, I suspect that a woman in the Ephesian church may have been withholding sex from her husband, thinking it was an expression of piety. There is evidence that celibacy, even within marriage, was considered a virtue in the apostolic church, as well as later. Moreover, some early Christians connected celibacy with salvation (cf. The Acts of Paul and Thecla). Paul corrects this faulty understanding and connects having children, an expected outcome of sex, with salvation. (More on this here.) Some husbands and wives in the Corinthian church were abstaining from sex. Paul addresses this in 1 Corinthians 7:4. (More on this verse here.)

Postscript

Added for the sake of clarity: Words that are etymologically related can be different in meaning. I maintain that the concrete noun authentēs and the abstract noun authentia have different histories and different meanings. I believe the verb authenteō (authentein) in 1 Timothy 2:12 is closer in meaning to authentia than to authentēs, and means “to domineer,” “to hold absolute sway,” or “to bully.” My very short article on authentein is here.


Related Articles

A much shorter and simpler article on authentein is here.
An interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 that joins the dots of 2:11-15
Jesus’ Teaching on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel 
The Anonymous Man and Woman in 1 Timothy 2:11-15
6 Reasons 1 Timothy is not as clear as it seems
Chastity and Salvation in 1 Timothy 2:15

artigos em portugues sobre igualdade entre homens e mulheres no lar e na igreja

72 thoughts on “The meaning of authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12, with a brief history of authent– words

  1. This is excellent scholarly work and I’m excited you posted this! My summer project is to finish up a book proposal on the “limiting” Scriptures on women. I will definitely be using this piece when I hit 1 Timothy. Thank you for your continual faithfulness to teach and inform God’s people!

    1. I’m glad someone’s excited. 🙂
      I thought it might come across as tedious.

  2. It was not tedious. I was especially “excited” with you listing all the usages of the word. That is extremely helpful. Thank you. Great work.

  3. Thank you for sharing your work. It comes across as well researched and not tedious! I am curious what your thoughts are on authentein meaning claiming authorship?

    Catherine Kroeger found a nuance of the noun form of authentas “There is support for authenteo as meaning ‘to proclaim oneself the author or originator of something.’ If we apply the meaning of authenteo to 1 Timothy 2:12 we would have ‘I do not allow a woman to teach nor to represent herself as the originator or source of man.’ This then might be a prohibition against a woman teaching a mythology similar to that of the Gnostics in which Eve predated Adam and was his creator.”

    This lines up with Paul saying that Adam was formed first and then Eve in verse 13. I really value your opinion and would appreciate any thoughts you had on this theory. Thanks!

    1. Hi Tricia,

      I won’t disregard Cathy Kroeger’s claim, but it doesn’t fit neatly with the grammar of 1 Timothy 2:12. If authentein does mean “to be the originator/author” then the statement in 1 Tim 2:12 would read, “I am not allowing a woman to teach nor to be the originator/author of a man . . .” Too many extra, helping words are needed to make the statement, “I am not allowing woman to teach nor to claim she is the originator of man . . .” On the other hand, if 1 Tim 2:12 contains a hendiadys, the argument could be made that Paul is saying, “I am not allowing a woman to teach that she is the originator of man.”

      There is evidence in a few ancient Gnostic texts that some Christian Gnostics had parts of the Genesis creation account backwards and that Eve (or a feminine force) was seen as giving life to Adam. More on this here: https://margmowczko.com/adam-and-eve-in-gnostic-literature/

      I personally suspect that 1 Timothy 2:13-14, which is an accurate summary statement of Genesis chapters 2 and 3, corrects the faulty teaching of a woman in the Ephesian church (as per didaskein), and that 1 Timothy 2:15 corrects the faulty exercise of control of a woman towards a man, probably her husband (as per authentein): “but she (the woman) will be saved through childbearing (as opposed to abstinence) if they (the couple) continue in faith and love and holiness with propriety.” More on this here: https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

      1 Timothy 2:12-15 is a bit of a mystery, but I do think coercion, control, and domineering lies at the heart of authentein.

      1. Excellent article and additional comments.

      2. I wrote a paper in college that came to the exact same conclusion. It seems clear now that Gnosticism originated on the fringes of Egyptian Judaism among Intellectuals in Alexandria,Egypt, who were embarrassed and disillusioned by the portrayal of God in the Old Testament. Greek Hellenistic culture was quite attractive to them, and they were drawn to it and wandered from their heritage. Birger Pearson–Gnosticism, Judaism and Egyptian Christianity. No Longer Jews: The Search For Gnostic Origins–Carl B. Smith.

        1. I don’t use the adjective “clear” when discussing anything related to ancient Gnosticism. 😉

  4. Excellent treatment Marg. You have summarised other research well (especially Wolters, whose data is generally very good, although I find his conclusions surprising given his own treatment of the data). I hadn’t seen Bailey’s work, so thanks for that. However, far from being tedious, I think you have produced one of the most concise, well-informed and balanced (in scholarly terms) contributions that is very accessible for those wanting to be more informed. I truly want to encourage you to keep up your contributions and posts – consistently very well done.

    1. Thanks so much, Tim. I’m glad it’s accessible.

      I’m thankful for Wolter’s work on authent– words, even though I disagree with some of his conclusions. I was delighted to see that Cynthia Westfall and Al Wolters have collaborated. (I read this in a paper by Westfall.) I love it when we can work together.

  5. Good, very useful tedium! Dental work is tedious, but necessary to fix serious, insidious problems.

    Do you see a connection between the Artemis phenomenon in Ephesus and the choice of “authentein” to name what Paul (or whoever you think wrote this) did not permit?

    1. Thanks, Rod.

      I haven’t seen any authent– words being used for the Ephesian Artemis or her cult, but I don’t rule out her influence in the church at Ephesus or that she is lurking somewhere in the heresy (or heresies) that prompted Paul to write to Timothy.

      I’ve written about the Ephesian Artemis here: https://margmowczko.com/regalia-artemis-ephesia/

      1. Thanks for the extensive compendium of Artemis history. From other sources, I’ve gathered that Artemis devotion exaggerated the power of women and minimized the power of men, in a mirror image of how other cultures skew power to favor men.
        Doubtless, the church in Ephesus included some of the wealthy, educated men and women of Ephesus, who enjoyed high social status because of their “service” to Artemis. Before maturing in faith, they could assume their former community status prepared them to be leaders in the church. They also could have brought their superstitions and social habits, which had to be corrected.

        1. I’m personally not convinced the cult of Artemis did elevate women and minimise men. I think this has been exaggerated by some. But there were priestesses in the cult, and even high priestesses. To become one you had to come from a socially respectable and wealthy family.

          At the risk of overdoing the links, here’s another:
          https://margmowczko.com/the-prominence-of-women-in-the-cultic-life-of-ephesus/

          First Timothy does indicate that there were wealthy men and women in the church at Ephesus.

          1. Thanks for sharing your excellent work with us!

            I’m not sure of your policy on links outside your blog, and this may not be news to you anyway, but FWIW, here’s a link that makes a case for 1 Timothy countering specifically the Artemis cult. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2016/1/19/wealth-and-the-earliest-christians-a-review-of-gary-hoag-by-lucy-peppiatt/

          2. I have no problem with that link. I still haven’t read Hoag’s book, but I read all of Ben Witherington’s ten posts on it, if that counts. 😉

            I have read Ephesiaca though, but only in English.

  6. Great work as usual, Marg. Ever since I read Wolters’ article I’ve understood αυθεντειν as ‘dominate, exercise mastery over’ – but arriving at the opposite exegetical conclusions as Wolters did. Appreciate your presentation of the verb, especially the part about not deriving the meaning of the verb from the meaning of the cognate noun (a fallacy consistently demonstrated by one of our soulmates in the egalitarian movement; I’m sure you know whom I’m referring to).

    1. Hi Timothy,

      I feel I should know you, but I can’t “place” you. Sorry 🙁

      Yes, much of Wolters’ research is sound and reliable even if you and I have come to different exegetical conclusions than him. I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. Perhaps you can say something to our friend.

      1. No problem, Marg. We’ve ‘met’ on the BCE Facebook page.

        1. Your full name helps. I do remember you now. And I recall that, a while ago, you did engage with our friend. 🙂

  7. Thank you so very much for this amazing piece. So well researched and facsinating! I’m left wanting to learn so much more.

    1. Hi Katherina,

      A few of the journal articles mentioned in this post are freely available on the internet. If you google their titles you may find them.

  8. Very interesting study, thank you! I think you probably aren’t doing yourself any favors though by attributing bad motives to people with the statement, “some scholars, particularly those who hold to a hierarchical view of the relationship between men and women…”

    1. Yes, I certainly understand what you’re saying. But I do see a connection between hierarchicalists who believe authentein has a neutral or even a positive sense in 1 Timothy 2:12, despite the fact that Paul is disallowing this behaviour, and other scholars who see authentein as having a pejorative sense.

      Why would Paul disallow something that is positive?

  9. Thanks for this Marg! I love a good word study and this is one passage I have always wanted to understand better.

    1. 1 Timothy 2:12 is a tricky sentence in a tricky passage. It’s not as straightforward as English translations seem to show. That’s for sure!

  10. Do you have any evidence that any of the prominent the early Christians understood this text they way you are interpreting it? Possibly from the the Didache or the Ante Nicene Fathers? It seems that if you are correct, it would have been immediately evident to Christian readers of the time, and should then be reflected in early Christians writings. Of course if your interpretation is entirely absent or even contradicted in those writings then…

    1. Hi Jordan,

      This is something I looked into.

      The Didache doesn’t mention 1 Timothy 2:12 or authenteō. Origen’s comment on this verse is the earliest we have. He and later commentators understood authentein as meaning “to rule” or “to dominate,” as did the first translators of 1 Timothy 2:12 into Syriac and Latin.

      Origen interprets the verse as: “a woman is not to become a ruler/governor of a man by means of discourse” (μὴ τὴν γυναῖκα ἡγεμόνα γίνεσθαι τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ ἀνδρός) (Fragment 1 Cor 74.21).

      I have not found evidence that early commentators necessarily understood 1 Timothy 2:12 as addressing the bad behaviour of a particular woman, or certain Ephesian women, but more as general advice limiting the participation of women in church gatherings.

      However, early church fathers are not necessarily reliable in their commentary or views. Most of these men, generally speaking, had a low opinion of the abilities and potential of women, and this low opinion comes through in their writings; it has flavoured their interpretation of certain Bible verses. There are many instances where the opinions of early church fathers (on a variety of topics) do not accurately reflect the attitudes, hopes, and statements of Jesus or Paul.

      I have a post which looks briefly at the attitudes of early church fathers concerning women, here.

      Some early church fathers, while maintaining an overall low view of women, had deep friendships with, and a strong admiration for, certain women who were their colleagues and patrons (e.g., Jerome and Paula; Chrysostom and Olympias).

      Let me add that Chrysostom recognised that Priscilla was a teacher (Homily 30 on Romans) and Junia was an apostle (Homily 31 on Romans). He said glowing things about these women and other women ministers (e.g. Euodia and Syntyche). Origen, similarly acknowledged the ministries of Priscilla, Philip’s four daughters, and other prophetic women.

  11. >I believe Westfall’s statement accurately captures the essence of authenteō (and authentein.) Nevertheless, we can only speculate how this force or coercion was being used by a woman in Ephesus towards a man, probably her husband.
    I can agree with you that this isn’t simple authority–I’m sure there was some cases of male senility back then where some authority had to be exercised–however, you seem to be reaching.
    You do know that the Jews looked at Eve’s origin and fall as a reason for not letting her pray, don’t you? Both Peter (1 Pet 3:7} and Paul had to contend with this. You possibly see the curse in Gen 3 as women desiring authority over men, and men using his own methods to keep it. If you do, ask yourself why Paul would start off his request for men to pray with a requirement not to hit anyone. Yes, I’m coupling “hand” with “wrath and dissension.” Then Paul uses a likewise to introduce women praying. However, now he uses a different problem. Could it be a way of manipulating men? IOW, was Paul setting up the Jewish mind to remember the original curse? I.e., women desiring control and men grabbing it back?
    Verse 15 talks about The Childbearing. The only sensible solution to interpreting that is to remember that Paul focused on the Son, “born of a woman, born under the Law.” IOW, the curse of the woman, in Christ, no longer exists. Peter, OTOH, points out in 1 Peter 3:7 that an unsaved (IN THIS CONTEXT) wife (or is it any woman under the authority of a man at that time) will cause him to suffer by attempting to manipulate him?
    Paul’s good friend, Luke, also emphasized the woman Mary (a.k.a. rebellion) being obedient (compare her reaction to Zacharias’. Why did Luke put it in? He had space limits, you know.), so I think it is probable that the early Christians understood that women no longer were under the first curse–the consequence of trusting so as to accept Life IS Life.

    The context in 1 Cor 14 is judging the prophets, so coupled with 1 Tim 2, there seems to be a limit to the “leading” a woman could do in the Church. However, I emphasize the word “leading” for a reason. A woman wearing a head-covering, which merely communicates symbolically that she isn’t “leading”–can both pray and prophesy. This points out a major problem in the debate: what is the difference between the modes of speech?
    In the case of prayer and prophecy, picture a female child going to and fro between her father and her brothers carrying messages. No one would consider this “leading.” How about teaching? Most “teachers” are regurgitators. Rarely is a major doctrine of Scripture, according to that group, challenged. What is “preaching”? I don’t know what the modern definition is unless it means “vague”. What is wrong with a woman evangelist? Is sharing the gospel wrong? So the main problem nowadays of a woman speaking doesn’t exist unless it brings in something against the tenets of Christianity. That, of course, should only be done by men. 🙂

    I occasionally hear a pastoral sermon, but that is very rare.

    Like you, I’m not sure what Paul is saying in 1 Tim 2, but there seems to be some strictures in his mind. I would therefore be against women pastors in some of the groups I’ve been in, but certainly not all! Does ANY group follow 1 Cor 14 practices? I think it is more or less a dead letter now. No, not because it was cultural, but because we “worship” according to Jewish norms or by taking the Revelation symbols and “materializing” them, rather than assemble together for the reasons in Scripture.

    1. Hi muddlegum,

      This article focuses on the word authentein. My article is quite long as it is and I chose not to elaborate on possible contexts of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, apart from a short comment in the last endnote.

      I have several other articles that look at possible contexts of 1 Timothy 2:11-15, here. (Or click on the category “1 Timothy 2:12”.)

      1. >This article focuses on the word authentein. My article is quite long as it is and I chose not to elaborate on possible contexts of 1 Timothy 2:11-15,
        Fine. I’m reading. However, you seem to have missed one type of context that is essential for translation; and that is pop culture. For instance, the word faith might not have been stagnant, but Homer certainly was known well enough that the word faith was easily frozen in stone when Ulysses chose men to go with him against Circe. Another Greek instance is within 1 Tim 2. I’ll have to look up my old notes (I should anyway.) because I don’t remember exactly which of these words that *could* be translate as “modesty” was in a popular play at the time. (Don’t you hate my vagueness?) One of the sisters on hearing that her long-gone brother was home took off running. That was considered immodest because she exposed too much even though she wore a modest dress.

        In the same way, the cultural context would affect your word. Again, I’m relying on memory. However, if I’m not mistaken Socrates used AUTHENTEIN or one of its cognates to decry suicide. “We are the cattle of the gods,” he said, “and committing suicide seizes their authority for yourself.” Plato was not unknown to the intelligentsia of the Jews and God-fears and the meaning would have been affected somewhat.

        OTOH, the meaning of Greek words used in the early Christian writings after the N.T. was written always seem to me to be changed by those who had an agenda. Similarly, the oldest writing nearly all had been tampered with long ago. I hope you can peel away the cultural debris of centuries without adding your own, but it won’t be easy.

        1. No word is frozen in stone. This is why I provided a brief history of authent– words.

          I also provided examples and meanings of authenteō in “pop culture,” that is, in non-literary (everyday) Koine (common) Greek dating from around the time 1 Timothy 2:12 was written.

          1. I hit Post Comment, and I find that I missed a field. There was a “back” that I could hit and I foolishly hit it and lost the comment.

            1. “No word is frozen…” a) Most abstract words have multiple definitions. b) A word in a classical tale with a certain amount of context can easily have the definition inherent in the context frozen for long periods of time. In the instance of faith, I’ve learned a lot from Homer’s use.

            2. Thank you for demonstrating my point. You mistook my meaning of “pop culture.” I’m pretty socially isolated, but I thought it was known to mean “The tastes in art and manners that are favoured by a social group” in the context I was writing. Pop, of course, would be the “popular” or common social group. The art I was writing about would be the theater of the time.
            If I had said of your post, “there is something rotten in Denmark,” I suspect you would be cosmopolitan enough to immediately understand what I was saying (this is a mere example, not the reality of what I was thinking, BTW.) Paul and Timothy had some common points of reference, but by and large they also were cosmopolitan enough to have to mentally interpret what the other said and succeed because of multiple reference points. One of those reference points would have been the arts of that period. Koine was another reference point, but certainly not “set in stone,” as you know, throughout the various cultures and classes in the Roman Empire.

            In that case, what Socrates said was part of the common fund of philosophy that was known in general.

  12. I’m wondering if, in this context of guiding Timothy how to handle this very dynamic church where it seems women may well be playing an active role, and men have been told their prayers could well be hindered if they’re grumpy and argumentative, maybe in that sort of society it could be appropriate to translate the slightly agressive and domineering word for what the women aren’t to do to men as ‘no hen-pecking’. I could go with that.

    1. Yes, “no hen-pecking” fits. Though I suspect it was stronger than just “hen-pecking”. 😉

  13. Great article! I’m wondering if you might be able to answer why so many translations simply translate Paul’s “authentein” as “exercise authority.” I have not calculated the percentages, but from a cursory observation, it seems that 99% of the translations of 1 Timothy 2:12 are in favor of the complementarian understanding of the verse, namely that a woman is not to teach or exercise authority over a man.

    If the egalitarian emphasis on authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12 is correct in that it ought to be translated to something like “teach in a domineering way”, then would this imply a great lacking in the abilities of translators to understand how to translate words of Scripture? Or even worse, might it imply a hidden conspiracy of translators seeking to hide meanings of words so as to oppress women? If either of these are the case, do we know where else they have blundered?

    I know many egalitarians make a strong push to make it known that authentein must mean something else, but why might one want to discard the majority of translations of 1 Timothy 2:12 in favor of a translation made by egalitarians? Wouldn’t some think that it is actually the egalitarians who have more reason to try to coerce a meaning out of a translation than Bible translators?

    Just some questions I have as I am wrestling through this issue. Your article was helpful and since I noticed that you respond to questions I thought I would see if I could get your take on these things. Thanks and praise God Almighty!

    1. Hi John,

      I’m guessing the answer to your opening question would be “tradition.” (Since I haven’t asked the translators themselves, I can only guess.)

      Most of our knowledge of the verb authenteō (authentein) is recent. It is a relatively rare word in surviving ancient documents circa first century, and it seems they applied a later, post-fourth-century meaning to a first-century text. (The meaning of the more common nouns authentēs (“murderer/perpetrator”) and authentia (supreme authority) have been known for much longer.)

      I don’t believe there is a conspiracy. I do not think individual translators are being intentionally misleading. However, there is a reasonable consensus among Greek scholars, if not biblical scholars, that authenteō around the first century refers to domineering and controlling behaviour. This is reflected in early translations of 1 Timothy 2:12 in Syriac and Latin but not in much later English translations.

  14. What a well-written and excellent treatment of the subject. Finally, too, I see the basis for some to suggest “source” as part of the definition (i.e., Is this referencing worshippers of Artemis who suggest that woman is the source of man?) Due to the overall context of 1 Timothy and the description of women dressing similarly to those who worship Artemis I’ve thought “source” was a good argument. However, I think you have made a strong case for domineering and/or forceful “imposition” over one’s husband.

    It would have been nice to know the exact occasion of the letter, though!

    1. Thanks, Darryl.

      I haven’t heard people use the word “source” as a meaning for authentein. However, one sense is “to be first instigator” (see The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek). In a somewhat similar vein, some suggest that authentein in 1 Tim 2:12 means “to claim to be the first.” But I can’t see how that meaning can fit nicely with the rest of the sentence.

      Some believe that 1 Timothy 2:13 alludes to the idea that, according to one myth, Artemis of Ephesus was born first before her twin brother Apollo. However, I suspect 1 Timothy 2:13 corrects a corrupt retelling of the Genesis 2 creation narrative. We have corrupt retellings in ancient Gnostic documents. Also, I can’t see how 1 Timothy 2:14 fits with the Artemis idea, even of 1 Timothy 2:15 can seem to fit.

      While the rich women in the Ephesian church were dressing inappropriately, I personally can’t see that they were dressing especially like Artemis or her priestesses. Braided hair, gold, pearls, expensive clothes, describes the appearance of many opulently turned-out rich women of the time. We have mosaics, frescoes, sculptures, etc, that show complicated braids, gold and pearls, etc. More on this here: https://margmowczko.com/pauls-instructions-for-modest-dress/

      I’d love to know the exact occasion! I’m sure it would put many who have commented on 1 Timothy 2:12, past and present, to shame. 🙁

      1. Indeed, indeed!

        To give some background on the Artemis idea, I refer you to a Ph.D. dissertation written by Gary G. Hoag, “The teachings on Riches in 1 Timothy in light of Ephesiaca by Xenophon of Ephesus”. It’s a highly readable paper submitted to the University of Bristol and Trinity College (2013).

        For a brief look at the argument (which is not the main point of the dissertation), you could watch the little clip “Why Women Must Learn In Quietness and Submission” (the title is completely tongue-in-cheek) by Gary Hoag in Seven-Minute Seminary. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tsyQlaC0btY. You may not find his argument compelling, but I submit it to you for consideration. You may find it interesting.

        1. I’ve looked over Gary Hoag’s dissertation a few times, but haven’t read it in depth. And I’ve seen the video too. 🙂

          1. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine that you had missed it somehow! 8^)

            So, just mark it down as another vote for reading the dissertation. I think he rewrote it as a monograph, but I don’t recall where.

            In any case, enjoyed your blog post! Blessings and peace!

          2. Yes, he published his thesis as a book, here, but I downloaded the thesis for free. 🙂

            Perhaps I can mention that I’ve studied the clothing of the Ephesian Artemis, here. And I have read Ephesiaca where the heroine, a priestess, dresses in hunting garb. (I hope I’m remembering that correctly.)

            Anyway, I appreciate anyone pointing me to further resources.

  15. I am going to try this again—sorry if this post twice! I was able to get the paper free, too!

    Unfortunately, my Greek is atrocious so I had to read a translation of Ephesiaca. Pardon the 60s reference but it reminded me of “The Perils of Pauline”!

    Yes, it does describe the dress of the young women in procession dressing like Artemis. The description of the braided hair and costly stones almost sounded word for word like 1 Tim.

    Ok, you have better things to do than ramble on with me about this, I am certain! I will be certain to follow the link you posted in your last comment.

    Blessings.

    1. I have no idea why your other comment wasn’t automatically “approved.” Strange.

      Ancient Greek romance novels do have similarities with the “The Perils of Pauline.” 🙂 The “perils” can become tedious.

      Have a good day. Blessings!

  16. First I am not a theologian and secondly i am not a native speaker. So please excuse my language and maybe my not so scientific approach.
    Here is my explanation for Pauls use of authentein meaning “to execute murder or authoritise murder”
    In Germany we have the Word Euthenasie (engl. euthanasia [active / passive], mercy killing) meaning to authoritate the dead of a very ill person.
    Sometimes authen*-words were written euthen*,

    So I believe Paul is speaking giving us some sort of house tables (Haustafel) in 1 Tim 2:
    1. The domestic responsibilities of the pater familias included his priestly duties (sacra familiae) to his “household gods”(wikipedia) –> 1 Tim 2,8: 8 I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.
    2. How to dress as a woman: Lex oppia: it forbade any woman to possess more than half an ounce of gold, to wear a multi-colored garment (particularly those trimmed in purple), or to ride in an animal-drawn vehicle in the city or any town or within a mile thereof, except in the case of public religious festivals.(wikipedia). Although this law was repealed, it was considered as the some sort of gold standard for womanly beauty.

    3.authentein reffering to the power of the patria potestas to execute the death over anybody in the familiy (Infanticide): The laws of the Twelve Tables required the pater familias to ensure that “obviously deformed” infants were put to death.(wikipedia) He also couls put normal children to death if he didn’t want them to stay in the house
    So Paul is saying, that a woman should take her place in the family and not take the autocratic authority over her extended family.

    this is why he is closing with the statement:
    4. she will be saved through childbirth:
    Lex Iulia et Papia: a woman could be freed from the (tutela mulierum) the guardianship of the pater potestas by delivering three children
    libertae, who had four children, were released from the tutela of their patrons (Ulp. Frag. tit.29).(wikipedia)

    So Paul is setting a household code (wikipedia: An underlying Household Code is also reflected in 1 Timothy 2:1ff., 8ff.; 3:1ff., 8ff.; 5:17ff.; 6:1f.; Titus 2:1-10 and 1 Peter 2:13-3:7) in stead of setting rules who should or should not rule in church.
    The reason why Paul is setting up this household code is often times reffered to as an apologetic thrust, aimed at “reducing the tension between community members and outsiders.”

    This can be seen in the first part of 1 Tmi2: the praying for the official government and Pauls highlighting of God as the savior of everyone,who wants nobody to perish.

    then he says: I will therefore…(verse 8) meaning : Because God wants to save everyone, accept the existing laws of familiy….

    What do you think of this explanation? I find it very logic

    1. Hello Emil,

      The word euthanasia is made of the Greek adverb eu, used as a prefix, which means “well” (with the senses of good and beneficial) and the Greek noun thanatos which means “death.”

      Euthanasia and authentein are not etymologically related.

      In Greek, an augment is added to the beginning of indicative verbs to denote past time. In verbs beginning with alpha and upsilon (au-), such as the verb authenteō, when the augment is added the alpha usually becomes an eta (ēu-) or sometimes an epsilon (eu-). This must not be confused with the prefix eu.

      Authentein, from the verb authenteō, meant “to murder” in Classical and Atticist Greek. (It did not mean “death.”) And it often referred to the murder of a family member. However, authenteō usually did not mean “murder” in Hellenistic Greek.

      I do not believe 1 Timothy 2:12 means “I do not allow a woman to teach or to murder a man, she is to remain quiet.” How does quietness, and the learning 1 Timothy 2:11, solve the situation of a woman supposedly murdering a man?

      I believe the household codes in Ephesians 5-6 and Colossians 3 are about mitigating and minimising the power of the ones who had greater power in Greco-Roman society—the husbands, the parents (fathers/mothers) and the male/female slave masters—without calling for a complete social revolution which would have been disastrous for the new Jesus movement.

      Paul does reframe the submission of wives, and the obedience of male/female (grown) children and male/female slaves, in terms of their Christian faith—he also reframes the roles of husbands and slave masters—but it is only in the case of children obeying parents that Paul says “for this is right/just” (Eph. 6:1).

      Opulence in women’s dress was frowned upon by sensible first-century pagans (e.g., Plutarch and Seneca) and Christians alike. I’ve written about this here: https://margmowczko.com/pauls-instructions-for-modest-dress/ (The Lex Oppia was instituted in 215 BC and overturned in 195 BC after a mass demonstration by Roman women. This all occurred way before the time First Timothy was written and in a different place entirely.)

      Your idea about 1 Timothy 2:15 only works for free Roman women who have had three surviving children. It doesn’t work for Ephesian women in general. And it doesn’t take into consideration the singular “she will be saved” and the plural “[if] they remain.” Who is the “they”? And what does continuing in “faith, love, and holiness, together with self-control” have to do with the Lex Iulia et Papia?

      Paul urges prayer for rulers so that the Ephesians may live peaceful and quiet lives (1 Tim. 2:1-2). Governments do not provide salvation. God is our saviour, not Roman laws (1 Tim. 2:3ff). The Lex Iulia et Papia did not offer salvation; it allowed the women who qualified to represent themselves in legal matters without a male guardian.

      I’ve written about 1 Timothy 2:15 here: https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

      Lastly, the power of the patria potestas had declined in the first century AD. Exposing infants was still practised but, apart from infants, the paterfamilias could not lawfully kill members of his family. Unlike in previous centuries, he couldn’t even murder his wife if she was unfaithful. Also, the Twelve Tables was a Roman document and applied to Roman citizens. It was an important document during the republic period, but less so in the imperial period. But First Timothy was written concerning the church in Ephesus, not the church in Rome or a church in a Roman Colony. Ephesus was part of the Roman Empire in the first century, but it was not Rome and it retained some of its Anatolian customs and laws.

      1. “Your idea about 1 Timothy 2:15 only works for free Roman women who have had three surviving children. It doesn’t work for Ephesian women in general. And it doesn’t take into consideration the singular “she will be saved” and the plural “[if] they remain.” Who is the “they”? And what does continuing in “faith, love, and holiness, together with self-control” have to do with the Lex Iulia et Papia? ”

        No it doesn´t:
        This so-called three-child law was intended to stop the population decline and also promote the old virtues and therefore cut the inheritance rights of the unmarried and childless. Freedwomen or Italian women needed at least four children, women who belonged to another civil right, five. This was active law in this time.

        and secondly i didn´t said that paul means, they shouldn´t kill their husbands.
        I believe he means they shouldn´t have the authority which puts them in an position where they can choose between death and live namely the patria potestas which was very well active in this time.
        In the Roman Empire, the Patria Potestas of the head of the family extended to the life and death of all family members. Even when it was very hard to kill his wife without the family council. Newborns had to be laid at his feet and he decided if the child was raised. However, rejected children were often not killed, but exposed and could be raised by anyone as slaves. This right was not abolished until the year 374 after the increasing dominance of Christianity. The ban had to be enforced with draconian punishments.

        Paul uses the term authentein knowing that it means to rule and to murder/ or to authoritise murder. And by using it instead of just saying woman shouldn´t have the patria potestas over there husbands, he is telling us his view of this practice that was justified with the patria potestas. He sees it as it is: brutal Infanticide.
        The Christians sharply attacked this disregard for the right to live of an unborn or malformed child. And so is Paul.
        And than he is showing them that the way out (the salvation) of the patronship shouldn´t be a revolution but the usage of the lex papia. And of course it doesn´t apply to slaves. But according to Paul those should stay in their position and keep a low profile too.

        sode’-zo can have different meanings. it doesn´t allways have the same meaning. but it allways has the same logic: you ought to be saved from sth.
        here she is saved through childbearing of the tutela mulierum.

        1. Hello Emil,

          I’m not talking about a “family council” when I say a husband could not lawfully kill his wife, I’m talking about Augustus making adultery a public crime with public penalties such as divorce and exile enforced by the government, especially in cases of adultery in marriages in the senatorial class.

          I realise that you didn’t say or imply that Paul means a woman shouldn´t kill her husband. But if we take authentein as meaning “to murder” then this is how 1 Timothy 2:12 reads, I do not allow a woman to teach or to murder a man . . .”

          for the reasons given in the article and the reasons I mentioned in a previous comment to you, I do not believe authentein means “to murder” in 1 Timothy 2:12. I also do not believe it simply means “to rule.”

          On the other hand, I do believe the salvation in view in 1 Timothy 2:15 refers to salvation from sin and death. The main reason for this belief is because of the phrase that follows verse 15: “This is a faithful saying” (1 Tim 3:1a). Frances Young and other scholars connect pistos ho logos (“this is a faithful saying”) with salvation:

          The pastoral epistles (1 Tim 1:15; 3:1 (referring back to 2:15); 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Titus 3:8) are “punctuated by ‘faithful sayings’. Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether the standard phrase ‘faithful is the saying’ refers to what has gone immediately before or what follows immediately after, but what is evident, I submit, is that the formula is invariably attached to a statement about salvation. This would suggest that the phrase does not simply signal a reliable Pauline tradition, or a secure doctrine but rather heralds an assurance of the gospel.”
          Frances Young, The Theology of the Pastoral Letters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994), 56.
          From here: https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

          Nevertheless, I will keep your ideas in mind. If you could show how these Roman regulations fit with the entire passage verses 11-15, including Timothy 2:13-14, that would be very helpful.

          1. I read it like this:
            2,1-7 Paul says: pray or the salvation of all men, pray for the government–> so that you can life a quiet life.
            cause by praying this rulers’ hearts will change and secondly because the exclusive sovereignty of Christ clashed with Caesar’s claims to his own exclusive sovereignty. In demanding the “first of all” prayer for the rulers Paul tries apologeticly show that the christians are not indifferent to the state.
            The Roman empire practiced religious syncretism and did not demand loyalty to one god, but they did demand preeminent loyalty to the state, and this was expected to be demonstrated through the practices of the state religion with numerous feast and festival days throughout the year.

            V4-7
            Then he is talking about God wanting the salvation of everybody.
            Then he is talking about the Jesus mediating between God and men.
            Then he is talking about his position: preacher, apostle and teacher of the Gentiles.
            this parts of his position are all very “outsider focused” teaching meaning here to evangelise or to lay out the gospel to gentiles.

            Now he explaines what the conclusion and practical impact of the first 7 verses is to the church. Saying “I will therefore” that the men do this and the women do that.

            V8:
            men: pray (knowing that in the society the domestic responsibilities of the pater familias included his priestly duties) everywhere (not only “in” but also “outside” the churchbuilding. Praying could be a very progressive thing in those days. see Paul praying for unbelievers in order to promote the gosple acts 28,8.

            V9: likewise women:
            dress modest and profess your faith with good works menaning this should be your approach to reach the lost people around you.

            V11 “let them learn in silence with all subjection”
            don’t run from house to house and talk and discuss your faith with everybody (see also the rules for the widows). keep a low profile in order that the gosple will be accepted easier. Don’t start a social revoultion.

            The same logic is applied in the book of Titus.
            but the other way around:
            first the housetables with the explanation, that they should behave in this manner, so that there would be no persecution (Titus 2,5,8,10) , then God is the saviour of everyone, then the position of Jesus.

            here it is first God the saviour, then position of Jesus, then housetables

            V12 she should not teach: in this Context it could very well refer to evangelise or to lay out the gospel to gentiles, see verse7.

            to make it short:
            men be progressive in the way you approach nonbelievers, women profess your faith through silence and good deeds.

            don´t try to take the patria potestas or revolt against the patronship of your husband unless by using the social accepted way out of it by giving birth to children.

            V13 +14: I would say: this refers to the relationship between wife and husband and referes to the ruling over the man alone.
            Paul uses the picture of the first couple to explain the authority of husbands over their wives. but this doesn´t speak about the authority of men over women in general or in the context of the church.

            Then V15: if you don´t want to life under this patronship, use the legal way and have children

          2. Hi Emil,

            I won’t dismiss any interpretation of 1 Tim 2:11-15 that has a skerrick of plausibility, but what I don’t get is, why would the author of 1 Timothy be in favour of wives not having to have a male guardian represent them in legal matters, or, as you put it, not having a male patron (cf. 1 Tim 5:14)?

            At a time when the power of the pater familias was waning, and more and more Roman women were marrying sine manu (rather than cum manu), and when the institution of tutela mulierum was a mere formality (and just about any man could stand in as a woman’s legal representative, see Institutes of Gaius I.157 cf. I.173), and when divorce was easy (and women who married sine manu could retain their wealth), I don’t think “she will be saved” (or “preserved” or “kept safe”, or however you want to translate the verb) fits.

            And being free from male guardianship or patronage is hardly the same as having patria potestas. I don’t think the Ephesian woman who is referred to in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 wanted to have patria potestas, assuming that was even possible.

            Moreover, Ephesians 5:22-33 seems to acknowledge the patron role of the husband towards his wife in the Greco-Roman world (but without the sting of rulership), and this is compared with Jesus Christ and the church.

            But as I said, I will keep your ideas in mind. It’s been an interesting discussion.

            Here is my interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 that takes into account verses 11-15:
            https://margmowczko.com/interpretation-of-1-timothy-212/

  17. Fan-tastic! The research is incredible. This is really well done.

    1. Thanks, Richelle.

  18. I agree with the post, but I have a few questions:

    1. H. Scott Baldwin examined the “authentein” word and concluded that the word does not have a negative sense similar to “domineer” or “usurp authority”. Does “authentein” simply mean having authority (even when one leads in a good way)?

    2. Andreas Kostenberger did a study and found that verb pairings are either both positive or both negative. If “teaching” is almost always positive, does that make “authentein” positive as well?

    Thanks for the information.

    1. Authentein does not simply mean “to have authority” even though the words may look superficially similar. The earliest translations of 1 Timothy 2:12 (into Syriac and Latin, etc) used far from positive words to translate authentein.

      I have never understood Kostenberger’s argument. If authentein was a good or positive behaviour, why does Paul disallow it?

      1. Kostenberger’s argument is that every usage that follows a certain pattern ([1] negation/forbidding verb followed by [2] infinitive verb #1 followed by [3] “oude” meaning “nor” followed by infinitive verb #2) has one of two possible meanings:

        1. Both verbs are always activities that are disapproved of.
        2. Both verbs are normal/positive/neutral activities, but in the given context the writer is forbidding them, because of the context.

        So, teaching and exercising authority are not both clearly activities always disapproved of, because teaching is normally positive unless modified by “false” or the like. So, the sentence follows pattern #2: Fine in many contexts, but not permitted in this context (women in the assembly with men).

        If we instead hypothesize a third pattern: one positive infinitive verb and one always-bad infinitive verb, then this would be the only example in Greek that we have found, which is doubtful. Thus, translating authentein as an always-negative verb (“to domineer” or “to usurp authority”) is highly suspect.

        Kostenberger gives every known example of the sentence pattern in an appendix to the 3rd edition of “Women in the Church.” Each can be seen to follow usage #1 or usage #2.

        An example of usage #1 is from Plutarch’s lives, “Alexander,” as follows: “To his mother, also, he sent many presents, but [1] would not suffer her [2] to meddle in affairs [3] nor interfere in his campaigns; and when she chided him for this, he bore her harshness patiently.” Clearly, to meddle (polypragmonein) is an always-negative verb, and to interfere (parastratagein) is also.

        An example of usage #2 is from Plutarch’s Lives, “Amatorius,” as follows: “… while Love, if he loses the hope of inspiring friendship, [1] has no wish [2] to remain [3] and to cultivate a deficient plant which has come to its prime, if the plant cannot yield the proper fruit of character to produce friendship and virtue.” Here, to remain (paramenein) and to cultivate (therapeyein) are not normally negative verbs, but in this context they are not allowed by the writer. Note that oude was translated “and” in this English translation but “nor” would also be acceptable.

        Kostenberger gives all 55 known examples of the [1]-[2]-[3] pattern from the first century plus the two examples found in the Septuagint. I chose the above examples randomly; they are #24 and #25 in his list.

        1. Hi Clark,
          I’ve read Köstenberger’s arguments and am unconvinced of them, especially as he applies them to 1 Timothy 2:12. “Teach/teaching/teacher” words are used in both negative and positive contexts in the New Testament (e.g., Rev. 2:20 KJV) including the Pastorals, and especially in 1 Timothy.

          There are several instances in the Pastoral letters where didaskō and its cognates are used for corrupt, inadequate or “other” teaching: heterodidaskalein (infinitive) in 1 Timothy 1:3; nomodidaskaloi (concrete noun) who are not qualified in 1 Timothy 1:7; didaskaliais (abstract noun) of demons in 1 Timothy 4:1, heterodidaskalei (verb) in 1 Timothy 6:3, didaskalous (concrete noun) that cater to itching ears in 2 Timothy 4:3, didaskontes (participle) things that shouldn’t be taught in Titus 1:11, and I believe didaskein (inifinitive) in 1 Timothy 2:12.

          In fact, false teaching was such a problem at Ephesus and Crete, that Paul often uses positive adjectives and adverbs to qualify “teach/teaching/teacher” words in order to distinguish the good teaching he was encouraging in Timothy and Titus from the prevalent false teaching.
          These positive qualifying words include: “in faithfulness and truth” (1 Tim. 2:7), “good/fine” (1 Tim. 4:6); “these [correct] things” just mentioned (1 Tim. 6:2), “sound/wholesome” (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; Tit. 2:1), “godly” (1 Tim. 6:3), “my” [i.e. Paul’s teaching] (2 Tim. 3:10); “of the faithful word” (Tit. 1:9), “teachers of what is good (Tit. 2:3), etc.

          As for authentein, there is no clear example of authentein being a good or beneficial thing when done by a human (as opposed to deities and heavenly bodies) in pre-fourth-century Greek literature and papyri. It usually had the sense of “to bully” or “to dominate” or “to selfishly get one’s way.”

          Authentein does not mean “to exercise authority” in any kind of healthy or edifying manner. It is unacceptable behaviour for any follower of Jesus, male or female. Sentence structure doesn’t change or dictate the meaning of words. (I have a shorter article on authentein which looks at definitions here.)

          A similar construction to “διδάσκειν … οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός” is found in 1 Tim. 1:3-4 where Paul says to Timothy, “command certain people not to teach other doctrines or to pay attention to myths …” “μὴ ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν μηδὲ προσέχειν μύθοις”
          [As you probably know, the indicative verb for “allow” requires οὐκ-οὐδὲ to be used in 1 Tim. 2:12. The subjunctive verb for “command” requires μὴ-μηδὲ to be used in 1 Tim. 1:3b-4.] Both ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν and προσέχειν (which are infinitives) are negative words in this context and Paul wants Timothy to forbid these actions. ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν is negative in the New Testament (see here), but προσέχειν can be positive or negative depending on the context. 1 Timothy 4:13 and Hebrews 2:1 are two of several verses were προσέχειν is positive. (All 24 occurrences of προσέχειν are here.)

          On pages 356-358 of his book Man and Woman, One in Christ, Philip Payne refutes seven examples given by Köstenberger. Payne states that ouk-oude can join a verb with a usually positive connotation and a verb with a usually negative connotation, but I think trying to prove if a verb is positive/neutral or negative is a fruitless exercise. Some verbs are obviously positive, such as “rejoice.” Other verbs are obviously negative, such as “kill.” But many verbs can be positive, negative and neutral depending on context. It doesn’t matter what connotation the verbs/infinitives usually have, what matters is the connotation used in the sentence.

          Paul is prohibiting two activities in 1 Timothy 2:12. Why would Paul prohibit something good or positive? Paul only prohibits bad behaviour and behaviour that might impede the gospel. Also, Paul never hints in Romans 12:6-8 CSB, 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 4:11 CSB, Colossians 3:16 CSB, etc, that teaching is only for men.

          My problem with Kostenberger’s argument is that it involves scouring ancient texts looking for a specific pattern in the syntax that isn’t really there, turning this pattern into a hard and fast rule, and applying this rule to 1 Timothy 2:12. And all this “analysis” work is done in order to support a particular interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12. That is what I don’t get it.

  19. One question. Doesn’t H. Scott Baldwin note that the verb “authentein” is neutral or positive and that Grudem noted that “authentes” and “authentein” could be two words with different roots (rendering the connection illegitimate)?

    By the way, I do agree with your article, but I came across some questions.

    1. It is possible that authentēs and authentein come from different roots. Whatever their roots or etymology, the noun authentēs and verb authenteō (or authentein) have different meanings and different histories. The words do not seem to be related. On the other hand, the noun authentia and the verb authenteō have a similar range of senses.

      Chrysostom used the verb authenteō (from which we get the infinitive authentein) a couple of times and he told people, including husbands, not to behave that way. (See footnotes 42 and 43 above.) Authentein is neither neutral or positive. It is self-centred, domineering behaviour.

      I’ve noticed errors in Wayne Grudem’s handling of Greek. See footnote 1 here, where Grudem admitted to ignorance of the scope of a common Greek word: https://margmowczko.com/biblical-manhood-masculinity-esv/

  20. This is helpful to further clarify “authentein.” The 1 Timothy 2:12 portion of the video starts at about the 8:50 mark. It further explains the pagan practice of “authentein.”

    1. Hi Angela,

      There are several statements made in the video that are not supported by ancient evidence presented by credible scholars.

      For example, there’s no surviving ancient evidence that directly links the cult of the Ephesian Artemis (Diana) with Gnosticism. And unlike what some people say, there is no evidence that the goddess’s cult was woman-centred.

      As with many ancient cults, the cult of Artemis did have women priests, but it also had male priests. And both men and women worshipped the goddess and participated in festivals. Even in the New Testament we see that Ephesian men were devoted to Artemis (Acts 19:23ff). But there’s plenty of other ancient evidence that shows men playing prominent roles in the cult.

      I’ve written about Artemis here: https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-in-context-2/
      This article has more detail about the goddess:
      https://margmowczko.com/regalia-artemis-ephesia/
      I’ve written about women priests in Ephesus here:
      https://margmowczko.com/the-prominence-of-women-in-the-cultic-life-of-ephesus/

      Apart from some processions, festivals, prayers, sacrifices and votive offerings, there is very little known about some of the rituals that were part of the cult of the Ephesian Artemis, but I have never seen the word authentein directly linked with Artemis or her cult. (I include all known occurrences of the word, around the time 1 Timothy was written, in the article above.) The related noun (authentēs) meant to murder but the verb authentein (from authenteō) typically did not.

      I have never read about the procedure/reenactment that Wm Paul Young describes as applying to the Ephesian Artemis. It’s a pity he doesn’t give any sources for the “information” he provides, so we can check it. But much of it is not what historians and archaeologists of ancient Ephesus, or scholars well-versed in ancient Greek, say about authentein.

      On the other hand, there are ancient Gnostic stories where Eve was created first. I quote from a couple of them here:
      https://margmowczko.com/adam-and-eve-in-gnostic-literature/

      And I agree that Paul’s language in 1 Timothy 2:12 is most-likely limited to the “now.” (More on this here.) And I agree that Paul gives correct summary statements of Genesis 2 and 3 in 1 Timothy 2:13-14 to correct the wrong teaching of a woman. However, I have a different interpretation of “the childbearing.” 1 Timothy 2:15 is a genuinely difficult verse to understand. (More on childbirth in verse 15 here.)

      As for Ephesians 5:22f:
      22 Wives, [submit yourselves] to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 because the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Saviour of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives [are to submit] to their husbands in everything.”

      The Greek behind the words in square brackets in Ephesians 5:22 is absent in several, but not all, ancient Greek manuscripts of Ephesians, but it does not affect the meaning of this verse. I know that a few people make a big deal over the fact that “submit” words are not stated in verse 22 and also in the second half of verse 24, but this is not significant. It’s not at all uncommon in ancient Greek for a verbal idea not to be restated, but for the meaning to carry over from previous statements. Paul does this a few times in his letters. Paul is telling wives to be submissive to their own husbands.

      My latest article on Ephesians 5 is here:
      https://margmowczko.com/household-codes-power-not-gender/

  21. Thank you for clarifying! I so appreciate your work.

    1. No worries. 🙂

    1. Thanks for sharing this, Reginaldo. I enjoyed reading your article via Google translate. I am as certain as I can be that a few ideas somewhat similar to those in later Gnosticism were already present in the Ephesian church when Paul wrote to Timothy.

      I’ve written about Adam and Eve in ancient gnostic texts here:
      https://margmowczko.com/adam-and-eve-in-gnostic-literature/

      I’ve written about the heresy in Ephesus here:
      https://margmowczko.com/1-timothy-212-in-context-3/

      And I’ve written about 1 Timothy 2:15 and childbirth in light of early Christians who forbade marriage and procreation here:
      https://margmowczko.com/chastity-salvation-1-timothy-215/

  22. I was just rereading this article, and I really enjoy the in depth information. But there are a few examples I was reconsidering and had some questions about. Do you think Tryphon’s letter represents someone prevailing on someone to get their way? Or is the letter clear enough to draw such a conclusion? The astrological texts are especially puzzling to me. Could the rulership of planets and the superior social positions be seen as positive or neutral? I found a fuller text of Tetrabiblos, and was a bit confused by how Saturn gained mastery of Mercury and moon, and what that meant. Could it have a neutral meaning? What exactly does Saturn do by having mastery? Also, in Moeris Atticista, the definition “act on one’s own” confuses me. It’s difficult to see how that relates to either exercising authority or to force and coercion. I was also curious about Origen’s remarks on the passage. When he says women should not become rulers of men by discourse, how do we know he is using “ruler” in a negative way? I guess my bigger issue is that I’m finding it difficult to work out what these uses would mean practically. Would acting on one’s own be bad if one had authority, or does acting on one’s own imply a lack of legitimate authority, for example. Either way, this seems like a very difficult word to grasp the full meaning of.

    1. A few quick notes.

      ~ All of these ancient texts, especially the fragmented texts, are open to other interpretations. I actually say about Tryphon’s letter, “any interpretation is conjectural.”

      ~ The astrological power can be neutral, but this kind of absolute power and influence is unhealthy in human relationships. (The ancients believed the planets and their movements had power, even power over humans. Some people into astrology still think this. Astronomy and astrology were not separate sciences in the ancient world; they were one and the same.)

      ~ People rarely tell someone to stop doing good. Origen thought a woman ruling through discourse was a bad, negative thing.

      ~ The overall senses of authentein are the use of self-serving power and/or the use of absolute power. This is fine for the planets and for God (who is referred to as authentia, the supreme power, in a few early texts). It’s not fine for people. The force of authentein is more than just someone using their initiative.

      1. Thank you for your reply. The astrological texts are certainly difficult to transfer to human relationships given the different context. I guess my question about Origen is whether he considered being a ruler a bad thing or a good thing, which would mean he saw women ruling as bad despite it being good for men to do. Moeris’s use of “having idependent jurisdiction” still confuses me; what is the force of autodikēn? I tried to find more about it, but came up empty. But I did find the claim that Hesychius of Alexandria intrepretated authentein as exousiazein and authentēs as autocheir. If that is true, would it have any relevance to this passage?

        1. I found something interesting somewhat related to this. I found John Chrysostom’s First Homily on the Greeting to Priscilla and Aquila (which seems to be separate from his homily on Romans 16). In it, he mentions 1 Timothy 2:12, and while he doesn’t really explain what authentein a man means, he does mention that the verse was meant to stop women from public discourse and reviling the clergy; the reviling of the clergy comment surprised me. It may have nothing to do with authenteō, but I found that interesting. (https://www.cbeinternational.org/resources/article/priscilla-papers/john-chrysostom’s-first-homily-greeting-priscilla-and-aquila)
          I also noticed that Moeris’s entry was based on a conjectural emendation. Does that mean it’s possible it’s another word? I’ve seen some people try to say authenteō didn’t have only bad connotations until the fourth century due to it being used neutrally in meaning “to act on one’s own,” the originator example, and Origen’s use. (But I’ll admit, it definitely does seem carry connotations of absolute or at least autonomous power in those examples. I certainly wish we had more [and better] texts to work with.)

          1. Chrysostom is speaking/writing in Greek to a Greek audience, so he doesn’t have to explain the word authentein. His audience knew what the word meant even if the word wasn’t common in literature. (It may have been more common in everyday speech than in literature.)

            Chrysostom uses the verb a few times in his other works, each time with a negative sense when used of people. I’ve copy-and-pasted the following two examples from his homily on Colossians from the article and footnotes above.

            Chrysostom uses the verb authenteō (the exact form is authentei) in his tenth homily on Colossians where he remarks on Colossians 3:19. He writes that husbands should not “act the despot” (authentei) towards their wives.

            In his eleventh homily on Colossians, Chrysostom warns against self-centredness: “. . . the time is not yours, but theirs. Do not then wish to have your own way (authentein), but redeem the time.”

            I haven’t mentioned this in the article, but Chrysostom also uses the verb in a version (not the more-used versions) of his third homily on Acts when commenting on Acts 1:17ff.. About Judas he says, πρὥτος τοῦ πράγματος αὐθεντει (“He, the principal person/the first person instigated the deed/matter”). Judas did a bad thing and authentei is used in a negative sense.

            When used of God, who legitimately has power and supreme authority over all, the meaning is not negative.

            Καὶ βοᾶ Παῦλος λέγων· Ταῦτα πάντα ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ Πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται. Καθὼς βούλεται, φησὶν, οὐ καθὼς προστάττεται· διαιροῦν, οὐ διαιρούμενον· αὐθεντοῦν, οὐκ αὐθεντίᾳ ὑποκείμενον. (excercising power/authority, not being under power/authority.) Τὴν γὰρ αὐτὴν ἐξουσίαν, ἥνπερ ἐμαρτύρησε τῷ Πατρὶ, ταύτην καὶ τῷ ἁγίῳ Πνεύματι ἀνατίθησιν ὁ Παῦλος.

            Καὶ ὥσπερ ἐπὶ τοῦ Πατρός φησιν· Ὁ δὲ Θεός ἐστιν ὁ ἐνεργῶν τὰ πάντα ἐν πᾶσιν, οὕτω καὶ ἐπὶ τοῦ ἁγίου Πνεύματος· Ταῦτα δὲ πάντα, φησὶν, ἐνεργεῖ τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ Πνεῦμα, διαιροῦν ἰδίᾳ ἑκάστῳ καθὼς βούλεται. Εἶδες ἀπηρτισμένην ἐξουσίαν; Ὧν γὰρ ἡ οὐσία μία, δῆλον ὅτι καὶ ἡ αὐθεντία μία· (and showing that there is one supreme power/authority) καὶ ὧν ἰσότιμος ἡ ἀξία, τούτων καὶ ἡ δύναμις καὶ ἡ ἐξουσία μία.
            Chrysostom’s Second Homily on Pentecost PG 50, 464. (Alternate sourceshere and here.)

            __________

            In my opinion, the most compelling evidence about the meaning of authentein is in early Latin and Syriac translations of 1 Timothy 2:12. The papyri do not provide compelling evidence.

  23. I was reading some about authentein, and I found two fairly different translations of Origen’s comments on this verse. One translated it as “a woman should not become the leader of a man in the ministry of the Word.” Another translated it as “a woman should not become a governor of a man in speaking.” I know your translation is “a woman is not to become the ruler of a man by means of discourse,” but I was wondering how you know it is “by means of” or “through” discourse as opposed to ruling in discourse? I know his comments are the earliest ones we have, so I was curious about the proper way to translate it, especially since it involves the difficult word authentein.

    1. Hi Taylor,

      Origen interprets the verse as: “the woman/wife is not to become a ruler/governor of the man/husband by means of the message/discourse.”

      The Greek is: μὴ τὴν γυναῖκα ἡγεμόνα γίνεσθαι τῷ λόγῳ τοῦ ἀνδρός. Fragment 1 Cor 74.21.

      Here’s the Greek with a word for word translation:

      μὴ τὴν γυναῖκα ἡγεμόνα γίνεσθαι
      not the woman/wife a governor to become

      τῷ λόγῳ
      in/with/by the word/message

      τοῦ ἀνδρός
      of the man/husband

      “By means of” is a fair translation/interpretation of the dative pronoun τῷ. Dative nouns can have a sense of agency.

      “Speaking” is perhaps too much of a liberty in translating/interpreting λόγῳ, though we can assume the message Origen envisaged was spoken.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Subscribe to Marg's Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

 

Loading

Join Marg's Patreon

Would you like to support my ministry of encouraging mutuality and equality between men and women in the church and in marriage?

Archives