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 and Jesus.[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 texts that were written before the fourth century AD, occurring only eight times, not counting 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, De Rhetorica 2.133  (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 completely disagree.

My problem with Wolter’s statement is two-fold. Firstly, people who had a normal kind of authority in the broader Greco-Roman world had considerable power over those beneath them.[44] This kind of authority and power has no place in the Christian community where all members are brothers and sisters (Matt. 23:8-12; 1 Pet. 5:3). So, even if ancient writers 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).

Secondly, there are indications that authentein was understood as indeed having a pejorative in 1 Timothy 2:12. Payne makes the broad 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. 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’). (These translations were done when both Koine Greek and Latin were well-known, living languages.) 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.


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]


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;;; 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, 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.

[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.)


Added for the sake of clarity: Words that are etymologically related can be very different in usage and 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, rather than authentēs, and means “to domineer,” “to hold absolute sway,” or “to bully.” My very short article on authentein is here.

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