1 Timothy 2:12 continues to be a verse that is used by some Christians to keep capable women from certain teaching and leadership ministries in the church. The Greek verb authenteō (exact form: authentein) occurs in this verse: “I do not allow a woman/ wife to teach, or ‘to domineer a man/ husband’ (authentein andros) …” (cf. 1 Tim. 2:12 ASV). On this page, I’ve quoted the entries on authenteō from several Greek lexicons beginning with the exhaustive lexicon of ancient Greek known by the acronym LSJ and then BrillDAG.
Authent– words in LSJ
Here’s what Liddell, Scott, and Jones have said about the authent– family of words, with a few comments from me in square brackets. These entries are taken from, Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, ninth edition, revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).
✪ αὐθεντέω [verb] to have full power or authority over, τινός 1Ep.Ti.2.12; πρός τινα BGU1208.37 (i B.C.): c. inf., Lyd.Mag.3.42.
[Note the description “full” in the definition of the verb. The word in 1 Timothy 2:12 is a form of the verb.]
2. commit a murder, Sch.A.Eu.42.
[There is only one example we know of where the verb refers to murder. Al Wolters comments that this example “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 …” More on this in the section “Scholion 42a on Eumenides (date ?)” here.]
αὐθεντημα· auctoramentum, Gloss.
✪ αὐθεντης, ον, ὁ, [concrete noun] perpetrator, author, πράξεως Plb.22.14.2; ἰεροσυλίας D.S.16.61: generally, doer, Alex.Rh.p.2 S.; master, δῆμος αὐθέντης χθονός E.Supp.442; voc. αὐθέντα ἥλιε PMag.Leid.W.6.46; condemned by Phryn.96.
2. (cf. αὐτοέντης) perpetrator of a murder or death, Hdt.1.117, E.Rh.873, Th.3.58; τινός E.HF1359, A.R.2.754;, Antipho 3.3.4, D.C.37.13: more loosely, one of a murderer’s family, E.Andr.172.
3. as Adj., ὅμαιμος αό, φόνος, αὐ. θάνατοι, murder by one of the same family, A.Eu.212, Ag.1572 (lyr.). (For αὐτο-ἕντης, cf. συν-έτης, ἁνύω; root sen–, sn–.)
[This is not the word we have in 1 Timothy 2:12. However, this word occurs in Wisdom 12:6, in the Septuagint, for parents who murdered their children. See Wisdom 12:6 on Bible Gateway here.]
✪ αὐθεντία, ἡ, [abstract noun] absolute sway, authority, CIG2701.9 (Mylasa), PLips.37.7 (iv a.d.), Corp.Herm.1.2, Zos.2.33.
b. as honorary appellation (of praetorian prefect), Just.Nov.111 epilogus.
2. restriction, LXX3Ma.2.29. [See 3 Maccabees 2:29 on Bible Gateway here.]
3. αὐθεντίᾳ ἀποκτείνας with his own hand, D.C.Fr.102.12.
[LSJ continue with more related verbs and nouns, as well as the related adjective and adverb, but these have little relevance to 1 Timothy and other biblical literature. You can see these related words on the Perseus website.]
Authent– words in Brill’s Dictionary of Ancient Greek
αὐθεντεία later for αὐθεντία.
αὐθεντεύω see αὐθεντέω: CCA 8(3).196.12.
αὐθεντέω, contr. αὐθέντης fut. mid. αὐθεντήσομαι Hippol. Consumm. 7 ‖ aor. ηὐθέντησα ‖ pf. ptc. ηὐθεντηκώς Sch. Aeschl. (vet.) Eum. 40; to have full authority: ἀνδρός over man NT 1Tim. 2:12 | ▶ with inf. Lyd. Mag. 3.42 | to be first instigator, instigate, authorize Const. (Eus. V.C. 2.48) etc. ‖ to commit homicide Sch. Aeschl. Eum. 42a pf. ptc. αὐθεντηκώς Sch. Aeschl. (rec.) Eum. 40.
αὐθέντης -ου, ὁ αὐτός?, [cf. ἁνύω?] ⓐ one who exerts authority, absolute master Eur. Suppl. 442 (cod. L) etc. ‖ one who takes initiative, author Pol. 22.14.2 Diod. 16.61.1, 17.5.4 ‖ esp. one who commits murder on his own initiative, killer, homicide Hdt. 1.117.3 Eur. Rh. 873, al. Thuc. 3.58.5 VT Wis. 12:6 | suicide Antipho 3.3.4 etc. ⓑ adj. accomplished by his own hand, killing Aeschl. Ag. 1573, Eum. 212 Eur. H.F. 839.
αὐθεντία -ας, ἡ [αὐθέντης] authority, absolute power CH 1.2 etc. ‖ Gnost. Supreme Divine Power Ir. Haer. 1.24.1 ‖ gen. authority, power Io. HTim.1 11.617C, al. etc. | liberty, independence: ἐξ ἰδίας αὐ. independently, on one’s own initiative Eus. H.E. 9.9.13 | will Bas. epist. 122.1.9 etc. ‖ death by one’s own hand DCass. fr. 102.12.
αὐθεντίζω αὐθέντης aor. imper. αὐθέντισον Io. (PG 64.52.15); to appropriate, seize P BGU 103.3 (VI–VIICE).
αὐθεντικός -ή -όν [αὐθέντης] authoritarian, despotic Ptol. Tetr. 182 etc. ‖ independent Greg. Cant. 10 (297.12) ‖ authoritative, genuine, original, authentic P PSI 871.28 (ICE) etc. | original, autograph, of a written text Eus. V.C. 2.23 ‖ fundamental, principal Geop. 1.11.1 (winds) ♦ adv. αὐθεντικῶς in an authoritarian or authoritative manner, authentically Cic. ad Att. 9.14.2 etc. ‖ in the fundamental sense, literally Clem. Str. 184.108.40.206 ‖ compar. -ότερον.
ἀυθεντόπωλος -ου, ὁ son of the master (of a slave) Sch. Aristid. 54.10.
αὐθεντρία -ας, ἡ [αὐθέντης] lady, mistress LeontN. VSym. 39.
The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek, (BrillDAG) Franco Montanari; English Edition edited by Madeleine Goh and Chad Schroeder (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2015)
Entries on Authenteō in other Lexicons
Here are some entries of αὐθεντέω from other Greek lexicons. They give the general sense of “to control or dominate, or to rule as an autocrat.” This is unacceptable behaviour from any follower of Jesus, male or female.
Liddell and Scott’s, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon
αὐθεντέω “to have full power”, τινός, N[ew] Test[ament]
Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1889) (Online source: Perseus).
T. Friberg, B. Friberg, and N. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament
αὐθεντέω strictly, of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, lord it over (1T 2.12).
Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg, and Neva F. Miller, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (ANLEX) (Bloomington: Tafford, 2005), 81.
Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains
37.21 αὐθεντέω: to control in a domineering manner—‘to control, to domineer.’ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω … αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός ‘I do not allow women … to dominate men’ 1 Tm 2.12.
J. P. Louw and Eugene Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains, (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988), 1.474, s.v. αὐθεντέω. (Internet Archive, p. 474)
[Note that Louw and Nida have translated the singular γυναικὶ and ἀνδρός as the plural “women” and “men.” This seems to reflect their interpretation of 1 Timothy 2:12 rather than being a literal translation.]
Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament
αὐθεντέω (a colloquial word, from αὐθέντης, ‘master,’ ‘autocrat,’ [ = αὐτοϛ + root sen, ‘accomplish’, in ἁνύω]), I domineer over.
Alexander Souter, A Pocket Lexicon to the Greek New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1917), 42 (Internet Archive)
Mark House and Maurice Robinson, An Analytical Lexicon of New Testament Greek
αὐθεντέω I domineer over (a colloquial word, from αὐθέντης, “master,” “autocrat,” = αὐτοϛ + root sen, “accomplish,” in ἁνύω).
Mark House and Maurice Robinson (eds), An Analytical Lexicon of New Testament Greek (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2012), 54.
Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (EDNT)
αὐθεντέω authenteō rule (verb) 1 Tim 2:12: women should not rule over men (genitive).
Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, Volume 1. Edited by Gerhard Schneider and Horst Balz, translation of Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testament. (Eerdman, 1993), 1.178.
[Again, there is no plural word meaning “women” in 1 Timothy 2:12.]
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament
… one acting by his own authority or power. Governing a genitive, to use or exercise authority or power over as an autocrat, to domineer (1 Tim. 2:12).
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study New Testament (AMG, 1991).
Bauer and Danker’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (BDAG)
αὐθεντέω (s. αὐθέντης; Philod., Rhet. II p. 133, 14 Sudh.; Jo. Lydus, Mag. 3, 42; Moeris p. 54; cp. Phryn. 120 Lob.; Hesychius; Thom. Mag. p. 18, 8; schol. in Aeschyl., Eum. 42; BGU 1208, 38 [27 B.C.]; s. Lampe s.v.) to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to w. gen. of pers. (Ptolem., Apotel. 3, 14, 10 Boll-B.; Cat. Cod. Astr. VIII/1 p. 177, 7; B-D-F §177) ἀνδρός, w. διδάσκειν, 1 Ti 2:12 (practically = ‘tell a man what to do’ [Jerusalem Bible]; Mich. Glykas [XII A.D.] 270, 10 αἱ γυναῖκες αὐθεντοῦσι τ. ἀνδρῶν. According to Diod S 1, 27, 2 there was a well-documented law in Egypt: κυριεύειν τὴν γυναῖκα τἀνδρός, cp. Soph., OC 337–41; GKnight III, NTS 30, ’84, 143–57; LWilshire, ibid. 34, ’88, 120–34).—DELG s.v. αὐθέντης. M-M.
Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition, revised and edited by F.W Danker (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 150.
Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament: Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources (M & M)
αὐθεντέω 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 MGr) is from αὐτ-ἕντης (cf. συνέντης· συνεργός in Hesychius, root sen “accomplish,” ἀνύω). The astonishing sense-development described in Grimm may accordingly disappear. So likewise may his description of the verb as a “bibl[ical] and eccl[esial] word,” after the evidence (given below) that the adj. αὐθεντικός is very well established in the vernacular. “Biblical”—which in this case means that the word occurs once in the NT (1 Tim 2:12)—seems intended to hint what ἅπαξ εἰρημένον in a “profane” writer would not convey. We may refer to Nägeli, p. 49, for evidence which encourages us to find the verb’s provenance in the popular vocabulary. The Atticist Thomas Magister, p. 18, 8, warns his pupil to use αὐτοδικεῖν because αὐθεντεῖν was vulgar (κοινότερον): so Moeris, p. 58—αὐτοδίκην (l.—εῖν) Ἀττικοι, αὐθέντην (l.—εῖν) Ἕλληνες. The use in 1 Tim 2:12 comes quite naturally out of the word “master, autocrat.” Cf. P Leid W vi. 46 ὁ ἀρχάγγελος τῶν ὑπὸ τὸν κόσμον, αὐθέντα ἥλιε.
For the adj. cf. ib.vi. 46, P Oxy II. 260 20 (A.D. 59), a document signed by the assistant of the strategus to give it legal sanction—Θέ[ω]ν Ὀννώφριος ὑπηρέτης ἐπηκολ[ού]θ[η]κα τῆι [α]ὐ̣θεντι[κ]ῆι χιρ[ογρ]α(φίᾳ), “I, Theon, son of O., assistant, have checked this authentic bond” (Edd.): so ib. IV. 719 30, 33 (A.D. 193). In BGU I. 326 ii. 23 (ii./A.D.) a scribe declares the ἀντίγραφον before him to be σύμφωνον τῇ αὐθεντικῇ διαθήκῃ: cf. Wilcken Ostr 1010 (Roman) ὁμολ[ογοῦμεν) ἔχιν τὴν αὐθεντικὴν ἀποχὴν ἀχύρ[ου), P Hamb I. 18 ii. 6 (A.D. 222) αὐθ(εντικῶν) ἐπιστολ(ῶν) καὶ βιβλ(ιδίων) ὑποκεκολ(λημένων), P Giss I. 344 (A.D. 265–6) τ̣ὰ αὐθεντικ[ά], and P Lond 985 18 (iv/A.D.) (= III. p. 229) ἔδ̣ο̣κα τὸ ἴσον κ̣[(αὶ) ἔ]χω τὴν αὐθε[ν]τικὴν ἀποχὴν παρʼ ἐμα̣υτῷ. The subst. is found P Lips I. 33ii. 6, 7, 28 (A.D. 368), BGU II. 669 18 (Byz.) ἰδίᾳ αὐθεντίᾳ ὄργανον ἔστησεν εἰ[ς] τὸν αὐτὸν λάκκον. For αὐθεντίζω, “take in hand,” see Chrest. I. ii. p. 160. The noun produces ultimately the common MGr ἀφέντης (Effendi) “Mr.”
Supp. Notes: For αὐθεντικός cf. further P Hamb I. p. 76, n4.
James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament: Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1929), 91. (My use of bold and I’ve divided the entry into two sections.)
This book can be downloaded from the BiblicalStudies.org site here, or accessed through Internet Archive here.
And More Lexicons
See also E.A. Sophocles’ Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (from B.C. 146 to A.D. 1100) (New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1900) which covers a period that extends well past the first century. (Internet Archive p. 276) And G. W. H. Lampe’s A Patristic Greek Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1961) (Internet Archive p. 262).
And here is the relevant section with a translation from Chartraine’s Dictionnaire Etymologique de la Langue Grecque:
αὐθεντέω “avoir pleine autorité sur” (NT Pap)
translation: “have full authority/ control/ rule over” (New Testament [and] Papyri)
(Online sources: Internet Archive, p.138, or second screenshot here.)
Authentein is not the kind of behaviour that Jesus wants for his male or female followers.
Authentein in 1 Timothy 2:12, in a Nutshell (A short, simple article)
The meaning of authentein with a brief history of authent– words (A long, technical article)
Authentein as Bad Behaviour (in ancient texts)
All my articles on authentein are here.
All my articles on 1 Timothy 2:12 are here.
Some Pitfalls of Using Greek-English Dictionaries
Freebies for Students of New Testament Greek
Jesus on Leadership and Community in Matthew’s Gospel