Thursday, October 04, 2007

Authority 4: The fragment's non-existence

I was made aware recently that the Philodemus Fragment does not actually exist, although there is a hand-made copy of it. It is hard to see how this fragment could be called evidence for anything.

However, I find that it is mentioned at least twice on the CBMW website. Wolters mentions it in A Semantic Study of authentes and its Derivatives,
    It is possible, however, that the text should read authent[ai]sin instead of authent[ou]sin, in which case we have a form not of the verb authentew, but of the noun authentes.64 If we do read the verb, then its meaning here, according to standard lexicographical reference works, is ‘rule’ or ‘have authority over’.65

    65 See S. Sudhaus (ed.), Philodemi Volumina Rhetorica (2 vols.; Leipzig: Teubner, 1896), II, p. 133, lines 12-15. The Herculaneum papyrus fragments in question (now known as P.Herc. 220) are no longer extant, although a hand-drawn copy was published in the nineteenth century. For an extensive bibliography on P.Herc. 220, see M. Gigante, Catalogo dei Papiri Ercolanesi (Naples: Bibliopolis, 1979), pp. 107-108. It is usually assigned to Book V of Philodemus’s Rhetorica, which is being prepared for publication by Matilde Ferrario of Milan; see her ‘Per una nuova edizione del quinto libro della “Retorica” di Filodemo’, in Proceedings of the XVIIIth International Congress of Papyrology, Athens, 25–31 May 1986 (2 vols.; Athens: Greek Papyrological Society, 1988), I, pp. 167-84. However, P.Herc. 220 has been tentatively referred to Book VII in T. Dorandi, ‘Per una ricomposizione dello scritto di Filodemo sulla Retorica’, ZPE 82 (1990), pp. 59-87 (85)
There is no internal evidence which makes the meaning of authent[ai/ou]sin explicit and certainly Hubbell's translation for authent[ou]sin is "powerful" and not "exercise authority." Note that Wolters does not make this clear, but only says "then its meaning here, according to standard lexicographical reference works, is ‘rule’ or ‘have authority over’". This quote does not actually support any particular meaning at all, as far as I know, since too little of the fragment was ever available. This citation simply must be dropped from the debate - it cannot be used by either side.

However, more has been written about this fragment. In An Open Letter to Egalitarians (Revised 2003): A Consideration of Linda Belleville's 2001 Response Grudem writes,
    In the third (the fragmentary manuscript), the meaning, "authoritative lords" makes good sense, and it would be impossible to demonstrate the meaning "lords who misuse authority." Baldwin's gives the translation, "those in authority."23
Baldwin may have given the meaning "those in authority" but clearly Grudem has not yet understood that Baldwin misunderstood the translation. Quoting an error is unhelpful, but it seems that readers are willing to take Grudem's word that Baldwin's study has validity. "Authoritative lords" might make sense, if we knew the word was authentew and if we knew the word following was, in fact, "lords." I suspect that the fragment would sound just as good if we translated the word in many other ways. It is irritating to see the flawed study by Baldwin being quoted as evidence for anything. I would like to see something a little more scholarly.

Grudem has an interesting point here,
    When I referred to the meaning "misuse authority" in my first article, I also used the term, "domineer" to speak of such misuse. This was because the word "domineer" means, "To rule over or control arbitrarily or arrogantly; tyrannize."25 But this English word "domineer" must be distinguished from the word "dominate," which has no connotation of misuse of authority, but just means, "To control, govern, or rule by superior authority or power."26 Because "domineer" (a negative term) and "dominate" (a neutral term) sound so much alike in English, perhaps it is misleading to use "domineer" to indicate a misuse or abuse of authority .
Part of the difficulty is that there is no clear difference between "power" and "authority" in Greek. Possibly authentew could be translated as "dominate" in English and that would be acceptable to both sides. Complementarians would understand by it that a woman could not "govern by authority" , and egalitarians would understand that a woman could not "govern by power", because no one should "govern by power".

I don't see any point in lobbying for any particular interpretation at this point, but as a translation "dominate" seems to be a good "neutral" candidate. Maybe I will see it differently later. The way it stands now, complementarians have their interpretation and it restricts women, egalitarians have theirs and it entails equity. If neither one can be proven then we are each responsible for behaving according to our conscience.


8 comments:

Peter Kirk said...

I'm surprised that you and Grudem agree on calling "dominate" a neutral term. Here in Britain, while this word is not quite so negative as "domineer", it now has seriously negative connotations. "Dominate" means "To control, govern, or rule by superior authority or power" only with the qualification "in an overbearing way". If I read "a woman is not to dominate a man", I would say "of course, just as a man is not to dominate a woman". For among Christians, no one, not even those who have a right position of authority in the church, the home or the state, should dominate anyone else.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Peter,

I would certainly agree with you that dominate has a negative connotation. It has to do with one's view of the use of powere. Strangely Grudem describes this word as neutral.

However, the significance of this quote of Grudem's is that "dominate" might just be a word which both sides would agree woule translate authentein.

Egalitarians would note that nowhere in the scriptures should a leader dominate. Complementarians would say that the word has a neutral connotation and women are not to dominate, but that it means the same as authority. Actually, I am not sure what complementarians would do with the word, but Grudem seems to think it would be okay.

It seems to me it might be a compromise. It is intolerable to me that there is no way that egalitarians and complementarians can use the same Bible.

Obviously evidence for "exercise authority" is non-existent, but likewise evidence for anything doesn't exist either.

mike aubrey said...

"If neither one can be proven then we are each responsible for behaving according to our conscience."

Unfortunately, sometimes it seems as if some consider complementarianism as a necessary requisite for being evangelical...we are on the path to liberalism, you know.

Mike

Anonymous said...

Do you not find the conclusion of Wolters (in the article you refer to), his last paragraph in the body of text, to be already contradict your conclusion? Here's that paragraph, though a bit garbled here:

"Secondly, there seems to be no basis for the claim that auvqente,w in 1 Tim.2.12 has a pejorative connotation, as in ‘usurp authority’ or ‘domineer’. Although
it is possible to identify isolated cases of a pejorative use for both auvqente,w and auqv entia, , these are not found before the fourth century AD.135 Overwhelmingly, the authority to which auqv en, thj ‘master’and all its derivatives refer is a positive or neutral concept.136"

Here's a site for a clearer read:
http://www.cbmw.org/images/jbmw_pdf/11_1/semantic_study.pdf

tom

Anonymous said...

Do you not find the conclusion of Wolters (in the article you refer to), his last paragraph in the body of text, to be already contradict your conclusion? Here's that paragraph, though a bit garbled here:

"Secondly, there seems to be no basis for the claim that auvqente,w in 1 Tim.2.12 has a pejorative connotation, as in ‘usurp authority’ or ‘domineer’. Although
it is possible to identify isolated cases of a pejorative use for both auvqente,w and auqv entia, , these are not found before the fourth century AD.135 Overwhelmingly, the authority to which auqv en, thj ‘master’and all its derivatives refer is a positive or neutral concept.136"

Here's a site for a clearer read:
http://www.cbmw.org/images/jbmw_pdf/11_1/semantic_study.pdf

tom

Sue said...

Tom,

Wolters has done a funny thing. Regarding the only two occurrences of authentein that precede the NT he writes,

If we do read the verb, then its meaning here, according to standard lexicographical reference works, is ‘rule’ or ‘have authority over’. page 5

Note that he only refers back to a lexicon. He does not indicate that this meaning can be derived from the context, but only that the word authentein is used, and the lexicon has a certain entry. That is it. Very odd.

Here is the next,

The verb occurs here with the preposition pros, and is taken to mean ‘to have full power or
authority over’ by Liddell–Scott–Jones. Other standard lexica agree.
page 5

I shall address this in a new post tonight.

tom said...

hi...fair enough; though the standard lexica do base their judgments on local/contextual concerns as well as the broader historical issues of usage. This does not make their judgments inspired/authoritative, of course.

What translations do you propose for those passages? Perhaps this will be part of your coming post.

eager to hear,

tom

tom said...

p.s.

Just reading thru the comments again, I noted S said "Obviously evidence for "exercise authority" is non-existent, but likewise evidence for anything doesn't exist either." Do you just mean with regard to the 'non-existent fragment'?

Perhaps you might clarify how/why the Wolter's article and the others cited therein offer 'no such evidence', at least with regard to the general usages of this word family.

And I still don't see why his conclusion re (mostly, almost entirely, he says "overwhelmingly") non-negative connotations isn't valid. Does he not give lots of evidence that the pre-4th Century usages are non-prejorative / non-negative, i.e. do not mean 'usurp' / domineer, etc.?

I'm joining the conversation a bit late here, but let me ask: if you were to propose the 'non-restrictive' reading of authentein (i.e. not 'usurp authority')--which I gather you do propose--what evidence do you cite? Do you somewhere suggest positive evidence or simply the lack of evidence? I see your point re lack of evidence with regard to the 'missing fragment'; but what about all the other evidence Wolters and others cite? Do you or others also go thru all the usages as did Wolters and reinterpret them? I'd like to see and compare such efforts, if they are available.