- In the Commission’s view the English Standard Version accurately translates 1 Timothy 2:12: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.”
In fact, of 82 examples of authentein in the Baldwin report, only one precedes the epistle to Timothy. (The next occurrence is one century after the epistle, and refers to astronomy.)
- BGU 1208 (first century B.C.): "I had my way with him [authenteō ] and he agreed to provide Calatytis the boatman with the full payment within the hour."
However, on his blog, Biblical Foundations, in this post, 1 Timothy 2:12—Once More, 06-16-06, Kostenberger writes,
- the likelihood was suggested that “exercise authority” (Grk. authentein) carries a neutral or positive connotation, but owing to the scarcity of the term in ancient literature (the only NT occurrence is 1 Tim. 2:12; found only twice preceding the NT in extrabiblical literature) no firm conclusions could be reached on the basis of lexical study alone.
- 41These two references are: Philodemus (1st cent. BCE): “Ought we not to consider that men who incur the enmity of those in authority (συν αυθεντουσιν) are villains, and hated by both gods and men”;
and BGU 1208 (27 BCE): “I exercised authority (Καμου αυθεντηκοτος) over him, and he consented to provide for Calatytis the Boatman on terms of full fare, within the hour.” For full Greek texts and translations, see Baldwin, “Appendix 2” in Women in the Church, 275–76. (in the PDF page 13)
For Kostenberger, the second piece of evidence, BGU 1208, has the phrase "exercise authority." This is a strange thing to say if you are an average citizen without any official capacity, but you made sure that someone else did something within an hour. The letter that this line is taken from is one of a collection of family letters with no reference to official capacity. It would be best to understand that authentein means simply "made him" or "compelled him" as even Grudem admits in Ev. Feminism and Biblical Truth.
So, in sum, the one piece of evidence is rather negative, and not, as Kostenberger says, "neutral or positive." However, Kostenberger does admit that, "no firm conclusions could be reached on the basis of lexical study alone." I conclude that Kostengerger's research does not offer sufficient basis for agreeing that authentein could mean "to exercise authority over" in a neutral or positive sense.
Another important study quoted by the LCMS study is that of Al Wolters. However, his study covered the cognates of authentein and only referred summarily to authentein. Because of the vagueness of Wolters' conclusions in that study I emailed him and received this response,
- I've puzzled long and hard over authentew in BGU 1208 and in the Philodemus fragment. Although most of the lexicographical authorities seem to give it the meaning "have authority over" in those contexts, I don't think anyone can really be sure. Most people ... are too sure about their conclusions in this regard. I do think it's quite well established that authentes and its cognates often have to do with mastery and authority.
One study which was not considered by the LCMS report was "Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15" (Ch 12) by Linda L. Belleville in Discovering Biblical Equality, 2004, ed. Pierce and Groothuis.
In this study Belleville provides the information which I used to find the original publication of the Philodemus fragment and establish that it is not readily translatable. She examines the translation of authentein through the centuries and concludes that Jerome's choice of wording seems most appropriate. The Vulgate translates 1 Tim. 2:12,
- docere autem mulieri non permitto neque dominari in virum sed esse in silentio
- So there is no first century warrant for translating authentein as "to exercise authority" and for understanding Paul in 1 Timothy 2:12 to be speaking of the carrying out of one's official duties. Rather the sense is the Koine "to dominate, to get one's way." The NIV's "to have authority over" therefore must be understood in the sense of holding sway or mastery over another. This is supported by the grammar of the verse. If Paul had a routine exercise of authority in view, he would have put it first, followed by authentein as a specific example. Given this word order, authentein as a specific example. Given this word order, authentein meaning "to dominate"or "gain the upper hand of" provides the best fit in the context. Discovering Biblical Equality, page 216-217
It appears from a careful review of all the evidence that there was no connection between the word authentein and the holding of church office or exercising leadership functions. Therefore, this verse should not be quoted, as it often is, to keep women from leadership roles, or to place women under the authority of their husbands.
When assessing a matter of accuracy in Biblical studies it is important to review at least a sample of the evidence independently in order to determine its reliability. Do not depend on the conclusions alone. I feel that pastors should keep up with the best of current scholarship on gender issues, and I would highly recommend Discovering Biblical Equality by Pierce and Groothuis.
I appreciate that many people bring a hermeneutic to the scriptures which accords equal function to women. However, others do not. We are in the best position to serve the church well if we start off with an accurate assessment of the evidence. There is no sense in which this review of authentein is intended to go against the rest of scripture. It is clear that Paul welcomed "leading women" into the early church, and so should we.
- And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. Acts 17:4 ESV