Sunday, January 11, 2009

ESV Study Bible on authentein

Here is a selection from the ESV Study Bible on 1 Tim. 2:12. HT Evangelical Village. I have bolded one particular sentence.

    1 Tim. 2:12 I do not permit. Paul self-consciously writes with the authority of an apostle (e.g., 1 Thess. 4:1; 2 Thess. 3:6), rather than simply offering an opinion. This statement is given in the context of Paul’s apostolic instructions to the church for the ordering of church practice when the church is assembled together. In that context, two things are prohibited: (1) Women are not permitted to publicly teach Scripture and/or Christian doctrine to men in church (the context implies these topics), and (2) women are not permitted to exercise authority over men in church. (The reference for both “teaching” and “exercise authority” here is within the context of the assembled church.)

    Women teaching other women, and women teaching children, are not in view here, and both are encouraged elsewhere (on women teaching women, cf. Titus 2:4; on women teaching children, cf. 2 Tim. 1:5). Nor does this passage have in view the role of women in leadership situations outside the church (e.g., business or government).

    The presence of the word or (Gk. oude) between “to teach” and “to exercise authority” indicates that two different activities are in view, not a single activity of “authoritative teaching.” “Exercise authority” represents Greekauthenteō, found only here in the NT. Over 80 examples of this word exist outside the NT, however, clearly establishing that the meaning is “exercise authority” (not “usurp authority” or “abuse authority,” etc., as sometimes has been argued).

    Since the role of pastor/elder/overseer is rooted in the task of teaching and exercising authority over the church, this verse would also exclude women from serving in this office (cf. 1 Tim. 3:2). Thus when Paul calls for the women to be quiet, he means “quiet” with respect to the teaching responsibility that is limited in the assembled church. Paul elsewhere indicates that women do speak in other ways in the church assembly (see 1 Cor. 11:5). See also note on 1 Cor. 14:34–35.
Now I would like to cite the well known complementarian scholar Dr. Kostengerger on the lexical evidence for the meaning of authentein. On Between Two Worlds he responded to a series of questions on 1 Tim. 2:12. Once again, I have bolded the relevant sentences.

    Second, H. S. Baldwin takes up the matter of the likely meaning of authentein. The KJV translates this word “usurp authority,” and more recently many feminists, such as I. H. Marshall, have argued that the word has a negative connotation. If so, they say, Paul prohibited only women’s negative exercise of authority in the church, as well as women’s false teaching, not their exercise of these functions, properly conceived. Baldwin’s study shows that authentein was an exceedingly rare word in NT times that occurs in the NT only in 1 Tim 2:12 and elsewhere only once or twice prior to the writing of 1 Timothy.

    3. So, then, in the case of 1 Tim 2:12, is the word study method by itself inconclusive?

    Yes, I believe that’s right. The fact that lexical study in this case, owing to the limited data, of necessity remains inconclusive leads naturally to the next chapter in the book,
I am concerned at the impression of near certainty that the ESV Study Bible communicates to its readers. There is no evidence that warrants this. When dealing with the word of God, used as law in the lives of many people, it is a serious issue when information which is vague and indecisive is presented as solid and trustworthy. I wish to let people know that the ESV Study Bible does not always reflect the consensus of scholarship.


mike said...

That's crazy!

Suzanne, if you want to point this out to the author, Ray Van Neste's blog is here:

Lynne said...

.. but not all that surprising, unfortunately ..

Peter Kirk said...

"Women teaching other women, and women teaching children, are not in view here, and both are encouraged elsewhere ..."

Interesting logic here. So if we were to find a place "elsewhere" which can be interpreted as woman being encouraged to teach men (and which is just as debatable and of uncertain relevance as 2 Timothy 1:5), would that be allowed to trump any apparent prohibition in this verse? Or is there hermeneutic that the message of a verse can be ignored in particular cases when we say it can, and not in cases when we say it can't?

Lin said...

Peter, my thoughts exactly.

Nathan Wells said...

It is important to note the difference in terms of where the word "authentein" is being found.

"Over 80 examples of this word exist outside the NT"

"Baldwin’s study shows that authentein was an exceedingly rare word in NT times that occurs in the NT only in 1 Tim 2:12 and elsewhere only once or twice prior to the writing of 1 Timothy."

One is all uses outside the NT and the other is uses before the writing of 1 Timothy.

Just thought I would point that out.

Why does Baldwin think the only uses of "authentein" that help in determining its meaning those that occurred before the writing of 1 Timothy?

Clearly that is an incomplete and therefore faulty word study.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


It is complementarians who have for the most part limited the relevance to the uses of authentein before the NT. The number of occurrences always varies from article to article, since some of the occurrences have been debatable. One is a recontructed fragment, one is in a family letter, another used in astronomy, and some only in manuscripts of earlier writing but the manuscript itself is very late. They are all much debated.

But it is important to note that among the later occurrences of authentein are some very negative uses, and so complementarian scholars have ruled these as not being evidence. This restriction is considered to the benefit of complementarians. Do you have a copy of Schreiner and Kostenberger?

The problem with that book, I believe is that it depends on the Philodemus reference to prove the meaning of "to have authority" but actually Philodemus doesn't say that. use authentein that way.

Ask me a more specific question and perhaps we can look at something together. Most occurrences of authentein have come up on my blog at some time or other. I would be glad to answer a specific question.

Nathan Wells said...

Thanks for the reply Suzanne,

I don't have a copy of Schreiner and Kostenberger, but the resources you have on your site are very good, and helped me look at the evidence you stated.

This one is especially interesting (for others reading):

One question, not really related to authentein, but of interest to me is if Paul was only saying women should not usurp a man's authority (or maybe I am mistaken here), why does he say it only to women and not to men? Don't men have just as much a problem with rebellion as women? And would it be ok for a man to usurp those in authority?

Thanks for your time! And for your blog!

Suzanne McCarthy said...


Suddenly I recognize you from the BBB. Good to see you again.

In regard to 1 Tim. 2, Paul also told men to never fight, but we know that women fight also. Why did Paul address only men with regard to fighting?

Also clearly in 1 Peter 5:3 this rule of not lording it over others was directed to the church leaders,

"not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock."

I don't really have a theory of what exactly the author is talking about in 1 Tim. 2. Even the very best Greek exegetes cannot agree on the meaning of 1 Tim. 2:15. I realize that for some it is very frustrating to not be able to resolve the meaning of a particular passage, but on the other hand, we must be honest when we don't know what something is referring to.

I think at a certain point it is best to use a little common sense. Most would agree that a woman may write a commentary and a man may read it. Does God really hold that this is different from a woman teaching? What does this argument look like from God's point of view, considering that he made women with equal intellect and discernment?