Friday, May 09, 2008

To dictate to

Is this the proper exercise of authority in the church? Many suggest that it is. They say that a woman shall not teach or "exercise authority" over a man. 1 Tim. 2:12. And they infer from this that a woman should not have a leadership role in the church. Even those who believe that a woman should have leadership in church still think that this is what this verse says. Hmm.

Here is the verse,
    διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός ἀλλ' εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
However, the BDAG has,
    authenteo, (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 BC]; 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) avndro,j, w. dida,skein, 1 Ti 2:12 (practically = ‘tell a man what to do‘[Jerusalem Bible]; Mich. Glykas [XII AD] 270, 10 ai` gunai/kej auvqentou/si t. avndrw/n. According to Diod. S. 1, 27, 2 there was a well-documented law in Egypt: j, cp. Soph., OC 337-41; GKnight III, NTS 30, ’84, 143-57; LWilshire, ibid. 34, ’88, 120-34).—DELG s.v. authenteo. M-M.
In fact, every Bible translator knows that this is the lexical meaning for authenteo in 1 Tim. 2:12.

This verse was translated over the centuries as a synonym for the Hebrew mashal "to rule" or "be a tyrant" in Gen. 3:16. So how does this look, if we put Gen. 3:16 and 1 Tim. 2:12 together?
    καὶ πρὸς τὸν ἄνδρα σου ἡ ἀποστροφή σου καὶ αὐτός σου κυριεύσει LXX

    διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός GNT

    et sub viri potestate eris et ipse dominabitur tui Jerome's Vulgate

    ocere autem mulieri non permitto neque dominari in virum Jerome's Vulgate

    und dein Verlangen soll nach deinem Manne sein, und er soll dein Herr sein. Luther

    Einem Weibe aber gestatte ich nicht, daß sie lehre, auch nicht, daß sie des Mannes Herr sei Luther

    and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. KJV

    But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, KJV

    Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." ESV

    I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; ESV

So where did the switch come from? Erasmus, in 1516, paraphrased Jerome's Vulgate and wrote, "authoritatem usurpare" instead of "dominari" and then Tyndale, in 1525, translated the Latin of Erasmus as "to have auctoritie" and the KJV, 1611, as "to usurp authority."

There never has been any evidence that authentein meant "to have authority" in a positive sense, or it would be quoted in articles, I would assume. In fact, I believe that Tyndale simply misunderstood how usurpare was to be translated.

It is also worth noting that Erasmus did not translate the Hebrew scriptures so he may have been unaware of how Jerome had made the Hebrew mashal and the Greek authentein synonymous in his translation.

There is good reason for Jerome doing this. Each of these words are used for astronomical bodies.
    And God made the two great lights: the greater light to rule (mashal) the day, and the lesser light to rule (mashal) the night; and the stars.

    Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos III.13 [#157] (second century A.D.): "Therefore, if Saturn alone takes planetary control of the soul and dominates (authenteō ) Mercury and the moon ..." Gen. 1:16
I suggest that Jerome was right in translating authenteo as dominari. I often wonder if there is adequate evidence to consider "to have authority" as an alternative meaning for authentein, but so far I haven't seen any. I don't think authentein refers in any way to the proper exercise of leadership in either church or home. We should simply accept the meaning as presented in the BDAG, if there is no contrary evidence. Just my thoughts.

I hope others can make use of this. I am tired of knowing that those who read the scriptures in English see something different from what I see. It makes me feel alone.

I have written more about the lexical evidence here.


John Hobbins said...


thanks for all the detailed information. If BDAG is correct, we should translate (with JB, but not NJB, which reverted to the more common 'have authority over'):

I do not permit a woman to teach or to tell a man what to do.

That captures the sense well, I think. But it doesn't say what I think you want the text to say, that is:

I do not permit a woman to teach in a domineering way.

On this interpretation, a woman may teach in worship (see context) so long as she doesn't do so in a domineering way.

But I find that interpretation unlikely. If that is all Paul had in mind, he would never have gone as he does for several verses with audacious reasoning in which he suggests that a woman is saved through childbearing. Really now? At least we have many clear passages of Paul that say something rather different. But everything else we find in the pastorals is consistent with the notion that women, perhaps on account of some scandal, were not permitted to teach in worship any longer. There seems to be no openness whatsoever to the idea that they might be presbyters or bishops.

Openness to women in prophetic, teaching, and diaconal roles has often given way in the history of the church to later prohibitions. That happened among the Waldensians as well. At first both men and women participated in the itinerant preaching ministry. But it wasn't long before only men were allowed to do so.

The same arteriosclerotic dynamic is visible within the New Testament and has been traced in detail by NT scholars such as Elizabeth Schlusser Fiorenza and Bonnie Thurston.

That poses a problem, I realize, for someone without a hermeneutic capable of thinking about the dynamic historically.

As you know, Suzanne, I favor the ordination of women as presbyters and bishops. But I favor it from the scriptural point of view in spite of 1 Tim 2:12, on the basis of other passages, beginning with the prophecy of Joel which we remember again this Pentecost Sunday.

The prophecy of Joel belongs to the present and the future according to an interpretation of scripture which knows how to weigh passages and not just read them in isolation from one another. 1 Tim 2:12 should not be allowed to trump the prophecy.

A minor point: mashal and dominari are also used in reference to the positive exercise of authority. In short, I don't think Jerome's translation proves much of anything. It's plain irrelevant. Jerome of course understood both ocere and dominari, if effected by women in mixed company, to be negative and improper acts.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Likely women had more leadership roles in other contexts than in this epistle. However, you do not show how mashal or authentein can be interpreted as proper church leadership. In fact, Paul never said that he had authority "over" people but only that he was given authority to build up.

I do not find that the gospels teach this kind of authority either. Authentein has a continued history of negative meaning and until this is investigated we can't really go further.

It seems likely to me that the presbyters were all men in Timothy but I think there were many informal women leaders in the church in scriptures.

Don't forget that this passage is used to put women in the role of "responder" to men as "leaders." It is not so much to exclude women from formal leadership but to exclude women from having the "bent" or "disposition" of leadership at all. That was the argument. It sounds like Aristotle, that men have the courage of command and women the virtue of subordination.

Women is not just a leader but in an informal way, but she is not even created with leadership potential. She is the follower to man the leader. I am sorry, John, but that is what is being taught from this verse, and I do not see this as supported in scripture.

Another significant problem is that Jerome et al thought that woman was not to lead because of the fall. But today it is taught that women were created for the lower end of the hierarchy - it is in God's good design to create a subordinate woman. A woman who is not happy with the subordination of her will is perverse and rebellious.

This is an important part of the teaching of complementarianism and I would have hoped that others would want to distance themselves from this teaching of subjection in paradise.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

PS if someone thinks a woman is saved by childbearing there are even bigger problems!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your brave participation on the P&P blog. I knew in my spirit there were problems with this passage for a variety of reasons (hints from scripture that something was amiss somewhere) but lacked the education to know just what. I believe Michael was wrong to reprimand you. You were not rude especially by comparison to others he has let slide in other posts. I need to go but just wanted to thank you for sticking in there.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks. I am sorry to see people deprive women of normal leadership functions on the basis of this one verse.

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I have to say that you are putting words in my mouth in some places in your comment. I don't have time to revisit this now, but no I don't recommend translating it as,

I do not permit a woman to teach in a domineering way.

I come much closer to your interpretation, but also suggest that it is inappropriate to make this verse with the word authentein in it a universal proof text against female leadership of the proper kind.

I would recommend

I do not permit a woman to teach and domineer.

That is, the author thought of women teaching as domineering so he wanted to shut them down. But this is not the same as saying "no woman ever can have leadership in a mixed group because of the created differences between men and women"

That is what is being taught now. We clearly agree that this is not right.

J. K. Gayle said...

I hope others can make use of this. I am tired of knowing that those who read the scriptures in English see something different from what I see. It makes me feel alone.

Both this post and your related post on the absolute scarcity of αὐθεντεῖν before Paul uses it are very important. Thank you for sharing your research, the clear evidence. It is useful. You are not alone in seeing it as useful--I think several of us need to use it.

Bill Heroman said...

"We read to know we're not alone." :)

Hello again, Suzanne. I hope you get to see my comment at jk's blog.

I SO know what you mean about feeling alone in vision. But to be honest, I'm a bit out of my league in the word studies you're doing. One question: why do you say "where's the switch" when Moses wrote hebrew and Paul wrote in greek? Do you mean a conceptual switch? Maybe you could specify what "switch" you mean.(?)

I must also admit I usually forget the words "or have authority over" are part of the verse. I guess I often forget that, actually.

In my personal belief & opinion, there's a very real sense in which none of us should "have authority over" any other person. Certainly never absolute total personal authority, at least.

I'm not sure Paul would have let a man "have authority over" a woman, either. And the Lord Jesus told his twelve (male) apostles not to "lord it over" ANYONE, so that includes women!

Now, with husbands and wives there might possibly be a different context for the debate, at least. Maybe Moses' Quotation of God has to do with the specifics of a marriage contract. Ancient or modern? I'm not getting into that one, though. My wife won't let me! ;)

Seriously, though. "Gyne" can be translated "wife" sometimes, right? Is there any chance the Timothy verse means "over her husband"? Plausibly?



Perhaps (in Ephesus in 59 AD) Alexander & Hymenaeus were spreading rumors like "Remember how Paul used to let Priscilla run her marriage and tell Aquilla what to do?" (Among the other views they were spreading.) I actually think there are very solid grounds to persue that scenario. It's plausible, at least... even if may not explain the whole statement.

But I have other ideas, too...

IMHO, the only reason NOT to at least suspend judment on that Timothy verse (as a man) is to benefit from using it as ammunition.

AND yes, I say that as a conservative! :)

Bill Heroman said...

Correction. 57 AD.
Trust me on that! ;)

Suzanne McCarthy said...


You have shared a lot of good thoughts. One thing I think is misunderstood by some is that they assume that I have a particular interpretation of the verse already worked out. I don't. I just want to establish the possible meaning of the word.

It was a negative word and was not used for leadership in church. It was not a "good thing" for a man to do and a "bad thing" for a woman to do. It was simply a bad thing to do.

I don't like the way it is used to forbid women proper leadership or any role of "authoritative teaching." That is ridiculous. The only authority one has in teaching is if one is properly informed and accurate.

Anyway, you have lots of good thoughts on this. I'll keep them in mind and they may surface later.

Bill Heroman said...

Now THAT is interesting. I must admit, I think I missed that too. Fascinating, and I think I like your style.

Btw, is the meaning "possible" or definite? Is it "possibly" a negative word or definitely, "It was a negative word..." Cause that would make a difference.

I'll have to go re-read your post now.

Oh, but I just remembered my other idea on Ephesus! And (of all things) it actually has to do with Junia!

First of all, I believe Acts 20:2 is a list of Paul's trainees who sat under his feet at the school of Tyranus for (nearly) two years. I also believe Erastus, Andronicus & Junia belong on that list too, but they were in Macedonia, Rome & Rome (respectively) at the time Paul left Corinth (April, 57).

My Point (assuming I'm right) is that Paul, in Ephesus, trained a woman to become an Apostle! Now, of course he didn't train her one-on-one. That would have been considered improper. But he did train her.

And then he left town with all his trainees and Alexander & Hymenaeus stepped in and started telling bad stories about Paul and his co-workers/trainees.

Somehow, the Ephesus community was having controversy about the idea of women apostleship, after the fact.

And with Priscilla & Junia suddenly gone now, it gave a couple of power-hungry MEN something else to rant about.

Maybe. :)

Suzanne McCarthy said...

More good thoughts. I have to reflect on this.

I say that authentein was a negative word when used of anyone except God. Only God could "have absolute power over." So, it doesn't really mean to "abuse power" but to have complete power over. This is not something that a human should ever have, therefore, negative if the subject is human.

Peter Kirk said...

Tyndale, in 1525, translated the Latin of Erasmus

Really? Are you sure? I always thought he translated the Greek of Erasmus, or rather of the text compiled by Erasmus. And in this particular verse the evidence supports this, for how could "authoritatem usurpare" be translated "to have auctoritie"? The easiest understanding of what Tyndale did here is that he didn't even look at Erasmus' Latin.

Why do you have such a thing about 16th century Latin translations, repeatedly trying to insist that translations into other languages are based on them and not on the Greek and Hebrew? I have never seen anyone else even suggest this as a possibility.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

The Greek and Latin were published side by side, I understand. I haven't seen one yet, but hope to sometime. DO you really think that Tyndale put a sheet of paper over the Latin side and did not peep?

And if you look in a Latin dictionary you will see that use, get, seize, usurp, exercise and have are all in the entry for usurpare. Wallace thinks that Tyndale knew Greek better than Erasmus but I thought Erasmus was a Greek scholar. What do you think? Wolters thinks the Latin was an influence also.

Why do you have such a thing about 16th century Latin translations, repeatedly trying to insist that translations into other languages are based on them and not on the Greek and Hebrew? I have never seen anyone else even suggest this as a possibility.

And that, Peter, would be the whole point. Not much use just writing what everyone else has already said.

Actually I am not the first. Katherine Bushnell blames Pagnini for "desire" in Gen. 3:16, but by and large people have this fantasy about how well people who translate the Bible actually know Greek and Hebrew. I think those who do original research and don't just crib from somewhere else are few and far between.

Bill Heroman said...

Thanks for the dialogue today, all. I was home with my sick daughter, but I usually don't get so much time. Just know that if I don't get around much, it's because I actually have to work for a living! (Jealous fuming ensues) ;)

But I've enjoyed the day. Thanks again - Peter, Suzanne & jk.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I work for a living also so I am not quite sure who you are jealous of. I also have kids and yes, like you I am not at work today. Quite unusual. The dialogue was fun.

Peter Kirk said...

Suzanne, fair enough. You may indeed be on to something that others have missed. It's just that I would like to see it properly demonstrated rather than just thrown in as an assumption. I admit that when I check translations (not into English) from my Greek-English NT I look at the English pages as much as at the Greek.

Bill, I'm afraid I am one of those objects of your jealousy. But I can only get away without working because I don't have a daughter or any other family to look after. That's what sometimes leads me to jealous fuming.