Thursday, August 07, 2008

Not lording it over 1 Peter 5:3

Once again there has been a post on Between Two Worlds on 1 Tim. 2:12 featuring Dr. Kostenberger's interpretation of that verse. It is interesting to me that no less than 15 other blogs have linked to that post. It indicates that there is a strong thirst for a justification for restricting women's roles.

I entered the fray and as usual have found that my knowledge is deepened as I peruse other resources for ways to present this topic to the non-reader of Greek.

Here is where to start. The entries from the BDAG and Louw and Nida lexicons,
    “to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to” (BDAG 150). Louw and Nida elaborate further, suggesting that the appropriate rendering for authenteo in 1 Tim 2:12 is “to control, to domineer” or “to control in a domineering manner” (37.21).
Next, one can look at the primary evidence. I have done so. However, to save you time, we can note that Dr. Kostenberger remarks that there are only one or two occurrences of this word early enough to be used as evidence. The one certain citation is listed in the original study by Baldwin under the meaning of "to compel, to influence someone." and Grudem agrees with the translation "compel." (Ev. Fem & Biblical Truth. page 677 - 680.) According to Grudem other translators suggest "prevail" and mention that this is a hostile relationship involving insolence.

The other occurrence of authenteo at the time, in Philodemus, is now agreed upon as reconstructed with meaning unknown. That is why Dr. Kostenberger hesitates to claim two occurrences. Later evidence demonstrates that authenteo tends to have a negative connotation, more often than not.

Third, Dr. Kostenberger claims that the two verbs in 1 Tim. 2:12 must either both have a negative connotation or both a positive connotation. Most people agree with this. However, where Dr. Kostenberger says that didaskein "virtually always" has a positive connotation, others note that in Titus 1:11, didaskein does have a negative connotation. Therefore, it is more likely that authenteo and didaskein both have a negative connotation in this verse.

Fourth, Dr. Kostenberger assumes that the meaning of authentein is somewhat synonymous with having a leadership role in the church. However, previous translations show that this is a recent assumption. The Latin Vulgate has dominare and Luther's Bible has herrschen - "to lord it over."

In 1 Peter 5:3 these two words dominare and herrschen are found again. For both Jerome and Luther, the word in 1 Tim. 2:12 was not a synonym for pastoring but was a synonym for "domineering" over someone else, as in 1 Peter 5:3,
    not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. ESV
These are not translations of the same word in Greek. 1 Tim. 2:12 has authenteo and 1 Peter 5:3 has katakurieuo. However, we can say that Jerome and Luther thought that these words were synonymous and respectively translated both these words identically with a word meaning "to lord it over."

How did the English translations come to have "have authority" in 1 Tim. 2:12 then? In 1516, Erasmus provided the Greek text of the New Testament in printed form in parallel with his translation into Latin. He translated authenteo as "authoritatem usurpare." The Latin lexicons list usurpare as "use, seize, grab, take, have, exercise." From that, some translators derived the meaning "to have authority" and others, such as the KJV, as "to usurp authority."

I suggest that 1 Tim. 2 :12 ought to properly be translated as,
    I do not permit a woman to teach or to domineer over a man; rather, she is to be quiet.
I am aware that this does not resolve all the hermeneutical and pragmatic difficulties of the passage. However it does provide us with a starting place.

For further reading, I suggest

Belleville, Linda. Teaching and Usurping Authority: 1 Timothy 2:11-15" (Ch 12) in Discovering Biblical Equality.

And these posts by Ben Witherington and Emily Hunter McGowin.


tcrob said...

Sue, I admire your diligence in resolving the translation issues in some of these debates. We need to pay attention to the lexical data.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to me that no less than 15 other blogs have linked to that post. It indicates that there is a strong thirst for a justification for restricting women's roles.

I must take issue with the highlighted phrase. I don't know about other's motives, but I can tell you that my linking to the referenced post has nothing to do with that. I simply want to understand what the Bible teaches on the matter. If the Bible teaches that women are not to teach or have authority over a man, and I believe it does, then that's what I'll believe.

Clix said...


I don't see that Suzanne is saying that you're not allowed to believe what you do. Rather, she observes that quite a few people have linked to the post, and infers that they have done so because it provides support for that belief.

believer333 said...

How do you know that the Bible teaches that women are not to teach or have authority over a man. Do you base that on only the 8 Greek words in 1 Timothy 2 which many believe pertain to a specific set of circumstances and not a new restriction for women? if so how do you explain Deborah, Huldah, Phoebe, Priscilla, Junia.

Don said...


Keep up the good work, you have some great insights.