Sunday, December 14, 2008

request re authentein

This is a request post. I too find authentein to be of limited interest. But someone asked me about this. In my opinion the lengthy discussion of the syntax of 1 Tim. 2:12 is of limited interest because it cannot be proven that authentein could have a positive connotation. No one has shown that it could refer to using godly authority as a leader.

I think it is important to point out the careful nuancing on this issue by Kostenberger. First he writes,
That conclusion, in short, is that the expression “or” (oude) in 1 Tim 2:12 joins two expressions that are positive, “teaching” and “having or exercising authority.” This means that Paul, when saying, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man” (TNIV), did not merely speak out against women teaching false doctrine or women lording it over men (while saying it was OK for men to do so?!?). No, Paul did not want women even to engage in the kind of teaching or exercise of authority that was appropriate if exercised by qualified men in the church (see, e.g., 1 Tim 3:2; 5:17).
Wayne then comments,
It is true that context determines whether some verbs have a positive or negative connotation. But there are many examples in the lexicon of English, as well as other languages, where some verbs are intrinsically positive or negative. Lexicography is one of my areas of focus as a linguist, and semantic compositional analysis and other lexical tools show that Payne and you are both right.

Here are some English verbs (or predicate adjectives, which function as verbs in English and as full verbs in many languages) which are intrinsically negative:

smells (it has become pejorative)
kicked the bucket (negative idiom)

Cognitive experiments have been conducted in a number of cognitive science departments and subjects consistently have negative connotations for some words and positive connotations for others, in context-free environments.

Kostenberger responds,
Thank you, Wayne, for your comment. While what you say is generally true, in the case of the use of didaskein and authentein in 1 Tim 2:12, in conjunction with oude, it does not appear that these verbs are of such a nature that they transparently and unequivocally convey a positive or negative connotation apart from consultation of the context and syntax of the passage. Also, one ought not to underestimate the possibility that an otherwise positive word is given a negative contextual connotation or vice versa.
It is clear that using an appeal to context one can build a case that women were being asked not to do something that men should not do either. After all, women aren't supposed to argue either but only the men were asked not to argue. Ben Witherington makes that case here. My one disagreement with his post is that we now know that there is no evidence that authentein means to have authority in a good way. There is no evidence for that.

If authentein has a negative connotation then no amount of writing about the syntax and context can undo that.

For me 1 Timothy 2 is a passage which appears to apply to a situation for which we do not have the background. We do not know what the men were doing or what the women were doing. There is no injunction against women being involved in godly leadership.


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Suzanne
Have you read this article on 1 Timothy 2:12 recently published in New Testament Studies, 1 Tim 2.12 and the Use of oujdev to Combine
Two Elements to Express a Single Idea, by PHILIP B. PAYNE
PO Box 580, Edmonds, WA 98020–0580, USA, and located at ?

Suzanne McCarthy said...


I did read the article, in fact, just before writing this post. It seems very possible that the author of the epistle is using authentein to make specific what he meant by didaskein.

Whether it is two verbs to express a single idea or two verbs which must have the same force, the conclusion depends on coming back to whether there is any case to be made for autentein having a positive connotation. I do not think that this is possible, nor has anyone demonstrated it.

So, I thought Payne's article was excellent with this one exception. Very possibly Origen did not believe that women could have a leadership role in church. He may still have used this verse to prevent women from full participation. This proves nothing much either way to me.

I do not believe that there is a definitive interpretation for 1 Tim. 2 at least for me. In spite of all the very persuasive writing on 1 Tim. 2:15 for example, I cannot say definitely that I know what it means. Likewise for 1 Tim 2:12. I am just going to have to remain agnostic for now, with the simple proviso that complementarians do not have the evidence to support their case.

Thanks for reading my blog.