1 Timothy 2:12 is a controversial verse indeed; its controversy is seen in how many translations of this verse exist. Kostenberger and fellow editor, Thomas Schreiner, translate the verb “authentein” in 1 Tim. 2:12 as “to have authority” (pg. 62, Women in the Church). The NASB, ESV, and the Darby Translation all record that “authentein” means “to exercise authority.” It seems as if most (if not all) translations have something to do with “authority” or “power.”
In my last post on “Authentein—the X Factor,” I used a mathematical equation to help solve the problem of what “authentein” means in 1 Timothy 2:12. In this post, however, we’re gonna look at different translations of the Greek infinitive (authentein) and see why they are inadequate to explain why Paul appeals to the Genesis account.
Here are a few definitions for “authentein”:
(a) To have authority
(b) To exercise authority
(c) To be the origin of
(d) To domineer
There are others out there, but these are probably the four most common interpretations of “authentein.”
First, let’s look at the meaning “to have authority,” placing it [and each of the definitions to come] in their proper context.
According to translators who stick with this definition (such as the NIV), this definition has a problem with the Law. If women are not allowed to “have authority” over a man, and then Paul gives the Genesis account as the reason for the prohibition, what does “having authority” have to do with Eve being deceived?
I have a possible idea that runs through the translators’ minds—“Although Adam was formed first and given authority over Eve, she took authority over Adam—and look at the disaster Eve caused. When the serpent went to Eve, he was undermining the leadership of the marriage and home given by God.”
Let’s examine this: when did Adam have authority over his wife? Does he receive it when they marry in Genesis 2? According to the complementarian, he does. Genesis 2:19(ESV) says,
“19(S) Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed[f] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and(T) brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name.”
The Lord decides to let Adam name the animals. This shows that Adam has privileges as the first human. Adam is given authority in the Garden because of the decision from the Council of the Trinity in Genesis 1:
“26Then God said,(O) "Let us make man[h] in our image,(P) after our likeness. And(Q) let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him;(R) male and female he created them.
28And God blessed them. And God said to them,(S) "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth"” (Genesis 1:26-28, ESV).
However, notice that the woman isn’t excluded. God said, “Let THEM have dominion over the earth,” not “Let HIM have dominion…” If God clearly wanted to establish Adam’s authority (since Adam was naming the animals) over his wife, then God could have done it here. Better yet, let’s look at the marriage of Adam and Eve:
18Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone;(R) I will make him a helper fit for[e] him." 19(S) Now out of the ground the LORD God had formed[f] every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and(T) brought them to the man to see what he would call them. And whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. 20The man gave names to all livestock and to the birds of the heavens and to every beast of the field. But for Adam[g] there was not found a helper fit for him. 21So the LORD God caused a(U) deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. 22And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made[h] into a woman and brought her to the man. 23Then the man said, "This at last is(V) bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh;she shall be called Woman, because she was(W) taken out of Man."[i]
Adam gets to name Eve, like he gets to name all the animals of the Garden. This shows, however, that Adam was given federal headship over the human race—he gets to name Eve, human #2, of the race. However, this is no demonstration of his authority over Eve; for where do we read that this is God’s justification for the wives to submit to their husbands? Never is there any reference throughout the rest of the canon to this moment (the moment of Adam naming his wife, Eve) to be the reason why the man was to “be lord” over his wife. Adam’s lordship over his wife does not occur until Genesis 3:16, where God gives Eve her punishment for her sin. So Eve didn’t have any authority over her husband. However, if Eve had any authority, Adam gave it to her. Notice what he says when God confronts him first (as the one who heard God directly) about his sin:
“17And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree(R) of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,'(S) cursed is the ground because of you;” (Genesis 3:17ff)
If Eve had any authority, it is because Adam made her the authority. God tells Adam when He confronts him that God Himself was the authority, but instead of listening to God, Adam listened to his wife, Eve.
Adam listening to Eve, however, was a sin because Eve wasn’t there in the Garden when God gave Adam the command. Adam, however, heard the voice of God and yet, listened to someone who didn’t hear God’s voice.
The next meaning for “authentein” is “to exercise authority.” Eve didn’t have any authority over Adam (as established above), so she couldn’t exercise any. After all, how can you USE power that you don’t HAVE?
The next definition of “authentein” is “to domineer.” How does Eve domineer her husband? Does she step over him when he’s talking to the serpent and answer the questions? Does she take the fruit away from Adam, make the decision, and then pass it back to Adam? No—she doesn’t do any of these things. Complementarians who argue this position argue that Eve took authority away from Adam—it was Adam’s job to make the decision, and he didn’t step in to correct his wife. However, this could have easily occurred had Adam been responsible for Eve’s choice. It’s clear that he wasn’t, because after the Fall in Genesis 3, God does not punish Adam for Eve’s sin, but instead, NATURE:
“ 17And to Adam he said,"Because you have listened to the voice of your wifeand have eaten of the tree(R) of which I commanded you,'You shall not eat of it,'(S) cursed is the ground because of you;(T) in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;18thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;and you shall eat the plants of the field.19By the sweat of your faceyou shall eat bread,till you return to the ground,for out of it you were taken;(U) for you are dust,and(V) to dust you shall return."” (Genesis 3:17-19)
Eve is not punished because Adam sinned, but nature is. Adam doesn’t bear responsibility for his family until Genesis 3:16, when he is called “lord” in his home. In the Greek Old Testament, called the Septuagint (LXX), the Lord said to Eve in Genesis 3:16, that “he [Adam] would rule over you.” The word for “rule over” here is “kureiuo,” meaning “to be lord over.” Adam was already “lord of creation,” but he was not “lord” of his family UNTIL God’s response to Eve’s punishment in Genesis 3.
And Eve is not punished for “domineering” her husband. She doesn’t take the decision away from him; rather, she is given the chance to choose because the serpent comes to trick her.
Finally, there is one last definition that solves the problem of why Paul appeals to the Law: that is, the word “authentein” means “to be the origin of,” or “to be the original.” This makes sense because of two reasons: (1) Paul appeals to Adam being born first (arguing genealogy, which was part of the nature of the false teaching); (2) secondly, Paul defends Adam not being deceived, and asserts “the woman was deceived.” The Law states that Adam was first formed (Genesis 2:7) and then Eve (Genesis 2:22).
For the second part of Paul’s justification, he says, “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into the transgression.” Genesis 3 tells us that Eve was deceived (3:13), and mentions nothing of Adam’s deception.
It seems here that, based on the placement of Adam and Eve, both played their parts: Adam was formed first, but then Eve was approached by the serpent and was deceived. But if the women at Ephesus engaged in “endless genealogies,” then surely, they could have argued that Eve was created before Adam.
When the word “authentein” here means “to be the original,” it’s amazing how the events of Genesis seem to make sense here. Paul’s logic seems to fit when the disputed Greek verb relates to the origin of history (Book of Genesis). But when the other definitions are applied, complementarians (and even egalitarians) have to go into long, lengthy, complex analogies to argue their point. Paul, however, didn’t intend for such lengthy analyses to be applied to this verse. Paul simply told the women that they couldn’t teach that the woman was the origin of man because “Adam was formed first, then Eve.” The word “protos” here, meaning “first,” indicates order. When someone mentions a word related to “order,” the assumption is that the person is trying to recall events or a shopping list, or a schedule of things they did on a particular day, etc. Paul argues placement order to tell the women at Ephesus that Adam really was formed first.
I think the situation boils down to this: complementarians have got to stop using 1 Timothy 2:12 to justify their view of the role of women in the churches. Why? because the evidence for their position of women’s subordination simply isn’t there…