Friday, May 8, 2009

"Authentein" To The Stand...

“I’d like to call Paul to the stand...” I really wish I could—but it’s quite impossible to do for ONE reason: Paul lived centuries before I did and has died (of course). There’s no way for me to be able to talk to Paul and ask him what he meant by his use of the word “authentein.”

There are many days I wish I could summon him to court and get him to tell me what “authentein” was all about so people could stop writing on this one Greek verb and focus on the WHOLE of the evidence regarding women in ministry. However, it will never be...and people will still keep writing on this subject, many years after I’m gone, too...

Well, if I can’t call Paul to the stand, I can call the Greek infinitive/verb “authentein” itself. I think that’s what I’ll do: I’d like to call “AUTHENTEIN” to the stand...

With the last two posts, I’ve been covering Linda Belleville’s work on “authentein,” how the Greek infinitive originated, and how the word itself evolved over time to come to have a more broad meaning to it by the time of the first century AD than it had a few hundred years prior (sixth century BC). After covering the meanings and how they still seemed connected to the parent word “authentes,” I’d like to spend this post on how we can KNOW for certain what “authentein” would have meant.
I stated it on the blog yesterday that Belleville’s research, while proving that complementarian translations of the infinitive are wrong, doesn’t prove the EXACT definition and translation of “authentein.” For one, the translation of “to dominate” doesn’t fit the context. But there is at least one more reason why; and I’ll get to that by the end of this post.

In any case, let’s look at Belleville’s words once more:

“Ancient Greek grammarians and lexicographers suggest that the meaning ‘to dominate, hold sway’ finds it origin in the first-century popular (‘vulgar’ versus literary) usage. That is why second-century lexicographer Moeris states that the Attic ‘autodikein, ‘to have independent jurisdiction , self-determination,’ is to be preferred to the Hellenistic (or Koine) ‘authentes’. Modern lexicographers agree. Those who have studied Hellenistic letters argue that ‘authenteo’ originated in the popular Greek vocabulary as a synonym for ‘to dominate someone’ (kratein tinos). Biblical lexicographers J.P. Louw and Eugene Nida put ‘authenteo’ into the semantic domain ‘to control, restrain, domineer’ and define the verb as ‘TO CONTROL IN A DOMINEERING MANNER’: ‘I do not allow dominate men’ (1 Tim. 2:12). Other meanings do not appear until well into the third and fourth centuries AD” (216).

Here, Belleville discusses the evolution of the popular term “authenteo,” and what this term would have meant to the ordinary person. And modern lexicographers today do recognize the term as “to dominate.” Even my New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament (cited in my last post) determines that the infinitival verb “authentein” means “to dominate.” However, what do we do with the other evidence Belleville provides? “Authenteo” does originate in the first century to the popular masses; but how did this word come into being? If it came to the popular masses in the first century, it HAD to come from somewhere. Remember Belleville’s words:

“While ‘AUTHENT’- appears QUITE REGULARLY IN GREEK first appears in NONLITERARY MATERIALS in the first century BC. The POPULAR FORM IS AUTHENTIKOS (from which we derive our English word ‘authentic’) and not ‘authentes’ (murder)."(213)

So even though the word itself changed (from ‘authentes’ to ‘authentikos’), the AUTHENT root is still present, thus preserving the basic meaning.

Belleville adds a footnote with the number ‘25’ to the above quote I just stated and wrote this by its number at the bottom of the page:

“The root ‘AUTHENT’ appears six times in the first-century AD inscriptions, ostraca and tablets: (1) AUTHENTEIA/AUTHENTIA (‘power,’ ‘sway,’ ‘mastery’)...(2) AUTHENTIKOS...and (3) surfaces in the first-century BC papyri only picks up steam in the first century AD., but VIRTUALLY ALL ARE THE TERM ‘AUTHENTIKOS’ (meaning ‘genuine,’ ‘authentic’)” (213).

Look at each of the three “AUTHENT” terms. First, we have “authenteia, authentia.” This word refers to “power” or “mastery.” It refers to an object of someone who’s FIRST. Let’s use an ordinary example of an eight-year old. What does it mean for the parents of that child to tell the child, “You pick your slice of the cake FIRST?” Well if you’re the child, it means a lot; for you can pick ANY slice of the cake you want—including the BIGGEST piece, or the piece with more icing on top, or the one with more balloons on it. In addition, if the eight year old helps slice the cake, he or she can carve out a HUGE piece of the cake. Being first has its privileges—and this is why being FIRST in anything can reap major benefits.

Reading Scripture, we find that this idea of honor as first applies. Let’s look at Romans 1. Paul writes this regarding the Gospel:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, TO THE JEW FIRST and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV).
See what he says about the gospel? The gospel is for EVERYONE, but it was given to the Jew FIRST. And the position of first carries with it some benefits. Paul tells us the nature of those benefits when he laments over the Jews’ current state:
“For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are ISRAELITES, AND TO THEM BELONG THE ADOPTION, THE GLORY, THE COVENANTS, THE GIVING OF THE LAW, THE WORSHIP, AND THE PROMISES. TO THEM BELONG THE PATRIARCHS, AND FROM THEIR RACE, ACCORDING TO THE FLESH, IS THE CHRIST WHO IS GOD OVER ALL, blessed forever. Amen.” (Romans 9:3-5, ESV).

William McDonald elaborates on these benefits:

“God had adopted that nation to be His son (Exodus 4:22) and delivered His people out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1). He was a father to Israel (Deut. 14:1), and Ephraim was His firstborn (Jer. 31:9). (Ephraim is used here as another name for the nation of Israel.) The Shekinah or glory cloud symbolized God’s presence in their midst, guiding and protecting them. It was with Israel, not with the Gentiles, that God made the covenants. It was with Israel, for example, that He made the Palestinian Covenant, promising them the land from the River of Egypt to the Euphrates (Gen. 15:18). And it is with Israel that He will yet ratify the New Covenant, promising ‘the perpetuity, future conversion, and blessing of a repentant Israel (Jer. 31:31-40)’. It was to Israel that the law was given. They and they alone were its recipients. The elaborate rituals and service of God connected with the tabernacle and the temple were given to Israel, as well as the priesthood. In addition to the covenants mentioned above, God made innumerable promises of protection, peace and prosperity.

The Jewish people rightfully claim the patriarchs as their own—Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and the twelve sons of Jacob. These were the forefathers of the nation. And they had the GREATEST PRIVILEGE OF ALL—THE MESSIAH IS AN ISRAELITE, as far as His human descent is concerned, though He is also the Sovereign of the universe, the eternally blessed God” (“The Believer’s Bible Commentary, Fourth Edition” by William McDonald and Art Farstad. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005, page 1716).

Being first has its privileges. For Israel, it did as well.

Next, look at the word “authentikos.” We’ve already seen that this word, first appearing in the Greek popular vernacular, it means “authentic” or “original.”
What about “authentes”? As discussed a day ago, the word means “to do or ORIGINATE something with one’s own hand” (Belleville’s definition on page 212). All three words – “Authentes, authentikos, and authentia” have something in common—each word refers to an “author” or “source” or “origin” (“authentes” refers to an “originator,” “authentikos” refers to a “source” or “original” thing, and “authentia” refers to “that which an author possesses”; or, to use a Belleville statement, “authentia” refers to “the control of someone who is FIRST in rank, who is the SOURCE of the power.” As I said yesterday, remember that power (AUTHENTIA) resides with THE AUTHORITIES!! Greek and English are more connected than most people seem to understand...

Now, back to my point. As I said earlier in this post, the word “authenteo,” although appearing later, had to have some connection to “authentes,” “authentikos,” and “authentia,” for the “authent” prefix is attached to the word. “Authenteo” is simply a VERB as compared to “authentes” (noun), “Authentikos” (adjective), and “authentia” (noun). “Authenteo” is simply another form of these words—while serving a different function in the sentence, the inherent meaning of the prefix “authent” remains faithful. To deny that “authenteo” is connected to these words is to deny that the words “employ” (a verb), “employee” (a noun), and “employed” (an adjective) are connected—which is absurd!!

What I want to do at this point is go back through Belleville’s wonderful research and see what I think the solution is to this whole word study. Belleville opts for “authenteo” meaning “to dominate,” but I think that to do so requires one to overlook Belleville’s prior research.

Just to clarify, the word used in the Greek text in 1Timothy 2:12 is the infinitive “authentein.” So whatever this word means, we won’t be able to find the answer by focusing on anything EXCEPT this word in ancient study.

Now, off we go...

Belleville cites the Jewish historian Josephus and his use of “authentein”
“For instance, the Jewish historian Josephus speaks of the AUTHOR (authentein) of a poisonous draught (Jewish War 1. 582; 2.240)” (“Discovering Biblical Equality, 212).

Josephus uses the word we have in 1 Timothy 2:12 with an article (“ho,” meaning “the”) and translates the word as “AUTHOR.” Here, the word would refer to the “perpetrator” or “mastermind” of the evil plan (it is called “poisonous”).

Where does “authentein” pop up again? With the first-century grammarian Aristonicus:

“Commenting on a portion of Homer’s ‘Iliad...[:]...for it is usually spoken, where THE AUTHOR [HO AUTHENTEIN] of the message delivered something striking...” (quoted on 214).

Here the word “authentein” is used—and, like the last one, an article is placed with it, making it a NOUN instead of an infinitive/verb. The article is in front of it to change the FUNCTION that the word “authentein” serves. Without the article here, the word would have been an infinitive (just like 1 Tim. 2:12), and the commentator would have been referring to one “to whom the message belonged,” the ORIGINAL source of the message (who did the message come from?). The message writer is the TRUE OWNER of the message.

Belleville goes into the quote at the beginning of this post talking about the word in the popular masses; but I think she does this and, in turn, overlooks these two instances where the word is used [in conjunction with an article to make it a noun]. Looking at these two instances were “authentein” is used, both refer to an “author” of something. We can sit and debate “authenteo” all day—or we can look at the clearest evidence we have for translate. “Authenteo,” whether it is believed or not, did come from “authentein.” And “authentein” means to “author” or “originate” or “start or begin” something. The “authent” prefix gives it away...


  1. Excellent! Thank you for your work on this and for posting it.

  2. Danny,

    Thanks for responding. I hope that the post in some form or fashion will be of help to you as we tackle this difficult topic. Continue to read here at the blog and check out the new series of historical evidences for women in church leadership that I've been doing for some weeks now.

    Please feel free to read and respond in the future.
    Thanks again, Deidre

  3. I am wondering about the word authentien, when I checked the strongs concordance, it uses the word authenteo as a transalation for usurp. I am looking for study aids that gives a true meaning of both the greek and hebrew words. there seems to be quite a few views on whether it is authentien or authenteo with both words being transalted differently.

  4. Dear Anonymous,

    The Greek word used in Greek manuscripts is "authentein." The "ein" ending implies that the word here is an infinitive, translated as "to" and then the meaning of the verb itself. So "authentein" could mean "to 'authenteo' something (based on the meaning of authenteo).

    The problem is that this word was used in both academic and popular circles in the first century. The fact that Paul uses this word only once in the New Testament, however, tells us that there was a specific instance (although rare) that required it. Since Paul did not mention members desiring to teach in any other letter (1 Timothy only), we have reason to suspect that the verb has something to do with the Old Testament Law. And the verses themselves confirm it with their discussion of Adam and Eve's origins as well as the story of the Fall. So whatever the true meaning of the verb is, it must agree with Paul's words regarding the law...otherwise, the verb will never make sense within 1 Timothy 2.

  5. i read with great interest your study of authentein. If however as i may think you said that it means an author etc I have difficulty in seeing its meaning in this context as paul writes......nor to usurp authority (authentein or authorship????) over the man. Perhaps this the Scripture in question has been enlarged by the translators to fit their possible pre-conceived ideas.

  6. Dear Anonymous,

    To be "the author" of something is to be the source of it, or the origin of it. For instance, an author of a book is the "source" of the book, the one who came up with the idea of the book. In the same way, for the woman to claim to be the "author" of man was to claim to be the origin of man, or the first human. Paul refutes this in 1 Timothy 2 by arguing that the man was created first. But the second part, that "Adam was not deceived," signals that Paul was defending the Old Testament Law (Genesis), which tells us that Adam was created and then Eve. The issue at the church of Ephesus was false doctrine (1 Tim. 1:3), such as "fables and endless genealogies" (1:4), not to mention those who wanted to be teachers but had no idea of the things they were claiming to be true (1:7). This explains why Paul argues that there is a correct way to use the Law (1:8)---because there were those at the church who were using it incorrectly (i.e., those responsible for the false doctrine, 1:3).

    I hope this helps. Respond again if you have comments or observations.

  7. An Inquiring MindJuly 23, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    Hello, Deidre.

    Not sure if you're still looking at this particular string of post / comments. But perhaps you are.

    Yesterday, on the CBMW website, I saw a li'l video clip of someone named D.A. Carson (presumably a scholar whose research and conclusions CBMW holds in high esteem) in which he makes the comment that "authenteo" in most instances has a neutral or positive overtone. He then says there is a handful of instances where you can at least make a case that it can have a negative overtone.

    His wording "in most instances has a neutral or positive overtone" gives the impression that this fact would be hard for anyone to miss. Are you aquainted with these neutral and positive "most instances" that he bases his conclusions on?

    Just trying to understand what all the fuss is about.

  8. Inquiring Mind,

    Sorry it has taken me so long to find your comment, but hopefully, you'll check back here and find the response...

    I am aware of D.A. Carson as a biblical scholar as well as the argument for the use of "authenteo." However, there is one problem: the text of 1 Timothy 2 in which the verb itself is located is a chapter on abuses which Paul is correcting. From the work I've done on the verb itself, it can have both positive and negative overtones. Only the context (the chapter in which it is placed, and the words of the writer in the biblical text) will determine meaning. This is because, simply, one cannot take a standard definition and just apply it to the same Greek verb everytime it is seen in the Scriptures. The Greek word "kai," for example, does not always mean "and"...even though it does in a great many cases.

    As I said, though, the issue with the verb is "why does Paul place it in 1 Timothy 2"? He does not place it in any other chapters in the Pastorals but 1 Timothy 2. Why would he do that? Well...look at the rest of the context: Paul is telling the women to dress in a godly fashion and to control themselves. He is also telling the men to pray without the context is one of abuses. If authenteo here means "to have authority," then Paul would be going against the entire point of the Pastorals themselves (which is false teaching). Even 1 Timothy 1 addresses false teaching in the first four verses. So it is not teaching per se that Paul has a problem with---its the "content" of the teaching that is troubling to Paul.

    Words can have standard definitions when removed from their context...but one cannot interpret Scripture that way. I will look up the article and see what I can find. Check back here as I will post on Carson's article and the word "authenteo" itself in the days to come.


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