In my last post, I showed why the meaning of “authentein” as “to dominate” or “to control” will not work for 1 Timothy 2:12. However, I did make the point in the last post that, while “authenteo” (to dominate) will not work for this passage, I did state that the word itself comes from the parent word, “authentes.” So now, as promised, I’m gonna discuss the connection between “authentes” and “authentein.” As I said at the end of the last post, the research will stun you…
In Linda Belleville’s chapter called “Teaching and Usurping Authority” (from the book “Discovering Biblical Equality” by editors Ronald Pierce and Rebecca Merrill Groothuis), she writes the following on the etymology of “authentein” in literary sources:
“Lexicographers, for the most part, agree that the root of ‘authentes’ is ‘auto’ + ‘entes,’ meaning ‘TO DO OR TO ORIGINATE SOMETHING WITH ONE’S OWN HAND’ (LSJ ‘autoentes’). Usage confirms this. An ‘authentes’ is SOMEONE WHO ORIGINATES OR CARRIES OUT AN ACTION” (“Discovering Biblical Equality, page 212).
So the parent word “authentes” refers to the ORIGIN of a plan (the ORIGINAL person who started it or begun it). Notice here, however, that the GENERIC definition of the word has nothing to do with murder in any shape, form, or fashion; the general definition is one who does something on their own (someone who acts independently of others). I take time to state this to show that you can take away the references to murder and the term itself would still remain intact—for no one has to commit murder to do something of their own accord (there are numerous activities that people can do independently of other people).
But the definition of the word “authentes” was modified:
“During the SIXTH to SECOND centuries B.C., the Greek tragedies used it EXCLUSIVELY OF MURDERING ONESELF (suicide) or ANOTHER PERSON(S). The rhetoricians and orators during this period did the same” (212).
Even though the definition of “authentes” is associated with a specific activity (murder), the generic definition remained intact—the word still involved someone acting on their own, or originating a plan (notice the “murdering oneself”). Suicide is an often premeditated action, something that someone plans without prior warning to family and friends. The mere fact of naming the death “suicide” IMPLIES that the victim decided to kill themselves of their own volition and wasn’t forced to do it by someone else.
Now, what happened during the Hellenistic period?
“During the Hellenistic period the primary meaning of ‘authentes’ was still ‘murderer,’ but the SEMANTIC RANGE WIDENED to include ‘PERPETRATOR,’ ‘SPONSOR,’ ‘AUTHOR’ and ‘MASTERMIND’ of a crime or act of violence. THIS IS THE CASE REGARDLESS OF GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION, ETHNICITY OR RELIGIOUS ORIENTATION. For instance, Jewish historian Josephus speaks of the AUTHOR (‘authentein’) of a poisonous draught (Jewish War 1.582; 2.240). Diodorus of Sicily uses it of (1) the SPONSORS (authentas) of some daring plans (Bibliotheca historica 35.25.1), (2) the PERPETRATORS (authentais) of a sacrilege (Bibliotheca historica 16.61) and (3) the MASTERMIND (authentas) of a crime (Bibliotheca historica 188.8.131.52). By the first century A.D., lexicographers defined ‘authentes’ as the PERPETRATOR of a murder committed by others (not the actual murderer himself or herself)” (212, 213).
The Hellenization process saw the word broaden in its meaning from just a murderer to someone who committed “a crime or act of violence,” which could involve things like stealing, rape, shooting someone (injuring but not killing), etc. However, the original definition of “authentes” remains intact, even after SEVEN CENTURIES (from the sixth century BC to the first century AD): why? because the word “authentes” still refers to someone who “originates” a plan. While the idea that the person carries out the plan dropped, the original creator of the plan was still acknowledged by the changing definition. So as we can see, while there are slight nuances to the meaning of “authentes,” there is no record of the word changing its generic meaning entirely.
What about the NONLITERARY materials? We know that the word appeared in Greek classics and various genres, but what about in the everyday sources of knowledge for the commoner?
“While authent- appears quite regularly in Greek literature from the sixth century BC on, it first appears in nonliterary materials IN THE FIRST CENTURY B.C. THE POPULAR FORM IS ‘AUTHENTIKOS’ (FROM WHICH WE DERIVE OUR ENGLISH WORD ‘AUTHENTIC’) AND NOT ‘AUTHENTES’ (murderer). NUMEROUS EXAMPLES OF ‘AUTHENTIKOS’ CAN BE FOUND IN GREEK INSCRIPTIONS AND PAPYRI OF THE HELLENISTIC PERIOD” (213).
As we can see, the word “authentes,” a NOUN, became an ADJECTIVE for the commoner of the Greek era. However, even though a NEW FORM is used, the initial meaning is still intact: just as “authentikos” refers to something “original” or “authentic,” so does the word “authentes” refer to someone who ORIGINATES the plan or action (Linda Belleville said this on page 212: “someone who ORIGINATES or carries out an action”). Although the form has changed, the meaning has not. It is quite commendable to think that even though the word was adopted for the everyday commoner, the meaning still remained. Now this is what I call FAITHFULNESS to the inherent meanings of words…
But now, we look at the verb forms stemming from “authentes.” There are five verb uses, and I will have to go through each one in order to show why the generic meaning of “authentes” still stands...Belleville writes:
“The first is found in the FIFTH to FIRST centuries B.C. Scholia (or explanatory remarks) on a passage from Aeschylus’s tragedy ‘Euminides’...the commentator uses the perfect PARTICIPIAL form of ‘authenteo’ to capture the intentional character of the deed: ‘Were dripping’ is explained as ‘The murderer [ho phoneutes], who just now HAS COMMITTED AN ACT OF VIOLENCE [AUTHENTEKOTA]...’” (214).
In this example, ‘authentekota’ (committing an act of violence) is still connected to ‘the murderer’ (ho phoneutes). The parent word ‘authentes’ was connected to murder when placed in the context of Greek tragedies; so nothing stuns us here. Still, though, the murderer is the one who INITIATED the killing—so the generic meaning of ‘authentes’ is still valid. This confirms the idea of ‘authentes’ as ‘originator.’
Now on to example 2:
“The second use of ‘authenteo’ is found in the first-century B.C. grammarian Aristonicus. Commenting on a portion of Homer’s Iliad...he states, ‘This line [a line above], which appears in other places, does not fit well here; for it usually is spoken, where THE AUTHOR [HO AUTHENTEIN] of the message delivered something striking...’” (214).
Here, we see that the infinitive “authentein” is used with the article for “the” (ho). In translation here (Belleville gives us), the word “authentein” means “author.” This is important indeed, for both Catherine Clark Kroeger and Richard Clark Kroeger mention this in their book called “I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2: 11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence.” For all who haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. I will write more on this book in the future (I plan to do a series on it); but for now, it will suffice to say that the Kroegers provide the same translation of “authentein” as is used in this example: “authentein” means “to be author of” man. This is the ONLY use of the infinitive in all of the five examples we will cover, which indicates to me that, unlike Belleville’s view, this would be the most accurate translation for the Greek infinitive (since it is used the same in 1 Timothy 2:12 as it is used here in this example). In any case, I’ll move on and we’ll come back to this example later.
“The third use of ‘authenteo’ is found in 27/26 B.C. letter in which Tryphon recounts to his brother Asklepiades the resolution of a dispute between himself and another individual regarding the amount to be paid a ferryman for shipping a load of cattle: ‘AND I HAD MY WAY WITH HIM [AUTHENTEKOTOS PROS AUTON] and he agreed to provide Calatytis the boatman with the full fare within the hour’ (BGU IV 1208)” (214).
Here, the term itself relates to negotiation and influence. The letter is showing that Tryphon was able to talk this guy into paying the fare TRYPHON wanted to pay the boatman. However, this doesn’t take away from the generic meaning of the word “authentes.” If you remember what I said earlier, “authentes” means to be the originator of something, the SOURCE of it. What Tryphon is doing in this letter to his brother is TAKING RESPONSIBILITY for what happened. Why did the boatman receive the fare he did? Because Tryphon INFLUENCED the other passenger, thus being the SOURCE OF INFLUENCE as well as the PERPETRATOR of the negotiation itself. You could even say that Tryphon was the MASTERMIND behind the negotiation—it went over, and Tryphon “had his way” with the passenger (he got the passenger to agree with him on the fare).
In this last example, I capitalized the word “influence” because Belleville uses this word as the translation of “authentein” (for her, it means “to control, dominate, influence”). However, it means more than that here: for Tryphon is NOT concerned about the ACT of influence so much as he is concerned about the fact that HE was responsible for the fare negotiation. This is why he writes, “I HAD MY WAY WITH HIM...” This is Tryphon’s way of saying, “I did it; I’m RESPONSIBLE for the negotiation. I take blame (good in this context) for what happened.”
I will comment on the last two examples Belleville provides in the next post. Part Two is coming your way...