Thursday, May 7, 2009

"Authentes" and "Authentein"-- PART TWO

I will now pick up with the examples Belleville provides regarding the verb “authenteo”.

"The fourth use of ‘authenteo’ occurs in Philodemus, the first-century B.C. Greek poet and Epicurean philosopher from Gadara, Syria. He states, ‘Rhetors harm a great number of people in many ways—‘those shot through with dreadful desires.’ They [rhetors] fight every chance they get with PROMINENT PEOPLE—‘with POWERFUL LORDS [SYN AUTHENT[OU]SIN ANAXIN]’...” (Rhetorica 2 Fragmenta Libri [5] fr. 4 line 14) (page 215).

In this example, we see that Philodemus uses the word “authentousin” to refer to the lords as “powerful.” What does the word “powerful” mean? It means to be “preeminent.” And what does the word “preeminent” mean? The word “preeminent” is used in Colossians 1:18 (“preeminence”), meaning “to be first,” or “to have first place” (“A New Reader’s Lexicon of the Greek New Testament” by Michael H. Burer and Jeffrey E. Miller.” Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2008, page 380). So, to be “powerful” does mean to be “in control,” but, more specifically, TO BE IN FIRST PLACE, or, to BE THE ORIGIN OF POWER (the word “origin” being used here as SOURCE). The word “origin” is attached to source because the source is the FIRST, or BEGINNING, person or thing that someone seeks out or looks for in a given situation. When we speak of “the origin of life,” we want to know how life began, how did the FIRST sign of life enter into the world—and the SOURCE of life (from WHOM did life originate?).

In the example above, Philodemus talks about how the philosophers of the day gained power while the rhetors never obtained: “They [rhetors] fight every chance they get with prominent people...philosophers, on the other hand, gain the favor of public figures...not having them as enemies but friends...” (215). The philosophers gain power by getting along with THE SOURCE of power of their day—that being the “lords.” It’s not a mistake that Philodemus uses the adjective form here (“powerful”).

Last but not least, we reach Belleville’s last example, example 5:

“The fifth use of ‘authenteo’ is found in influential late-first- and early-second century astrological poet Dorotheus. He states that ‘if Jupiter aspects the Moon from makes them [the natives] leaders or chiefs [some of civilians and others of soldiers] especially if the Moon is increasing; but if the moon decreases, it does not make them dominant [AUTHENTAS] but subservient [HYPERETOUMENOUS]” (215).

Notice that the word used here is “authentas,” meaning “DOMINANT.” Looking up the word ‘dominant” in “The Oxford American Desk Dictionary and Thesaurus,” second edition, I found these definitions:

“prevailing, authoritative...chief, principal.”

To “prevail” means to defeat some situation or person; it literally means to be “IN FIRST PLACE.” To be “authoritative” means to have “authority.” And the word “authority” comes from a combination of “author” and the suffix “-ity”; literally translated, the word means “to be in the state of an author.” A person in authority is an author in their position—which means that, as an author is the SOURCE or ORIGIN of a book (how the book got started), the person in authority is the SOURCE OF authority itself (this is why we call law enforcement, teachers, principals, and other school administration THE AUTHORITIES!!).

Look at the word “chief.” To be chief means to be first, to be the head, to be FIRST before all the others. What does the word “principal” mean? It means to be first.
I can provide an example of “principal” here that will suffice. I pay college loans every month (now that I’ve graduated from college). Every month, my money goes to two sources online: the interest (accrued on my loan at a fixed percent) and THE PRINCIPAL. The principal is the FIRST amount that gets paid every month (for before any money is used elsewhere, it goes FIRST to the principal). Why? Because the principal is THE FIRST AMOUNT, or the TOP amount to pay.

In the example Belleville provides here from Dorotheus, we see that the opposite of “dominant” is “subservient.” To be in a “subservient” state is to be BELOW others—this is why the Greek root of “subservient” in the sentence is “HUPER,” meaning “BELOW.” So to be “dominant” means to be FIRST, to be ABOVE everyone else. If a person is ABOVE everyone, then they are first (such as being FIRST in line). The line then, STARTS with that person; in the same way, the word “authentes” (the parent word) tells us that the person being referenced in the word itself is the person who STARTED the plan, the person who BEGAN the act (“Who STARTED it?”)—the SOURCE (or ORIGIN) of all the trouble.

This concludes Linda Belleville’s examples of her word study of the Greek infinitive “authentein.” However, let me just say that example 2 shows us the Greek infinitive of 1 Timothy 2:12 used in an actual document. Since the infinitive there matches the one in our text, we can use this translation in 1 Timothy 2:12. But before we plug it in, we must know that to translate the phrase as “to be THE AUTHOR of man” doesn’t make any sense. The word “author” makes sense when referring to a book, article, or poem; but when referring to the source of man, one cannot use “author”. Rather, the best translation would be “source” or “origin” of man. In a later post, I will establish why this translation makes better sense than translating the infinitive “authentein” as “to dominate.”


  1. Just wanted to say what a FANTASTIC blog you have here! WOW!!!!!
    Molly (from complegalitarian)

  2. Molly,

    Thanks so much for responding. You have quite a phenomenal blog yourself. I'm actually gonna post on one of your blog posts soon. It'll make my 80th post-- just 20 more from the FIRST 100!!!

    Please continue to read and thanks again for responding. Feel free to respond here at the blog on anything you see...
    - Best, Deidre


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