Wednesday, September 23, 2009

"Authentein" Again...

I spent this past summer working on my other blog, titled “Center for Theological Studies.” As I’ve suggested often, anyone who wants to see other theological research of mine, go to the link for “Center for Theological Studies” at the top of the page to the right. Click on the link, and it should take you to the main page of the blog itself. Feel free to read there and post if you just wanna see some other work of mine.

Now, back to the task at hand. I’ve been studying Calvinism and Arminianism this past summer, so all my reading (20+ books) involved that subject. Everything I could find with Calvinism and Arminianism in the title or the subject matter, immediately became a part of my book collection this summer.

While reading on the subject of divine sovereignty and human responsibility and how both concepts work together, I read something in the book titled “No Place For Sovereignty: What’s Wrong with Freewill Theism” by R.K. McGregor Wright that motivated me to return to my blog here at Men and Women in the Church.

Yes, it does involve the Greek infinitival verb “authentein” once more. If you’ve read my 20 posts on 1 Timothy 2, you’ll find that I’ve done quite an extensive subject on this verb. Most notable of the work I’ve done on “authentein” is my work on Rebecca Groothuis’s book, “Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity without Hierarchy.” In this book, I examine Linda Belleville’s word study of “authentein” and point out that, while her research is good, her conclusions are wrong. She shows that “authentein” in its earliest form often used an article (“ho”) in front of it, turning the infinitival verb into a subject (a noun). However, she then turns around and says that the infinitive (in everyday language) would have meant to domineer. The focus on the infinitive should be its appearance in literature, not necessarily its function in ordinary everyday use.

Just so we all know, an “infinitival verb” is a verb that functions as an infinitive. For instance, the word “authentein” serves as a verb in 1 Timothy 2:12. It also functions, though, as an infinitive. An infinitive in English is a verb that has the word “to” added to it. For example, “walk” is a verb. When you add the word “to” with the word “walk,” you now have “to walk.” The words “to walk” form an infinitive.

R.K. McGregor Wright writes the following on free will and its use in Scripture:

“Second Corinthians 8:3 (RSV) says that the believers of Macedonia ‘gave…of their own free will.’ The Greek word translated as ‘free will’ here is ‘AUTHAIRETOI,’ which simply means ACTING ‘OF THEMSELVES’ or ‘OF THEIR OWN ACCORD’” (R.K. McGregor, “No Place For Sovereignty.” Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996, page 164).

A light bulb went off in my head right away. If you notice, the word “authairetoi” has a prefix, “auth,” which is very similar to the infinitival verb of 1 Tim.2:12--“AUTHentein.”

This intrigued me greatly. All of a sudden, I wanted to study the other words in the New Testament that begin with this prefix and see if they had any linguistic connection whatsoever with “authentein.” There are two other words (in addition to “authairetoi,” and we will examine each of these words and the context of the verses containing them so as to see the connection between them.

Let’s look at the Greek word “authairetoi.” This word is found in the participle form (“authairetoi”) in 2 Corinthians 8:3—

3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability… (2 Corinthians 8:3, Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In the context, Paul is writing to the Corinthians here, discussing how the churches of Macedonia have given from their small means “for the privilege of sharing (D) in the ministry to the saints…” (2 Cor. 8:4, HCSB)

The word for “authairetoi” here means “of themselves or of their own accord,” as R.K. McGregor Wright states in the quote above from his book. The word “authairetoi” is made up of two other Greek words: “autos” (self) and “hairetizo” (to choose). So the word itself, with a literal translation, means “to self-choose,” to choose something on their own. What we see here is that the prefix “auth” has something to do with “origin.” Here in 2 Corinthians 8:3, the Macedonians themselves are the “origin” of their decision to give—no one made them give, or forced them to. It was their decision alone. The Macedonians themselves were the “origin” of their decision.

2 Corinthians 8:17 brings us up and close with this word again, except this time, the word is in a noun form:

“For he [Titus] accepted our urging and, being very diligent, went out to you by HIS OWN CHOICE” (2 Cor. 8:17, HCSB).

We see a word similar to “authairetoi,” but the word here is “authairetos.” Since the word is in a noun form here, the word would be translated as “self-choosing.” Titus’s own “self-choosing” is the reason why he went to the Corinthians.

The next word we find related to “authentein” is the word “authade,” found in Titus 1:7—

7 For an overseer, (U) as God's manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money…” (Titus 1:7)

The word “arrogant” here is “authade” in the Greek. What does it mean to be “arrogant”? Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary gives us this meaning:

1 : exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one's own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner

Notice the words “one’s own” in the definition? The prefix “auth” is responsible for such translations involving the concept of the self. So someone who is “arrogant” is “self-absorbed” and seeks to magnify themselves in the eyes of everyone else. To use biblical language, they “think more highly of themselves than they ought to think,” which is what the apostle Paul speaks against in the Roman church (Rom. 12:3).

So when we see this word in the context of Titus 1, we realize that being “arrogant” is not a good thing to be!! The word “authade,” in addition to meaning “arrogant,” can also mean “self-willed.” Once again, we see the word “self” as part of this definition as well. The “auth” prefix has everything to do with the “self.” This same word occurs in 2 Peter 2:10, referring to the false teachers.

All these words, starting with the “auth” prefix, have something to do with oneself as the starting point, or “origin,” of an action. Clearly then, “authentein” has something to do with the “self” as the “origin” of something. Much to the shock of many, the word cannot mean “dominate” or “exercise authority” (as defined in our day). If the women in 1 Timothy 2 are doing anything wrong in the church at Ephesus (which they are, since Paul prohibits their actions), then they must be saying something IN RELATION TO THEMSELVES, or ABOUT THEMSELVES. If Paul is writing for these women not to “exercise authority,” or “have authority,” as the NIV claims, then these women must have been in positions of leadership—for, until 1 Tim. 2:12, women are never given such a prohibition by the apostle. If women are dominating the church services, that would be a problem, but it wouldn’t fully explain Paul’s reasoning regarding the order of Adam and Eve’s appearance as well as the details of the Fall. However, if women are PROCLAIMING THEMSELVES TO BE THE ORIGIN OF MAN, then here, we see that the women are saying something ABOUT THEMSELVES, and they are saying something in relation to the Genesis account (the origin of mankind), which would match Paul’s response to the events in the church at Ephesus. This, then, would match Paul’s reference to “those desiring to be teachers of the law” in 1 Timothy 1:

3 As I urged you when I went to Macedonia, (F) remain in Ephesus (G) so that you may command certain people (H) not to teach other doctrine 4 or to pay attention to myths (I) and endless genealogies. These promote empty speculations rather than God's plan, (J) which operates by faith. 5 Now the goal of our instruction is love (K) from a pure heart, (L) a good conscience, (M) and a sincere faith. (N) 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don't understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on. 8 Now we know that the law is good, (O) provided one uses it legitimately. 9 We know that the law is not meant for a righteous person, but for the lawless and rebellious, (P) for the ungodly and sinful, for the unholy and irreverent, for those who kill their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 for the sexually immoral (Q) and homosexuals, (R) for kidnappers, liars, (S) perjurers, and for whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching (T) 11 based on the glorious gospel (U) of the blessed God (V) that was entrusted to me.” (1 Timothy 1:3-11, HCSB)

Notice that the issue at Ephesus concerned “other doctrines” (v.3), “myths,” and “endless genealogies” (v.4), what Paul refers to as “fruitless discussion” (v.6).

Yes, I covered “authentein” again, and I will continue to do so from time to time should I find something that will help aid us in our study of this word. For now, though, you should know that my goal is to help us to logically and systematically approach the study of “authentein,” so that we will come away with an interpretation that best fits the context of the epistle of 1 Timothy (and matches the view of the remainder of the biblical canon itself). If 1 Corinthians 11 demonstrates that genealogy is nullified, then I doubt Eve’s appearance AFTER Adam would affect the right of women to exercise leadership in the church at any level.


  1. Great research, Deidre!

    Perhaps you would be interested in Kroeger's research on extrabiblical occurrences of authentein? Here are a couple clips from an article entitled "Ancient Heresies and a Strange Greek Verb":

    QUOTE: Although one finds hints in certain modern lexicons, the erotic sense of authentes is often ignored. The grammarian Phynichus, writing approximately A.D. 180, explained that the word is composed of two parts--autos, "self," and hentos from hiemi: to "thrust out from oneself" or to "desire." The word should never, he announced, be used to denote tyranny, but rather murder by one's own hand, as with a sword. (The sword was considered a phallic symbol in ancient Greece.) Moeris, also in the second century, advised his students to use another word, autodikein, as it was less coarse than authentein. The Byzantine Thomas Magister reiterates the warning against using this objectionable term. The charred fragments of a scroll excavated from the ruins of Herculaneum demonstrate the use of authentein in a parallel position to "those wounded by the terrible shafts of Eros." The lines were penned by the rhetorician and obscene epigrammatist, Philodemus, who was nicknamed "Lascivus." ....

    But what can the term authentein imply in 1 Timothy 2:12? In his Commentary on I Timothy 5.6, St. John? Chrysostom uses autheritia to denote "sexual license." If the word in this context refers to sexual behavior, it puts a quite different interpretation on the entire passage. For instance, if we were to translate the passage, "I forbid a woman to teach or discuss higher algebra with a man," we would understand the prohibition to be directed against instruction in mathematics. Suppose it read, "I forbid a woman to teach or talk Japanese with a man." Then we infer that the injunction applies to the teaching of language. "I forbid a woman to teach or dangle a man from a high wire" would presuppose that the instructor was an aerialist. "I forbid a woman to teach or engage in fertility practices with a man" would imply that the woman should not involve a man in the heretical kind of Christianity which taught licentious behavior as one of its doctrines.

  2. Charis,

    Thanks for posting. You picked up on my identification with Catherine Kroeger...good job!!

    I have a copy of Kroeger's book sitting on my desk, titled "I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 In Light of Ancient Evidence." Kroeger's book is one I highly recommend. I actually agree with her exegesis and her interpretation of "authentein" as "to proclaim oneself the origin of man." As you will notice, she would agree with my research above: the women are saying something ABOUT THEMSELVES, indicative of the "auth" prefix in all the Greek words containing such a prefix in the New Testament.

    Please buy the book recommended above if you can. She co-wrote the book with her husband, Richard Clark Kroeger, back in 1992.

    Thanks again for posting...keep reading the material and keep praying for the blog! Feel free to join the blog as a follower if you'd like!!


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