In 1 Timothy 2:12, does authenteō mean ‘originator’?

The Claim

In their work ‘I Suffer Not a Woman – Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence’ (1992), Richard and Catherine Kroeger say that authentein (the infinitive form of the verb authenteō), means ‘claim to be originator’.

The Facts

This translation of the word has received acceptance only among some egalitarian commentators, and has even been rejected by other egalitarian commentators:

‘I Suffer Not a Woman is filled with efforts to find “sex reversal,” “female dominance,” and “sex and death” motifs in Ephesian society, because the Kroegers believe that, in the end, all these things are implied in Paul’s prohibition that women should not αὐθεντεῖν.

It is no wonder that L. E. Wilshire, even though he shares the egalitarian outlook, says: “This is a breathtaking extension into (pre-) Gnostic content yet an interpretation I do not find supported either by the totality of their own extensive philological study, by the NT context, or by the immediate usages of the word authenteo and its variants.”16 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [1] below]’[2]

Lexicon Entries

The Kroeger’s definition of authentein has been completely rejected by lexicographers, and is ignored in all standard lexical authorities. The quotes are definitions of authenteō (the primary form of the verb authentein), from the standard scholarly lexicons.

* ‘αὐθεντέω strictly, of one who acts on his own authority; hence have control over, domineer, lord it over (1T 2.12).’[3]

* ‘αὐθεντέω (s. αὐθέντης; Philod., Rhet. II p. 133, 14 Sudh.; Jo. Lydus, Mag. 3, 42; Moeris p. 54; cp. Phryn. 120 Lob.; Hesychius; Thom. Mag. p. 18, 8; schol. in Aeschyl., Eum. 42; BGU 1208, 38 [27 b.c.]; s. Lampe s.v.) to assume a stance of independent authority, give orders to, dictate to w. gen. of pers. (Ptolem., Apotel. 3, 14, 10 Boll-B.; Cat. Cod. Astr. VIII/1 p. 177, 7; B-D-F §177) ἀνδρός, w. διδάσκειν, 1 Ti 2:12 (practically = ‘tell a man what to do’ [Jerusalem Bible]..’[4]

* ‘αὐθεντέω   authenteō   rule (vb.)*  1 Tim 2:12: women should not rule over men (gen.). cf. G. W. Knight, “Αὐθεντέω in Reference to Women in 1 Tim. 2,12,” NTS 30 (1984) 143-57.’[5]

* ‘αὐθέντης,-ου+     N1M 0-0-0-0-1=1  Wis 12,6  Murderer  Cf. LARCHER 1985, 710’[6]

* ‘37.21  αὐθεντέω: to control in a domineering manner—‘to control, to domineer.’ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω … αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός ‘I do not allow women … to dominate men’ 1 Tm 2.12. ‘To control in a domineering manner’ is often expressed idiomatically, for example, ‘to shout orders at,’ ‘to act like a chief toward,’ or ‘to bark at.’[7]

* ‘authent-eô , A. to have full power or authority over, tinos I Ep.Ti.2.12; pros tina BGU1208.37 (i B. C.): c. inf., Lyd.Mag.3.42. 2. commit a murder, Sch.A.Eu.42.’[8]

* ‘αὐθεντέω domineer, have authority over.’[9]

* ‘883 αὐθεντέω (authenteō): vb.; ≡ Str 831—LN 37.21 control, have authority over (1Ti 2:12+).’[10]

* ‘831. αὐθεντέω authentéō; contracted authentó̄; fut. authenté̄sō, from authéntēs (n.f.), murderer, absolute master, which is from autós (846), himself, and éntea (n.f.) arms, armor. A self–appointed killer with one’s own hand, one acting by his own authority or power. Governing a gen., to use or exercise authority or power over as an autocrat, to domineer (1 Tim. 2:12).’[11]

Scholarly Commentary

In acknowledgment of the lexical agreement on this word, and in recognition of the Kroeger’s flawed scholarship concerning the meaning of this word, their proposed definitions of authentein have been rejected by a number of scholars across the entire spectrum of views:

* ‘Unfortunately she mars her study by a questionable linguistic analysis of αὐθεντέω, seeking to tie an etymological idea to the hapax legomenon, ultimately taking the word to mean “originator or source of something.”’[12]

* ‘While they have provided significant background data, their suggestion that the phrase “to have authority” (authentein, authentein) should be rendered “to represent herself as originator of man” is, to say the least, far-fetched and has gained little support.’[13]

* ‘The second part of the thesis is that the other verb, authenteo, “represents either a ritual act or a doctrinal tenet propounded by the heretical teachers.” This does not seem to fit any of the meanings proposed for authenteo in her first paragraph: “begin.” “be… responsible for,” “rule,” “dominate,” “usurp power or rights.” “claim ownership, sovereignty or authorship.”  Further, it is a bit of a twist to claim that authenteo, which is a verb, could “represent a doctrinal tenet,” when “tenet” is a noun.’[14]

* ‘Kroeger uses older dictionaries, projects backwards from developed Gnosticism, and neglects the broader context.’[15]

* ‘On the basis of outdated lexicography, uncited and no longer extant classical texts, a discredited background (see my Introduction n. 25), and the introduction of an ellipsis into a clause which is itself complete, the Kroegers rewrite v. 12.’[16]


[1] ‘16. “Revisited,” 54. Wilshire observes that his earlier study on αὐθεντεῖν (NTS 34 [1988] 120-34) is missing in the Kroegers’ book, although it is normally cited in discussions of this verb. “The omission,” he says, “would seem to be deliberate” (p. 53).’, Baugh, ‘The Apostle among the Amazons’, Westminster Theological Journal (56.157), (Spring 1994).

[2] Ibid., p. 157.

[3] Friberg, Friberg, & Miller ‘Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, volume 4, p. 81 (2000).

[4] Arndt, Danker, & Bauer, ‘A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature’, p. 150 (3rd ed., 2000).

[5] Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testamen’, volume 1, p. 178 (1990-c1993).

[6] Lust, Eynikel, & Hauspie, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint’ (electronic rev. ed. 2003); readers will note that the definition here is very short, and contains only one sense, as this word is only used once in the LXX and only with this meaning; this usage was obsolete by the 1st century AD.

[7] Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 473 (2nd ed. 1989).

[8] Liddell, Scott, & Jones, ‘A Greek-English Lexicon’, p.275 (rev. and augm. throughout, electronic ed., 9th ed. with supplement, 1996); note again reference to the meaning ‘murder’, which was obsolete by the 1st century AD.

[9] Newman, ‘Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament’, p. 28 (1993).

[10] Swanson, ‘Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament)’, DBLG 883 (2nd ed. 2001).

[11] Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’, G831 (electronic ed., 2000).

[12] House, review of ‘1 Timothy 2:12 – A Classicist’s View’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, Authority & The Bible‘ (1986), Bibliotheca Sacra (145.458), (April 1988); House is a complementarian, but he is well supported by Liefeld (see below), and the standard lexicon definitions.

[13] Moss, ‘NIV Commentary: 1, 2 Timothy & Titus‘, p. 60 (1995); Moss is a complementarian, but he is well supported by Liefeld (see below), and the standard lexicon definitions.

[14] Liefeld, (egalitarian) ‘1 Timothy 2:12 – A Classicist’s View’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, Authority & The Bible‘, p. 245 (1986).

[15] Holmes (egalitarian), ‘Text in a Whirlwind’, p. 86 (2000).

[16] Ibid., p. 89.

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