An Early Parallel Of Αὐθεντεῖν In 1 Tim 2:12 -- By: Al Wolters

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 54:4 (Dec 2011)
Article: An Early Parallel Of Αὐθεντεῖν In 1 Tim 2:12
Author: Al Wolters

An Early Parallel Of Αὐθεντεῖν In 1 Tim 2:12

Al Wolters*

* Al Wolters is emiritus professor at Redeemer University College, 777 Garner Road East, Ancaster, ON L9K 1J4 and a fellow of the Paideia Centre for public theology.

I. Introduction1

There has been considerable scholarly discussion since the 1980s about the meaning of the verb αὐθεντέω, which occurs in the controversial text 1 Tim 2:12: διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός.2 A difficulty in establishing the meaning of the verb in this context is that αὐθεντέω is quite rare in extant Greek literature before the fourth century AD. Apart from its one occurrence in the New Testament, recent studies have been able to identify only seven other possible examples of αὐθεντέω before the time of Constantine the Great, although it becomes more common thereafter.3 Moreover, of these seven, three involve debatable readings of fragmentary papyri, while a fourth depends on a conjectural emendation.4 Consequently, the meaning that is usually assigned to the verb in 1 Tim 2:12 (“have authority over”) is based primarily on the verb’s later usage, on the meaning of its cognates, and on the ancient versions of this biblical verse.5 Although the lexical sense of αὐθεντέω can be fairly securely established in this way, there is still some debate on whether the verb would have had a pejorative sense (e.g. “domineer”)

or an ingressive sense (e.g. “assume authority”) in NT times.6 It is a pity that there are not more attestations of αὐθεντέω from around the turn of the era.7

It is the thesis of the present article that one such attestation has not received the attention it deserves, mainly because it has been misdated by more than a millennium. The example I have in mind is found in the last sentence of the astrological text known as the Methodus mystica. In what follows I will first discuss the dating of this work, and th...

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