Translating αὐθεντέω “(authenteō)” in 1 Timothy 2:12 -- By: Jamin Hübner

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 29:2 (Spring 2015)
Article: Translating αὐθεντέω “(authenteō)” in 1 Timothy 2:12
Author: Jamin Hübner


Translating αὐθεντέω “(authenteō)” in 1 Timothy 2:12

Jamin Hübner

Jamin Hübner is an American theologian and author from South Dakota. He is a graduate of Dordt College (BA Theology), Reformed Theological Seminary (MA Religion), and the University of South Africa (ThD), and he currently serves as the Director of Institutional Effectiveness and founding Chair of Christian Studies at John Witherspoon College in the Black Hills. In addition to being the author of A Case for Female Deacons (Wipf and Stock, 2015) and other books, Dr. Hübner serves as a peer review editor for Priscilla Papers.

In the women-in-ministry debate, the verb authenteō in 1 Tim 2:12 has played a crucial role.1 As a result, a plethora of scholarly efforts have aimed at uncovering what exactly the term meant during Paul’s time and what it meant specifically in 1 Tim 2:12.2 Despite such painstaking work, there remains considerable disagreement about what the term means. Both egalitarian and complementarian evangelicals claim the research is in their favor. To complicate matters, Bible translations continue to vary over the term and the verse’s phrasing (sometimes newer versions of the same translation).3 All of this prompts scholars to step back and ask, what does the research actually show? And more importantly, how should Christians translate and understand the meaning of this term and verse as they regularly read their Bibles?4

What The Reference Works Say

Students of the Bible naturally (and necessarily) turn to dictionaries and lexicons to find out what a particular word means. But, due to the limited nature of lexicography and human effort, simply glancing at a reference work can be deceiving. It is necessary at least to broaden the scope of one’s resources in order to avoid error. Even examining multiple versions of the same kind of work (e.g., lexicons, dictionaries, etc.) can reveal significant differences and even inconsistencies. Authenteō is no exception, as demonstrated by the following entries, reproduced here as they appear in eight lexicons:

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...

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