What Eve Did, What Women Shouldn’t Do: The Meaning Of Αυθεντεω In 1 Timothy 2:12 -- By: A.C. Perriman

Journal: Tyndale Bulletin
Volume: TYNBUL 44:1 (NA 1993)
Article: What Eve Did, What Women Shouldn’t Do: The Meaning Of Αυθεντεω In 1 Timothy 2:12
Author: A.C. Perriman

What Eve Did, What Women Shouldn’t Do:
The Meaning Of Αυθεντεω In 1 Timothy 2:12

A.C. Perriman


1 Timothy 2:12, for obvious reasons, has suffered considerable scholarly buffeting in recent years. Careful lexicological investigations have undermined the traditional interpretation of αὐθεντέω as ‘to have authority over’ and brought to light various shades of meaning, without, however, clearly demonstrating their relevance to the passage. Thorough research into the religious environment of Ephesus has also suggested alternative perspectives, but again with doubtful exegetical validity. The argument of this paper is that if closer attention is paid to the structural and figurative character of the passage, a reading emerges which takes into account both the proper sense of αὐθεντέω and the particular circumstances under which Paul’s injunction was given.

In the debate over the position of women within the church one of the hardest exegetical nuts to crack has been the meaning of αὐθεντεῖν in 1 Timothy 2:12, where Paul says that he does not permit a woman to teach, οὐδὲ αὐθεντῖν ἀνδρός. A considerable amount of effort and technical expertise has gone into the task of amassing and analysing the lexicological evidence available, but the results have been inconclusive. The traditional interpretation, ‘to have authority over’, has been called into question, but none of the alternatives proposed has proved entirely convincing. This failure, I would suggest, is attributable to two particular oversights, one lexicological, the other to do with the literary character of the passage. Once these have been corrected, it becomes possible to give a quite precise explanation of why Paul used this word at this point, and by that to determine the scope of its application.

I. The Literary Structure Of Verses 11-15

In order to grasp the development of thought in 11-15, I suggest that we need to take note of two important, but hitherto unremarked, structural features. The first is the parenthetic character of 12. Grammatically the verse is awkward and elliptical: ἐπιτρέπω, for example, is not the proper governing antecedent for ἶναι ἐν ἡσυχία,

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