Commenters under my previous complementarian posts have been debating the meaning of authenteÅ in 1 Timothy 2:12â€”whether it has a negative meaning (“usurp authority, domineer”) or a neutral one (“exercise authority”). In particular, the comments have called into question the work of Henry Scott Baldwin who has argued that authenteÅ does not have a negative meaning.
Commenters have disputed Baldwin’s interpretation of authenteÅ in its three uses in extra-biblical Greek written prior to 1 Timothy, but they have not actually engaged Baldwin’s arguments that are contained in his essay. I have been resistant to rehashing all of Baldwin’s material here and have hoped that people would go read Baldwin’s study for themselves. I think it stands on its own two feet.
Enter my good friend Chris Cowan. Chris has put together a summary of Baldwin’s arguments on the meaning of authenteÅ. This summary is no substitute for your actually picking up the book and reading it, but I think it will help to improve the conversation a little bit here. Baldwin’s study combined with Kostenberger’s syntactical study on 1 Timothy 2:12 show conclusively that “teaching” and “exercising authority” should be viewed as positive activities, not negative ones. What follows is Chris Cowan’s remarks and summary of Baldwin. Thanks, Chris!
[From Chris Cowan, associate editor of The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood]
I think it would help to include Baldwin’s arguments and rationale for each of the three uses of authenteÅ in question. One is certainly free to disagree with him. But it strikes me as unfair and lacking merit to challenge his decisions and claim that the evidence does not support himâ€”without actually engaging his arguments. The relevant works are:
- Henry Scott Baldwin, “An Important Word: AuthenteÅ in 1 Tim 2:12″ in Women in the Church: An Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (ed. Andreas Kostenberger and Thomas Schreiner; 2nd ed.; Baker, 2005), pp. 39-52.
- H. Scott Baldwin, “AuthenteÅ in Ancient Greek Literature,” included in Appendix 7 of Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth (Multnomah, 2004), pp. 675-702.
Here are Baldwin’s comments regarding each of the passages:
(1) BGU 1208 (27 BC)
Baldwin lists this under Meaning 2a, and writes, “‘to compel, to influence someone something,’ is to seek to exercise authority and/or possibly gain the ability to exercise authority/control.” He cites three “clearly positive examples” [Athanasius, Chrysostom, and Ammonius].
He continues, “However, the three remaining examples probably should not be understood to prove a negative meaning for authenteÅ in and of themselves. That is, they may not indicate ‘coercion’ in its worst sense. In BGU 1208 the influence the writer exercises is based on his authority over his own funds and property. He is seeking to get what he considers an honest payment made to a boatman for services rendered in transferring his sheep across the Nile. In the other two cases, though the results of the act are negative (the fall, the crucifixion), we cannot say more than that the context indicates a negative connotation. There is not sufficient warrant to postulate a new meaning such as ‘tyrannize’ or ‘coerce.’ To the contrary, Chrysostom says that Eve ‘exercised authority wrongly.’ The implication, obviously, is that Chrysostom could not make the negative force felt without the addition of kakÅs, and he therefore did not regard the verb authenteÅ as negative itself. Malalas’s use is somewhat different: though the Jews pressured Pilate, influencing his decision, it cannot be said that they usurped his position or coerced his complicity in Jesus’ death, as if Rome were subservient to Jerusalem. But at least we must say that ‘compel’ is the intended meaning, if not something stronger” (Badlwin, “An Important Word” in Women in the Church, 2nd ed. , p. 46).
(2) Ptolemy, Tetrabiblos (2nd cent.)
Baldwin puts this under Meaning 2, and writes, “‘to control, to dominate,’ reflects authority from the standpoint of actually having control or ability to dominate an object. It may be used either transitively or intransitively. Ptolemy writes that Saturn dominates Mercury and the Moon” (Baldwin, “An Important Word,” p. 46).
Then in a footnote, Baldwin adds, “This should not be confused with ‘domineer.’ The distinction between ‘domineer’ and ‘dominate’ becomes an important one in the exegesis of 1 Tim 2. Therefore, the two terms should not be taken as interchangeable. For “to dominate,” a transitive verb, The Compact Oxford Dictionary of the English Language (Oxford, 1971), ad loc., gives the meaning as ‘to bear rule over, to have a commanding influence on, to master.’ In the context of some human relationships, this could have a negative connotation, but it is not intrinsically so. In contrast, ‘domineer’ is defined as an intransitive verb meaning ‘to rule or govern arbitrarily or despotically . . . to exercise authority in an overbearing manner.’ Therefore, dominate and domineer are not synonyms unless it is shown that the domination is considered improper” (Women in the Church, 2nd ed., p. 199).
Later in the footnote, Baldwin adds, “F. E. Robbins in the Loeb Classical Library series translates the fuller passages this way: ‘If Saturn alone is ruler of the body and dominates mercury and the moon, if he has a dignified position with reference to the universe and angels, he makes his subjects lovers of the body.’ Robbins clearly does not mean anything pejorative like ‘domineer’ here. For confirmation, see E. A. Sophicles, Greek Lexicon of the Roman and Byzantine Periods (New York: Scribner’s 1887), 276, who lists this same instance under the meaning ‘be in power over, to have authority over” (Women in the Church, 2nd ed., p. 199).
(3) Hippolytus, On the End of the World (3rd cent.)
Regarding (presumably) Roberts’s translation found in Schaff’s ANF series, Sue writes, “So clearly authenteÅ meant to ‘lord it over someone as a master over a slave.’ Why did Baldwin change the translation as he did?”
One would assume from this that Baldwin has offered a different translation without providing rationale. But before we burn Baldwin in effigy, perhaps it would be helpful to read what he actually wrote regarding his and Roberts’s translations:
Baldwin writes the following in a footnote on p. 682 of Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: “Arguably, Roberts has missed the translation here for two reasons: (1) apanthrÅpoi is an adjective that modifies despotai [“masters”], not an adverb [Comment: Thus, Baldwin translates as “Inhuman masters” with apanthrÅpoi being used adjectivally to modify the noun vs. Roberts’s “Masters will lord it over their servants savagely,” with apanthrÅpoi being used adverbially to modify the verb]; (2) he has missed the importance of the middle voice. In the other two instances of the middle voice it means ‘to be in force, to have legal authority over’ (see the Chronicon Paschale, below). Sophocles held the middle to indicate ‘to be in force.’ If so, ours is a better translation. The case cannot be decided with certainty. The structure of the sentence does not provide the parallelism expected. If Roberts’ translation of the middle voice were correct, we should expect to see (morally negative adjectiveâ€”’inhuman’) + (morally neutral nounâ€”’masters’) + (morally negative verbâ€”’lord it over’) paralleled by (morally negative adjectiveâ€”’factious’ or ‘rebellious’ or ‘lazy,’ etc.) + (morally neutral nounâ€”’servants’) + (morally negative verb). But as it is ‘servant’ is not modified. Therefore, the choice to translate authentoumaiin a morally neutral sense in this passage cannot be validated or invalidated from the structure of the passage. On balance then, the rare use of the middle, if the evidence from the Chronicon is taken as normative, suggests itself as the most significant factor, and authenteÅ should be taken here as ‘have legal authority over.'”
Let me conclude with a quote from near the end of Baldwin’s article (“An Important Word, p. 49). It’s lengthy, but very important:
“Since the publication of the first edition [of Women in the Church], there has been significant discussion of what constitutes a ‘negative use,’ a ‘negative connotation,’ ‘positive meaning,’ and so on, for a particular use of authenteÅ. It is well to note that there are two definitions of authenteÅ offered here that are ‘morally negative,’ the intransitive meaning 2c ‘play the tyrant,’ which is attested by only a single datum [4th cent.], and the transitive meaning 3c, ‘flout the authority of,’ attested by three data [7th cent. and 10th cent.]. There are some six to ten instances, depending on how one interprets the larger discourse, where a positive meaning of authenteÅ is used in an overall negative context. These, however, do not thereby create a transferable meaning that is ‘morally negative.’ Consider, for example, the English word ‘heal.’ In Luke 6:7 when the Pharisees wonder ‘if on the Sabbath Jesus heals,’ there is no question that, in the context, the enemies of Jesus would view it as a grievous moral error to heal on the Sabbath day. But that context would provide no justification to define ‘to heal’ and use it in other contexts with a meaning such as ‘to commit grievous moral error.’ Much of the discussion of authenteÅ has been bedeviled by exegetes failing to recognize the difference between a transferable lexical meaning and the meaning that the total passage bears when a legitimate, transferable meaning is inserted in the context under investigation.”