Puneet Varma (Editor)

1 Timothy 2:12

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1 Timothy 2:12 is a New Testament passage from the pastoral epistle by that name, authored by the Apostle Paul. It is familiarly quoted using the King James Version translation: "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence". The verse is widely used to oppose women from being trained and ordained as clergy, and from women holding certain other positions of ministry and leadership in large segments of Christianity. Those segments include the Southern Baptist Convention, Roman Catholics, and other particularly conservative evangelical Protestants. Among Roman Catholics, only men may receive the sacrament of Holy Orders to become clergy (deacons, priests, and bishops), though non-liturgical leadership roles are often available to both religious and lay women. Application of the "teach/usurp authority over the man" passage varies among Protestant denominations and by individual churches within those denominations.


Most conservative evangelical churches are complementarian in theology and practices. Some deny women a vote in church affairs since they would be participating in making decisions applicable to the men of the church. They also often deny women the right to serve as teachers of co-ed adult Bible classes or as missionaries, generally disenfranchising them from the duties and privileges of church leadership.

1 Timothy 2:12 is a key passage for Protestants in the debate. Some groups not allowing women to become pastors also cite 1 Cor. 14:32-35. Christian egalitarians maintain that there should be no institutional distinctions between men and women. Complementarians argue that Paul's instructions contained in 1 Timothy 2:12 should be accepted as normative in the church today. This latter position denies women equal ministry opportunities, irrespective of their sense of calling from God.

The United Methodist Church was at the forefront of the ordination of women as pastors. In 1956, the General Conference of the Methodist Church approved full clergy rights for women. In the past two decades, most Protestant denominations and their seminaries have begun accepting women pastors.

By sharp contrast, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) which is the largest Protestant denomination in the USA expressly excludes women from serving as pastors in their 2000 Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) policy document. Though the SBC considers each of its local churches to be autonomous up to a point, almost all SBC churches comply with the provisions of the BF&M. The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS), also denies women from becoming pastors.


The traditional view is that the "I suffer not a woman…" words are Paul's own words. However, some modern scholars believe on the basis of content, vocabulary, and literary style that 1 Timothy, as well as between two and five other Pauline letters (see Authorship of the Pauline epistles), were not written by Paul but are pseudepigraphical. Borg and other contend that this verse fits poorly with Paul's more positive references to Christian women and may be a later interpolation rather than part of the original text. Still others, including scholars/theologians Richard and Catherine Kroeger, believe Paul did write the epistle of 1 Timothy. They present a case for interpreting 1 Timothy 2:12 as a refutation of false teaching, rather than as a narrow restriction on women's role. Their research leads them to conclude that Paul was addressing a particular problem localized in the Church at Ephesus where Timothy was pastor of the multicultural congregation. A primary example of this paradigm permeates the book they co-authored, I Suffer Not a Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 in Light of Ancient Evidence. The book presents the Kroegers' well-documented research which sheds new perspectives to this difficult biblical text. They present considerable evidence concerning newly discovered issues and problems Paul was addressing. They argue that the verse must be interpreted in light of careful exegesis of Greek word usage, the Greco-Roman customs and laws of the day, and the outside influences on the Christian churches of the 1st Century. While holding firm to a literal approach to 1 Timothy 2:11-15, the Kroegers' research argues from the background of changes in the Greek language since the 1st century, Roman empire customs at the time the Apostle Paul wrote 1 Timothy, and the problems that the church in Ephesus was facing with pagan religions. The Kroegers' maintain that gnosticism was taking hold of the Christians at Ephesus, and the women, being given less-to-no education in those days, were more prone to be misled by gnostic beliefs. Those authors present the case that those women with gnostic influence were trying to pass on those erroneous beliefs to others in the Church at Ephesus. Hence, their conclusion is that 1 Timothy 2:12 is a time-and-place refutation of false teaching, not a universal Christian principle for all time.

Unclear meaning of the key word

1 Timothy 2:12 contains a rare Greek verb, found only here in the entire Bible. It is the word authentein which is ordinarily translated "to usurp authority." Therefore, since there is no “control text” to determine its meaning, no one knows for sure what the word means and exactly what Paul is forbidding. Yet despite that uncertainty, most of the more conservative denominations apply the "usurp authority" translation to their restrictions of women's roles in their churches.

Interpretive approaches

Interpretation of this passage is almost universally considered to be complex. N.T. Wright, former Bishop of Durham, says that 1 Timothy 2 is the "hardest passage of all" to exegete properly. A number of interpretive approaches to the text have been made by both complementarians and egalitarians. The 1 Tim. 2:12 passage is only one "side" of a letter written by Paul, and is directed at a particular group. Therefore, interpretations are limited to one-sided information with no record of the associated correspondence to which Paul was responding. Theologian Philip Payne, a Cambridge PhD and former Tübingen scholar, is convinced that 1 Tim. 2:12 is the only New Testament verse that "might" explicitly prohibit women from teaching or having authority over men, though he writes that he does not think that is what it means. Moore maintains that "Any interpretation of these portions of Scripture must wrestle with the theological, contextual, syntactical, and lexical difficulties embedded within these few words".

Wheaton scholar and professor Gilbert Bilezikian concludes that although it may seem that Paul is laying down an ordinance that has the character of a universal norm for all Christians in all ages, that view does not survive close scrutiny. After extensive research, he has reached these conclusions:

  • that the apostle Paul wrote this epistle to a church that was in a state of terminal crisis;
  • that Paul drastically curtailed the ministries of both women and men to save the Church at Ephesus from what he terms as a high risk of "self-destruction";
  • that the restrictions Paul laid down in this epistle were temporary measures of exception designed to prevent this one particular church from disintegration;
  • that the remedial crisis-management provisions mandated in this passage remain valid for all times for churches that fall into similar states of dysfunction.
  • Bilezikian concludes that the exceptional character of the emergency measures advocated by Paul serves as evidence that women could indeed teach and hold leadership positions under normal circumstances.

    Egalitarian and complementarian interpretive approaches to the text typically take the following forms:

  • Socio-cultural: Egalitarians argue that the text was intended for a specific socio-cultural environment which no longer exists and that the text is therefore not relevant to modern churches (typically rely heavily on historical reconstructions using extra-biblical sources); complementarians argue that the socio-cultural environment (while relevant), does not restrict the application of the verse to a specific time and place in the past
  • Lexical: Egalitarians argue that the meaning of the key word in the text, authenteō, does not support the exclusion of women from authoritative teaching positions in the congregation; Complementarians argue that the meaning of this word in its context indicates that Paul was forbidding women from having authority over men in the church
  • Hermeneutical: Some egalitarians argue that the text was intended only to limit women for a specific temporary duration, or that it was intended only to limit uneducated women who were unfit to speak in the congregation; Complementarians argue that hermeneutical considerations indicate the text is universal in its application to Christian congregations
  • Socio-cultural

    Christian Egalitarians believe that the passage does not carry the same meaning for the modern church when interpreted in light of the socio-cultural situation of Paul's time; that a key word in the passage should be reinterpreted to mean something other than "exercising authority". Some recent scholarship is believed to show that Paul never intended his first letter to Timothy to apply to the church at all times and places. Instead, it was intended to remediate a state of acute crisis being created by a “massive influx of false teaching and cultic intrusions” threatening the survival of the very young Church at Ephesus.

    The egalitarian socio-cultural position has been represented prominently by classicist Catherine Kroeger and theologian Richard Kroeger. They believe the author of 1 Timothy was refuting false teaching, rather than establishing a narrow restriction on women's role. The Kroegers maintain that Paul was uniquely addressing the Ephesian situation because of its feminist religious culture where women had usurped religious authority over men. They cite a wide range of primary sources to support their case that the Ephesian women were teaching a particular Gnostic notion concerning Eve. They advocate that ancient Greco-Roman world thought patterns faced by the writer of the Pastoral Epistles are germane to interpreting his writings.

    However, their conclusions have been rejected by certain historians as well as by some complementarians. I.H. Marshall cautions that "It is precarious, as Edwin Yamauchi and others have shown, to assume Gnostic backgrounds for New Testament books. Although the phrase, 'falsely called knowledge', in 1 Timothy 6:20 contains the Greek word gnosis, this was the common word for 'knowledge'. It does seem anachronistic to transliterate and capitalize it 'Gnosis' as the Kroegers do. They thus explain v. 13 as an answer to the false notion that the woman is the originator of man with the Artemis cult in Ephesus that had somehow crept into the church, possibly by way of the false teaching. However, this explanation cannot be substantiated (except from later Gnostic writings)". Streland concludes that "Kroeger and Kroeger stand alone in their interpretation".

    According to Thomas Schreiner, "The full-fledged Gnosticism of later church history did not exist in the first century 21 AD. An incipient form of Gnosticism was present, but Schmithals makes the error of reading later Gnosticism into the first century documents. Richard and Catherine Kroeger follow in Schmithals's footsteps in positing the background to 1 Timothy 2:12 . They call the heresy 'proto-Gnostic,' but in fact they often appeal to later sources to define the false teaching (v.23). External evidence can only be admitted if it can be shown that the religious or philosophical movement was contemporary with the New Testament". In his critique of the Kroegers' book, J.M. Holmes' opinion is that "As a classicist…, [Catherine Kroeger]'s own contributions are reconstruction of a background and choices from linguistic options viewed as appropriate to that background. Both have been discredited".

    Many contemporary advocates of Christian Egalitarianism do find considerable value in the Kroegers' research. Catherine Kroeger, in one of her articles, points out that authentein is a rare Greek verb found only here in the entire Bible. She writes that in extra-biblical literature—the only other places it can be found, the word is ordinarily translated "to bear rule" or "to usurp authority". Yet, a study of other Greek literary sources reveals that it did not ordinarily have this meaning until the third or fourth century, well after the time of the New Testament. Prior to and during Paul's time, the rare uses of the word included references to murder, suicide, "one who slays with his own hand", and "self-murderer". Moeris, in the second century, advised his students to use another word, autodikein, as it was less coarse than authentein. The Byzantine Thomas Magister reiterates the warning against using the term, calling it "objectionable". Kroeger writes that St. John Chrysostom, in his Commentary on I Timothy 5.6, uses autheritia to denote "sexual license." Arguing that too often we underestimate the seriousness of this problem for the New Testament church, concluding that it is evident that a similar heresy is current at Ephesus, where these false teachers "worm(ed) their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth" (2 Tim. 3:6-9).

    Concluding that the author of l Timothy was addressing a specific situation that was a serious threat to the infant, fragile church, an article entitled "1 Timothy 2:11-15: Anti-Gnostic Measures against Women" the author writes that the "tragedy is that these verses were extensively used in later tradition to justify contemporary prejudices against women. They were supposed to prove from the inspired Scriptures that God subjected women to men and that women are more susceptible to temptation and deception".

    Trombley and Newport agree that the Kroegers rightly indicate that authenteo had meanings connected with sex acts and murder in extra-biblical literature. They find it consistent with the historical context of the first letter to Timothy, at the church in Ephesus—home to the goddess Diana's shrine where worship involved ritual sex and sacrifice.

    Social Worker Bob Edwards examines this issue from a psychological and sociological perspective. His work focuses on the impact of cultural norms on gender schemata, and subsequently the impact of gender schemata on church tradition as well as biblical translation and interpretation. Specifically, Edwards highlights the patriarchal norms that are evident in the writings of St. Augustine of Hippo. St. Augustine's views on women were consistent with sexist norms found in the culture of Rome in the 4th century. Sexism found in Plato's philosophy is also mirrored in Augustine's work. The impact of St. Augustine's work—and worldview—on the institutional norms of the church is highlighted by a number of authors. These norms, it is argued, shape the lenses through which passages such as 1 Timothy 2:12 are perceived and understood. Through psychological processes such as socialization, confirmation bias and belief perseverance, perception may exclude historical, cultural and literary context that contradicts patriarchal norms.


    Catherine Kroeger has been one of the major proponents of egalitarian lexical arguments that the key word in the text, authenteō, does not support the exclusion of women from authoritative teaching positions in the congregation. In 1979 Kroeger asserted the meaning of the word was "to engage in "fertility practices", but this was not universally accepted by scholars, complementarian or egalitarian. "Kroeger and Kroeger have done significant research into the nature and background of ancient Ephesus and have suggested an alternative interpretation to 1 Tim 2:11-15. 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". "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". Details of lexical and syntactical studies into the meaning of authente by both egalitarians and complementarians are found further down in this article.


    Egalitarians Aida Spencer and Wheaton New Testament scholar Gilbert Bilezikian have argued that the prohibition on women speaking in the congregation was only intended to be a temporary response to women who were teaching error.

    Bilezikian points out that the word translated “authority” 1 Timothy 2:12 phrase, one that is a key proof text used to keep women out of church leadership, is a word used only here and never used again anywhere in Scripture. He writes that the word translated "authority" in that passage is a hapax, a word that appears only once within the structure of the Bible and never cross-referenced again. He says one should "never build a doctrine on or draw a teaching from an unclear or debated hapax". Therefore, since there is no “control text” to determine its meaning, Bilezikian asserts that no one knows for sure what the word means and what exactly Paul is forbidding. He adds that there is "so much clear non-hapaxic material available in the Bible that we do not need to press into service difficult texts that are better left aside when not understood. … We are accountable only for that which we can understand".

    Spencer notes that rather than using the imperative mood or even an aorist or future indicative to express that prohibition, Paul quite significantly utilizes a present indicative, perhaps best rendered "But I am not presently allowing". Spencer believes this is a temporary prohibition that is based solely on the regrettable similarity between the Ephesian women and Eve—in that the women of Ephesus had been deceived and as such, if allowed to teach, would be in danger of promoting false doctrine.

    Spencer's argument has been criticized by complementarian authors and at least one egalitarian writer.

    Barron points out that defenders of the traditional view have argued that Paul's blanket statement, “I do not permit a woman to teach,” sounds universal. He asks if what Paul really meant was “I do not permit a woman to teach error,” and that he would have no objection to women teaching once they got their doctrine straight, why did he not say that?

    Gorden Fee, an egalitarian scholar, also has difficulty with Spencer's hermeneutical points. Fee says that despite protests to the contrary, Paul states the "rule" itself absolutely—without any form of qualification. Therefore, he finds it difficult to interpret this as meaning anything else than all forms of speaking out in churches.

    Although he proposes an updated scenario in his 2006 version of Beyond Sex Roles, Gilbert Bilezikian in his 1989 version proposed that Paul may have been distinguishing between qualified, trained teachers and some of the unschooled women who struggled to assert themselves as teachers with their newly found freedom in Christianity. However, this view is opposed by egalitarians B. Barron and Gordon Fee. Bilezikian further suggests that the fledgling church at Ephesus had been formed among confrontations of superstitious, occult practices. This view is opposed by egalitarians such as Walter Liefeld, as well as by complementarians such as Schreiner. Bilezikian proposes that "the solution for proper understanding of this passage is to follow its development to the letter":

    Women in Ephesus should first become learners,v.11 and quit acting as teachers or assuming the authority of recognized teachers.v.12 Just as Eve rather than Adam was deceived into error, unqualified persons will get themselves and the church in trouble.vv.13-14 Yet, as Eve became the means and the first beneficiary of promised salvation, so Ephesian women will legitimately aspire to maturity and competency and to positions of service in the church.v.15

    Meaning of authenteō

    The meaning of authentein (authenteō), in verse 12 has been the source of considerable differences of opinion among biblical scholars in recent decades. The first is that the lexical history of this word is long and complex. Walter Liefeld describes briefly the word's problematically broad semantic range:

    "A perplexing issue for all is the meaning of authentein. Over the course of its history this verb and its associated noun have had a wide semantic range, including some bizarre meanings, such as committing suicide, murdering one's parents, and being sexually aggressive. Some studies have been marred by a selective and improper use of the evidence".

    Classical Greek

    The standard lexical reference work for classical Greek, the Liddell Scott Greek Lexicon has the following entry for the verb authentein:

    αὐθεντ-έω, A. to have full power or authority over, τινός 1st Epistle to Timothy 2.12; “πρός τινα” Berliner griechische Urkunden BGU1208.37(i B.C.): c. inf. Joannes Laurentius Lydus Lyd.Mag.3.42. 2. commit a murder, Scholia to Aeschylus Eumenides 42.

    An exhaustive listing of all incidences is found in Köstenberger's appendix. Then the following related entry for the noun authentes:

    αὐθέντ-ης, ου, ὁ, (cf. αὐτοέντης) A. murderer, Herodotus.1.117, Euripides Rhesus.873, Thucydides.3.58; “τινός” Euripides Hercules Furens.1359, Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica.2.754; suicide, Antiphon (person) 3.3.4, Dio Cassius.37.13: more loosely, one of a murderer's family, Euripides Andromache.172. 2. perpetrator, author, “πράξεως” Polybius.22.14.2; “ἱεροσυλίας” Diodorus Siculus.16.61: generally, doer, Alexander Rhetor.p.2S.; master, “δῆμος αὐθέντης χθονός” Euripides The Suppliants.442; voc. “αὐθέντα ἥλιε” Leiden Magical Papyrus W.6.46 [in A. Dieterich, Leipzig 1891]; condemned by Phrynichus Attistica.96. 3. as Adjective, ὅμαιμος αυφόνος, αὐ. φάνατοι, murder by one of the same family, Aeschylus Eumenides.212, Agamemnon.1572 (lyr.). (For αὐτο-ἕντης, cf. συν-έντης, ἁνύω; root sen-, sṇ-.)[abbreviations expanded for legibility]

    Then the noun-form authentia, "authority":

    αὐθεντ-ία, ἡ, A. absolute sway, authority, Corpus Inscriptionum Graecarum CIG2701.9 (Mylasa), PLips (L. Mitteis, Griechische Urkunden der Papyrussammlung zu Leipzig, vol. i, 1906).37.7 (iv A. D.), Corpus Hermeticum.1.2, Zosimus Epigrammaticus (Anthologia Graeca).2.33. 2. restriction, LXX 3 Maccabees.2.29. 3. “αὐθεντίᾳ ἀποκτείνας” with his own hand, Dio Cassius.Fr.102.12.

    Bible translations

    The issue is compounded by the fact that this word is found only once in the New Testament, and is not common in immediately proximate Greek literature. Nevertheless, English Bible translations over the years have been generally in agreement when rendering the word. In the translations below, the words corresponding to authenteō are in bold italics:

  • Greek New Testament 12γυναικὶ δὲ διδάσκειν οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω, οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός, ἀλλ᾽ εἶναι ἐν ἡσυχίᾳ
  • Vulgate 12docere autem mulieri non permitto, neque dominari in virum, sed esse in silentio
  • KJV 12But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
  • RSV 12I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent.
  • GNB 12I do not allow them to teach or to have authority over men; they must keep quiet.
  • NIV 12I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.
  • CEV 12They should be silent and not be allowed to teach or to tell men what to do.
  • NASB 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.
  • NLT 12I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly.
  • NET 12But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.
  • Gender bias

    Elizabeth A. McCabe has identified and documented evidence of gender-bias in English translations of the Bible. This does not apply exclusively to the word authentein. Greek words indicating that women held positions of authority in the church also appear to have been altered in translation. Women identified in Greek manuscripts as a diakonos (deacon) or prostatis (leader), are referred to as servants in some English translations, like the King James Version. This is inconsistent with the manner in which these words are typically translated regarding men.

    Furthermore, if this translation of authentein is accepted without consideration of contextual factors related to the original letter (e.g., challenges facing Timothy at the church in Ephesus), it appears to contradict other biblical passages in which women are clearly depicted as leading or teaching:

    Catherine Kroeger

    Examples of the use of authentein in extra-biblical sources have been provided by Catherine Kroeger:

    The meaning of the word was seriously disputed in 1979 when Catherine Kroeger, then a university classics student, asserted the meaning was "to engage in fertility practices". Kroeger cites the findings of French linguist and noted authority on Greek philology, Pierre Chantraine to support her conclusions.

    In later work, Kroeger explored other possible meanings of the word authentein that are consistent with its use in Greek literature prior to and during the New Testament era. In 1992, she highlighted the possibility that authentein is a reference to ritual violence perpetrated against men in the goddess worship of Asia Minor. Specifically, she focused on the practice of ritual castration as a rite of purification for priests of Artemis and Cybele. A. H. Jones, J. Ferguson, and A. R. Favazza all highlight the prevalence of ritual castration in Asia Minor before, during and after the New Testament era. In 1 Timothy 1:3-7 and 4:1-5, the author of the epistle warns against false teaching, mythology and extreme forms of asceticism. Ritual castration was part of an extreme form of asceticism practiced in and around Ephesus during the New Testament period, and evidence presented by Favazza suggests that it did have an influence on the emerging traditions of the early Christian church.

    Leland E. Wilshire in 2010 made a study of the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae database, which contains 329 references to variations of the wordauthentein in Greek literature, and concluded that authentein in the New Testament period, in Ephesus of Asia Minor, most likely refers to some form of violence. Wilshire does not make a definitive statement regarding the nature of the violence the epistle may be referring to, but notes that authentein was often used to express the commission of violence, murder or suicide.


    Although the claim was rejected largely by complementarian scholars, debate over the meaning of the word had been opened, and Christians affirming an egalitarian view of the role of women in the church continued to contest the meaning of the word authenteō. Standard lexicons including authenteō are broadly in agreement with regard to its historical lexical range. Wilshire, however, documents that whereas lexicons such as the "Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literauture" only contain 13 examples of the word authetein and its cognates, the computer database known as the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) contains 329 examples, offering a much larger and more representative sample of the use of the word throughout the history of Greek literature. Uses of the word in the TLG from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D. are listed in a subsequent section below—syntactical study.

    A number of key studies of authenteō have been undertaken over the last 30 years, some of which have involved comprehensive searches of the largest available databases of Greek literature, Thesaurus Linguae Graecae, and the Duke Databank of Documentary Papyri. These databases enable researchers to study the word in context, as it is used in a wide range of documents over a long period of time.

  • Catherine Kroeger (1979)
  • George Knight III (1984)
  • Leland Wilshire (1988)
  • Catherine & Richard Kroeger (1992)
  • Andrew Perriman (1993)
  • H. Scott Baldwin (1995)
  • Andreas J. Köstenberger (1995)
  • Albert Wolters (2000)
  • Linda Belleville (2004)
  • Those who favor “traditional” understandings of male ecclesiastical leadership have tended to translate this word in the neutral sense of “have authority” or “exercise authority” as, for example, George Knight in his widely cited article of 1984. In 1988, Leland Wilshire, examining 329 occurrences of this word and its cognate authentēs, claimed that, prior to and contemporary with the 1st century, authentein often had negative overtones such as “domineer,” “perpetrate a crime” or even “murder”. Not until the later patristic period did the meaning “to exercise authority” come to predominate.

    By 2000, Scott Baldwin's study of the word was considered the most extensive, demonstrating that the meaning in a given passage must be determined by context. "After extended debate, the most thorough lexical study is undoubtedly that of H. Scott Baldwin, who conclusively demonstrates that various shades of meaning are possible, and that only the context can determine which is intended". Linda Belleville's later study examined the five occurrences of authentei as a verb or noun prior to or contemporary with Paul and rendered these texts as follows: “commit acts of violence,” “the author of a message", a letter of Tryphon (1st century BC), which Belleville rendered “I had my way with him”, the poet Dorotheus (1st and 2nd centuries AD) in an astrological text, rendered by Bellville “Saturn...dominates Mercury.” Belleville maintains that it is clear in these that a neutral meaning such as “have authority” is not in view. Her study has been criticized for treating the infinitive authentein as a noun, which is considered a major weakness in her argument.

    Lexical studies have been particularly focused on two early papyri; Papyrus BGU 1208 (c.27 BC), using the verb authenteō and speaking of Trypho exercising his authority, and Papyrus Tebtunis 15 (c.100 AD), using the noun form and speaking of bookkeepers having authority over their accounts. These two papyri are significant not only because they are closest in time to Paul's own usage of authenteō, but because they both use their respective words with a sense which is generally held to be in agreement with the studies by Baldwin and Wolters, though some egalitarians (such as Linda Belleville), dispute the interpretation of authenteō in Papyrus BGU 1208.

    Syntactical study

    The lexical data was later supplemented by a large scale contextual syntax study of the passage by Andreas Köstenbereger in 1995, which argued that the syntactical construction ouk didaskein oude authentein ("not teach nor have/exercise authority"), requires that both didaskein and authentein have a positive sense. Köstenbereger examined fifty-two examples of the same ouk... oude ("not... nor"), construction in the New Testament, as well as forty eight extra-biblical examples covering the 3rd century BC to the 3rd century AD. Köstenbereger concluded that teaching has a positive meaning in such passages as 1 Timothy 4:11; 6:2, and 2 Timothy 2:2. The force of the ouk… oude construction therefore would mean that authenteo likewise has a positive meaning, and does not refer to domineering but the positive exercise of authority.

    The majority of complementarian and some egalitarian scholars agreed with Köstenberger, many considering that he has determined conclusively the contextual meaning of authenteo in 1 Timothy 2:12. Peter O'Brien, in a review published in Australia, concurred with the findings of this study, as did Helge Stadelmann in an extensive review that appeared in the German "Jahrbuch für evangelikale Theologie". Both reviewers accepted the results of the present study as valid. Köstenberger notes a range of egalitarians agreeing with his syntactical analysis. Kevin Giles "finds himself in essential agreement with the present syntactical analysis of 1 Tim 2:12", Craig Blomberg is quoted as saying "Decisively supporting the more positive sense of assuming appropriate authority is Andreas Köstenberger's study". Esther Ng "continues, “However, since a negative connotation of didaskein is unlikely in this verse, the neutral meaning for authentein (to have authority over) seems to fit the oude construction better”. Egalitarian Craig Keener, in a review appearing in the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, states that while in his view the principle is not clear in all instances cited in Köstenberger's study, “the pattern seems to hold in general, and this is what matters most.” Keener concurs that the contention of the present essay is “probably correct that "have authority" should be read as coordinate with "teach" rather than as subordinate ("teach in a domineering way).”

    Egalitarians such as Wilshire (2010), however, reject the conclusion that authentein, as used in 1 Timothy 2:12, refers to the use of authority at all—either in a positive or negative sense. Wilshire concludes that authentein might best be translated "to instigate violence." Women in Timothy's congregation, therefore, are to neither teach nor instigate violence. He bases this conclusion upon a study of every known use of the word authentein (and its cognates) in Greek literature from the years 200 B.C. to 200 A.D.. This study was completed using the Thesaurus Linguae Graeca computer database. His findings are summarized as follows:

  • -Polybius used the word authenten, 2nd century B.C., to mean the “doer of a massacre.”
  • -The word authentian is used in III Macabees, 1st century B.C., to mean “restrictions” or “rights.”
  • -Diodorus Siculus used three variations of the words (authentais, authenten, authentas), 1st century B.C.-1st century A.D., to mean “perpetrators of sacrilege,” “author of crimes” and “supporters of violent actions.”
  • -Philo Judaeus used the word authentes, 1st century B.C.–1st century A.D., to mean “being one’s own murderer.”
  • -Flavius Josephus used the words authenten and authentas, 1st century A.D., to mean “perpetrator of a crime” and “perpetrators of a slaughter.”
  • -The apostle Paul used the word authentein once during the same time period as Diodorus, Philo and Josephus.
  • -Appian of Alexander used the word authentai three times, and the word authenten twice, 2nd century A.D., to mean “murderers,” slayer,” “slayers of themselves” and “perpetrators of evil.”
  • -Sim. of the Shepherd of Hermas used the word authentes, 2nd century A.D., to mean “builder of a tower.”
  • -A homily by Pseudo-Clement used the word authentes once, ? A.D., to mean “sole power.”
  • -Irenaeus used the word authenias three times, 2nd century A.D., to mean “authority.”
  • -Harpocration used the word authentes, 2nd century A.D., to mean “murderer.”
  • -Phrynichus used the word authentes once, 2nd century A.D., to mean “one who murders by his own hand.”
  • Whereas the word authentein was used on rare occasions (e.g. by Irenaeus) to denote authority, it was much more commonly used to indicate something violent, murderous or suicidal.

    Meaning of didaskō

    More recently, John Dickson has questioned the meaning of the word didaskō ("teach"). Dickson argues that it refers to "preserving and laying down the traditions handed on by the apostles". Dickson goes on to argue that since that does not happen in most sermons today, women are not prohibited from giving sermons. Dickson's argument has been criticized in Women, Sermons and the Bible: Essays interacting with John Dickson's Hearing Her Voice, published by Matthias Media.


    1 Timothy 2:12 Wikipedia