Köstenberger’s syntactical analysis of 1 Timothy 2:12

by monax

διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός

repost from SSB August 1, 2013 @ 3:47 pm

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let me start out by underscoring our common foundation—what I believe to be the enormous solid ground we who have placed our faith in Christ Jesus share: that is, an understanding that because His Spirit lives within us we are all ultimately and personally Spirit-led.

Also, I trust we all believe in the ontological spiritual equality between male and female, which is at the very least what Gal 3:28 means for us. We are all—male and female—one in Christ Jesus, made in the likeness of our Creator, together and equally the image of God.

And hopefully we all understand that each one of us in Christ Jesus are kings and queens in His eternal kingdom, priests and priestesses to one another as unto God Himself, and prophets and prophetesses of the Most High God of the universe. This is inherently who and what we are.

Yet in our understandings we have one critical area wherein we differ—in our reading of 1 Timothy.

Here is the ESV translation in question:

I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man (2:12a),

and here is the underlying Greek, followed by its transliteration into the Latin alphabet:

διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός

didaskein de gunaiki ouk epitrepo oude authentein andros

With apologies for this comment being exponentially overlong, I would now like to offer a few academic (and hopefully logical) answers for your consideration regarding two of the above Objections.

One—that gune (γυνή) in this verse “most likely refers to a wife” and not to a woman.


Two—that authenteo (αὐθεντέω) does not mean “to exercise authority” but instead “denotes a sort of sinister compelling.” The older translations coming much closer to its meaning with “domineer.”

There is a lot that hinges upon the validity of these assertions, so let me begin by first answering Objection Two as simply as I know best through the quoting of a bit of scholarship from the second edition of Women in the Church—An Analysis and Application of 1 Timothy 2:9-15 (particularly Henry Scott Baldwin’s lexical findings and Andreas J. Köstenberger’s syntactical research; Baker Academic, 2005). As I could not find a digital copy of it, I have transcribed various excerpts below; and with it being a scholarly work where the Greek script is employed sans transliterations, I have provided in brackets simple [transliterations] for smoother reading.

Yes, it is lexically true that the Greek verb authenteo can carry the negative meaning “to domineer.” Yet keep in mind this “sinister compelling” notion, as far as I’m aware, is found but only once in all the eighty-five known authenteo instances in ancient Greek literature, in the writing of Chrysostom (ca. AD 390), more than three hundred years after the writing of 1 Timothy. It is a rare word stretched out over fourteen centuries. So in our attempts to clarify the 1 Tim 2:12 meaning of authenteo, word study approaches by themselves will yield inconclusive results. So after acquiring a lexical appreciation of the term we need to study the context and grammar—particularly a specific syntactical analysis—of our phrase in question.

First, here are two quoted conclusions from Baldwin’s lexical study of authenteo, (from the most rigorous and thorough study of the verb every done, covering all the extant papyrus manuscripts and ancient Greek literature):

‘Upon analyzing these eighty-five currently known occurrences of the verb αὐθεντέω [authenteo], it becomes evident that the unifying concept is that of authority‘ (Baldwin, p45).


‘What we can say with certainty is that we have no instances of a pejorative use of the verb before the fourth century AD. The data available, however, provide clear indication that the widely understood meanings of αὐθεντέω [authenteo] were based on the idea of the possession or exercise of authority’ (Baldwin, p49).

What is at stake here? What specifically has been called into question? And why does it matter?

Prior to the publishing of Köstenberger’s syntactical research the 1 Tim 2:12 debate over the meaning of authenteo was centered upon the question of whether the word was to be understood as conveying a general or positive meaning such as “to exercise authority over,” or whether it should be read as having a pejorative or negative meaning such as “to domineer.”

If the negative meaning is possible, then we can read the verse to suggest that Paul is proscribing women from only a negative exercise of authority, implying the permissibility of women teaching and possessing positive authority over men.

Now let us turn to Köstenberger’s syntactical analysis of διδάσκειν δὲ γυναικὶ οὐκ ἐπιτρέπω οὐδὲ αὐθεντεῖν ἀνδρός [didaskein de gunaiki ouk epitrepo oude authentein andros].

Köstenberger’s Greek syntactical parallel background studies within the New Testament and ancient literature seems to have rendered conclusive results to the academic community—due to syntactical considerations a negative reading of authenteo must be ruled out.

There is about a zero percent chance of authenteo having a negative connotation in 1 Timothy. Köstenberger has identified two distinct syntactical patterns that parallel (outside the NT) or most closely parallels (inside the NT) the grammatical construction of our biblical phrase in question. I’ll let Köstenberger speak for himself below, but what I want to emphasize here is that of all the parallel examples that exist for us today, there are only two distinct patterns in evidence. No exceptions in all the known literature were found.

Köstenberger’s work (first published in 1995) has been examined and proven true. And most importantly his study has met with “virtually unanimous acceptance” among his academic peers (complementarian as well as egalitarian scholars). So I believe the egalitarian issue now has moved beyond the question of accepting this as a proscription, biblical egalitarians most nearly all agree to the restriction, they just relegate the proscription to the local context—situational to the time and place of first century Ephesus.

[[ Without trying to do way too much in my comments here, I believe an appeal for a mere local restriction can be answered by the text itself. These words appear to testify against it: 1 Tim 2:8 “I desire then that in every place (ἐν παντὶ τόπῳ  [en panti topo] . . .” And 1 Tim 3:14-15 where Paul is writing these things “so that you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of truth.” ]]

Here, now, is Köstenberger’s academic breakdown:

Syntactical Parallels to 1 Timothy 2:12 in the New Testament

‘Strictly speaking, there is only one close syntactical parallel to 1 Timothy 2:12 in the New Testament, Acts 16:21, where the same construction, a negated finite verb + infinitive + οὐδὲ [oude] + infinitive is found. However, if one allows for verbal forms other than infinitives to be linked by οὐδὲ [oude], fifty-two further passages can be identified. These can be grouped into two patterns of the usage of οὐδὲ [oude]:

‘—Pattern 1: two activities or concepts are viewed positively in and of themselves, but their exercise is prohibited or their existence is denied due to circumstances or conditions adduced in the context.

‘—Pattern 2: two activities or concepts are viewed negatively, and consequently their exercise is prohibited or their existence is denied or they are to be avoided.

‘In both patterns, the conjunction οὐδὲ [oude] coordinates activities of the same order, that is, activities that are both viewed either positively or negatively by the writer or speaker’ (p 57).

Köstenberger goes on to list them (pp 57-59).

‘These examples set forth the New Testament evidence that οὐδὲ [oude] joins terms denoting activities that are both viewed either positively or negatively by the writer or speaker. The implication of this observation for 1 Timothy 2:12 is that there are only two acceptable ways of rendering that passage: (1) “I do not permit a woman to teach [error] or to domineer over a man,” or (2) “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man”’ (p 60).


‘Since, therefore, the term διδάσκειν [didaskein] is used absolutely in the New Testament for an activity that is viewed positively in and of itself, and since οὐδὲ [oude] coordinates terms that are both viewed either positively or negatively, αὐθεντεῖν [authentein] should be seen as denoting an activity that is viewed positively in and of itself as well. Thus, 1 Timothy 2:12 is an instance of the first pattern, in which the exercise of two activities is prohibited or the existence of two concepts is denied by the writer due to special considerations’ (p 62).

Syntactical Parallels to 1 Timothy 2:12 in Extrabiblical Literature

‘The study of syntactical parallels to 1 Timothy 2:12 in the New Testament has yielded significant insights. Two patterns of the use of  οὐδὲ [oude] were identified, both consisting of coordinated expressions of the same order. However, since the New Testament contains only one exact syntactical parallel where οὐδὲ [oude] links two infinitives governed by a negated finite verb, it seems desirable to extend the scope of this investigation to extrabiblical Greek literature preceding or contemporary with the New Testament era.

‘The IBYCUS system, a computer program with the capability of searching virtually all the extant ancient Greek literature, has enabled the researcher to study all Greek literature directly relevant to the study of the syntax used in 1 Timothy 2:12’ (pp 62-63).

Köstenberger goes on to list (with context and English translations) forty-eight syntactical parallels to 1 Tim 2:12 found in the extrabiblical Greek literature (pp 63-71).

‘Confirming the earlier study of the use of οὐδὲ [oude] in the New Testament, these instances suggest that the construction “negated finite verb + infinite + οὐδὲ [oude] + infinitive” is used to link two infinitives denoting concepts or activities that are both viewed either positively or negatively by the writer. the same two patterns of the usage of οὐδὲ [oude] are found: pattern 1, where two activities or concepts are viewed positively in and of themselves, but their exercise is prohibited or their existence is denied due to circumstances or conditions adduced in the context; and pattern 2, where two activities or concepts are viewed negatively, and consequently their exercise is prohibited or their existence is denied or they are to be avoided’ (p 71).


‘In analogy to the observations made in the study of New Testament syntactical parallels to 1 Timothy 2:12 above, the following conclusions may be drawn. The implication of the identified patterns of the usage of οὐδὲ  [oude] for 1 Timothy 2:12 is that the activities denoted by the two infinitives διδάσκειν [didaskein] and αὐθεντεῖν [authentein] will both be viewed either positively or negatively by the writer. That is, the passage should be rendered either “I do not permit a woman to teach [error] or to usurp a man’s authority” or “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have (or exercise) authority over a man.”

‘The meaning of διδάσκειν [didaskein] in 1 Timothy 2:12 is therefore an important preliminary issue in determining the meaning of αὐθεντεῖν [authentein]. As was argued above, διδάσκειν [didaskein], when used absolutely, in the New Testament always denotes an activity that is viewed positively by the writer, to be rendered “to teach” (cf. esp. 1 Tim. 4:11; 6:2; 2 Tim 2:2). If the writer had intended to give the term a negative connotation in 1 Timothy 2:12, he would in all likelihood have used the term ἑτεροδιδασκαλεῖν [heterodidaskalein] (as in 1 Tim. 1:3; 6:3) or some other contextual qualifier specifying the (inappropriate or heretical) content of the teaching (as in Titus 1:11).

‘Since the first part of 1 Timothy 2:12 reads, “But I do not permit a woman to teach,” and the coordinating conjunction οὐδὲ  [oude] requires the second activity to be viewed correspondingly by the writer, αὐθεντεῖν [authentien] should be regarded as viewed positively as well and be rendered “to have (or exercise) authority,” and not “to flout the authority of” or “to domineer”’ (p 74).

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Lastly, I’d like to answer (with what I hope is good logic) Objection One—the assertion that gune (γυνή) in this verse “most likely refers to a wife” and not to a woman.

In 1 Corinthians 7:4 we read, “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

We see in 1 Cor 7:4 that a wife does in fact have a measure of authority over her husband. So as we hold 1 Tim 2:12 in tension with the rest of Scripture it would be a logical contradiction to read gune in this verse as “a wife” prohibited from exercising authority over her “husband.” The only proper reading for gune here is “a woman” in the context of the gathered assembly.

I realize there are arguments to the contrary. Like Gordon Hugenberger’s assertion that for Paul grounding his 1 Tim 2:12 proscription in the account of Adam and Eve along with its conceptual parallels with 1 Peter 3:1-7, that we should therefore read aner and gune as “husband” and “wife” for the phrase in question “concerns marriage roles, not gender roles,” according to him.

In 1 Peter 3 the relationship between aner and gune is specifically qualified by the word idiois, a modifier which makes it clear that a husband-and-wife relationship is what is being discussed. However, In 1 Tim 2 there is no such clarifying terms to indicate that Paul is exclusively addressing married couples.

With all due respect to Hugenberger, I believe it is an eisegetical error to conclude on the basis of the 1 Tim 2 Adam-and-Eve reference that Paul is exclusively addressing the issue of roles within the marriage context—especially since Paul is smack dab in the middle of addressing the issue of order and qualifications of overseers and deacons within the church.

When Paul writes “I do not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man” he grounds this prohibition on the created order, and then details how Eve was deceived and not Adam.

Why on earth was Paul inspired to include verses 14 and 15? For the reason that he was addressing the issue of “deceiving spirits” (4:1); and, certainly, for other significant reasons—whether clearly discernible to us or not.

We know from Genesis 3 that the consequence of the woman’s transgression involved an intensifying of pain in childbirth, and that her “desire will be for her husband, and he shall rule over” her (Gen 3:16). This reference, I’m certain, is a vital key to appreciating the situation of 1 Tim 2.

Here’s what Wayne Grudem writes concerning the word “desire” in Gen 3:16:

‘The word translated “desire” is an unusual Hebrew word, teshuqah. In this context and in this specific construction it probably implies an aggressive desire, perhaps a desire to conquer or rule over, or else an urge or impulse the woman has to oppose her husband, an impulse to act against him. This sense is seen in the only other occurrence of teshuqah in all the books of Moses and the only other occurrence of teshuqah plus the preposition ‘el [i.e., “against”] in the whole Bible. That occurrence is in the very next chapter of Genesis, in Genesis 4:7. God says to Cain, “Sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.”

‘Here the sense is very clear. God pictures sin like a wild animal waiting outside Cain’s door, waiting to pounce on him and overpower him. In that sense, sin’s “desire” or “instinctive urge” is “against” him.

‘What a remarkable parallel this is to Genesis 3:16! In the Hebrew text, six words are the same words and found in the same order in both verses. It is almost as if this other usage is put here by the author so that we would know how to understand the meaning of the term in Genesis 3:16. The expression in 4:7 has the sense, “desire, urge, impulse against” (or perhaps “desire to conquer, desire to rule over”). And that sense fits very well in Genesis 3:16 also.’

I realize it’s a delicate subject in today’s climate to even discuss gender differences. However, without presently saying anything more about this, it appears to me that Paul is referencing something of critical importance here.

Adam and Eve were not only the first husband and wife, they were also the first man and woman. They, inevitably, represent both marital and gender aspects. We can not separate this reality, nor confuse the intended roles God has purposed for men and women. Jesus said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matt 19:4-5).

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The above is a repost of a comment made in interaction with a conversation at Spiritual Sounding Board concerning Complementariansm, Egalitarianism, or Mystery

My next post follows up on a question concerning Wayne Grudem’s analysis of teshuqah.


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Here are links to three recent studies on the word (pdf):

Αυθεντειν In The Aeschylus Scholium by David K. Huttar in JETS 44/4 (Dec 2001) 615-25

A Semantic Study of authentes and its Derivatives by Al Wolters in Journal of Greco-Roman Christianity and Judaism 1 (2004) 145-175 [reprinted in JBMW 11/1 (Spring 2006) 44-65]

Αυθεντης And Its Cognates In Biblical Greek by Al Wolters in JETS 52/4 (Dec 2009) 719-29