Douglas Moo has settled the “Authenteo” debate at 1 Tim. 2:12?

To be honest, I was hoping that the upated NIV Bible would adopt the TNIV’s rendering at 1 Timothy 2:12.  Well, it did.

However, this brought some criticism from Denny Burk of Southern Seminary.  Mr. Burk begins his post:

“One cannot underestimate the importance of 1 Timothy 2:12 in the intra-evangelical debate over gender roles and women in ministry.”

Then follows up with:

“Sadly, the NIV 2011 reflects the latter approach [only a certain kind of teaching is prohibited] in its rendering, “assume authority.”

At any rate, Douglas Moo took the time to respond, citing a noted complementarian’s commentary as the source of “assume authority”:

As one of the NIV translators, let me just make four comments. First, as another post indicates, there is so much uncertainty about this key word that the accusation of “mistranslation” is simply not fair. Second, the rendering “assume authority” was actually taken from Bill Mounce’s commentary on the Pastorals; and Bill, as you will know, is a complementarian. Third, the footnotes were dropped in the updated NIV simply because the translators believed that “assume authority” could be taken in either direction. We often use this phrase in a neutral way (e.g., “When will the new President assume authority”?). Four, it is our intent to provide a translation that is faithful to the text, bowing to no particular theological agenda (in this case, neither “egalatarian” or “complementarian”). Our rendering of 1 Tim. 2:12 was sincerely intended as our best effort at rendering this very obscure word in a way that would not be driven by either theological agenda.  (post & comments here, bold added)

Yeah, I too think this debate should be settled with this latest comment from Douglas Moo, especially when a complementarian’s rendering is the winner here.

And forget about Denny Burk’s: “There is a reason why countless articles and even an entire book have been written on the interpretation of this single verse.”

I say it’s time to move on…

This entry was posted in Biblical Greek, Complementarian, Egalitarian, NIV Bible 2011, Pastoral, Pastoral Letters, TNIV, Women in Ministry and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Douglas Moo has settled the “Authenteo” debate at 1 Tim. 2:12?

  1. TC,

    Indeed, the key to this is not just this one word, but the context of 1 Tim. 2:8-15! This gets lost far too often. The whole argument or teaching is complementarian!

  2. Nick Norelli says:

    Are the NIV2011 translators complementarians?

  3. T.C. R says:

    Fr. Robert,



    A mixture.

  4. Theophrastus says:

    I’d be more impressed by Denny Burk’s “principled stand” if he were actually willing to allow critical comments (such as Suzanne McCarthy’s) on his blog. The weight of evidence is against Burk, but regardless of the intellectual merits of his interpretation, it strikes me that he is just being a bully.

  5. Pingback: Douglass Moo on 1 Tim 2:12 in the 2011 NIV « συνεσταύρωμαι: living the crucified life

  6. Ferg says:

    As much as I don’t want to agree, I do. I gave up reading Denny burk when I realised he is very seldom willing to engage properly with those of a differing opinion. It also frustrated me too much.
    The reason I enjoy this blog so much is that I know tc has a different theological mindset than I have however I know Jesus is fully at the centre of his writing and I learn a lot from his differing and similar views and my own thoughts can be challenged. The fact that he can suggest people read Greg Boyd even if he doesn’t come in line with his thinking is extremely admirable. I can learn from that.

  7. T.C. R says:


    This is a critical position for Burk – just note his opening paragraph. 😉


    I believe in open-ended dialogue, in a setting like this. I learn so much from you guys.

  8. migeli says:

    Since it seems we will never be able to determine the author’s intent in using the word authentein in 1 Tim 2 nor can we fully understand the cultural context from which these instructions arose, we would be best to remain open minded to the question. Since this verse and the verses in 1 Cor 14:32-33, with its highly questionable textual considerations, are the only verses in the New Testament that could be used to silence women in the church, I think we would be wise to not assume any rigid position based on these two passages.

    • I disagree, we have the biblical teaching throughout that Adam sinned and bore the fullest responsiblity in the fall, though surely Eve, the woman was the one who was deceived and sinned also. But Adam was also responsible as the Federal Head of the race (Rom. 5). If we lose this biblical distinction, for both Adam, man, and Eve, woman.. we will certainly loose something of the very important revelation & doctrine-teaching of God! (1 Cor. 11:2-16, etc.) I think it is really just that simple.

    • T.C. R says:


      Then its up to the reader, or Christian community?

      • Steve S says:

        That is the question isn’t it!

        After all, as much as we would like Scripture to be a mathematical primer, complete with answers in the back, it remains something else. And that something else will always leave us in that uncomfortable (but abundantly alive) place of having to trust the Spirit at work in and amongst us…

  9. Sue says:

    One reason why I originally chose to comment on Burk’s blog is that he is an editor of the JBMW, and therefore connected to CBMW. He is the only person connected to CBMW who has been willing, at least some of the time, to entertain debate, even if of a limited nature. I have appreciated that about him in the past. But he is eratic, often moderating out my comments.

    It was about 4 years ago that I first read Burk’s post on 1 Tim. 2:12, where he posted a letter he wrote to a female friend who wished to be a leader in church. I noticed then that he mentioned certain things about authenteo that are simply not true. For example, he remarked that it could have a positive overtone. Many people say this, Carson, Grudem and the ESV study Bible.

    I had lengthly email discussions with Dr. Wallace, Al Wolters (a true scholar) and an online discussion with Dr. Kostenberger. I was really overwhelmed with the fact that none of them had any evidence to show that authenteo could have positive overtones.

    It has been a mystery to me, researching, reading the original documents, hunting down the trail, noting Erasmus’ translation, the Douay Rheims 1610 and so on. I often wonder why Grudem says that “assume authority” is a novel and suspect translation, when it is derived from Calvin’s Latin translation of the Bible.

    I often wonder why all of these men have been willing to teach and preach things that they know they have no evidence for, that in some cases, they actually know is false. It has been a strange journey for me, realizing that none of these men demonstrate accountability, and it appears that none of them have an awareness in their life of a righteous God who desires truth. This has really knocked me for a loop. Is it all a charade?

    I feel that it is surreal. What can one do with statements like this?

    Dr. Kostenberger, in June of 2006 writes,

    “At the heart of the book were the two chapters devoted to lexical and semantic analysis. In the former, the likelihood was suggested that “exercise authority” (Grk. authentein) carries a neutral or positive connotation, but owing to the scarcity of the term in ancient literature (the only NT occurrence is 1 Tim. 2:12; found only twice preceding the NT in extrabiblical literature) no firm conclusions could be reached on the basis of lexical study alone.”

    Dr. Carson preaches in the fall 2009,

    “the verb authenteo in most instances has a neutral or positive overtone. But there is a handful of instances where you can at least make a case that it can have a negative overtone.”

    Why would Dr. Carson say something when he must know there is no evidence for it. Perhaps he has trusted the notes in the ESV study Bible. And what should women do about this? Should they just look a man in the eye and say that they don’t believe a word he is saying. There really is not much choice here.

    • It seems that Kostenberger’s conclusion seems to be the best on “authentein”. We simply cannot bend this word lexically, or press it past the grammatical structure in the context. In 1 Tim. 2:8-15, we see instructions to both men and women, within the creational context…”For Adam was created first, then Eve, etc.” (2: 13)

  10. Sue says:

    Dr. Kostenberger is correct in his analysis that there is no evidence to support a positive overtone for this word.

  11. David Rogers says:

    Philip Payne has interacted with many of those who suggest that “authentein” can be legitimately translated as “exercise authority.” His critique is that translation would not be proper until around AD 370. The translation “dominate” can be confirmed around 127-148 AD and “assume authority [for oneself]” is the most likely accurate translation suitable for the time of Paul. Anyone who wishes to argue for “exercise authority” will need to interact with and dismiss his argumentation, which I think currently holds the day in terms of analysis.

    See his “Man and Woman, One in Christ” pp. 361-397.

  12. Pingback: I’m liking the updated NIV 2011 « New Epistles

  13. Pingback: Biblical Studies Carnival נז (November 2010) | Bulletin for the Study of Religion

  14. seeally says:

    Eve was not subjected to Adam until the curse. Jesus came n reversed the curse. ‘There is neither male nor female..’
    God is not partial to race, gender or ancestral birthright. The old was ‘passing away’ in the first century. Heb 8:13.

  15. Paul says:

    Al Wolters wrote an article in 2011 that authenteo means to have authority without negative connotation. In it he explains how he was first was misled by a dating misinterpretation of another scholar, before arriving at his conclusion.

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