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1 Timothy 2:12 – Assume Authority

The following quote is taken from the fifth part of Adrian Warnock’s interview with Dr. Wayne Grudem. I want to note some principles related to the translation and interpretation of this verse.

In the following I identify sections by numbers in parentheses, as in (1), following an emphasized phrase. This is to prevent breaking the quote into tiny portions.

To take one example: in 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV adopts a highly suspect and novel translation (1) that gives the egalitarian side everything they have wanted for years in a Bible translation (2). It reads, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man” (italics added). If churches adopt this translation, the debate over women’s roles in the church will be over, because women pastors and elders can just say, “I’m not assuming authority on my own initiative; it was given to me by the other pastors and elders.” (3) Therefore any woman could be a pastor or elder so long as she does not take it upon herself to “assume authority.” Then in the footnotes to 1 Timothy 2:12 the TNIV also introduces so many alternative translations that the verse will just seem confusing and impossible to understand (4). So it is no surprise that egalitarian churches are eager to adopt the TNIV.

Now to respond briefly.

  1. My electronic edition reads “have authority,” but the version on Bible Gateway has the reading as Dr. Grudem quotes it. I’m afraid I don’t see what is so highly suspect about this reading. There seems to be an agenda here to read more into the phrase “assume authority” than would normally be read into that phrase. That translation is provided also by BDAG. Based simply on the English I don’t see the huge difference between “assume authority” and “have authority,” nor how that could make a substantial difference in the interpretation of this verse in context. Having said all of that, I would personally probably translate “have authority” or “exercise authority.”
  2. Following on my first point, I fail to see how this particular translation excites the egalitarian side. Personally I’m comfortable with “exercise authority” but I’m not disturbed, nor am I overwhelmingly pleased by “assume authority.” Let’s look at the translation from two other translations Dr. Grudem cited as gender neutral:
    • I do not let women teach men or have authority over them. Let them listen quietly. (NLT)
    • permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man;she is to keep silent. (NRSV)

    Wow! Us liberals sure aren’t very careful when we try to obscure the masculine truth of the Bible, are we? Since I use the NRSV in teaching, I guess I just miss this one!

  3. Please see point #1. There is a severe problem even with careful exegesis that does not fully take context into account, including scriptural trajectories
  4. My electronic edition has two alternate translations. The one on Bible Gateway has three, though only two of those refer to the Greek word translated “assume authority.” I don’t know what sort of congregations Dr. Grudem works with if having two alternative translations in the footnotes results in confusion.

In all, this appears to me to be a rhetorically excessive complaint about the TNIV. This passage (not so much this specific verse) has plenty of interpretational issues in it, but the TNIV translation does not appear to add to them.

[Update 12/12/06 14:53 CST] Peter Kirk has posted a number of deleted comments on his blog. Since those comments relate directly to the material in this post, and in some cases are clearer than what I’ve said, I want to call the attention of my readers to them.

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  1. The original 2002 edition of the TNIV New Testament has at 1 Timothy 2:12 “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over[b] a man;[c] she must be quiet.”, with footnotes “b 12 Or to exercise authority over; or to dominate c 12 Or her husband” The 2004 full Bible has a slightly revised New Testament, where the reading is: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; [a][b] she must be quiet.”, with footnotes “a 12 Or teach a man in a domineering way; or teach or to exercise (or have) authority over a man b 12 Or over her husband“.

    Let me repeat here the point which Suzanne and I made on Adrian’s blog, that the TNIV rendering is effectively the same as the KJV one, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.” So Grudem’s point about TNIV is equally valid for KJV. So why wasn’t “the debate over women

  2. Henry, I am concerned at some of the Google ads you link to. One of them on my screen at the moment states “Is Jesus God? No, he is the Son of God”; another “True Christians no longer sin”; yet another “Why Jesus is the Only Way to Union?” Do you really want to promote such teachings?

  3. Hmmm! I’ve never really worried about the google ads other than to block X-rated stuff. I’ll have to give it consideration. I romoved them from the Energion Publications catalog pages for the very reason you mention. People couldn’t distinguish between what we were promoting and the rather random ads. I used to regard it as a service to people to have context relevant ads, but that reason may be dying.

  4. I think the history was this:

    1) I missed it when reading through the list of translations in the Logos software
    2) I wrote my post
    3) You guys commented
    4) By the time I got to Adrian’s blog again, they were already deleted.
    5) I read them over on your blog

    Assuming the order of events matters! 🙂

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