Here is a proposal by Alison Rowan. If you are an expert in the field you are welcome to contribute to these remarks, concerning 3 MACCABEES 2, 29


I have an interest in the translation of the authent– (αὐθεντ-) words and note that authentia appears in 3 Macc 2:29c as “and to be set apart with these limited rights.” It appears that L D L Brenton uses authentia, derived from authentes, whose cognates he has assumed to be auto (self) and hentes (worker). From these, the adjectives authentic (genuine or original) can be easily derived. Along with the usual meaning of absolute authority listed for authentia in most lexica, it is logical that his translation could read that, upon fulfilling the requirements, the Jews were to be returned to their original rights, limited as they were. In this state they were, to some degree, masters of themselves.

However I have noted several anomalies in the translation, which raise doubt over the given meaning of authentia.

1) Questions of Semantics.

A lot of my interest in the authent– words is over their chronological semantics in a wide range of literature, but especially the sacred texts. In particular, where on translation, there has been retrospective eisegesis which leads to what could be a most erroneous rendering of the author’s intended communication. This is nowhere more significant than in ascertaining more precisely what St. Paul meant by authentein andros in 1 Tim 2:12.

I have always understood authentia, in its later meaning as an authority of absolute power, to be that of an autocratic monarch, such as a Pharoah, or a Caesar, holding his thumb up or down, with the power of life or death over another. Would not the use of THAT word to describe the “rights” of a conquered people, themselves UNDER the rule of a powerful autocratic King, be somewhat inappropriate?

It was this illogicality which had prompted my suggestion that there may have been a semantic progression into its later autocracy denotation, from an earlier meaning, possibly used here, of “authority to kill”, but in this context, “permission to sacrifice.”

I will now attempt to support this proposition.

2) Questions of Lexicography

From the above, it seems to make little sense to describe being, to some degree, masters of themselves as limited authentia. A different word is needed to indicate a degree of limited self-determination or permission … such as “rights.” However, “rights” is an unlikely meaning since it should be noted that in the very next verse, “equal rights” is translated from isopolitas, not isoauthentias.

Exousia is usually translated as “authority,” so why employ another word here unless there is an intended nuance which modifies it? But authentia (if it meant “absolute authority” at that time) would surely intensify its meaning, not diminish it to have a connotation of “rights”?

Scholars have assumed a derivation of authentia from the cognates, auto (self) and hentes (worker) as aut(o)hentes, thus “authentic, original” – as an adjective. But there is an alternative derivation from auto and entea (arms, armour), auth(o)entea yielding the far more violent association, often recorded in texts.