a. "The Septuagint Argument": This is an argument that is also used by Philip Payne
(35) (Article 3 above) and by Gordon Fee in his
commentary on 1 Corinthians (36) (Article 7 above).
It may be summarized this way:
The Septuagint translators used kephale to translate the Hebrew word ro'sh
(head) in a sense of leader or ruler in only eight out of the 180 cases
(37) in which Hebrew ro'sh means leader or
authority over. In all the other cases they used other words, most commonly archon, ruler (109 times).
Therefore, since the Septuagint translators had about 180 opportunities to use kephale meaning leader,
and they only did so eight times, it shows that the translators desired to avoid kephale in the sense
of authority or leader over.
The Mickelsens, Philip Payne, and Gordon Fee all see this as a significant point. The Mickelsens say it
shows that the Septuagint translators recognized that kephale did not carry the Hebrew meaning of
leader, authority or superior rank (38). Payne says,
When the Old Testament meaning of ro'sh was 'leader,' the Septuagint translators realized quite clearly
that this would not be conveyed by kephale, so they resorted to some other translation in 171 cases
out of 180 (39). Fee says that the Septuagint translators
almost never used kephale to translate Hebrew ro'sh when 'ruler' was intended, thus indicating
that this metaphorical sense is an exceptional usage and not part of the ordinary range of meanings for the
Greek word 40. Several points of response may be made
to this argument:
(1) That the Septuagint translators used another word much more commonly to translate
ro'sh when it meant leader is not so significant when we realize that archon was the common
word that literally meant leader, whereas kephale only meant leader in a metaphorical sense. It is
true that the Septuagint translators preferred archon to mean authority, as I noted in my earlier
article (p. 47, n. 17). But I have never claimed, neither has anyone else claimed, that kephale was
the most common word for ruler. In fact, the most common word for ruler, the one that literally meant ruler,
was archon. It is not at all surprising that in contexts where the Hebrew word for head meant ruler,
it was frequently translated by archon. All I have claimed is that kephale could also mean ruler
or authority in a metaphorical sense of head. It is not the most common, but it is a clearly recognizable and
clearly understood word in that sense. The fact that a word that literally meant ruler, authority (archon)
should be used much more often than a word that metaphorically meant ruler, authority (kephale)
should not be surprising-it is only surprising that people have made an argument of it at all.
(2) The Mickelsens and the others who have used this Septuagint argument fail to note that
these eight examples are many compared to the Septuagintal examples of kephale used to mean source, of
which there are zero. No one who has made this Septuagint argument has mentioned this fact. To use an athletic
analogy, if the score at the end of a baseball game is eight to zero, one begins to wonder why anyone would
declare the team with zero to be the winner because the team with eight did not score very many runs. Yet
that is what the Mickelsens (and Payne, pp. 121-124, and Fee, pp. 502-503) conclude with respect to kephale
meaning authority over -they just say that the eight examples meaning authority over are very few, and
fail to tell their readers that their preferred meaning ( source ) has zero occurrences in the Septuagint.
(3) Those who make this argument also fail to mention that in Genesis 2:10, when the Hebrew
term ro'sh means source or beginning (of rivers), the Septuagint translators used another term,
arche, source, beginning, not kephale, head
(4) When those who make this argument from the Septuagint give the number of occurrences of
kephale meaning authority or leader in the LXX as eight, they give a misleadingly low number. The
Mickelsens and Payne arrive at their low numbers by dismissing five texts
(42) where there is a textual variant (apparently Judges
10:18; 11:8, 9; 1 Kings [LXX 3 Kings] 8:1, and one of the instances in Isaiah 7:8)
(43). Yet these variant readings are in Codex Alexandrinus,
one of the three great ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint
Moreover, there seems to be an inconsistency on the part of these authors when they dismiss these variant
readings but fail to mention that the single text they most strongly appeal to for kephale as source
(Orphic Fragments 21a, Zeus the kephale…) also has kephale only as a variant reading, with
arche in other manuscripts. In short, there is no good reason not to count these additional five
examples of kephale meaning authority as well. This gives a total of thirteen in the LXX.
Furthermore, the Mickelsens dismiss three texts where God tells the people He will make them the head
and not the tail with respect to the other nations, or, in punishment, will make other nations the head
and them the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13, 44; Isaiah 9:14)
(45). They say that head here is just used to complete
the metaphor: it would not make sense without the use of head in contrast to tail
(46). But Payne seems right to admit these three examples,
(47) since they just extend the metaphor to include tail
as follower, one ruled over as well as using head to mean leader, ruler (especially in the context of nations
who rule other nations) (48). Allowing for a correction
on one of the Septuagint instances I earlier counted, I have now adjusted my own count of instances in the
Septuagint to sixteen instead of the earlier thirteen (49).
Those sixteen instances of kephale meaning authority over in the Septuagint are the following:
1. Deuteronomy 28:13: [in relationship to other nations] And the Lord will make you the
head, and not the tail; and you shall tend upward only, and not downward; if you obey the commandments of
the Lord your God, which I command you this day. (Compare with the following passage, where rule and authority
are in view.)
2. Deuteronomy 28:44: [If you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God…, verse 15] The
sojourner who is among you shall mount above you higher and higher; and you shall come down lower and lower.
e shall lend to you, and you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. All these
curses shall come upon you….
3. Judges 10:18 (A): And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, 'Who is
the man that will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.'
4. Judges 11:8 (A): And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, 'That is why we have turned
to you now, that you may go with us and fight with the Ammonites, and be our head over all the inhabitants of
5. Judges 11:9 (A): Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, 'If you bring me home again to
fight with the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.'
6. Judges 11:11: So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and all the people made him
head and leader over them.
7. 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 22:44: David says to God, You shall keep me as the head of the Gentiles:
a people which I knew not served me.
8. 3 Kings (1 Kings) 8:1 (A): Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel with all the heads
of the tribes (50).
9. Psalm 17(18):43: David says to God, You will make me head of the Gentiles: a people whom
I knew not served me.
10. Lamentations 1:5: [of Jerusalem] Her foes have become the head, her enemies prosper,
because the Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away,
captives before the foe.
11 -12. Isaiah 7:8: For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin
(in both cases head means ruler here: Damascus is the city that rules over Syria, and Rezin is the king who
rules over Damascus).
13 -14. Isaiah 7:9: And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son
15. Isaiah 9:14-16: (In the context of judgment) So the Lord cut off from Israel head and
tail... the elder and honored man is the head, (51) and
the prophet who teaches lies is the tail; for those who lead this people lead them astray. Here the leaders of
the people are called head.
16. Jeremiah 31:7 (LXX 38:7): Rejoice and exult over the head of the nations
(5) We should also note in this regard what it actually means to have sixteen (or even
eight) instances of a term used in a certain sense in the Septuagint. It is really a rich abundance of
examples. Many times in New Testament exegesis, if a scholar can find two or three clear parallel uses in
the Septuagint, he or she is very satisfied. That means we can assume that first-century Jews could read and
understand the particular term in that sense. Let me give a contemporary example. Imagine that I turn to a
concordance of the RSV and see that there is only one occurrence of a certain English word, such as
aunt (53). Do I conclude, That means that
twentieth-century readers don't know what aunt means, and we can be especially certain of this since aunt
occurs only in an obscure portion of Scripture (Leviticus 18:14), a passage that people today seldom read?
Should I conclude that people speaking English today do not know the meaning of aunt?
Certainly this would not be legitimate. Rather, I would conclude that the translators of
the RSV assumed that aunt was a good, understandable English word-so commonly understood that even a
single use of it in the whole Bible would be understood without its having to appear time after time in various
contexts comparison of which would make its sense clear. They put it in expecting readers to understand it.
The fact that they used it meant that they thought it was a commonly understood term.
The same principle is true with the Septuagint. If I find even two or three clear instances
of a word used in a certain sense, I can rightly conclude that readers in the first century A.D. could have
understood the word in that sense. The translators wrote expecting that the readers would understand. But in
the case of kephale meaning authority over, ruler, we have not two or three examples, but sixteen (or
at least eight, even by the minimal count of the Mickelsens, or nine, according to Payne). That is really
an abundance of evidence for kephale meaning leader or authority over.
In conclusion, to those who say, Only eight examples in the Septuagint, I think it fair to respond,
A very significant eight examples, and more accurately sixteen, and compared to zero examples for 'source,'
they look very convincing.
b. Other Meanings for kephale Claimed by the Mickelsens: After rejecting the meaning authority
over, leader for kephale, primarily on the basis of its Septuagint usage and the absence of this
meaning from Liddell-Scott, (54) the Mickelsens provide
other meanings for the term kephale.
In 1 Corinthians 11:3, they say kephale means source, base or derivation
(55). Now I recognize that one lexicon gives the meaning
source for kephale (56). But when the Mickelsens
affirm that base and derivation are possible translations of kephale they are claiming senses that no
lexicon has ever proposed, and they are doing it with no examples of kephale meaning these things in any
other literature either. Where do they get these meanings?
In Ephesians 5:23, where it says that the husband is the head of the wife, they say that head means
one who brings to completion (p. 108). They explain, the husband is to give himself up to enable (bring
to completion) all that his wife is meant to be (p. 110).
Then with respect to Colossians 1:18, where it says that Christ is the head of the body, the church,
the Mickelsens say that head means exalted originator and completer (p. 108). We should note that the Mickelsens
call these ordinary Greek meanings (p. 105) for kephale, and tell us that these are Greek meanings
that would have been familiar to the first readers (p. 110). But a number of these ordinary and familiar
Greek meanings have never been seen in any lexicon or claimed in any writing on the meaning of kephale
before the Mickelsens' work in 1986. The meaning exalted originator and completer is in no lexicon. The
meaning one who brings to completion is in no lexicon. The meaning base, derivation is in no lexicon.
But if this is so, then what convincing examples from Greek literature do the Mickelsens give to show
these to be familiar and ordinary meanings? They give none. Then what authorities do they quote to support
these new meanings? They give none. In short, they have given no evidence to support their assertions that
these are ordinary meanings. It would not seem wise to accept these meanings as legitimate senses for
In fact, this attempt to give some alternate sense to kephale in New Testament contexts where
the meaning authority over seems so clearly evident from the contexts is one more example of a disturbing
tendency among evangelical feminist scholars today, a tendency to search for any meaning but authority
for the word kephale in the New Testament. Even in Colossians 2:10 (where Christ is called the head
of all rule and authority) and Ephesians 1:20-24 (where God has exalted Christ far above all rule and
authority and power and dominion and has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all
things for the church), the Mickelsens still are unable to admit the meaning authority over, but say that
head here means rather top or crown (extremity) (p. 106). When this can happen even in texts where authority
is so clearly specified in context, one wonders if it is a prior doctrinal conviction rather than sound
linguistic analysis that has led to their conclusions in these texts.
c. The Argument from Liddell-Scott: Although all the lexicons that specialize in the New Testament
period list ruler, leader, or authority over as a meaning for kephale at the time of the New Testament
(57), the Mickelsens and others have strongly emphasized
that Liddell-Scott does not include this meaning. What is the significance of this? First, our earlier survey
showed that the meaning authority over was not very common-indeed, is hardly found at all-before the Septuagint,
about the second century B.C. Nonetheless, the evidence we have cited above showing around forty examples of
this meaning indicates that the omission from Liddell-Scott must have been an oversight that we hope will be
corrected in a subsequent edition. In fact, Joseph Fitzmyer recently wrote, The next edition of the Greek-English
Lexicon of Liddell-Scott-Jones will have to provide a sub-category within the metaphorical uses of kephale
in the sense of 'leader, ruler.' (58)
Second, Liddell-Scott does list under the adjective kephalaios (head like) the following meanings:
metaphorical, of persons, the head or chief (pp. 944-945). Liddell-Scott then lists eight examples of this
sense. Similarly, for kephalourgos (literally, head of work), it lists the meaning foreman of works
(p. 945). Therefore, the meaning authority over for kephale itself would probably have been understandable
even if not commonly used in earlier periods well before the time of the New Testament.
This suggests a possible reason why the noun kephale itself was not found in the earlier history
of the language with the meaning authority, ruler. Perhaps because the adjective kephalaios or this adjective
used as a substantive could function with the meaning chief, ruler in an earlier period, there may have
been no need for the noun kephale to take a similar meaning. Yet later in the development of the
language the noun kephale also came to take this sense.