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Which definition of Kephale is correct?

Examining the Controversy of Women and Head Coverings: Part 1

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A Series on Examining the Controversy
of Women and Head Coverings

Grudem's response to Philip B. Payne

Some scholars have argued that "kephalē" should be translated as "source of life" not as "authority over."

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

3. (1986) Philip B. Payne, Response

In this response to the Mickelsens' article, Philip Payne repeats the Septuagint argument concerning the infrequent use of kephale to translate the Hebrew term ro'sh when it meant leader, ruler. I have discussed that argument at length in the previous analysis of the Mickelsens' article.

Payne also adds some examples where he claims that kephale means source of life.

a. Philo: Payne's first example comes from Philo, The Preliminary Studies 61: And Esau is the progenitor [ho genarches] of all the clan here described, the head as of a living animal [kephale de hos zoou].

The sense of head here is difficult to determine. Payne suggests the meaning source of life for head, a specific kind of source that has never before been given in any lexicon. Yet it is possible that Philo thought of the physical head of an animal as in some sense energizing or giving life to the animal-this would then be a simile in which Esau (a representative of stubborn disobedience in this context) gives life to a whole list of other sins that Philo has been describing as a family in this allegory. However, the word translated above as progenitor (genarches.) also can mean ruler of created beings (Liddell-Scott, p. 342). In that case the text would read: And Esau is the ruler of all the clan here described, the head as of a living animal. Here the meaning would be that Esau is the ruler over the rest of the sinful clan, and head would mean ruler, authority over. It seems impossible from the context to decide clearly for one meaning or the other in this text.

The next text cited by Payne is Philo, On Rewards and Punishments. 125. This was discussed above in the response to Richard Cervin's article. In this quotation the sense source of life must also be seen as a possible meaning, but the sense ruler, authority over is also quite possible, and, as we argued above, in the context of commenting on God's promise to make the people the head and not the tail so that they would rule over other nations, the meaning ruler, authority over seems more likely.

b. Artemidorus: Next, Payne cites some texts from Artemidorus Daldiani (late second century A.D.) in his work Oneirocritica (or The Interpretation of Dreams). Payne gives the following citations:

Another man dreamt that he was beheaded. In real life, the father of this man, too, died; for as the head [kephale] is the source of life and light for the whole body, he was responsible for the dreamer's life and light…. The head [kephale] indicates one's father. (Oneirocritica 1.2)

The head [kephale] resembles parents in that it is the cause [aitia] of one's living. (Oneirocritica 1.35)

The head [kephale] signifies the father of the dreamer…. Whenever, then a poor man who has a rich father dreams that his own head has been removed by a lion and that he dies as a result, it is probable that his father will die…. For the head [kephale] represents the father; the removal of the head [kephale], the death of the father. (Oneirocritica 3.66)

Do these examples show that kephale could be used metaphorically to mean source? If we give a fuller context than Payne provided in his article, we can see that these do not provide an example of head meaning source, for no person is in these texts called head. But what the text does show is that Artemidorus pointed out various functions of the head in a human body and then said that these functions signified something in interpreting dreams (the whole text is an explanation of how to interpret dreams).

In the following context we see that Artemidorus gives many different interpretations to the dream of being beheaded, but in none of them would we say that this text adds new meanings to the word head itself:

If a man dreams that he has been beheaded… it is inauspicious both for a man with parents and a man with children. For the head resembles parents in that it is the cause of one's living. It is like children because of the face and because of the resemblance…. Also, a man who owned a house has lost it. For the head is as it were the house of the senses…

To bankers, usurers, men who have to collect subscriptions, shipmasters, merchants, and all who collect money, it signifies loss of capital because the word for capital is derived from the word for head…. To a slave who enjoys the confidence of his master, it signifies that he will lose that confidence…. But to other slaves, the dream signifies freedom. For the head is the master of the body, and when it is cut off, it signifies that the slave is separated from his master and will be free…

If someone who is at sea sees this dream, it signifies that the sailyard of the ship will be lost, unless it is one of the sailors who has seen it. For, in these cases, I have observed that it signifies death to their superiors. For the boatswain is the superior of the ordinary sailor; the officer in command of the bow is the boatswain's superior; the steersman is the superior of the officer who commands the bow; and the shipmaster is the superior of the steersman…

To have two or three heads is auspicious for an athlete. For he will be crowned in as many contests. (Oneirocritica 1. 35) (59)

This larger context shows us that in all of these examples the word kephale simply means the physical head of a person's body. When Artemidorus speaks of losing one's head or having three heads in a dream, he is simply speaking of a physical head. When he says that the head signifies something in the dream, he is still speaking of the physical head and then giving a symbolic interpretation to it.

It would certainly be illegitimate to take this text and make a list of many new meanings that the word kephale could take in ancient Greek. We could not take that text, for example, and say that head now also means (1) house, because Artemidorus says that the head is the house of the senses ; (2) monetary capital, because Artemidorus says that the loss of the head signifies loss of capital ; (3) master of a slave, for Artemidorus says that the head is the master of the body ; (4) sailyard of a ship ; (5) superior naval officer ; and (6) athletic contest. All of these are simply symbolic interpretations that Artemidorus has given and do not constitute new metaphorical meanings for kephale (60).

However, one further observation must be made from this text. Because Artemidorus, in speaking about the physical head of a human body, says that the head resembles parents in that it is the cause (Greek aitia) of one's living (literally, of life, tou ze n), we must recognize that there was an awareness that the physical head was in some sense the cause (or one might say source) of life. Perhaps this is just a common-sense observation of the fact that people who are beheaded do not continue to live! But it may also reflect a more complex understanding of the mental faculties located in the head-Artemidorus does say that the head is the house of the senses. In this case it would be similar to the Philo quotations mentioned above where Philo apparently thought of the head as giving energy and direction to the body.

Whether the fact that (1) some in the ancient world thought of the physical head as somehow the source of energy and life for the body would have led to (2) a metaphorical use of head to actually mean source, or not, we cannot say without some clear examples demonstrating such a use. It is very similar to the case of the quotations mentioned earlier from Plato, Philo, and Plutarch, in which the head was said to be the ruler of all the parts within us. Those quotations showed that a metaphorical use of kephale to mean ruler would have been possible and probably understandable in the ancient world, but it did not mean that that metaphorical use actually occurred. In order to demonstrate that we needed to look at the thirty or forty texts where someone was actually called the head of something (such as the Roman empire, the church, the nation of Israel, etc.). In this case however, no metaphorical uses of kephale in the sense of source have been found in the Artemidorus quotations (61).

In conclusion, kephale in all these Artemidorus texts simply means physical head of the human body

c. Orphic Fragments 21a:

As an additional example of kephale meaning source, Payne also cites Orphic Fragments 21a, Zeus is the head, Zeus the middle, and from Zeus all things are completed. But Cervin's analysis of this text is quite valid: he says, This entire fragment is ambiguous (p. 90) (62).

d. 1 Corinthians 11:3: In 1 Corinthians 11:3 Paul writes, I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. Payne objects to the sense authority over in this text because he thinks that it would imply a theological error:

Under the interpretation that head means authority the present tense of estin requires that Christ now in the present time after his resurrection and ascension is under the authority of God. Such a view has been condemned throughout most of church history as subordinationist Christology. (pp. 126-127)

But Payne here has simply misunderstood the doctrine of the Trinity as it has been held throughout the church from at least the time of the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. From that time the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son has been taken to imply a relationship between the Father and the Son that eternally existed and that will always exist-a relationship that includes a subordination in role, but not in essence or being. Certainly Scripture speaks of that when it says, for example, that when Christ had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus is at the right hand, but God the Father is still on the throne.

So Charles Hodge can write:

The Nicene doctrine includes, (1) The principle of the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son. But this subordination does not imply inferiority…. The subordination intended is only that which concerns the mode of subsistence and operation…

The creeds are nothing more than a well-ordered arrangement of the facts of Scripture which concern the doctrine of the Trinity. They assert the distinct personality of the Father, Son, and Spirit… and their consequent perfect equality; and the subordination of the Son to the Father, and of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, as to the mode of subsistence and operation. These are Scriptural facts, to which the creeds in question add nothing; and it is in this sense they have been accepted by the Church universal. (Systematic Theology, vol. 1, pp. 460-62) (63)

Similarly, A. H. Strong writes:

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, while equal in essence and dignity, stand to each other in an order of personality, office, and operation….

The subordination of the person of the Son to the person of the Father, or in other words an order of personality, office, and operation which permits the Father to be officially first, the Son second, and the Spirit third, is perfectly consistent with equality. Priority is not necessarily superiority…

We frankly recognize an eternal subordination of Christ to the Father, but we maintain at the same time that this subordination is a subordination of order, office, and operation, not a subordination of essence (64).

Payne has simply misrepresented subordinationist Christology. Subordinationism has generally meant not the orthodox view that there is subordination in role in the Trinity, but the heretical view found, for example, in Arianism, in which a subordinate essence or being of the Son was advocated, so that Christ could not be said to be of the same essence (homoousios) as the Father. The orthodox doctrine has always been that there is equality in essence and subordination in role and that these two are consistent with each other. Certainly this is consistent with Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3 that the head of Christ is God, thus indicating a distinction in role in which primary authority and leadership among the persons of the Trinity has always been and will always be the possession of God the Father (65).

Grudem's response to Walter L. Liefeld

Some scholars have argued that "kephalē" should be translated as "prominent part" or "prominent / honored member" not as "authority over."

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

4. (1986) Walter L. Liefeld, Women, Submission, and Ministry in 1 Corinthians (66)

In this essay Dr. Liefeld comments on the dispute over the meaning of kephale.

The meaning source, adduced by Bedale as a clue to some of Paul's passages, lacks clear evidence… in my judgment, however, it is no longer possible, given Grudem's research, to dismiss the idea of rulership from the discussion. (p. 139)

I would of course concur with Liefeld at this point. However, Liefeld then goes on to suggest a different sense for kephale, prominent part, or prominent or honored member (pp. 139-140).

This is similar to the suggestion by Cervin discussed above (67). Once again it must be said that a number of texts might be found in which kephale speaks of a kind of prominence derived from ruling authority or power that is possessed by (for example) the king of a nation or the head of a tribe, or from Christ's position as the head of the church. But it does not seem possible to demonstrate a sense of honored part or prominent part apart from a nuance of ruling authority as well.

Second, this suggestion has been mentioned previously in no lexicons (to my knowledge), and thus one wonders why it is necessary when the sense leader, authority over will fit as well or better.

Third, it is doubtful that the sense prominent part really fits the context of texts like 1 Corinthians 11:3. If Paul had meant to imply the idea of prominence in this text, then, instead of saying the head of the woman is the man, he would have had to say, the head of the family is the husband, and instead of saying the head of every man is Christ, he would have had to say, the head of mankind is Christ. Instead of saying, the head of Christ is God, he would have had to say, the head of the Godhead is the Father. But he did not say these things, in which he could have mentioned the prominent or most honored member of a larger group. Rather, he mentioned two individuals in each set of relationships, thus giving a sense that much more readily allows the meaning authority over than prominent part.

Continued: Grudem's response to Gilbert Bilezikian

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Series: Examining the Controversy of Women and Head Coverings
Part 2: What is Headship?

Series: Examining the Controversy of Women and Head Coverings
Part 2: What is Headship?

Related subject:

Topical Index: The Church>New Testament>Organization and Officiers of the Church>Role of Women

Related verses:

Scripture Index: Epistles of Paul>1 Corinthians

By author:

Author Index: Grudem, W.

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