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Which definition of Kephale is correct?
Examining the Controversy of Women and Head Covering: Part 1

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A Series on Examining the Controversy
of Women and Head Coverings

Grudem's response to Gilbert Bilezikian

Some scholars argue that the argument over the meaning of "kephalē" reflects the translation bias of various lexicons.

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

5. Gilbert Bilezikian, A Critical Examination of Wayne Grudem's Treatment of Kephale in Ancient Greek Texts (68)

Dr. Bilezikian has given some criticisms of my earlier article that I accept as valid and that are similar to those by Cervin in the article discussed above. (69) Among them are: (1) The need for a separate category, ruling part, to distinguish five examples where the physical head of a person is said to rule over the human body (p. 220). I agreed with this suggestion in the discussion of Cervin's article. (2) The need to delete two examples from my list of forty-nine because I had miscounted them in my final enumeration (70).

However, I must differ with Bilezikian's critique at several other points.

a. Lexicons: Bilezikian suggests that some lexicons list the meaning source and others list the meaning ruler, authority over, and it is just a question of which lexicon one chooses to use. He says,

This lack of lexical agreement on the meaning of kephale is partly responsible for the frustration of scholars who have been attempting, in recent years, to understand the meaning of male/female relations in the Pauline epistles. Each one here is aware of the battle of the lexicons that has been waged by Bible scholars who have written on this issue during the last two decades…. They have been flinging their favorite lexicons back and forth at each other's heads. (pp. 218-219)

What Bilezikian fails to make clear is that, although one lexicon (Liddell-Scott) does list source, origin as a sense when kephale is applied to the end point of something like a river or a span of time, nevertheless, no lexicon has ever yet listed source as a metaphorical meaning for kephale when applied to persons. By contrast, all the major lexicons for the New Testament period list a meaning such as authority over or ruler, leader as a meaning for kephale when applied to persons (71). It is simply misleading to talk about a battle of the lexicons.

b. Individual texts: In the examination of the individual texts where I found the sense authority over, Bilezikian differs from Cervin in that he finds the meaning source in almost every text in which I saw the meaning ruler or authority over. We do not need to examine every one of those quotations again, but a few instances will give the direction of Bilezikian's argument.

(1). Herodotus 7.148: The Delphic oracle warns the Argives to protect those with full citizenship from attack and thus the remainder of the population will be protected, saying, guarding your head from the blow and the head shall shelter the body (72).

Here Bilezikian says, The notion of an authority function is completely absent…. This text describes headship not as 'authority over' but as a source of protection… which item… should be classified as 'Source, origin' (p. 221).

But here we can try substituting leaders and source to see which makes better sense:

My suggestion: guarding your leaders from the blow; and the leaders shall shelter the body.

Bilezikian's suggestion: guarding your source from the blow; and the source shall shelter the body.

The first alternative is preferable because the idea of guarding leaders is an understandable one for a population. To tell a population to guard its source would make no sense, for they would not know what was being referred to.

Bilezikian could respond that he was not arguing for the meaning source in this text, but the meaning source of protection. But this illustrates a fundamental error in his argument: in order to make any of his explanations work, he must assume that kephale means not just source but source of something, and he then varies the something from text to text so that he actually gives kephale many new senses (source of protection, source of vitality, source of well-being, etc.). But this is not sound analysis: kephale does not take all these new specialized meanings, never before found in any lexicon, attested only in one text, and discovered only now for the first time by Bilezikian. In actuality, the fact that he must supply source of something and make the something different each time shows even more clearly that source alone is not a legitimate meaning for kephale.

A few more examples will illustrate this point, and in each one when we try substituting the simple meaning source it will be evident how this meaning is unacceptable:

(23) Plutarch, Pelopidas 2. 1. 3: in an army, the light-armed troops are like the hands, the cavalry like the feet, the line of men-at-arms itself like chest and breastplate, and the general is like the head.

Bilezikian says, The general's function as the 'head' of the troops is explained as the general's being the source of their safety, the cause of their continued existence…. This instance of kephale should be tabulated under 'Source, origin' (pp. 226-227).

Bilezikian treats a number of examples in this same way: he looks around in the context until he can find something that the person called head is the source of, whether leadership or protection or financial support, etc. This is not hard to do because in the nature of things in this world, everything is the source of something else-the ground is the source of food, rivers are the source of water, trees are the source of leaves, cows are the source of milk, even rocks are a source of stability and support. Conversely, to take the example above, the soldiers are also a source of strength and support for the general. But that does not mean that hand or foot or chest can all mean source.

Some other examples show the same procedure:

(26) Plutarch, Galba, 4.3: Vindex… wrote to Galba inviting him to assume the imperial power, and thus to serve what was a vigorous body in need of a head.

Although this was an invitation to Galba to become emperor of Rome, Bilezikian says, They needed an emperor in Rome who would 'serve' them as the head 'serves a vigorous body. '…. Headship is viewed in this text as a source of increased vitality…. This instance of kephale is to be listed under 'source, origin' (pp. 228-229).

In this quotation the body in question is the Gallic provinces. Once again we can substitute terms to see which is the most likely meaning:

My suggestion: To assume the imperial power, and thus to serve what was a vigorous province in need of a leader.

Bilezikian's suggestion: To assume the imperial power, and thus to serve what was a vigorous province in need of a source.

Once again, the meaning leader makes sense in the context, for it was leadership that this section of the empire needed. But the meaning source would have made no sense-who would have said that a province that already existed needed a source?

(30) Hermas, Similitudes, 7.3: The man is told that his family cannot be punished in any way other way than if you, the head of the house be afflicted.

Bilezikian objects that the next sentence should be added to the quotation. It says, For when you are afflicted, they also will necessarily be afflicted, but while you prosper, they cannot suffer any affliction! He then says, The full quote defines the role of the head in regard to the family as 'provider,' the source of its well-being…. This instance belongs in Grudem's category 3, 'Source, origin' (pp. 230-231).

Once again we can substitute terms to see which is a more convincing translation:

My suggestion: The family cannot be punished in any other way than if you, the leader of the house be afflicted.

Bilezikian's suggestion: The family cannot be punished in any other way than if you, the source of the house be afflicted.

The idea of leader of a family would be quite understandable. But the idea that the father is the source of the family would make no sense with respect to the wife (or any possible servants) in the household, for the father was certainly not the source of them.

Bilezikian's error is simply this: whenever something functions as a source, he says that the name of that thing can actually mean source. But on this account almost any word could mean source. And in fact almost any word could mean anything else as well. Using this procedure, we could easily make kephale mean just the opposite of source -we could make it mean, for example, recipient: Since the general is the recipient of support from the army, we could say that kephale means recipient in that text. Since the Roman emperor is the recipient of support and taxes from the provinces, we could say that kephale means recipient here also, etc.

The fact that Bilezikian's procedure could lead to almost any noun meaning source and that it can also make a noun mean just the opposite of source should warn us against the error of such a procedure-it has no controls and no basis in sound linguistic analysis.

It is proper rather to ask exactly which characteristics of a physical head were recognized in the ancient world and were evident in contexts where people were metaphorically called head. If those characteristics occur again and again in related contexts, then we can be reasonably certain that those characteristics were the ones intended by the metaphorical use of head. In fact this is what we find. It is consistently people in leadership or authority who are referred to as head. The examples cited above show that not only the general of an army, but also the Roman emperor, the head of a household, the heads of the tribes of Israel, David as king of Israel, and Christ as the head of the church are all referred to metaphorically by kephale. What they share is a function of rule or authority. Moreover, several texts say explicitly that the head is the ruling part of the body (73).

By contrast, where there are persons whose distinctive function is to be the source of something else, but where no leadership function attaches to them, the word kephale is never used. Bilezikian recognizes this and finds it surprising:

There exists no known instance of kephale used figuratively in reference to women. This is especially surprising since the meaning of kephale as source of life and servant provider would have been particularly suitable to describe roles assigned to women in antiquity. (p. 235)

He goes on to explain this absence of any examples by the fact that kephale was not frequently used in a metaphorical sense and that women were not often referred to in Greek literature (pp. 235-236), but such an explanation is hardly sufficient. When there are over forty examples referring to persons in leadership as head of something, that shows that the metaphorical use of kephale was not extremely rare. And to say that Greek literature does not talk much about women (especially in the role of mother and provider) is simply not true. What this statement of Bilezikian's actually indicates is that there are no clear examples to support his sought-after meaning, source. But when no clear evidence turns up to support one's hypothesis, it would seem better to abandon the hypothesis than to stick with it and give unsubstantiated reasons why the expected data have not been forthcoming. At least we should realize that we are being asked to accept a meaning for kephale for which no unambiguous supporting evidence has yet been provided.

Bilezikian's opposition to the idea of authority in any human relationships and in any texts that contain the word kephale carries over into the New Testament as well. Even in the three texts where authority would quite readily be admitted by almost all commentators, Bilezikian does not acknowledge it:

(43) Ephesians 1:21, 22: Paul writes that God exalted Christ far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named… and he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church.

Here Bilezikian finds not authority but the idea of source. He writes, In His headship, Christ is the source of life and increase to the church. In this passage there is no reference to headship as assumption of authority over the church (p. 244). Yet the context of exaltation above all rule and authority and power and dominion certainly shows Christ's assumption of authority (74).

(45-46) Ephesians 5:23: For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.

Here Bilezikian says, As 'head' of the church, Christ is both the source of her life and her sustainer…. In this development on the meaning of headship, there is nothing in the text to suggest that head might have implications of rulership or authority (p. 245). But once again the context indicates something quite different: The previous verse says, Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. And the following verse says, As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands (verses 22-24). Although Bilezikian speaks of the idea of mutual submission, (p. 245), he fails to deal with the fact that the verb hypotasso always has to do with submission to authority in the New Testament and outside of it. Husbands are not told to be subject to their wives in this context, simply wives to husbands. And Christ is never said to be subject to the church, only the church to Christ. This idea of submission to the authority of Christ on the part of the church is impossible to remove from the context and makes it difficult to accept Bilezikian's claim that there is no suggestion of rulership or authority in the term kephale in this context.

Bilezikian goes on to say that in Ephesians 5:23 head designates the source of life ('Savior'), of servanthood ('gave himself up'), and of growth ('nourishes it') (246), and says that in their headship to their wives husbands fulfill servant roles similar to the servant ministries of Christ to the church (245).

But Bilezikian's analysis here is simply an illustration of the fact that at this key text the contrived nature of the suggested meaning source for head most clearly shows itself: How can Paul have meant that the husband is the source of the wife as Christ is the source of the church? I am certainly not the source of my wife! Nor is any husband today, nor was any husband in the church at Ephesus the source of his wife! The fact that this meaning will not fit is therefore evident in the fact that no evangelical feminist interpreter will propose the mere meaning source for this text, but each one will always shift the basis of discussion by importing some different, specialized sense, such as source of something (such as encouragement, comfort, growth, etc.) . But the fact that the meaning source itself will not fit should serve as a warning that this suggested meaning is incorrect at its foundation.

On the other hand, we should realize the importance of this text: If the husband is indeed the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, and if head carries the sense authority over or leader, then the feminist claim that there should be total equality and interchangeability of roles in marriage is simply inconsistent with the New Testament.

(48) Colossians 2:10: And you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.

Once again Bilezikian predictably gets the meaning source out of this passage: Christ is 'the head of all power and authority' because he is the source of their existence (pp. 246-247). But it is difficult to understand how Bilezikian can see source here without any connotation of authority. If (according to Bilezikian) Christ is the source of all other rule and authority in the universe, then is He not also a far greater authority and a far greater ruler than all of these others? Even if we were to take the meaning source for kephale here (which is not necessary, for ruler or authority over fits much better), it would still be difficult to agree with Bilezikian's statement that this text, like the others, is also devoid of any mention or connotation of rulership in reference to the headship of Christ (p. 247).

In all of these individual texts, we must ask, is the meaning authority, ruler or the meaning source more persuasive? Bilezikian has not given us one example of a person called kephale where he claims the meaning source but where the person was not someone in a position of authority. Would it not be unusual-if kephale indeed means source and not authority-that people who are called head are all rulers and leaders? We do not find that wives and mothers are called heads. We do not find that soldiers who are the source of strength and power for an army are called heads. We do not find that citizens who are the source of strength for a nation are called heads.

Rather, the king of Egypt is a head, the general of an army is a head, the Roman emperor is a head, David the king of Israel is a head, the leaders of the tribes of Israel are heads, and, in the New Testament, the husband is the head of the wife and Christ is the head of the church and God the Father is the head of Christ. No one in a non-leadership position is called head. Why? Perhaps because there was a sense in the ancient world that kephale, when used of persons, meant someone in a position of rule or authority, just as the head was said by secular as well as Jewish writers to be the ruling part of the body.

c. 1 Corinthians 11:3: Bilezikian alleges, Grudem adopts the view that this text describes a chain of command, moving from the top of a hierarchy of power to the bottom, whereby God the Father is the 'authority' over God the Son, Christ is the authority over every man, and man is the authority over the woman (pp. 241-242).

This statement is simply false. I have never taught or written that there is a chain of command in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Neither (to my knowledge) have other responsible advocates of a complementarian position with regard to men and women. The idea of a chain of command suggests that the wife can only relate to God through her husband rather than directly. But this is certainly false. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3 simply sets up three distinct relationships: the headship of God the Father in the Trinity, the headship of Christ over every man, and the headship of a man over a woman. But certainly every woman is able to relate directly to God through Christ, not simply through her husband.

d. A Fundamental Opposition to the Idea of Authority: A fundamental commitment of Bilezikian's is evident in his unwillingness to see any authority in the New Testament view of marriage (or apparently in the relationship of Christ to the church):

The New Testament contains no text where Christ's headship to the church connotes a relationship of authority. Likewise, the New Testament contains no text where a husband's headship to his wife connotes a relationship of authority. (pp. 248-249)

He then goes on to say that the existence of any authority structure in marriage would paganize the marriage relationship. Regarding husband/wife relationships, he says:

The imposition of an authority structure upon this exquisite balance of reciprocity would paganize the marriage relationship and make the Christ/church paradigm irrelevant to it. (p. 249)

As far as I can understand this sentence, it implies that any existence of authority within marriage is a pagan concept because it would paganize the marriage relationship. Does Bilezikian mean, then, that the existence of any authority between parents and children is also a pagan concept? And if the existence of authority within marriage would make the Christ/church paradigm irrelevant to it, he must mean that there is no authority relationship between Christ and the church either-for if Christ did have authority over the church, then certainly the paradigm of Christ and the church would not be irrelevant to an authority structure within marriage.

What seems to me to be both amazing and disappointing in this statement is the length to which Bilezikian will go in order to carry out his fundamental opposition to the idea of authority within human relationships. A commitment to oppose any idea of the husband's authority over the wife has apparently led him ultimately to say that authority within marriage is always a pagan idea and-it seems-to imply that Christ's authority over the church would be a pagan idea as well.

At this point we must object and insist that authority and submission to authority are not pagan concepts. They are truly divine concepts, rooted in the eternal nature of the Trinity for all eternity and represented in the eternal submission of the Son to the Father and of the Holy Spirit to the Father and the Son. To resist the very idea of authority structures that have been appointed by God (whether in marriage, in the family, in civil government, in church leadership, or in Christ's authority over the church) is ultimately to encourage us to disobey God's will. If effective, such an argument will only drive us away from conformity to the image of Christ. If we are to live lives pleasing to God, we must submit to the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, whom God has placed far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named… and has put all things under his feet, and has made him head over all things for the church (Ephesians 1:21-22).

Grudem's response to Catherine Clark Kroeger

Some scholars believe that the 4th century (Late Patristic) meaning of "kephalē" as "source" should be the basis of translating the 1st century (Classical) use instead of "authority over."

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

6. Catherine Clark Kroeger, The Classical Concept of Head as 'Source' (75)

This article by Catherine Kroeger cites many passages from Greek literature in an attempt to demonstrate that kephale meant source in the ancient world. Many have found this essay persuasive and thought it did what needed to be done; that is, they have read it and concluded that it finally produced many examples where kephale clearly means source and found these examples in classical Greek literature as well. (Note that the title claims to be considering the Classical concept of head as source.)

In response, the first point that must be made is that the essay is wrongly and in fact misleadingly titled. The essay is not at all about the Classical concept of head as source but rather should be titled, The Late Patristic Concept of Head as Source. In fact, four of the six authors Kroeger quotes in order to show that kephale means source are taken from the entry in Lampe's Patristic Greek Lexicon (p. 749), and the actual quotations she gives in her article are also taken from that entry on kephale.

Second, are these quotations persuasive? The actual new quotations given in Kroeger's article, in addition to the material from Philo, Artemidorus, and the Orphic Fragments (all of which have been examined above), include the following six authors (but Kroeger does not mention the date of any of them):

1. Athanasius (fifth century A.D.)

2. Cyril of Alexandria (died 444 A.D.)

3. Theodore of Mopsuestia (died 428 A.D.)

4. Basil (the Great) (329-379 A.D.)

5. Eusebius (died 339 A.D.)

6. Photius (died 891 A.D.)

Apart from these six late patristic writers, Kroeger cites no new metaphorical uses of kephal in her article. (See below on her non-metaphorical examples from all periods of Greek literature.)

This means that in her article full of extensive citations of Greek texts, an article that therefore gives the appearance of extensive citations of Classical Greek literature (literature from long before the time of the New Testament), Kroeger has misleadingly claimed in her title to be giving such evidence. She has also concealed that fact from readers by failing to give any dates for the patristic writers she quotes.

Since all the additional metaphorical examples cited come from the fourth century A.D. and later, it does not seem that they are very helpful for determining New Testament usage, especially in light of Ruth Tucker's research showing that earlier Fathers took kephale to mean authority and not source (76). Here it is appropriate to quote what Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen say about such late material: Our question is not what kephale meant in A.D. 500 but rather what Paul meant when he used kephale when writing his letters to the churches in the first century (77).

Yet another highly misleading aspect of Dr. Kroeger's quotations is that she translates them in such a way that it appears that the authors are defining head to mean source, whereas that is not at all a necessary translation. For example, she translates a quotation from Cyril of Alexandria as follows:

Therefore of our race he become first head, which is source, and was of the earth and earthy. Since Christ was named the second Adam, he has been placed as head, which is source, of those who through him have been formed anew unto him unto immortality through sanctification in the spirit. Therefore he himself our source, which is head, has appeared as a human being…. Because head means source, He established the truth for those who are wavering in their mind that man is the head of woman, for she was taken out of him. (p. 268).

Kroeger then says, In case you have lost count, kephale is defined as 'source' (arche) no less than four times in this single paragraph (p. 269). The texts would then all read, head, which is ruler.

What Kroeger fails to tell the reader is that in every one of these sentences where she renders head, which is source, we could also translate the word arche as ruler or leader or beginning (without any connotation of source). Kroeger fails to tell the reader that these texts are still somewhat ambiguous, because the word arche can mean either beginning or ruler, authority (78).

Moreover, several of the quotations Kroeger gives regarding authors who comment on 1 Corinthians 11:3 are from orthodox writers who were involved in the great Trinitarian controversy of the fourth and fifth centuries. None of them would have said that God the Father was the source of being of God the Son in any sense that would have meant that the Son was created. Yet we should note that in 1 Corinthians 11:3 Kroeger and many others who argue for the meaning source must have the meaning source of being in order for Christ to be the head of every man and the man to be the head of the woman in reference to Adam and Eve. But this sense of source will simply not fit any orthodox conception of 1 Corinthians 11:3, for then it would mean that the Son was created. How could these quotations then mean that God was the source of Christ in that sense? For no orthodox writer would have said anything that implied that the Father created the Son.

Furthermore, even if one were to grant that Kroeger has found some examples where kephale takes the meaning source, the point still remains that there is no instance of source apart from authority. For example, the Son is never said to be the head of the Father, nor is the wife ever said to be the head of the husband. The conclusion is that head again (and as in all the earlier cases) always applies to the one with greatest authority, and even if one sees a nuance of source in some of these texts, the nuance of authority inevitably goes with it.

Another line of argument in Dr. Kroeger's article is the listing of many examples in which the physical head of a person is seen as the source of various things such as hair, nasal secretions, earwax, and so forth (pp. 269-273). Kroeger asks, do these texts not show that head could mean source in Greek literature? (These texts come from various periods of Greek literature, including several near the time of the New Testament. In this respect they are unlike the late metaphorical examples that I mentioned above.)

No, they do not show that at all. These simply refer to the physical head of persons and describe functions that can be observed. These texts do not use kephale metaphorically to mean source. We can see that if we try to substitute the word source in a statement like some of those mentioned in Kroeger's article: might someone say (for example), I see luxuriant hair growing from your source today? Or might someone say, Your source is giving off abundant nasal secretions this morning? Certainly those statements would be nonsense, and they show that source was not a suitable meaning or synonym for head in any of those statements.

An Important Unanswered Question

After all the research on this word by myself as well as by Cervin, Payne, Bilezikian, Kroeger, and others, there is still an unanswered question:

Where is even one clear example of kephale used of a person to mean source in all of Greek literature before or during the time of the New Testament? Is there even one example that is unambiguous?

If there is still not one clear example before or during the time of the New Testament, then how can many writers go on saying that this is a common meaning at the time of the New Testament? Or even a possible one? Perhaps such examples will be forthcoming, but until they are it would seem appropriate to use much more caution in the statements that are made about source being a common or recognized meaning for kephale. We still see much reason to doubt that it was a recognized meaning at all.

Grudem's response to Joseph Fitzmyer

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

8. (1989) Joseph Fitzmyer, Another Look at Kephale in 1 Corinthians 11:3 (82)

In this study Fitzmyer, independently of my earlier study, finds a number of examples of kephale meaning authority or supremacy over someone else in the Septuagint as well as in Jewish and Christian writings outside the New Testament. He concludes:

The upshot of this discussion is that a Hellenistic Jewish writer such as Paul of Tarsus could well have intended that kephale in 1 Corinthians 11:3 be understood as head in the sense of authority or supremacy over someone else…. 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. (pp. 510-511)

I certainly concur with Fitzmyer at this point.

Grudem's response to Peter Cotterell and Max Turner

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

9. (1989) Peter Cotterell and Max Turner, Linguistics and Biblical Interpretation (83)

Here Cotterell and Turner express substantial agreement with my earlier study (84). With regard to the suggestion of some that kephale can mean source, they note the absence of any examples of kephale that cannot be explained by other established meanings and have to be explained by the meaning source. They ask:

And where have we evidence of this? Where do we find instances of such statements as cows are the kephale of milk ; Egypt is the kephale of papyrus , etc.? Only such a range of evidence could confirm that kephale had the lexical sense source or origin, generally understood rather than being specifically collocated with nouns referring to linear entities that have two ends. And we do not appear to have this kind of evidence. (p. 143)

They conclude, We are not aware of any instance of 'head' unambiguously used with the sense 'source' before the third century A.D…. As far as we can tell, 'source' or 'origin' was not a conventional sense of the word kephale in Paul's time (pp. 144-145).

Grudem's response to recent lexicons by Bauer (1988) and Louw-Nida (1988)

III. Response to Other Recent Studies

10. Recent Lexicons by Bauer (1988) and Louw-Nida (1988)

Since my previous article, two more New Testament lexicons have been published. The sixth edition of Walter Bauer's Griechisch-deutsches Worterbuch, on pages 874-875, lists for kephale no such meaning as source but does give the meaning Oberhaupt (chief, leader) (p. 874-875). And the new Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, edited by Johannes P. Louw and Eugene E. Nida, lists for kephale the meaning one who is of supreme or preeminent status, in view of authority to order or command - 'one who is the head of, one who is superior to, one who is supreme over' (vol. 1, p. 739), but they give no meaning such as source, origin.

Grudem's conclusion

IV. Conclusion

The meaning ruler, authority over is still found quite clearly in forty-one ancient texts from both Biblical and extra-Biblical literature, and is possible in two or more other texts. In addition, there are six texts where kephale refers to the literal head of a peron's body and is said to be the part that rules or governs the rest of the body, and there are two texts which are similes where a ruler or leader is said to be like a head. But four of the examples I previously adduced were shown to be illegitimate by subsequent studies, and those should no longer be counted as valid examples. In addition, all the lexicons that specialize in the New Testament period, including two very recent ones, list the meaning ruler, authority over for kephale -it appears to be a well-established and valid meaning during the New Testament period.

On the other hand, the evidence for the meaning source is far weaker, and it is fair to say that the meaning has not yet been established. There are some texts which indicate that the physical head was thought of as the source of energy or life for the body, and therefore the possibility exists that the word kephale might have come to be used as a metaphor for source or source of life. There are two texts in Philo and one in the Orphic Fragments where such a meaning is possible, but it is not certain, and the meaning leader, ruler would fit these texts as well. There are still no unambiguous examples before or during the time of the New Testament in which kephale has the metaphorical sense source, and no lexicon specializing in the New Testament period lists such a meaning, nor does the Liddell and Scott lexicon list such a meaning as applied to persons or as applied to things that are not also the end point of something else. In fact, we may well ask those who advocate the meaning source an important question: Where is even one clear example of kephale used of a person to mean source in all of Greek literature before or during the time of the New Testament? Is there even one example that is unambiguous?

Moreover, even if the meaning source or (as Cervin and Liefeld propose) prominent part were adopted for some examples of the word kephale, we would still have no examples of source or prominent part without the additional nuance of authority or rule. Even in the texts where source or prominent part is alleged as the correct meaning, the person who is called head is always a person in leadership or authority. Therefore there is no linguistic basis for proposing that the New Testament texts which speak of Christ as the head of the church or the husband as the head of the wife can rightly be read apart from the attribution of authority to the one designated as head.

From Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood edited by Piper J and Grudem W, p. 467-68. Copyright ©1997 by Crossway Books. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Illinois 60187, (www.gnpcb.org). Download for personal use only.



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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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