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'
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
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
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
(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
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.
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).