Does ‘kephalē’ mean ‘source?

The Claim

Egalitarians sometimes claim that the Greek word kephalē, commonly translated ‘head’, should be translated ‘source’ in New Testament passages concerning the relationship between men and women.

The Facts

Although the meaning of the word kephalē has been debated extensively among evangelical commentators for years, among professional lexicographers there is no debate. Standard professional lexicons do not include the meaning ‘source, origin’ for kephalē as understood by egalitarians, nor do recognized authoritative lexicographers debate whether the word means ‘source, origin’ or ‘chief, ruler’.

Despite years of egalitarian arguments and claims of new evidence, none of the standard lexicons has accepted the egalitarian definition of the word kephalē.[1] [2] Standard professional lexicons specifically identify kephalē as having meanings such as ‘first, superior rank, pre-eminent status, leader, master, head’ in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

Standard Lexicography

Standard professional lexicons define kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11:3 as a reference to pre-eminent status or authority.[3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8][9]

No Dispute

From the evidence provided, readers will see for themselves that there is no genuine lexical controversy over the definition of this word. All the standard lexicons agree. The following quotation from a conservative complementarian scholar describes the current verifiable lexical consensus.

Is there any dispute in the lexicons about the meaning of κεφαλή ?  Where does this leave us with regard to the dispute over kephalē in the ancient world? Up to this time, Liddell-Scott was the only Greek-English lexicon that even mentioned the possibility of the meaning “source” for kephalē. 87 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [10] below]

All the other standard Greek-English lexicons for the NT gave meanings such as “leader, ruler, person in authority” and made no mention of the meaning “source.” 88 [original footnote reproduced in footnote [11] below]

But now the editor of the only lexicon that mentioned the meaning “source” in any connection says that κεφαλή “does seem frequently to denote leader or chief … and here it seems perverse to deny authority” and, “The supposed sense ‘source’ of course does not exist.”

These recent developments therefore seem to indicate that there is no “battle of the lexicons” over the meaning of κεφαλή but that the authors and editors of all the English lexicons for ancient Greek now agree (1) that the meaning “leader, chief, person in authority” clearly exists for κεφαλή, and (2) that the meaning “source” simply does not exist.’[12]

Egalitarian Agreement

Perriman notes the lack of evidence for the definition ‘source’.[13] Liefeld dismisses the definition ‘source’, supporting Grudem’s analysis. [14] [15] Tucker disputes claims for the definition ‘source’.[16]

Osiek explains that the ‘headship’ metaphor to express leadership was well established in Hebrew and Greek before Paul,[17] considering critics of the revisionist interpretation of kephalē have made a convincing case.[18]


[1] An entry in the 1968 edition of LSJ9 has been cited by egalitarians as evidence for their understanding of kephalē, but the editor of the lexicon has explained that this was not the intended meaning of the entry (which has been misinterpreted), that the entry was badly worded, and that the meaning ‘source’ for kephalē as asserted by egalitarians does not exist.

[2] Though a number of the standard professional lexicons have been updated recently with additional lexicographical information derived from additional lexical studies or the discovery of new sources; BDAG, Louw/Nida, LSJ9, and Swanson, for example.

[3] ‘of persons, designating first or superior rank head (1C 11.3);’, Friberg, Friberg, & Miller ‘Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament’, volume 4, p. 229 (2000).

[4]in the case of living beings, to denote superior rank (cp. Artem. 4, 24 p. 218, 8 ἡ κ. is the symbol of the father; Judg 11:11; 2 Km 22:44) head (Zosimus of Ashkelon [500 A.D.] hails Demosth. as his master: ὦ θεία κεφαλή [Biogr. p. 297]) of the father as head of the family Hs 7, 3; of the husband in relation to his wife 1 Cor 11:3b; Eph 5:23a.’, Arndt, Danker, & Bauer, ‘A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature’, page 541 (3rd ed., 2000).

[5]The meaning of κεφαλή as leader, chief, master, which is attested for the Hebrew and Aramaic equivalents (see also KQT 197f.) and mediated through Hellenistic Judaism (LXX, Philo, T. 12 Patr.), allows Paul in 1 Cor 11:3 to combine the sociological fact of ancient patriarchalism (Theissen 107f.) with the theological idea of origin and rule.’, Balz & Schneider, ‘Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament. Translation of: Exegetisches Worterbuch zum Neuen Testamen’, volume 1, p. 285 (1990-c1993).

[6] ‘87.51 κεφαλή, ῆς : (a figurative extension of meaning of κεφαλήa ‘head,’ 8.10) one who is of supreme or pre-eminent 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.’ ὅς ἐστιν ἡ κεφαλή, Χριστός ‘who is the head, (even) Christ’ Eph 4.15; παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός ‘Christ is supreme over every man, the husband is supreme over his wife, and God is supreme over Christ1 Cor 11.3.’, Louw & Nida, ‘Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains’, volume 1, p. 738 (2nd ed. 1989).

[7] ‘… 2. LN 87.51 superior, one of pre-eminent status, figurative extension of first entry (1Co 11:3;’, Swanson, ‘Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains:  Greek (New Testament)’, DBLG 81, #5 (2nd ed. 2001).

[8] ‘2. In 1 C. 11:3, in relation to the question of the veiling of women in divine service, Paul says: θέλω δὲ ὑμᾶς εἰδέναι, ὅτι παντὸς ἀνδρὸς ἡ κεφαλὴ ὁ Χριστός ἐστιν, κεφαλὴ δὲ γυναικὸς ὁ ἀνήρ, κεφαλὴ δὲ τοῦ Χριστοῦ ὁ θεός. From 11:7: ἀνὴρ μὲν γὰρ οὐκ ὀφείλει κατακαλύπτεσθαι τὴν κεφαλήν, εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ ὑπάρχων• ἡ γυνὴ δὲ δόξα ἄνδρός ἐστιν, we learn that to the direct subjection of the man to Christ corresponds the fact that the man is εἰκὼν καὶ δόξα θεοῦ, and to the position of man as κεφαλή of the γυνή corresponds the fact that she is the δόξα ἀνδρός.’,  Kittel, Bromiley, & Friedrich, ‘Theological dictionary of the New Testament’, volume 3, p. 679 (1964-c1976).

[9] ‘(II) Metaphorically of persons, i.e., the head, chief, one to whom others are subordinate, e.g., the husband in relation to his wife (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23) insofar as they are one body (Matt. 19:6; Mark 10:8), and one body can have only one head to direct it;’, Zodhiates, ‘The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament’, G2776 (electronic ed., 2000).

[10] ’87. Professor Al Wolters has pointed out to me in private correspondence (Dec. 7, 1997), however, that the recognition that Herodotus 4:91 speaks of the “sources” of the Tearus River with the plural of κεφαλή is rather standard in Greek lexicons in other languages than English. I agree that κεφαλή is applied to the sources of the river in the Herodotus passage, but I would also agree with the analyses of Glare and Chadwick that this is simply an application of the word to the geographical end-points of a river, and fits the common sense “extremity, end-point” for κεφαλή, and should not be counted as an example of a new meaning, “source.” (Wolters himself thinks the Herodotus reference is a result of semantic borrowing from Persian, and so has a rather un-Greek character. This is certainly possible, and would not be inconsistent with my understanding of κεφαλή.)’, Grudem, ‘The Meaning Of κεφαλή (“Head”): An Evaluation Of New Evidence, Real And Alleged’, Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, p. 61 (44.1.2001).

[11] ’88. See BAGD 430; Louw-Nida, 1:739 ; also the older lexicons by Thayer, 345, and Craemer, 354; also TDNT 3:363–372; as well as the sixth German edition of Walter Bauer, Griechisch-deutsches Wšrterbuch (Berlin and New York: de Gruyter, 1988) 874-875; and most recently A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint (ed. J. Lust, E. Eynikel, and K. Hauspie; Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, 1996) 254; similarly, for the patristic period see Lampe, Patristic Greek Lexicon 749, as cited above’, ibid., p. 61.

[12] Ibid., p. 61.

[13] ‘Perriman (1994: 612–14) notes that this connotation does not occur in the LXX, and the evidence adduced from extrabiblical sources is ambiguous and unpersuasive. Perriman (1994: 621) points out that nowhere “do we find anything like the idea of material origin that ‘source’ must imply in this context (woman created out of the body of man).”’, Garland (egalitarian), ‘1 Corinthians’, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, p. 515 (2003).

[14] ‘The meaning “source,” adduced by Bedale as a clue to some of Paul’s passages, lacks clear evidence.’, Liefeld (egalitarian), ‘Women, Submission, and Ministry in 1 Corinthians’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, authority & the Bible’, p. 139 (1986).

[15] ’In my judgment, however, it is no longer possible, given Grudem’s research, to dismiss the idea of “rulership” from the discussion.’, ibid., p. 139.

[16] ‘In conclusion, it is my impression that whatever the word kephale meant to the apostle Paul as he wrote 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5, it was generally interpreted by the church fathers and by Calvin to mean authority, superior rank, or pre-eminence. These findings bring into question some of the Mickelsens’ assumptions — particularly that the “superior rank” meaning of kephale is not “one of the ordinary Greek meanings” but rather a “meaning associated with the English word head.”’, Tucker (egalitarian), ‘What does kephale mean in the New Testament: A Response’, in Mickelsen, ‘Women, authority & the Bible’, p. 117 (1986).

[17] ‘Does the Bible teach male headship? I would certainly say it presumes male headship. References to individuals as “head” (rosh, Hebrew, or kephale, Greek) are quite common in biblical and other ancient sources, and of the numerous examples, they are nearly always male: a military commander, a chief of a clan, a ruler, or the leader of a group of people. This metaphorical use of the word for “head” tells us that the people of ancient biblical times considered the anatomical head as the guiding agent of the body.’, Osiek, ‘Did Early Christians Teach, or Merely Assume, Male Headship?’, in Van Leeuwen (ed.), ‘Is Equal Regard in the Bible?‘, p. 23 (2004).

[18] ‘More recently, the argument has been put forth that kephale (head) can ,mean “source” rather than “leader,” particularly in the case of 1 Corinthians 11:3, where Paul says that the head of the man is Christ, the head of the woman is the man, and the head of Christ is God. There is some good evidence for interpreting kephale as “source” here, but I think that the critics are correct that most of the evidence does not support that interpretation as a general meaning.’, ibid., p. 24.

  1. July 31, 2013 at 7:14 am

    Kephale means source or head. Why it’s that some says heald other says source. But I a believe there are many biblical scholars in the house who will sincerely do justice to the meaning of the Greek word “KEPHALE”

  2. Eric Breaux
    March 2, 2014 at 10:27 am

    I love that you conveniently left out the fact that most scholars agree that kephale doesn’t indicate authority either. There’s a separate word for that; archon.

    • Jonathan Burke
      March 2, 2014 at 10:33 am

      That is not true. Please see the footnotes I wrote, which quote directly from the professional lexicons with definitions such as:

      * ‘first or superior rank head’
      * ‘superior rank’
      * ‘leader, chief, master’
      * ‘one who is of supreme or pre-eminent status, in view of authority to order or command’
      * ‘superior, one of pre-eminent status’
      * ‘the head, chief, one to whom others are subordinate, e.g., the husband in relation to his wife’

  3. Eric Breaux
    • Jonathan Burke
      March 2, 2014 at 12:08 pm

      That article does not address any of the lexicons I cited. As much as we may not like what the text says and means, we must be honest with it.

  4. Eric Breaux
    March 4, 2014 at 2:38 am
    • Jonathan Burke
      March 4, 2014 at 8:31 am

      The article ‘http://aprofoundmysterydotcom.wordpress.com/2012/08/13/does-head-mean-authority/’ doesn’t mention even one of the lexicons I cited, so you can’t say it dealt with them. The second article you cite doesn’t deal with any of them either (it doesn’t cite even a single one), and was written by a housewife with no relevant academic qualifications, whose work is not published any of the standard literature, who is known for her idiosyncratic word definitions biased by her personal theology, and for her cherrypicking of sources. For example standard scholarly translations render the quotation from Chrysostom ‘The one of the earth and dust has become to us the first head κεφαλη of the race, that is ruler αρχη’, but she prefers the reading of Catherine Kroeger (an evangelical feminist), who translates it ‘Therefore of our race he become first head κεφαλη, which is the source αρχη’. She also says ‘ In any case, I don’t know why Grudem calls Ptolemy the ruler of the nation’.

      The reason why Grudemn calls Ptolemy the ruler of the nation is that he was the ruler of the nation; he was the ruler of Egypt. She seems unaware of even basic historical facts. She even quotes Philo saying ‘As the head [κεφαλη] is the ruling place in the living body, so Ptolemy became among kings’, and glosses over this without even addressing the fact that here κεφαλη is identified as ‘the ruling place’.

      The fact is that in the scholarly literature there is no debate over the meaning of κεφαλη. The evangelical feminists arguing that it means ‘source’ are a tiny fringe who have made no impact whatsoever on the relevant scholarship, and are ignored in the academic lexicographical literature. In any case, all such arguments were abandoned by mainstream evangelicals years ago; only a minority still cling to these weird ideas and unsupported readings of the relevant ancient sources.

  5. Eric Breaux
    March 4, 2014 at 11:09 am

    So in other words you just have bold claims without evidence, and excuses to brush away the deep research done that refutes the claims of the “scholarly consensus” that you clearly haven’t checked up on in the last decade or so. Good to know.

    • Jonathan Burke
      March 4, 2014 at 11:58 am

      No I don’t have bold claims without evidence. I have cited all of the relevant professional lexicons, which in turn cite specific textual data for the definition; that’s evidence. You haven’t provided any ‘deep research’ that ‘refutes the claims of the “scholarly cosnensus”. In fact you haven’t cited a single source which even refers to the standard lexicons and the evidence they provide.

      You’ve presented an article from 1989 by Cervin contesting an article by Grudem, (without linking to Grudem’s reply to Cervin), an article from 2011 by someone called ‘Eric’ (who acknowledges he has ‘no formal qualifications in theology’ and does not have any formal qualifications in lexicography either), criticizing Grudem but failing to address any of the professional lexicons, and you’ve provided an article (which does not address any of the professional lexicons), written by a housewife with no relevant academic qualifications, whose work is not published any of the standard literature, who is known for her idiosyncratic word definitions biased by her personal theology, and for her cherrypicking of sources.

      No ‘deep research done that refutes the claims of the “scholarly consensus”’, has been done, whether in the last 10 years or the last 20 years. The lexical range of this word is not even disputed in professional lexicography. The standard professional lexicons have been updated many times over the years, but none of them have made any changes to their definition of this word as a result of the evangelical feminist arguments made.

      I’ve followed the debates over the word κεφαλη. I read Grudem’s 1985 paper, Cervin’s 1989 critique, Grudem’s 1990 response to Cervin, Grudem’s 1997 critique of Kroeger’s 1995 article, Kroeger’s 1998 reply to Grudem, and Grudem’s 2001 response to Kroeger. I have also noted that ‘source’ as a definition of κεφαλη has been rejected even by egalitarian scholars, such as Liefeld (1986), Tucker (1986), Perriman (1994), and Osiek (2004).

      Throughout all this time the standard professional lexicons remained unchanged, and the scholarly consensus hasn’t shifted at all. The suggestion that κεφαλη means ‘source’ in 1 Corinthians 11 (and elsewhere in the New Testament), is not supported by the scholarly consensus, nor has it received general support even from egalitarians. On the contrary, it has received acceptance only among some egalitarian commentators.

      It has also been completely rejected by lexicographers, and is ignored in all standard lexical authorities. It is also rejected by a number of egalitarian commentators. The suggested definition is typically proposed only in egalitarian commentaries, and has no professional lexical support whatever.

  6. Ian
    March 5, 2014 at 5:27 am

    Jonathan, you need to do some basic study of how language works. Of course lexicons don’t include ‘source’ as a meaning, because it isn’t. It means head, the thing above my shoulders.

    But that is not the debate. The debate is how the metaphor of ‘head’ is used. And it is striking that the use of Hebrew ‘rosh’ as a metaphor for ‘leader’, one with authority, is common, in Greek the use of ‘kephale’ ‘head’ as leader is very uncommon, and where it does occur appears to be influenced by the Hebrew. Thus it is almost entirely absent from e.g. Aristotle’s discussion of male authority in the household.

    This debate cannot be settled by lexicons, but only by usage—as with all metaphorical language.

    • Jonathan Burke
      March 5, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Thanks, I do understand how languages work. I took both Greek and Latin at university, and I read and write Chinese. Lexicons contain metaphorical as well as literal meanings. The meaning ‘leader’ for κεφαλη is one of those metaphorical meanings. Lexicons include it. They do not include ‘source’. I agree that this can be settled by usage, but what you are missing is the fact that professional lexicons contain detailed descriptions of usage, which is why they are an excellent source for the lexical range and semantic domain of a word. This is not a matter of settling the word meanings by lexicons OR by usage, it’s a matter of settling it with lexicons which DOCUMENT AND DESCRIBE usage. The fact that in Greek the use of κεφαλη as ‘leader’ is uncommon isn’t relevant; it doesn’t change the fact that this sense is used in the Bible. This is not disputed in the professional literature.

      • Ian
        March 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm

        It’s perfectly possible to use languages without understanding how they work, and in particular how metaphors function.

        Your sentence ‘The fact that in Greek the use of κεφαλη as ‘leader’ is uncommon isn’t relevant; it doesn’t change the fact that this sense is used in the Bible’ illustrates the problem. How do you know what a word means in a context? In part from its usage elsewhere. The fact that you say usage elsewhere is irrelevant is bizarre. How do you know the ‘meaning’ here otherwise?

        Lexicons are important; but what you need to look at is commentaries e.g. Anthony Thiselton. This will lead into the most important question: not ‘what does the word mean’ in an atomised way, but ‘what is Paul doing here?’ He assumes ‘man is the head of woman’; he is not arguing for it. (And the metaphorical use occurs only in this one verse; elsewhere it is literal.)

        What he is arguing for is that woman should pray and prophesy in the assembly just as much as men should, and can minister in their own right.

  7. March 5, 2014 at 5:54 am

    It makes no difference what Kephale means. That is picking one word out of a sentence. You have a choice: 1) believe that women are equal; 2) believe that God shares his Lordship with a human male. It is as simple as that.

    • Jonathan Burke
      March 5, 2014 at 12:33 pm

      It clearly does make a difference what κεφαλη means, or people wouldn’t be arguing that it means ‘source’. Identifying the meaning of the word is important to understanding the sentence; sentences cannot be understood until lexical-syntactical analysis has taken place. Synchronic and diachronic lexical analysis of the word κεφαλη establishes its semantic domain and lexical range. Then the sentence and its context is examined to determine which meaning within the lexical range is most appropriate. The overwhelming scholarly consensus (including egalitarian scholars), is that κεφαλη does not mean source here, and indicates a position of authority and leadership. The ‘choice’ you present is a false dichotomy.

      • March 5, 2014 at 8:50 pm

        Jonathon, it is false to you because you choose to find certain sentences from the Bible that give men headship, but those sentences that give men headship, diminish God, and remove God from women a step behind men. I find that far more serious than what egalitarians (me) believe. To elevate man to have authority over women is to give human men authority that only God can have.

      • Jonathan Burke
        March 5, 2014 at 10:33 pm

        I didn’t say it was false, I said it was a false dichotomy. That means it’s an inaccurate representation of available options. It’s logically incoherent. I don’t believe Paul’s words ‘diminish God, and remove God from women a step behind men’, so I don’t have the problem with his words that you do.

      • March 5, 2014 at 10:49 pm

        Of course you don’t have a problem with it, Jonathan, because he says what you want to believe. But to believe this way has consequences. It diminishes God by putting men before God in women’s lives, and it diminishes women. The whole concept of the Bible is One God. We don’t need to be making men a layer of hierarchy above women, because that gives males god-like authority. Look to Jesus. Paul’s words cannot deny what Jesus said and did. So, in order for them to not deny what Jesus said and did, means that Paul’s words have been misinterpreted and misused. All for the grandizement of males. In fact, this very discussion diminshes God and women. I can understand the desire to diminish women, but I cannot understand the desire to diminish God by giving shared leadership and authority.

      • Jonathan Burke
        March 5, 2014 at 10:58 pm

        It is not a matter of him saying what I want to believe. It is a matter of me believing what he says. If you have a logically coherent argument citing the relevant scholarly literature and addressing the text in an intellectually honest manner, please feel free to post it. But simply throwing false accusations whilst repeating your personal ideas will not be tolerated here.

      • March 5, 2014 at 11:06 pm

        Jesus had some excellent words for scholars. Read Matthew 23.

  8. Ian
    March 5, 2014 at 3:50 pm

    ‘Identifying the meaning of the word is important to understanding the sentence;’ Yes of course, and bwe is wrong here. But language is not meccano; you don’t bolt it together with lexicons.

  9. March 5, 2014 at 4:11 pm

    Ian :
    It’s perfectly possible to use languages without understanding how they work, and in particular how metaphors function.

    But you simply assumed I don’t know how languages work. I can assure you I do; when you study Greek and Latin you study how they work. It’s compulsory. You’re taught principles of lexicography and syntactical analysis.

    Your sentence ‘The fact that in Greek the use of κεφαλη as ‘leader’ is uncommon isn’t relevant; it doesn’t change the fact that this sense is used in the Bible’ illustrates the problem. How do you know what a word means in a context? In part from its usage elsewhere. The fact that you say usage elsewhere is irrelevant is bizarre. How do you know the ‘meaning’ here otherwise?

    This is a misrepresentation of what I said. I have not said that usage elsewhere is irrelevant. On the contrary, I have pointed out that we know the meaning specifically because we have plenty of evidence of its usage elsewhere, and that evidence is summarized in the lexicons. As I explained below, synchronic and diachronic lexical analysis (that’s study of its usage elsewhere, both in texts chronologically contemporary with the text we’re looking at, and texts written before and after), of the word κεφαλη establishes its semantic domain and lexical range. Then the sentence and its context is examined to determine which meaning within the lexical range is most appropriate. That’s saying exactly what you’ve said, only with more specific technical detail.

    Lexicons are important; but what you need to look at is commentaries e.g. Anthony Thiselton. This will lead into the most important question: not ‘what does the word mean’ in an atomised way, but ‘what is Paul doing here?’ He assumes ‘man is the head of woman’; he is not arguing for it. (And the metaphorical use occurs only in this one verse; elsewhere it is literal.)

    I am not looking at this in an atomized way. If you had read my article you would have found I cited several commentaries, all of them egalitarian. I can cite another ten if you like, right across the spectrum, including Thiselton (whose commentary I own and which you clearly cite with your use of his caution not to interpret ‘each verse or each term atomistically’); the scholarly consensus is overwhelming, κεφαλη does not mean source here, and indicates a position of authority and leadership.

    • Ian
      March 5, 2014 at 4:54 pm

      And what in the text leads you to believe that Paul is using the term to mean ‘authority’? How is this used in his argument?

      • March 5, 2014 at 5:28 pm

        1. The socio-historical context, which is assumed by Paul rather than being subverted; see Thiselton, Lille, Marshall, Pinnock, Gundry-Volf, Sparks, Webb, et al.

        2. The lexical-syntactical context, in particular the ‘God, Christ, man, woman’ hierarchy; see the standard lexicons, as well as commentators such as Perriman, Liefeld, Tucker, Osiek, Walker, Cosgrove, Elliott, Hays (‘it is impossible to deny the hierarchical implications of such symbolic markers’, Hays, ‘The Moral Vision of the New Testament: A Contemporary Introduction to New Testament Ethics’, p. 55 (1996)), Lillie, Marshall, Pinnock, Gundry-Volf, Sparks, and Webb (all of them egalitarians).

        3. The co-texts, in particular 1 Corinthians 14:34: ‘Rather, let them [the women] be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home’, Ephesians 5:22-24: ‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’, Colossians 3:18: ‘Wives, submit to your husbands’, 1 Timothy 2:12: ‘But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.’, Titus 2:5: ‘being subject to their own husbands’, 1 Peter 3:1: ‘In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands’.

        4. The fact that Paul, in 1 Corinthians 11, offers comments aimed at mitigating the role distribution he makes very clearly; see in particular Walker (egalitarian who disputes Pauline authorship but who identifies the mitigation aspect of these words), ‘The “Theology of Woman’s Place” And the “Paulinist” Tradition’, Semeia (28.101), 1983. Such mitigating comments were necessary precisely because he knew how his female audience would feel about his comments.

      • March 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm

        Jesus makes no mention of bequeathing a husband the privilege of representing him on earth. Jesus promised that he would leave an Advocate, the Holy Spirit, on earth to lead us. With the Holy Spirit within us, women need no further representation, or role play actor, or leader, and certainly not a male head. For what can a male head do that the Holy Spirit cannot?

      • Jonathan Burke
        March 5, 2014 at 10:30 pm

        Ok thanks for your thoughts, but those of us who consider Paul to be inspired will naturally be led by his words.

      • Ian
        March 29, 2014 at 6:47 pm

        Jonathan, thanks for the substantial reply, which I have thought about for some time. I think I want to go back to my comment about understanding language. There are two ways to understand a car: to know about aspiration, fuel injection, cylinders, big ends and the like; or to know about how people drive them, what they signify socially and issue to do with accidents and insurance. I have know doubt that you are well qualified in the first kind of knowledge; I am not so sure about the second.

        My main reason for this is the way you construe the question–which of itself is an act of interpretation. ‘Does kephale mean ‘source’?’ No, of course not, and I don’t think any scholar would assert this. Its lexical meaning is ‘head’, clearly. I agree with that, and so would all the scholars you look at which is why you appear to find support for your position amonst ‘complementarians’ [I do wonder what you think they then do? Say ‘Oh dear, this does not fit with my ideology, so I had better not admit it’? Perhaps you do!].

        But that is not what is at stake. The issue is ‘How does the word ‘head’ function metaphorically in Paul and his world? Of course there is a ‘hierarchy’ in 1 Cor 11.3–but a hierarchy of what? As Payne points out, Paul knows how to write out hierarchies, and the order of this one makes sense as a hierarchy of origins, rather than of authority. (I should add here that the two ideas were much closer than in our context; ancestors were important.)

        Paul might ‘assume’ the socio-historical context–but does he endorse it? There is a strong weight of evidence not. He argues for equal and mutual exercise of authority between husband and wife in conjugal relations; he argues for equal status in the religious community; on the crucial issue of ‘about the spiritual [people not gifts] in 1 Cor 12 he argues for complete equality in distribution of spiritual gifts; and here he is arguing for equal participation in prayer and prophecy. How do we make sense of verse 10 ‘a woman must have authority upon her head’? If your reading is right, this must mean ‘a sign of [her husband’s authority over her] on her head [by means of a covering]. But the two minor problems with this are a. that this is not what the Greek says and b. in v 15 Paul explicit says women do *not* need a head covering, since their hair serves as whatever covering she needs. The Greek simply says she must have authority over her head. If this is her metaphorical head, her husband, it means she is in charge! If it means her literal head, Paul is talking of the autonomy women have to minister.

        Kephale does not appear to have the connotations of ‘authority’ you are attributing to it in contemporary culture. It is almost completely absent from Aristotle, and he makes no use of it in relation to the husbands’ ruling of his wife. In fact, Paul’s haustafel language is in marked contrast to Aristotle’s, in emphasising the husband’s self-giving, not his rule—which is not even mentioned. In the LXX, the Hebrew rosh when metaphorical is almost never translated by kephale. (If Paul was writing in Hebrew, I would absolutely agree with your argument!)

        And why have you chosen these as your co-texts? They make no mention of ‘authority’. Why not read 1 Cor 7.4 as your co-text–the most obvious place where Paul mentions ‘authority’ in the context of the husband-wife relation. I am sure you are aware of the substantial textual problems with 1 Cor 14.34; I am sure you know that Eph 5.22 does not even include the phrase ‘wives submit…’ but roots this in the mutual submission of one to another, and picks this up as a particular example. I think you must know that 1 Tim 2.12 does not include the term ‘exercise authority’. And I guess you have noted that not one of these texts talks of ‘wives obey your husbands’ which would be the expected phrase if Paul was endorsing his culture and talking about the exercise of authority of men over women.

  10. March 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Ian :

    ‘Identifying the meaning of the word is important to understanding the sentence;’ Yes of course, and bwe is wrong here. But language is not meccano; you don’t bolt it together with lexicons.

    Of course you don’t bolt it together with lexicons. That’s the opposite of what I have said. Look at what I have said.

    Identifying the meaning of the word is important to understanding the sentence; sentences cannot be understood until lexical-syntactical analysis has taken place. Synchronic and diachronic lexical analysis of the word κεφαλη establishes its semantic domain and lexical range. Then the sentence and its context is examined to determine which meaning within the lexical range is most appropriate.

  11. Jonathan Burke
    March 6, 2014 at 12:11 am

    bwebaptistwomenforequality :

    Jesus had some excellent words for scholars. Read Matthew 23.

    Jesus said nothing whatsoever about scholars.

    • March 6, 2014 at 5:35 am

      The Pharisees would be surprised to hear they were not scholars.

      • Jonathan Burke
        March 6, 2014 at 10:04 am

        No they wouldn’t. They were members of a religious sect, they were not scholars. They weren’t even scribes.

      • March 6, 2014 at 10:50 am

        They were legal experts.Some were scribes.

  12. Jonathan Burke
    March 6, 2014 at 10:55 am

    bwebaptistwomenforequality :

    They were legal experts.Some were scribes.

    The scribes were legal experts. Some of them were Pharisees. They were not scholars. None of them were scholars in the modern sense of the term. It’s intellectually dishonest to hijack Jesus’ words to attack modern scholars because their conclusions conflict with our personal preferences.

    • March 6, 2014 at 11:34 am

      Pardon me, but I thought this discussion began with what kephale meant, a word that we do not understand or use today. Those Pharisees (scholars) didn’t have to parse their religious words because they understood the context. And even then, Jesus told them they were wrong in their understanding of God. If they were wrong, then perhaps modern scholars might be looking through the lenses of their own biases.

  13. Jonathan Burke
    March 6, 2014 at 11:39 am

    bwebaptistwomenforequality :Pardon me, but I thought this discussion began with what kephale meant,

    Yes it does. Feel free to enter the discussion at some point.

    …a word that we do not understand or use today.

    This is not true. We do understand it today.

    Those Pharisees (scholars) didn’t have to parse their religious words because they understood the context. And even then, Jesus told them they were wrong in their understanding of God. If they were wrong, then perhaps modern scholars might be looking through the lenses of their own biases.

    This is not relevant to the discussion at hand.

    • March 6, 2014 at 11:58 am

      Ok. Let’s discuss kephale. We are presented with three scriptural challenges to the doctrine of men being the heads of women: 1) it is contrary to Jesus’ teaching and actions; 2) it makes men the vicars of Christ on earth if men are the head of women; 3) it removes Christ from headship over women; otherwise you have to believe that it takes two-one divine God and one earthly god-to be the head of one woman. (page 143 of Dethroning Male Headship).

  14. Jonathan Burke
    March 6, 2014 at 12:02 pm

    bwebaptistwomenforequality :

    1) it is contrary to Jesus’ teaching and actions; 2) it makes men the vicars of Christ on earth if men are the head of women; 3) it removes Christ from headship over women; otherwise you have to believe that it takes two-one divine God and one earthly god-to be the head of one woman. (page 143 of Dethroning Male Headship).

    These are all unsubstantiated assumptions, and they are irrelevant to the meaning of the word under discussion. We cannot define a word simply according to what we think it should mean, nor can we discount clearly attested meanings simply because they may lead to conclusions we dislike. You are not doing lexicography, you are doing personal theology. This is a lexicographical discussion. Please confine your discussion to lexicographical evidence and the relevant scholarly literature, or don’t post.

    • March 6, 2014 at 12:15 pm

      Lexicography discussion in this particular case of kephale is solely to advance your views that egalitarians are wrong, and that women are to be under the authority of males. I disagree with you and find it extremely abhorrent as to a woman to be discussed in forum after forum regarding the relationship God has with me as a woman. You are never called upon to defend your relationship with God, because you are a male. Apparently you do not want me to stand up for myself.

  15. Jonathan Burke
    March 7, 2014 at 1:53 am

    bwebaptistwomenforequality :

    Lexicography discussion…

    Lexicography in this particular case is a matter of lexicographical evidence and the relevant scholarly literature. That’s all. I did not write my personal opinion, or my personal views. I summarized the relevant professional lexicographical entries and cited the scholarly consensus.

    Your relationship with God is not being discussed here at all. You are not being discussed here at all. There is no need for you to stand up for yourself here; this is not about you. I will not be bullied into silence by emotional blackmail. If you’re not here to discuss the evidence and the scholarship in a calm, rational, and objective manner, then I’ll simply remove your comments.

  16. Jonathan Burke
    March 7, 2014 at 7:13 am

    bwebaptistwomenforequality :

    Jonathan, whenever anyone wants to discuss, scholarly or not, the word kephale, it means that the discussion will center around whether or not males have authority over women.

    No it doesn’t. I didn’t make any mention of any such thing in my article. Nor is this shown in the relevant professional lexicons.

    It is also a fact that the person who begins the discussion has an opinion, and most times that can be discerned by the other things they have written.

    Irrelevant. Consider yourself banned from this blog.

  17. Jonathan Burke
    April 6, 2014 at 12:46 pm

    Ian, thanks for the reply. I’ll try to be brief.

    1. Please understand that your car analogy is not relevant here. This is not about how I understand the text. This is about how lexicographers and Biblical scholars understand the text. You will note I have quoted their views, and their reasoning, not mine.

    2. I am glad you agree that kephale does not mean source. In case you missed it, there are indeed scholars who have asserted this. This argument was made at least as early as Payne (egalitarian), ‘What Does kephalē Mean In The New Testament: Response’, in Mickelson (ed.), ‘Women, Authority & the Bible‎’, p. 125 (1986), and has been made many times since by other egalitarians (Bedale, Mickelsen, Pierce, Deddo, Compleman-Blair, Kroeger, etc). When you say ‘you appear to find support for your position amonst ‘complementarians’’, I assume you meant ‘egalitarians’; I didn’t appeal to complementarians, I pointed out that even among egalitarian scholars it is recognized that this kephalē/source argument is wrong.

    3. You then ask ‘[I do wonder what you think they then do? Say ‘Oh dear, this does not fit with my ideology, so I had better not admit it’?’. No. They use strategies such as claiming it’s not a hierarchy of authority, but a hierarchy of origins (see Payne, whom you quote approvingly).

    4. You have not provided any evidence that this is a ‘hierarchy of origins’. This is certainly far from the scholarly consensus.

    5. The fact that Paul assumes the socio-historical context demonstrates that he knows exactly how his words would be understood within that context, and does nothing to prevent or avoid this. His emphasis on equality in other areas does not deny or annul his emphasis on hierarchy here (and in other passages).

    6. Two different words for ‘covering’ are used in 1 Corinthians 11. It is the scholarly consensus that Paul is saying women need to cover their heads when in congregational prayer and speaking, with a covering which is not their hair. If you wish to contest this you will need to address the arguments from the relevant scholarly literature.

    7. Again, I am not attributing any connotations of authority to the word kephalē; I am simply describing the scholarly consensus which is found in the standard lexicons and relevant literature. This is not about me. If you think your argument about Aristotle and Paul’s haustafel language has any relevance, you need to make an argument, have it published in the relevant scholarly literature, have it peer reviewed, and overturn the current scholarly consensus.

    8. I listed those co-texts because they are the texts identified by standard scholarship in this field as co-texts; see in particular Walker (egalitarian), ‘The “Theology of Woman’s Place” And the “Paulinist” Tradition’, Semeia (28.101), 1983. All of them speak of the relationship between man and woman in the ecclesia, and between husband and wife.

    * 1 Corinthians 14:34: ‘Rather, let them [the women] be in submission, as in fact the law says. If they want to find out about something, they should ask their husbands at home’; Paul never says ‘Let the men be in submission… they should ask their wives’ (there are not ‘substantial textual problems’ with this passage; Neslte-Aland 28, the standard critical text, includes this phrase without controversy, and this is supported in Metzger’s accompanying commentary, which gives the standard reading a B rating, ‘the text is almost certain’)

    * Ephesians 5:22-24: ‘Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife as also Christ is the head of the church – he himself being the savior of the body. But as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.’; Paul never says ‘Husbands, submit to your wives… the wife is the head of the husband… husbands should submit to their wives’ (I am sure you are aware that although ‘submit’ is elided in the phrase ‘Wives, [submit] to your husbands’ in verse 22, it is understood as implied in the text, which is why standard English translations render the verse this way)

    * Colossians 3:18: ‘Wives, submit to your husbands’; Paul never says ‘Husbands, submit to your wives’

    * 1 Timothy 2:12: ‘But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man. She must remain quiet.’; Paul never says ‘I do not allow a man to teach or exercise authority over a woman’ (yes the term ‘exercise authority’ does appear in this verse; the scholarly consensus on this meaning of the verb authentein here has never shifted)

    * Titus 2:5: ‘being subject to their own husbands’; Paul never says ‘being subject to their own wives’

    * 1 Peter 3:1: ‘In the same way, wives, be subject to your own husbands’; Peter never says ‘husbands, be subject to your wives’

    9. Saying ‘not one of these texts talks of ‘wives obey your husbands’ which would be the expected phrase if Paul was endorsing his culture and talking about the exercise of authority of men over women’, does not avoid the fact that Paul told wives to submit to their husbands, in a manner which would be transparently understood with that meaning by the original readers. Again, I direct you to the scholarly consensus.

    We might not like what the Bible says, but we need to be honest about what it says. The fact is the arguments you’re using were abandoned by mainstream egalitarian theologians over 20 years ago (and were never accepted within broader academic theological scholarship). They are preserved as theological relics among a tiny group of Christians, typically North American evangelicals. All such arguments really achieve, is to give Christians a bad name.

    https://christianstudies.wordpress.com/2011/05/12/secular-commentary-on-egalitarianism/

    • Ian
      April 10, 2014 at 8:18 pm

      OK–looks like this discussion is not going to go anywhere. You seem to me to be using the Bible, and the ‘experts’ in a very mechanical way. Just one example: ‘It is the scholarly consensus that Paul is saying women need to cover their heads when in congregational prayer and speaking, with a covering which is not their hair.’ I don’t think it is, and it then rather difficult to make sense of what Paul actually wrote in 1 Cor 11.15 ‘For long hair is given to her in place of [Gk: anti] a covering.’ See Thiselton p 846 citing BADG and FF Bruce ‘the woman needs no head covering’ Bruce p 107.

      But I wish you well, and join you in being concerned that we follow Scripture itself. This then would include women exercising authority over their husband’s bodies (1 Cor 7.4), women planting churches and teaching leading male teachers (Acts 18), woman being apostles (Rom 16), women offering testimony about the resurrection and teaching the other apostles (Luke 24 and John 20).

      And we need to include exercising spiritual gifts, including tongues and prophecy (1 Cor 12). We can agree to disagree on other issues!

      The Lord bless you in your continuing work and ministry.

      • 4GOD
        June 7, 2015 at 6:05 pm

        I speak, and exhort and rebuke this will all authority of Titus 2. None of this has anything to do with the older women teaching the younger women “to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of GOD be not blasphemed”. Whatever definition you choose for kephalē it had better describe the authority of CHRIST over the Church in everything (Ephesians 5).

        Then let’s place women, who are commanded in subjection to their husbands (who may or may not be Christians) in everything, into leadership positions in the Church. Now what does this ideology have to do with GOD? Sounds like a bunch of people not wanting to do their jobs to me.

  18. January 24, 2016 at 6:41 am

    The so called house wife you attempted to discredit, Suzanne McCarthy is a Greek scholar. Nice to know you’ve done your research.

    • January 24, 2016 at 8:18 am

      This is to Jonathan. Guess I can’t leave a reply. Just discovered I was banned April 2014 from this blog. In case this gets through, I want to remind you that Jesus never, ever indicated that women were to submit to men while he was alive or after his resurrection. And since I am banned, I will tell you that Jesus never elevated males over females, but many religions do. Muslims, for instance. No matter what kephale means, kephale – or the Apostle Paul – cannot contradict Jesus, and when it does, it is our misunderstanding that is at fault. Christ would never be mean spirited toward women and all we have to do to know that is to read what he said and did in the first 4 books of the Bible. Jesus is our standard, and since he did not commit women to male headship, then we in good stewardship of the gospel, cannot do so either.

    • Jonathan Burke
      January 24, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      Eric, Suzanne McCarthy had ungraduate qualifications in classics (as I do; and I don’t call myself a scholar), and a diploma in Bible translation. She has no higher qualifications in these languages. Her MA was in a different field. She held no academic appointment, or academic teaching position (she was a school teacher). In the only formal journal article I have ever found of hers (in The Ecumenical Review, published by the World Council of Churches), she was described by the journal as someone who “conducts independent research” (a courteous way of describing a non-scholar), and as a school teacher. If you have a list of her scholarly publications in this field (journal articles, conference papers, monographs), I would be very interested to see it. I do know she published a couple of papers on the Cree language, unrelated to New Testament studies.

      • April 15, 2016 at 8:50 am

        Ah, I get it now.

  1. September 21, 2015 at 12:05 am

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