Tuesday, December 16, 2008

What About Headship?

This is the second response to the question of the subjection of women to men.

Quote: from http://www.biblestudyproject.org/local-church-messianic.htm#Its_eldership_is_open_to_men_who_fulfill_the_qualifications

“The underlying principles that are given for the headship of the man in the home and the congregation are the same, and are all theological, meaning that they must apply in all homes and congregations everywhere throughout the Church Age.”
And “The principle of the subjection of women to the men in the local congregation may also be found in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, which deals with the requirement of women, perhaps only married women (mbs 106, p. 42. See endnotes), to wear a headcovering in honor of male headship. The passages dealing directly with congregational eldership are consistent with these, and must logically be viewed as relevant to the general requirement of the subjection of the women to the men.”

A. English Definitions –

Origin: 1575–85; head + ship
1. the position of head or chief; chief authority; leadership; supremacy.

2. The position or office of a head or leader; primacy or command.

3. Chiefly British : The position of a headmaster or headmistress

4. Authority or dignity; chief place.

B. Headship in English is a relatively new word.

The question might be, what was a Greek word that would indicate the English equivalent of headship, meaning chief authority, first or chief place, etc. and where was it used in Scripture.
1. Arche - beginning, origin, principal part; first place, or power, or sovereignty. Magistry, office, an authority. (fr. Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon)
Peitarcheo – to obey one in authority.
2. Authentia – absolute sway, authority.

3. Prostatis – (fr. proistemi) , presiding officer, Prominent leader.

4. Proistemi - to lead, guard

5. prOteuO - to be first, or have first place (only used in 1 Col. 1:18)

6. despotis – master, ruler

Regarding the Greek word , kephale, that was used in the passages that hierarchalists use to glean the concept of headship from, the following quote disputes its use as meaning authority or power over, and lists several other words that can and were sometimes used to indicate various authorities.

Women, Authority and the Bible
Page 101-104
" Those who, like Bauer, insist that kephale means “superior rank” say that since kephale is used with that meaning in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, that meaning must have been familiar to Greek-speaking people of the Old Testament. The facts do not support this assumption.
The Septuagint was prepared by a large group of Hebrew-Greek scholars for the thousands of Jewish people who lived outside of Palestine. For these Jews, Greek was their first and sometimes only language, and they could not have read a Hebrew Old Testament even if one had been available. They used the Septuagint in their synagogues. For all the early churches outside Palestine, the Septuagint translation was the Old Testament, for it was written in the only language they knew.
We studied all the instances in which the Hebrew word ro’sh (meaning “head”) appears in the Old Testament and how it was translated in the Septuagint. Ro’sh occurs approximately 600 times and the Aramaic word re’sh occurs 14 times. Usually ro’sh or re’sh simply means the physical head of a person or animal, the same meaning that the Greek word kephale usually has in the New Testament. In the 239 instances when Ro’sh refers to a physical head, the Septuagint translators nearly always translated it with kephale. But like our English word head, ro’sh sometimes had metaphorical or figurative meanings, including leader or someone in authority, or beginning, as in ro’sh hashshanah (Ezek. 40:1 , “at the beginning of the year”).
At 180 times, the Hebrew word ro’sh, meaning “head,” clearly refers to a “chief something”-a chief man, chief city, chief nation, chief priest, that is, the leader or authority figure in the group. Apparently, this meaning for ro’sh was as common in ancient Hebrew as it is in English today. But as we have seen from the Liddell, Scott, Jones and McKenzie lexicon, that was not a common meaning in the Greek language of New Testament times. The findings of these lexicographers are confirmed when we examine the Greek words that the translators of the Septuagint used when the Hebrew word ro’sh means leader or chief. In the 180 instances when ro’sh means leader or chief, the Septuagint translators rarely used kephale. Archon, meaning ruler, commander or leader, was used 109 times (about 60 percent). Apparently the translators believed that archon rather than kephale more accurately conveyed the meaning of the Hebrew ro’sh when it meant ruler or leader.
Translators today face similar problems. In an English writer says, “he was hotheaded,” translators to another language probably could not use the literal words for hot and head and still convey the author’s meaning of “violent temper.” In the same way, Septuagint translators of ro’sh knew that the literal kepahle (head) might not give the correct idea because kephale did not mean “leader” or “authority” to ordinary Greek readers. For example, Joshua 23:2 reads, “Joshua summoned all Israel, their elders and heads [ro’sh] their judges and officers…” But the Septuagint translators did not use kephale for “heads” in this passage. They used a form of archon, “their elders and leaders (or rulers).” The word ro’sh also appears in 1 Chronicles 8:10 , 13 and 28 in the phrase of “heads of fathers’ houses.” In each instance, the Septuagint translators used a form of archon rather than kephale.
Although archon was the most common word used for ro’sh when it meant chief or authority, it was not the only one. The translators occasionally used thirteen other words……."

Septuagint translators used fourteen different Greek words to translate ro’sh:
1. Archon (meaning ruler, commander, leader________________109 times
2. Archegos (captain, leader, chief, prince) ____________________10 times
3. Arche (authority, magistrate, officer) ________________________9 times
4. Hegeomai (to be a leader, to rule, have dominion) _____________9 times
5. Protos (first, foremost) ___________________________________6 times
6. Patriarches_____________________________________________3 times
7. Chiliarches (commander)__________________________________3 times
8. Archipules (chief of a tribe) ________________________________2 times
9. Archipatriotes (head of a family)____________________________1 time
10. Archo (verb; ruler, be ruler of)______________________________1 time
11. Megas, emgale, mega (great, mighty, important)_______________1 time
12. Proegeomai (take the lead, go first, lead the way)______________1 time
13. Prototokos (firstborn or first in rank)_________________________1 time
14. Kephale (where head can mean top or crown)_________________¬_8 times
Kephale (in head-tail metaphor)______________________________4 times
Kephale (where manuscripts have variant readings) ______________6 times

Ro’sh (not translated)_______________________________________6 times

End Quote ...

Those are some of the main words that could be used to describe the modern term headship in the Scriptures, except for kephale which the study disputes using it for authority over or superior rank. So, the next question is, especially in the NT, are these words ever used to describe a gender headship of men over women, or a marital headship of husbands over wives? In fact is the English word “headship” ever used in Scripture? No, it isn’t.

And then, of course, the big question is how IS kephale (the word translated as “head”) used in the NT Scriptures? None of the Greek words I’ve listed thus far, that can be used to describe a ‘headship’ of authority, leadership, primacy in the sense of command, etc. has been used in the NT to describe a relationship of men over women or women in subjection to men. This is an important point. Only kephale (meaning literally the head on one’s shoulders) has been used metaphorically in a sense of interdependent relationship.

Arche as beginning, first, pre-eminent….

1 John 1:11 The Word of Life ] That which was from the beginning (arche), which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

Colossians 1:18 
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.

In Colossians 1:18 both kephale (literal head) arche (beginning, original, authority), and proteuO (first) are used. We know that they do not all mean the same thing. Here we have Jesus in a head-body metaphor, also as the arche (the first one, the one carrying the power-hence concept of authority) and the one having pre-eminance. And head (kephale) does not in this place convey the equivalent of the English “headship”. Rather it links a metaphorical relationship between head and body. Arche is used to convey the 'point person', the one who comes first, representative of authority. And proteuo is used to convey pre-eminence.

Kephale in metaphors ...

Kephale has the meaning of literal head. There is no one use in metaphor. The primary uses of kephale in metaphor, when used in a metaphor of head of and body of, in the NT are one of relational interdependency.

What are some other Scriptures where the words ‘head of’ are used. Is there a place where ‘head over’ is used in the NT?

A. Relational metaphors:

John 15:5-8
5“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8 By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

This is not a head-body metaphor, but it is similar in that the branches rely upon the vine for their sustenance. Thus Christ is source for life and growth. One of the differences is that the branches in this type of metaphor bring nothing to the relationship. They are not as needed as the vine is. They can be removed and the vine still grows. In the head-body metaphors, the believers are viewed as a whole, one group, such as husband and wife. If husband does not stay connected and do his part, the whole entity, the marriage, suffers. If the wife does not stay connected and do her part, the whole entity, the marriage, suffers. It is not more about the body or more about the head. It is their connectedness that matters.

This is not about Christ being an authority figure. It is about Him being The Way, The Truth and The Life; in other words, the source of everything that we need.


Ephesians 1: 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. 
22 And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.

In my estimation, Christ is the source of all authority, as well as pre-eminent above all authority of all things including earthly and heavenly principalities and powers. Fact is that Christ created authorities and powers. Thus any concept of Christ being an authority over is rather demeaning His real place in the scheme of creation.

When it is saying that He gave Him to be head (kephale) over all things to the church, I still see that as a source/pre-eminence/primacy issue. Jesus is the first born, out of His side we were born. He is the source of our life in His body, like the vine and the branches. I don't see it as a worldly concept of authority over, since He is so far beyond that in being our creator and creator of all life as we know it. He created us as human beings, and now by suffering death for us, He is our source of life as part of His body, and thus pre-eminent in our midst. From Him come all things that matter.


Col. 1: 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

He is the firstborn, the Creator of all things including dominion, principalities or powers. He is pre-eminent and all powerful since He holds all this together since all things ‘consist’ IN Him. IN ADDITION: Christ is the ‘head of’, kephale, the body. In this sense, in a head-body relational metaphor, Christ is source of life to the body, the upholder of its life, the one from whose side the body was born. Thus in EVERY area Christ is pre-eminent.

Through Christ we have reconciliation. Through Christ we can make peace with our enemies as we both yield to His life giving sustenance, if we continue in the faith staying attached to the ‘vine’ of Life.

Col. 2: 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power..

Colossians 2 continues in the same vein as chapter one, reminding us that we gain our sustenance, our completeness in Christ, for in Him all fullness of God dwells, who is the source of (of not over) all sovereignty (arche) and power. Christ does not direct all sovereignties (angelic beings, fallen angels) or powers, but He is their creator.

Co. 2: 19 and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God.

Further down in Colossians 2, we see an expanded explanation of how Paul is using the head-body metaphor. Clearly, the relationship to the head (kephale) is one from in which the body is nourished, receives life, and is able to grow, as long as the body is firmly attached to it’s head.

Eph. 4: 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

In Eph. 4, we have Paul again repeating the head-body metaphor as a relationship of nourishment, in which the body relies upon the head as source for its life. As we the body, rely upon Christ, He is able to make us mature to be like Christ, and thus edify each other in love.

Eph. 5 :23, 25, 28-30
For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her,
28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body of His flesh and of His bones.

Further on in Ephesians, chapter 5, We have Paul again building a head-body metaphor. Since we already have the foundation laid in several places (John 15, Colossians twice, Eph. Once before) a Berean reader will note the similarities. The husband’s preeminence to the wife is to be like Christs preeminence to the body in that he is to provide for and nurture his wife in a similar manner as Christ does for the church. The husband is to give himself and his strengths to the task of sacrificially loving his wife for her benefit. In so doing, he will benefit himself for they are to live as if they are one (vs. 5:31). For the interesting thing about the head-body metaphor is the unmistakable fact that as much as the body cannot survive without the head, the head also cannot survive without the body.

These are not pictures of modern ‘headship’ (authority, leadership, supremacy) but of cleaving to one another to benefit the other. The stronger gives sustenance to the weaker so that their relationship may thrive. For those men who may think that they need authority over their wives in order to bring something different and valuable to contribute to the marriage, may I point out that friends do not need differentiate themselves by authority and submission. Men and women are different enough thanks to God’s creativity. We need only add in our own uniqueness and skills, along with devotion and respect.

Next, I will look at hupotage and hupotassomai, the submission of wives, and Ephesians 5 in detail.


Gregory Kirschmann said...

Just some preliminary thoughts;

Doesn't even the 'head-body' metaphor indicate a sense of control? Even in a literal sense, the head (brain) has control over the body.

To insert 'Mutuality' as the real message in the kephale passages is a greater stretch than the modern 'headship' understanding.

I think 'unity' and 'agreement' are essential elements of our relationships with God and others that don't conflict with authority.

The key passages gender authority is based on (1 Cor. 14:34-35 and 1 Tim. 2:11-12) do not even use the word kephale.

My wife and I lived in HI for 25 years, and I loved diving there!

God Bless!

believer333 said...

In modern thinking we think of the metaphor of 'head' as relative to thinking and control. Of course this would logically imply that men need to think for women, make their decisions for them, control them, etc. which is unacceptable.

In the era of the time of the epistles, the metaphor of 'head' had a few different connotations. One was that of point man, protector, one in front, representation, source of provision, etc. Context of what else is said helps us to discern its use.

On the subject of wives, the metaphor is twofold. Wife is to view husband as if she were her head (it’s a metaphor remember) and husband is to view wife as if she were his body (he’s already got a real body remember). The relationship is one of connection since it is ‘head of’ (not over) and ‘body of’ (not under). Seeing that the end is that a man must cleave to his wife so that the two will become one flesh (Gen. 2:24) what we can see inferred is that husband and wife should be mutually supportive (submitted to one another vs. 21) in such a manner that they live as one unified body.

Modern headship thinking comes to these passages with the implication already in their minds that its all about authority and completely misses the beauty and encouragement inherent here.

The key passages of ‘gender authority’ are both misconstrued by gender hierarchalists just as the Ephesian passages are.

If you would like to discuss them here, I’ll check this blog more often.

Eric Breaux said...

Could someone correct this http://christianstudies.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/does-kephale-mean-source/ ignoramus on all his flawed arguments

believer333 said...

sorry I didn't see this until now. I will think on it. a bit busy these days though.