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May 07, 2007


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Gidday again Michael,

I have spent some time researching kephale. The two most common meanings (esp in 1 cor 11:3 for example)discussed are 'source/origin' or 'authority'. However, Andrew Perriman (Speaking of Women Interpreting Paul: Apollow, 1998) along with Thiselton (1 Corinthians, NIGTC: Eerdmans, 2000) proposes the more 'simple' (common in Gk) meaning of 'prominence' or 'synechdoch'... that is, the 'head' was simply the most obvious/ prominent part of the body, and so was used as a representative of the rest of the body. I was wondering if you have comments / studied up on this third meaning at all?


Michael Kruse

I intend to do posts in the Household series that deal with "head" as a metaphor. My short answer is that I don't think we can understand "head" with mathematical precision. It has mulitple nuances depending on context.

There is no doubt in my mind that "head" in Greek is frequently used to indicate "origin/source." It can symbolize that from which life springs. It can also symoblize first in sequence as in, "She got there early and was at the 'head' of the line." Thiselton suggests "prominence." That seems accurate as well. We often talk about "heads of cattle" today knowing the "head" is symoblic of the whole beast in unity. What we do not find is head being used to indicate ruler or leader. It may be used of a ruler/leader but it symbolizes some trait they have other than their leading and ruling.

I am convinced that "head" in 1 Cor. 11:3 is about origins. Honor and shame were the controlling forces in the ancient Near East. Your identity was well defined. You were the member of a family, that was a member of clan, that was a member of a tribe, that was a member of a people. Giving honor and recognition to your origins was the way you demonstrated solidarity with your family grouping. In this 1 Cor. passage, Paul makes clear that man has one origin, Christ as creator (Christ is the head of everyman...). But woman has two heads/origins because, as one created in the image of God, she originates in God but she was taken from the side of man and also has origin in man (...and the husband is the head of every wife...). The passage is about how to show the proper decorum that brings honor and avoids shame for all involved. The final pairing is "God is the head of Christ," about which Paul says nothing more. It is believed that this might have been a creedal statement teaching that Adam was created, Eve was created, and in Christ we have the new Adam. Since we are all made new in Christ the whole thing comes full circle.


I fully agree.

Sam Carr

Hichael, there are a lot of interesting issues wrapped up with the question of kephale especially as we know that Aristotle and perhaps most Greeks believed that the heart/liver kardia and organs in the abdomen were of greater importance than the head as being the seat of the soul, emotions etc. i think these views dominated at least till Galen who postdates our NT period.

Sam Carr

Sorry, Michael, I'm a very lazy proofer. And congrats on the very interesting discussion on at jesuscreed!

Rusty Bullerman


Very interesting article and some great insights. In addition to Kerryn's points, there is a very expensive book called the "Body in Question" by Gregory Dawes that handles primarily Epheshians but deals extensively with the metaphorical uses of kephale. He is quoted extensivly in Thisleton.


Michael Kruse

Sam, Rev 2:23:

"And all the churches will know that I am the one who searches minds and hearts …”

The Greek is nefrous kai kardias which literally is “kidneys and hearts.” The evidence is in the Bible itself.

And don't worry about proofing. I don't proof my posts! :)

Michael Kruse

Rusty, thanks for the heads up on the Dawes book. I have read an article or two by Thisleton but I have never got around to investigating his sources.

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