Tuesday, 7 June 2011

How has kephalē (κεφαλὴ) been used in academic debate? (Part 1)

This post continues on from my last one which looked at the ancient Greek dictionary definition for κεφαλὴ and an article that Wayne Grudem wrote looking at over 2,300 referenced to that word in ancient Greek. He argued for κεφαλὴ to mean "authority", "ruler" or "superior rank" and not "source" or "origin". Below are some counter arguments that I have tried to summarise. The full links to the source (where possible) are provided at the bottom.

The next year after Grudem published his article mentioned in my last post a counterpoint book Women, Authority and the Bible, dedicated Chapter 6 to the topic of What Does Kephalē Mean in the New Testament? This chapter was written by Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen and responded to by Ruth A. Tucker and Philip B. Payne. The Mickelsen's point out that the LSJ does not give the meaning "authority", or "superior rank" or "leader" in their definition for κεφαλὴ. They point out another Greek dictionary, Bauer's which does say κεφαλὴ can have the meaning "superior rank". They look at the supporting text for this definition and point out that they are from sources from 500 A.D, from the Septuagint (Judges 11:11, 2 Sam 22:44) or from the New Testament where "Bauer personally thinks κεφαλὴ means this" and that the "facts do not support this assumption". They then go through these seven references of κεφαλὴ in the New Testament and show that they really mean "source of life" in Col 2:19 and Eph 4:15; "top" or "crown" in Col 2:10; Eph 1:20-23; "source" or "base" or "derivation" in 1 Cor 11:3; "Exalted originator and completer" in Col 1:18 and "one who brings completion" in Eph 5:23. (This purple site has a simplified article of this chapter, full chapter is linked below)

Ruth A Tucker, in her response to the above chapter responded as a historian to see how the church Fathers have used κεφαλὴ. Tucker could not find κεφαλὴ in the writings of Clement, Tertullian and Cyprian but they did talk about headship.Clement says both are spiritual equal but the man is the head of woman. Tertullian more than any other ante-Nicene father uses the meaning "source" or "author" when talking about headship. Cyprian does not even imply the meaning of "superior rank" or "authority" in Eph 5. Ambrose said men are not under the law in the case of divorce, unlike the woman because of male headship. Augustine argues that there is a created beauty and order and understood headship in terms of authority. Lastly Calvin says that in 1 Cor 11:3 an inequality exists and that Paul did not want to disturb the civil order. Tucker concludes that Calvin, like most people in church history takes κεφαλὴ to mean authority, superior rank or pre-eminence and questions some of the Mickelsens' assumptions above.

Philip Barton Payne, in his repose to the Mickelsens' chapter pretty much agrees with them and that they even "understated their case from Greek usage". Their criticism of Bauer's dictionary definition is well founded. Payne does disagree with some of their nuances for them meaning of κεφαλὴ and says that it meaning "source of life" and "top or crown" is adequate to cover all the examples cited. Payne also shows more examples of κεφαλὴ to mean "source of life" in ancient Greek. He looks at a few New Testament references and concludes that in Pauline writings the word means "source" [of life] or "top".

In 1989 Richard S Cervin responded to Grudem directly in an academic paper. His rebuttal got printed in the Trinity Journal 10.1 (1989). Cervin disagreed with Grudem's assessment of the word κεφαλὴ and Grudem's assessment of the 49 references where κεφαλὴ can mean "authority over". Cervin states these references do not mean what Grudem wants them to mean and that they have been misrepresented.

Cervin looks at Grudem's method of consulting just the LSJ as limiting and ignores a whole host of other Greek dictionaries. New Testament scholars also should be looking at sources around the New Testament time and not drawing parallels from works such as Plato. "Leader" is never mentioned as a meaning for κεφαλὴ in any Greek dictionary, but it does in Latin, which is more popular in Western thought but it is not in Greek thought. Cervin also had access to the same database that Grudem used, but had a different edition, so his numbers were different, which means and so Grudem could not have possibly found every reference in the sources he cited. Cervin draws on what Payne (1986) mentioned above said.

Cervin goes through the 49 references Grudem did which mean "leader" or "authority over". 12 references are disregards up front because they are from the New Testament text, which is what Grudem was setting out to prove, so he can't use those meanings to apply back to the text he is building a case for. Of the remaining 37 examples, after examine them (except for two which don't really exist) Cervin states that only four uses of the word κεφαλὴ clearly mean "leader".

Not to take this sitting down Grudem responded to all these people, and a few more that I haven't mentioned in the Trinity Journal 11.1 (1990). I will look at his article in my next post.

Works cited
Cervin, R. S. (1989). Does kephalē mean "source" or "authority over" in Greek literature : A rebuttal.Trinity Journal, 10(1), 85-112. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. [Preview of the pdf here, I can email you the full article if you want it]

Grudem, W. A. (1985). Does kephalē ("head") mean "source" or "authority over" in Greek literature : a survey of 2,336 examples. Trinity Journal, 6(1), 38-59. Retrieved from EBSCOhost. [This was mentioned in the last post. Full PDF download here]

Mickelsen, A., & Mickelsen, A. (1986). What does kephalē mean in the New Testament. In, Women, authority and the Bible (pp. 97-110). Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Pr. [Full Google book preview]

Payne, P. B. (1986). Response in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed. Mickelsen, pp. 118-132.[Full Google book preview]

Tucker, R. A. (1986). Response in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed. Mickelsen, pp. 111-117 [Full Google book preview]

Works I couldn't get my hands on
Bedale, S. (1954). Meaning of kephalē in the Pauline Epistles. Journal of Theological Studies, 5(2), 211-216. [This would have been useful to start off my last post]

Johnson, A. F. (2009). A review of the scholarly debate on the meaning of "head" (kephalē) in Paul's writings. Ashland Theological Journal, 4135-57 [This most likely would have made an appearance in my next post, if I could have gotten it]

Perriman, A. C. (1994). The Head of a Woman : The Meaning of Kephalē in 1 Cor 11:3. Journal of Theological Studies, 45(2), 602-622 [I am not sure if I would have used this article anyway]


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