Christ: A Model For Headship And Submission -- By: Jack Cottrell

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 02:4 (Sep 1997)
Article: Christ: A Model For Headship And Submission
Author: Jack Cottrell


Christ: A Model For Headship And Submission

Jack Cottrell

A Crucial Verse In 1 Corinthians 11 Overturns Egalitarian Interpretations

In recent years the debate over the meaning of male headship has centered around the meaning of the Greek word kephalē (“head”) in passages such as Ephesians 5:23 and 1 Corinthians 11:3. Egalitarians have argued that its basic metaphorical meaning is “origin,” source,” and that this is how it should be understood in these passages. Complementarians have contended for the traditional view, maintaining that the basic meaning of kephalē is “leader, one in authority.” The present article seeks to shed new light on this issue so vital for the roles of husbands and wives in the home and the roles of men and women in the church by an in-depth study of the order of pairs in 1 Corinthians 11:3: Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.

A Look At The Text

In our text, Paul says that “the man is the head (kephalē) of a woman.” A common egalitarian argument is that in this verse kephalē cannot here have the sense of “leader, one in authority” because of the order of the three main elements of the verse. If kephalē were meant to have a hierarchical sense, then the order of the pairs would have been different. The last pair would have been first: God is the head of Christ; Christ is the head of man; man is the head of woman. But this is not the given order; therefore kephalē must mean something else.

Payne states this view very succinctly: “The interpretation of ‘head’ in this passage as a chain of command or hierarchy demands rearrangement of the sequence that Paul gives.”1 Bilezikian makes the same argument: “Paul’s precise sequential arrangement of the three elements of this verse shows that he is not building a chain of command.” If this were his point, he would have put the God/Christ pair first. “It is inconceivable that Paul would have so grievously jumbled up the sequence in a matter involving God, Christ, and humans.” Bilezikian says this is “an insuperable argument against the hierarchical interpretation of 11:3.”2

But if kephalē means “sou...

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