Does Κεφαλη (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or “Authority Over” In Greek Literature? A Survey Of 2,336 Examples -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 06:1 (Spring 1985)
Article: Does Κεφαλη (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or “Authority Over” In Greek Literature? A Survey Of 2,336 Examples
Author: Wayne Grudem


Does Κεφαλη (“Head”) Mean “Source” Or
“Authority Over” In Greek Literature?
A Survey Of 2,336 Examples*

Wayne Grudem

Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

(One of the sensitive issues currently being discussed in many church es and seminaries is what the Bible has to say about women. So much has been written on this subject during the past decade that it is now becoming difficult to find anything new or fresh or challenging: positions are becoming hardened, justified by the same arguments someone else has already advanced, without close and humble examination of the validity of those arguments. Dr. Grudem’s article breaks that mold: his essay examines an enormous quantity of primary data to provide some controls in establishing the meaning of “head” and “headship” in the New Testament—and as a result he demonstrates convincingly that one major strand of modern interpretation, repeated from book to book, is simply wrong. Because of the primary nature of this research, we have decided to publish his essay here, even though it is simultaneously being published as an appendix to the new edition of George Knight’s The Role Relationship of Men and Women, published by Moody Press. —Ed.)

When the New Testament says that the “head of every man is Christ” and “the head of a woman is the man” (1 Cor 11:3), or that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” (Eph 5:23), Christians have usually understood the word head to mean “authority over.” Thus, Christ is the authority over the church and a husband is the authority over his wife.

But that viewpoint has been challenged recently by those who claim, at least for some passages, that the word head means “source” or “origin” rather than “authority over.” Thus, Christ is the source of every man, Christ is the source of the church, and—referring to Adam and Eve—the man is the source of the woman. It is the purpose of this appendix to examine that recent claim on the basis of a survey of more than 2,300 examples of the Greek word κεφαλή (“head”) from ancient Greek literature.

Arguments in Favor of the Meaning “Source”

Modern Authors

Perhaps the most influential and explicit statement of the position that

*Reprinted from the appendix of The Role Relationship of Men and Women, by George W. Knight III. Copyright 1977,1985 by George W,:.Knight III. Used by permission of Moody Press.

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