The Meaning Of Κεφαλή (“Head”): A Response To Recent Studies -- By: Wayne Grudem

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 11:1 (Spring 1990)
Article: The Meaning Of Κεφαλή (“Head”): A Response To Recent Studies
Author: Wayne Grudem

The Meaning Of Κεφαλή (“Head”):
A Response To Recent Studies*

Wayne Grudem


In a previous issue of Trinity Journal Richard S. Cervin published a critique1 of my 1985 article, “Does Κεφαλή (‘Head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples.”2 My primary purpose in this present article is to respond to the critique given by Mr. Cervin, but I shall also interact with a number of other studies of κεφαλή that have been published since my 1985 work (especially those of Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, Philip Payne, Gilbert Bilezikian, and Katherine Kroeger).

By way of introduction, it may be said that this issue is of considerable interest today because of its relevance for the discussion of women’s and men’s roles in marriage. What does the NT mean when it says that “the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church?” (Eph 5:23), or that the “head of every man is Christ” and “the head of a woman is the man” (1 Cor 11:3)? Christians throughout history have usually understood the word “head” in these verses to mean “authority over,” but many authors have denied that in the last few years, claiming instead that “head” in these contexts means “source” or “origin,” so that 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. Support for this view was claimed from some occurrences of the Greek word κεφαλή, outside the NT, where it was said to take the meaning “source.” Furthermore, some argued that the sense “authority over” was uncommon or unknown in Greek and would have been unintelligible to Paul’s readers. (Mr. Cervin’s recent article

*This article also appears as an appendix to Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, ed., John Piper and Wayne Grudem (Westchester: Crossway, forthcoming).

also denied the meaning “authority over” in these texts, but he proposed not “source” but “preeminence” as an alternative meaning.)

I. Brief Summary Of My 1985 Article

My original article attempted to respond to these claims by making the following points:

(1) The evidence to sup...

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