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The following is a work in progress. I imagine that I will add more texts when I happen to read them and that some thoughts below can be improved on. The purpose of this page is to provide evidence that “higher status” or “preeminence” is a sense, sometimes the primary sense, in the metaphorical or idiomatic use of the Greek word kephalē (“head”). The apostle Paul uses this word several times in his letters. (See here.)

Often people with a higher status and preeminence also have authority over others. Nevertheless, from close readings of the texts, I maintain that in ancient Greek, the metaphorical sense of kephalē had to do with status rather than authority.[1]

To be clear, I do not think the meaning of kephalē is “a person in authority over others.” Accordingly, more recent lexicons of ancient Greek, where the lexicographers have had access to exhaustive databases, do not have definitions for kephalē such as “ruler,” “master,” “lord,” or “leader” in regards to texts originally written in ancient Greek (as opposed to texts translated into Greek from Hebrew, etc).[2]

Most of the following texts were written by Philo, a Jewish philosopher who lived in Alexandria and died around AD 50. And so Philo was alive around the same time when Paul, another Jewish man writing in Greek, was alive.

Philo: Rewards and Punishments (De praemiis et poenis)

Philo makes it easy for us; he explains what he means by kephalē in section 19 §114 of On Rewards and Punishment: “… as the head is to the body occupying the pre-eminence of situation …”[3] This spatial sense of “top” or elevated position seems to be behind the metaphorical sense of higher status or pre-eminence in kephalē.

In section 20 §125, Philo writes about a hypothetical virtuous person. He uses the adjectives “first” and “best” to explain what he means by kephalē (“head”) and he contrasts it with “tail” before using kephalē again in a head-body metaphor.

For as in an animal the head is the first and best part, and the tail the last and worst part, or rather no part at all … the virtuous man shall be the head of the human race whether he be a single man or a whole people. And that all others, being as it were parts of the body, are only vivified by the powers existing in the head and superior portions of the body. On Rewards and Punishments, 20 §125

A good person, or group of good people, does not have authority over the whole human race. However, a virtuous person can be, in a sense, superior or have a higher level of honour than other people and they can influence others.

The head-tail metaphor that Philo employs also occurs a few times in the Hebrew Bible, but not in the New Testament. In this metaphor, the “head” is capable people who are in an honoured, prosperous, superior position while the “tail” is people in a despised, poor, lowly position.

This metaphor occurs in Deuteronomy 28:12–13 in the context of prosperity for Israel; Deuteronomy 28:43–44 in the context of Israel not being prosperous; Isaiah 9:14–15 in the context of disaster for the Jewish people because they did not obey God; Isaiah 19:15 in the context of no one, great or small, being able to help Egypt. The idea of the “head” having authority is not part of this idiom.

Philo: Special Laws (De Specialibus Legibus)

In Special Laws 3.33 §184, Philo describes actual heads as being preeminent, as having a position above all the other body parts and organs. And while he recognises that an actual head governs the body, he primarily refers to its elevated position and situation. The following is given in the context of the regulation in Exodus 21:25 about letting a slave go free if he or she loses sight in an eye because it has been struck.

Because, as nature has assigned the chief position in the body to the head, having bestowed upon it a situation the most suitable to that pre-eminence, as it might give a citadel to a king (for having sent it forth to govern the body it has established it on a height, putting the whole composition of the body from the neck to the feet under it, as a pedestal might be placed under a statue), so also it has given the preeminence among the organs of the external senses to the eyes. At all events, it has assigned them a position above all the others, as if they were the chiefs, wishing to honour them not only by other things, but also by this most evident and conspicuous of all signs. Special Laws 3.33 §184

Note that this passage is not about the use of “head” as a metaphor, but it does show how Philo thinks about “head” which is why I’ve included it.

Philo: On the Life of Moses (De vita Mosis)

In On the Life of Moses 2.30, Philo praises the Egyptian monarch Ptolemy Philadelphus. This monarch did not have authority over the other kings; rather, Philo regarded him as superior to them.

… the whole family of the Ptolemies was exceedingly eminent and conspicuous above all other royal families, and among the Ptolemies, Philadelphus was the most illustrious; for all the rest put together scarcely did as many glorious and praiseworthy actions as this one king did by himself, being, as it were, the leader of the herd, and in a manner the head of all the kings. The Life of Moses 2:30

“Head” also occurs in a previous statement in this work. C.D. Yonge, a classicist who translated Philo’s works in the 1850s, translated kephalē as “principle thing” in his translation of On the Life of Moses 2.82: “But since the mind is the principal thing (kephalē) in us, having an authority over the external senses . . .” In this passage, it is the mind that is the ruling part and that has authority, not the kephalē.

Philo: On Mating with the Preliminary Studies (De Congressu Quaerendae Eruditionis Gratia)

What precisely Philo means by “head” in this passage has been much discussed.

Like the head (kephalē) of a living creature, Esau is the progenitor (genarchēs) of all the clans mentioned so far. On Mating with the Preliminary Studies 61. (Cervin’s translation in his 1989 paper “Does kephalē Mean ‘Source’ … A Rebuttal.”)

Colson and Whitaker’s translation:

And of all members of the clan here described Esau is the progenitor (genarchēs), the head (kephalē) as it were of the whole creature … On Mating with the Preliminary Studies 61. (Loeb 4.489)

Richard Cervin’s observation makes good sense: “the metaphorical use of kephalē denotes that Esau is the head, i.e. the beginning, the foremost member of his clan, just as the head is the foremost member of an animal’s body.”[4] I suggest Paul uses similar senses in 1 Corinthians 11:3.

Josephus on Jerusalem

Josephus (d. 100 CE) was a Jewish historian with Roman sympathies. In discussions on the meaning of kephalē, two passages from his account of The Jewish War are sometimes mentioned. The first is from book 3 of The Jewish War.

Nor indeed is Judea destitute of such delights as come from the sea, since its maritime places extend as far as Ptolemais: it was parted in eleven portions, of which the royal city Jerusalem was the supreme, and presides over [or rather, “is eminent above,” proanischousa] all the neighbouring country, as the head does over the body. (Jewish War 3.3.5 §54 Whiston’s translation; Greek)

Thackeray translates the pertinent phrase as “… Jerusalem as the capital is supreme, dominating all the neighbourhood as the head towers above the body.” Josephus, The Jewish War, Volume II: Books 3–4, translated by H. St. J. Thackeray (Loeb Classical Library; Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press), 21.

In book 4, Josephus writes about the violent devastation of Jerusalem and he describes the city as “the face and the head (τὸ πρόσωπον καὶ τὴν κεφαλήν) of the whole nation.” (Jewish War 4.4.3 §261) “Face” and “head” are used with a similar sense here. Thackeray translates the phrase as “this front and head of the whole nation.” (Loeb, 235).

Concerning this passage, Andrew Perriman writes that “the idea behind kephalē is one not of authority but of prominence: Josephus is speaking of the affront caused by the activities of terrorists in a place which is ‘revered by the world and honoured by aliens from the ends of the earth who have heard its fame’ (Loeb translation).”[5]

No one denies Jerusalem was an impressive capital city (“capital” is derived from the Latin word for “head”) and that it was preeminent above the neighbouring countryside in terms of its geographical elevation and political status, but these examples do not show that the Greek word for “head” (kephalē) means “a leader.” Moreover, these examples from Josephus do not show that kephalē means “a person in authority over others.” Rather, “head” refers to Jerusalem’s “towering” status.

Plutarch: The Life of Pelopidas

Plutarch was a prolific author who died in 120 CE. Unlike Philo, Josephus, and Paul, he was not Jewish.

In The Life of Pelopidas, Plutarch uses kephalē in a head-body metaphor for Pelopidas and his army. The purpose of the metaphor is to show that General Pelopidas is not “one man” by himself. Rather, his hands, his feet, and chest, that is, his light-armed troops, his cavalry, and his men at arms, are all part of the “one man” and all will perish as one man, if and when the general makes a bad move.

Pelopidas is in a prominent position with a high status, he is the kephalē; however, the “head-body” metaphor signifies oneness here. Pelopidas as general is undoubtedly the leader with authority, but kephalē does not primarily refer to his authority. Further, the text states that the light-armed troops are like (eoika) hands, etc. The parts of the body, including the “head,” are similes. “Head” is not a straightforward metaphor in this passage.

Plutarch: The Life of Galba

In The Life of Galba, Plutarch uses a similar head-body metaphor for Galba, who is to be the head, with the provinces of Gaul, especially its armies, being the body.

But after Vindex [governor of Gallia Lugdunensis] had openly declared war, he wrote to Galba inviting him to assume the imperial power, and thus to serve [or, to supply: paraschein] what was a vigorous [or, a strong: ischyros] body in need of a head, meaning the Gallic provinces, which already had a hundred thousand men under arms, and could arm other thousands besides. Life of Galba 4.3 (Greek)

Galba, like Pelopidas, was undoubtedly a person with authority over others. Plutarch relates that Galba had “commanded an army in Germany with distinction,” that he had been “pro-consul of Africa,” and that when he succeeded Nero, albeit briefly, he was “the richest private person who ever came to the imperial throne.”  Galba was even related to Livia, the wife of Emperor Augustus.

Nevertheless, the head-body metaphor used here, and elsewhere in Greek texts, has a sense of unity with the head having a higher status and more preeminence than the body. The strong (ischyros) body of Gauls needed a unifying force. If we understand “head” as simply referring to Galba’s authority, we miss the sense Plutarch intended to convey.

“Synagogue Leader” and “Chief Priest” in Hebrew and in Greek

Some scholars admit that kephalē did not usually mean “a person in authority over others” in secular Greek literature,[6] but they claim it is a Jewish use of the word.[7] However, here is some evidence that the Greek word kephalē (“head”) was not usually used by first-century Jewish people that way either.

This evidence is the title of chief priests and of synagogue leaders in Hebrew compared with their titles in Greek. To appreciate this evidence we need to understand that the Hebrew word for “head,” rosh, is usually translated as kephalē in the Septuagint (the ancient Greek version of the Old Testament).

The Hebrew word rosh (“head”) can mean leader. It has this meaning about 180 times in the Hebrew Bible. But in roughly 170 out of these 180 cases, rosh is translated into Greek with a word other than kephalē, a word such as archōn. This is because kephalē, the Greek word for “head,” did not typically mean “leader” or “ruler,” and the translators of the Septuagint knew this.[8]

 Synagogue Leader

The usual Hebrew title for a leader of a synagogue is rosh ha’keneset and it includes the word “head”:
rosh = “head” + ha’keneset = “the gathering.”

The Greek title for a leader of a synagogue is archisynagogos and it does not include the Greek word for “head.” Archisynagogos is derived from:
archōn = “leader/ ruler” + sunagōgē = “synagogue/ gathering.”

Chief Priest

“Chief priest” is rendered a few different ways in the Hebrew Bible, but in 2 Chronicles 19:11 “chief priest” is kohen ha’rosh and this title includes the word “head”:
kohen = “priest” + ha’rosh = “the head.”

The Septuagint’s translation of “chief priest” in 2 Chronicles 19:11 is ho hiereus hēgoumenos and it does not include the Greek word for “head” but a Greek word that means “leader/ governor”:
ho hiereus = “the priest” + hēgoumenos = “leader/ governor.

Furthermore, in the Greek New Testament, “chief priest” is typically rendered as archiereus:
archōn = “leader/ ruler” + hiereus = “priest.”

Kephalē (“head”) is not used in these titles of Jewish leaders because kephalē did not typically mean “leader.” Rather, the stem of Greek word archōn is used, or the word hēgoumenos: both these Greek words commonly meant ruler, leader, or governor in ancient Greek and these two words occur many times in the New Testament with these meanings.

Paul’s Use of Kephalē

I believe the apostle Paul used kephalē with the senses of a “higher status” and “preeminence.” I believe it has these senses in 1 Corinthians 11:3, where status is linked with firstness, and in Ephesians 5:23, where “head” is part of a head-body metaphor signifying unity, but the head is more prominent. Paul didn’t use kephalē with the meaning of “a person in authority over others.”[9]

I acknowledge that the “higher status” idea implicit in kephalē, which I believe is correct, can play into patriarchal ideas. But we need to understand why Paul uses this word and, importantly, what he says further in the same passages (1 Cor. 11:2–16; Eph. 5:22–33). The emphasis and reliance on single proof-texts has done immense damage, especially to the daughters of the church.

We need to keep reading in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5 because, while it initially sounds like Paul is condoning male primacy, what he says in 1 Corinthians 11:11ff and Ephesians 5:25ff undoes the idea of distinct gender-based hierarchies in Christian relationships including Christian marriage. (If in doubt of Paul’s views on mutuality, see here where I’ve written about 1 Corinthians 12.)

I’ve previously written about Ephesians 5:22–33 and the levelling of status in Christian marriages here. And my overview of 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 is here. Here is an easier-to-read article on kephalē entitled, “An Overview of Paul’s Use of Kephalē (‘Head’).”


[1] Cynthia Long Westfall writes that while the word kephalē (“head”) may often refer to figures with authority, the word itself “is not equivalent of ‘authority.’” Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016), 39, fn 112.

[2] BDAG gives two main definitions for kephalē: “1. the part of the body that contains the brain,” and “2. a being of high status.” Walter Bauer, “κεφαλή”, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd Edition, by Walter Bauer, revised and edited by F.W Danker (University of Chicago Press, 2000), 541–542.

[3] Here’s Rewards and Punishments 19 §114 in full.

If, then, anyone proves himself a man of such a [virtuous] character in the city he will appear superior to the whole city, and if a city show itself of such a character it will be the chief of all the country around; and if a nation do so it will be the lord of all the other nations, as the head is to the body occupying the pre-eminence of situation, not more for the sake of glory than for that of advancing the interests of those that see. For continual appearances of good models stamp impressions closely resembling themselves on all souls which are not utterly obdurate and intractable …

[4] Richard S. Cervin, “On the Significance of Kephalē (‘Head’): A Study of the Abuse of One Greek Word,” Priscilla Papers 30.1 (Spring, 2016) (Source: CBE International)

[5] Perriman, “The Head of a Woman: The Meaning of Kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11:3,” Journal of Theological Studies, NS, Vol 45, Pt. 2 (October 1994): 602–622, 610.

[6] Liddell, Scott, and Jones (LSJ), in their exhaustive lexicon of ancient Greek, do not include any definition of kephalē that approximates “leader” or “person in authority.”
Richard Cervin notes that lexicons of the works of individual ancient Greek authors—secular authors such as Xenophon, Herodotus, Plato, Thucydides, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Polybius, Diodorus Siculus and others—do not include any definitions for kephalē that approximate “leader.”
Cervin, “Does kephalē (‘head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature: A Rebuttal,” Trinity Journal 10 (Spring, 1989): 85–112, 86–87. (I’ve checked some of these lexicons myself.)
Heinrich Schlier, in his entry on kephalē in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, notes, “In secular Greek usage, kephalē is not employed for the head of a society.”
Schlier, “κεφαλή …”, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Gerhard Kittle (ed.) (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1965), 3:673–681.
Al Wolters, who identifies as a complementarian, states that kephalē with a meaning of “leader” is “virtually unattested in pagan Greek literature until about the fourth century AD.” And, “As far as pagan Greek literature is concerned, LSJ (1996) is entirely justified in omitting the meaning ‘chief’ or ‘leader’ from its entry on kephalē.”
Wolters, “Head as Metaphor,” Koers 76.1 (2011): 137–153, 142 and 143.

[7] BrillDAG gives “leader” as a possible meaning for kephalē but specifies that this meaning occurs in the Vetus Testamentum (the Septuagint) and it cites 2 Samuel 22:44 as the example. However, the Septuagint is a translation from the Hebrew where rosh (“head”) could mean leader, so there may be interference from the source text here.

[8] It is often said that Paul’s writing and theology were influenced by Septuagint. This month (September 2023) I saw David Bentley-Hart make the comment that the Septuagint “is the source of Paul’s theological vocabulary.” (Source) And more than a hundred years ago, Deissmann in his ground-breaking book stated,
“A single hour lovingly devoted to the text of the Septuagint will further our exegetical knowledge of the Pauline Epistles more than a whole day spent over a commentary.” Adolf Deissmann, The Philology of the Greek Bible (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1908)
I’m in broad agreement with both of these statements. But unless I’ve missed something, kephalē (“head”) is not used for God, the Messiah, or for Jewish religious leaders in the Septuagint. It is used, however, in a “head-tail” metaphor which is one of status.
Calling God, Christ, and husbands “kephalē” appears to have been uniquely Pauline. We need to keep this uniqueness in mind when considering the claim that Paul was using a common metaphor, with the meaning of “person in authority over others,” when he used “head” in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23.

[9] If we read “head’ in 1 Corinthians 11:3 as being about authority, then Christ is not the authority, or immediate authority, of women. This is not right. Jesus and God are just as much, in every way, the authorities of women as they are of men. Reading “head” as meaning “authority” in 1 Corinthians 11:3 skews Paul’s meaning and leads to faulty ideas, especially if we fail to see what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:11–12 about men and women who are “in the Lord.” Mutual interdependence, not hierarchies, is what Paul wanted in Christian relationships.

© Margaret Mowczko 2022
Last edited September 2023.
All Rights Reserved

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Explore more

An Overview of Paul’s Use of Kephalē (‘Head’)
4 reasons “head” does not mean “leader” in 1 Corinthians 11:3
All my articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 are here.
All my articles on Ephesians 5:22–33 are here.
“Head” and “Headship” in Genesis 1–3 (In a footnote in this article I have several examples where kephalē is used in the context of water sources. But this has next to no relevance for people who are “heads.”)
Extra Honour for Underdogs (1 Cor. 12:12–31)

11 thoughts on “Kephalē (“head”) as Metaphor in First-Century Texts

  1. Interesting read. Thanks for the work.

  2. “If we read “head’ in 1 Corinthians 11:3 as being about authority, then Christ is not the authority, or immediate authority, of women”. Also this reading would mean that God is the authority of Christ and that there is a hierarchy in the Godhead. This is Subordinationism, a form of Semi-Arianism which was denounced as heresy by the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea.

  3. Hi Marg, I’ve only just read the first section on Philo and I have to comment, this is so illuminating! Thank you for this, bless you.

    1. Thanks, Becky.

  4. 1) I’m confused. In half of the examples you brought up regarding Kephale in the ancient world, they are in reference to governments or kings. How do you get a non-authority idea from those passages?

    2) Also, what is the point of this study if you already dismiss any relevance to Christian marriage at the end of the article?

    3) And after reading the article, how do you separate the headship verses from the Christian household? How does a lack of independence have anything to do with a lack of authority? And I get the anti Arian argument about God being the head of Christ, which I find moderately convincing, but it doesn’t change the fact that Christ willingly submitted to the Father. Meaning He took the Father’s authority over Himself. Likewise in the headship passages, they indicate that a woman is supposed to willingly submit to the authority of her husband in a Christian marriage (e.g. 1Cor. 11.3, Eph. 5.21-33).

    3.5) Now if we are studying the language specifically, like you do with Kephale vs Arche, why should the words for obey and respect (commanded of women) not be juxtaposed to love (commanded of men) as distinct roles?
    I suppose the question is, why is that not a natural reading?

    1. Hello Xeilias, here are some thoughts.

      1. There’s a difference in meaning between “a person in authority over others” and “a person with a higher status than others.” As I say in the article, a person can be a kephalē and can also be a person in authority over others, but this doesn’t change the meaning of kephalē. And this article is all about looking at meaning of kephalē in first century Greek texts.

      2. I think understanding what kephalē means is highly relevant to what Paul says in Ephesians 5:22-33 regarding Christian marriage. Clearly, I don’t say we should dismiss Ephesians 5:22-24. What I do say at the end of my article is that we need to keep reading the passage. We need to read the whole passage, including Ephesians 5:22-24.

      3. 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is about ministry concerns in the Corinthian Church. It’s about the men and women who were praying and prophesying: they were doing the same things. This passage, including verse 3, is not about marriage. Ephesians 5:23 is about marriage.

      I don’t understand some of your questions here. I’m especially lost on what “a lack of independence” refers to.

      The comments I do understand contain concepts and assumptions that are not directly related to the content or aim of this article. This article is not a discussion on Christology. (Whatever we think of Jesus’s relationship with God has no bearing, in any way whatsoever, on the meaning of “head” in the quotations provided.) Also, I avoid using loaded terms and unhelpful jargon. “Headship” is a particularly loaded and rather vague term. Furthermore, we may well understand “headship” (a term that doesn’t appear in the Bible) differently.

      There is some semantic overlap with the nouns archē and kephalē. There is no semantic overlap between the verbs hypakouō (“obey”) or phobeō/ phobeomai (“respect”) with agapaō (“love”). None at all.

      Also, wives are never directly told to “obey” (hypakouō) their husbands in the Greek New Testament or in the ancient Greek translation of the books of the Hebrew Bible.
      And husbands are never told to lead or have unilateral authority (in any shape or form) over their wives in the Greek New Testament or in the ancient Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible. Though, the decree of the pagan king Xerxes comes close (Esther 1:21).

      Being submissive is not a distinct role or a gender role (Eph. 5:21; 1 Pet. 5:5 NKJV). Loving as Christ loved is not a distinct role or a gender role (Eph. 5:1-2; John 13:34-45, etc). Respecting or honouring others is not a distinct role or a gender role (Rom. 12:10; 1 Pet. 3:7, etc). Paul reminding wives of submission, and reminding husbands of love, doesn’t mean that wives are exempt from loving their husbands, or that husbands are exempt from being submissive to their wives.

  5. Also, I read the Cervin article you use to demonstrate that Kephale means “Prominence,” and he disagrees with your use of Kephale, saying that authority is one possible metaphorical definition of the context lends to it, and that specifically the verses I mentioned earlier, about the husband being the head of the wife, would have included authority in the meaning. Plus, his definition of “preeminence,” which you use to distinguish away from authority, includes “kingship, authority, and mastery.” So how do you reconcile that?

    1. Xeilias, it would really help if you could provide specific references and/or quotations. I’ve wasted too much time trying to work out what exactly you’re referring to.

      I can’t find anything that you’ve mentioned in Cervin’s article “On the Significance of Kephalē” which is the article I quote from in the body of my article,

      Cervin doesn’t use the expression “kingship, authority, and mastery.” He doesn’t use the words “kingship” or “mastery” at all!

      He mentions a few times that authority is part of the context of some verses where the word kephalē appears, but that “authority” is not a meaning of word kephalē. And my article is about the meaning of kephalē.

      At the end of his discussion on On Mating with the Preliminary Studies, 61, where I quote Cervin, he writes,
      “Rather than indicating that Esau is the ruler of his clan (which he cannot be because he is dead), the metaphorical use of kephalē denotes that Esau is the head, i.e. the beginning, the foremost member of his clan, just as the head is the foremost member of an animal’s body. There is no connotation of ‘source,’ ‘rule,’ or ‘authority over’ here, but rather one of ‘starting-point.’”

      In another paper where he refers to On Mating with the Preliminary Studies 61, Cervin points out that Philo is using a simile, “like a head …” and that “Esau is the ‘topmost’ or ‘preeminent’ part of his clan, just like the head of an animal is the topmost or preeminent part of the animal’s body.”
      Cervin, “Does Kephalē (‘head’) Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature: A Rebuttal,” Trinity Journal 10 (Spring, 1989): 85-112, 92.

      In “On the Significance of Kephalē,” Cervin quotes Wayne Grudem on preeminence and prominence, but disagrees with him. Cervin writes, “Grudem states that preeminence ‘without any nuance of leadership or authority’ flies in the face of the facts. However, I suggest that the opposite is the case.”
      And, “Contrary to Grudem, it is not the case that the notions of prominence and authority are intrinsically linked together.”

      Cervin’s section “On the Connotations of ‘Prominence’ or ‘Preeminence’” in his “Significance” paper makes it clear that he doesn’t equate prominence with authority. In his section “3) Eph 5:21-24,” Cervin writes that the notion of authority is not derived from the word kephalē, but rather than from the overall context.”

      So, I don’t know what you’re looking at, or what exactly you’re referring to, Xeilias, but it seems to me that I’m pretty much on the same page as Cervin when it comes to the word kephalē.

      Is this the article you looked at?: https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/priscilla-papers-academic-journal/significance-kephale-head-study-abuse-one-greek

      In the closing remarks in his “Rebuttal” article, Cervin asks and answers, “What then does Paul mean by his use of head in his letters? He does not mean ‘authority over’ as the traditionalists assert, nor does he mean ‘source’ as the egalitarians assert. I think he is merely employing a head-body metaphor and that his point is preeminence.” “Does Kephalē (‘head’) Mean ‘Source’ … A Rebuttal” (His use of italics.)
      This is true of Ephesians 5:22-33; however, Paul doesn’t use the word “body” in 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, so I can’t see that a head-body metaphor is used there. But “preeminence,” or as I prefer to say, “a higher status,” is a, or the, sense of kephalē in both passages.

      If you want to leave further replies, Xeilias, please be precise and use accurate citations and quotations. (This is an issue in your comment where you mention Aristotle and a previous one where you mention Dale Martin too.) I’ve found your comments vague and so are difficult and time-consuming to respond to.

    2. Cervin specifically states at the end of his article that he disagrees with the complementarians that head means “authority over” and the egalitarians that head means “source”. Cervin said that head may have meant authority in the metaphorical sense in the Byzantine and middle ages times centuries after Paul wrote his letters. The meaning of words can drastically change between the first century and the middle ages. Cervin also pointed out that in Greek quote where “Philadelphus was head of the kings and distinguished from other kingdoms” because of his accomplishments. In other word, the ptolemies were distinguished from other kingdoms of the time due to what they accomplished not because they ruled these other kingdoms. And Philadelphus is the “head of kings” meaning he stood out among the kings of the ptolemaic dynasty because of what he had accomplished. Philadelphus did not rule the kings of his dynasty as he would have been the only ptolemaic king at the time, but he was the head as he accomplished more than his ancestors or descendatns. Cervin believes that Paul was using head as preeminent or status. Husbands did have legal, economic, and social status over their wives at the time so he is correct they had a higher status. In Ephesians, Jesus was the head of the church as the first and preeminent because he “gave up his life” so that the church could live. Jesus gave up his status and “became like a servant” for the sake of the church. This is the example Paul is trying to make. Husbands give up their status and “love the wife as himself” I.e. as an equal or in the case of source, the husband was the source of love to his wife. And how does the wife respond but “as the church responds to Christ by being in subjection to each other out of respect for Christ”. Not hard to figure this out.

  6. […] Kephalē (“Head”) as Metaphor in First-Century Texts […]

  7. […] ~ In the opening lines of the Orphic Fragment 21A (168), Zeus is described as being the first (prōtos) and as being the head (kephalē). (Greek; English)
    ~ In Philo’s Preliminary Studies 61, Esau, the progenitor of the whole clan, is like the kephalē (beginning, starting point, source) of the whole living creature. (I quote several texts where Philo uses “head” as a metaphor here.)
    ~ Kephalē is used in The Apocalypse of Moses (Life of Adam and Eve) 19.3 where it says that lust is “the root and kephalē (beginning, source) of every sin.”
    ~ The Testament of Reuben 2:2 states, “For seven spirits are established against mankind, and they are the kephalai (sources) of the deeds of youth.”
    ~ And I quote several texts in a footnote here where kephalē is used for the heads (sources) of rivers and other bodies of water. […]

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