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LSJ Definitions of Kephalē

« Return to 4 reasons “head” does not mean “leader” in 1 Corinthians 11:3
« Kephalē and “Male Headship” in Paul’s Letters
«  Kephalē (“head”) as Metaphor in First-Century Texts
« An Overview of Paul’s Use of Kephalē (“Head”)
« All my articles on kephalē are here.

Below is the full entry of definitions and glosses of kephalē from Liddell, Scott and Jones’s Greek-English Lexicon (LSJ), 1940 edition,* without erasures.

LSJ is one of the most exhaustive and respected lexicons of ancient Greek. The words in this lexicon have come from numerous sources of Greek literature, papyri, inscriptions, and other ancient documents.

LSJ considers and includes the vocabulary of the Greek New Testament (Novum Testamentum), and occasionally cites NT texts. (It lists the books of the NT on page xxx of ‘Authors and Works,’ 9th ed., 1996.) It also includes the vocabulary of other Hellenist/ Koine texts contemporary with the New Testament. However, it does not consider or include the vocabulary of later Patristic or Byzantine Greek texts.

The authors of LSJ have not been influenced by later theological uses of kephalē, and it does not give “leader” or “person in authority over others” as possible meanings of kephalē. They do, however, give “source,” “origin” and “starting point” as possible meanings in II.d below.

Kεφαλή in LSJ

κεφαλή, ἡ,

A. head of man or beast, Hom. (v.infr.), Alc.15, etc.; once in A., Th.525 (lyr.), once in S., Aj.238 (anap.), also in E., Fr.308 (anap.), Rh.226 (lyr.), al.;“ἄλλου οὐδενὸς ἐμψύχου κ. γεύσεται Αἰγυπτίων οὐδείςHdt.2.39; κεφαλῇ . . μείζονες taller in stature, Il.3.168; so μείων . . κεφαλήν ib.193Aristarch.: freq. with Preps.,

a. κατὰ κεφαλῆς, Ep. κὰκ κεφαλῆς, down over the head, “κόνιν . . χεύατο κὰκ κεφαλῆςIl.18.24, cf. Od.8.85, etc.

b. κατὰ κεφαλήν, Ep. κὰκ κεφαλήν on the head, “Ἐρύλαον . . βάλε πέτρῳ μέσσην κὰκ κεφαλήνIl.16.412, cf. 20.387, 475: in Prose, from above, X.HG7.2.8: c.gen., above, κ. κ. τινῶν γενέσθαι ib.7.2.11; τὸ κ. κ. ὕδωρ, of rain water, Thphr. HP4.10.7 (-ὴν codd.), CP6.18.10 (-ῆς): in Archit., upright,IG22.463.42;
also, per head, each person (cf. infr. 1.2), Arist.Pol.1272a14, LXX Ex.16.16; “κατὰ κεφαλὴν τῶν κωμη τῶνPPetr.2p.17 (iii B. C.).

c. ἐς πόδας ἐκ κεφαλῆς from head to foot, Il.23.169; “τὰ πράγματα ἐκ τῶν ποδῶ νἐς τὴν κ. σοι πάντ᾽ἐρῶAr.Pl.650.

d. ἐπὶ κεφαλήν head foremost, ἐπὶ κ. κατορύξαι to bury head downwards, Hdt.3.35; ἐπὶ κ. ὠθέεσθαι to be thrust headlong, Id.7.136, cf. Hyp.Fr.251; “ἐπὶ κ. ὠθεῖν τινα ἐκ τοῦ θρόνουPl.R.553b; “ἐπὶ τὴν κ. εἰς κόρακας ὦσονMen.Sam. 138; “εὐθὺς ἐπὶ κ. εἰς τὸ δικαστήριον βαδίζεινD.42.12; οὐβουλόμενος πολίτας ἄνδρας ἐπὶκ. εἰσπράττειν τὸν μισθόν recklessly, Hyp.Lyc.17; ἐπὶ ταῖς κεφαλαῖς περιφέρειν carry on high, in token of admiration, Pl. R.600d.

2. as the noblest part, periphr. for the whole person, “πολλὰςἰ φθίμους κ.” Il.11.55, cf. Od.1.343, etc.; ἶσον ἐμῇ κ. no less than myself, Il.18.82; “ἑᾷκ.” Pi.O.7.67; esp. in salutation, “φίλη κ.” Il.8.281, cf. 18.114; “ἠ θείη κ.” 23.94; “Ἄπολλον, δία κ.” E.Rh.226 (lyr.): in Prose, “Φαῖδρε, φίλη κ.” Pl.Phdr.264a; “τῆς θείας κ.” Jul.Or. 7.212a: in bad sense, “κα καὶ κεφαλαίHdt.3.29; “μιαρὰ κ.” Ar.Ach. 285: periphr. in Prose, “πεντακοσίας κεφαλὰς τῶν Ξέρξεω πολεμίωνHdt.9.99: in bad sense, “μιαρὰ καὶ ἀναιδὴς αὕτηκ.” D.21.117, cf. 18.153; “κ. τῶν αὐτοῦPRein.57.8 (iv A.D.); μεγάλη κ. a great personage, Vett. Val.74.7; cf. supr. 1 b fin.

3. life, “ἐμῇ κ. περιδείδιαIl.17.242; “σύν τεμεγάλῳ ἀπέτεισαν, σὺνσφῇσιν κεφαλῇσι4.162; παρθέμενοι κεφαλάς staking their heads on the cast, Od.2.237; τὴν κ.“ἀποβαλέειςHdt.8.65.

4. in imprecations, ἐς κεφαλὴν τράποιτ᾽ἐμοί on my head be it! Ar.Ach.833; “ἐς τὴν κ. ἅπαντα τὴν σὴν τρέψεταιId.Nu.40; “σοὶ καὶ τοῖς σοῖς οἱ θεοὶ τρέψειαν εἰς κ.” D.18.290; ἐς κ. σοί (sc. τράποιτο) Ar.Pax1063, Pl.526; “σοὶ εἰς κ.” Pl.Euthd.283e; “τὰ μὲν πρότερον . . ἐγὼ κεφαλῇ ἀναμάξας φέρωHdt.1.155; “οἷςἂν . . τὴν αἰτίαν ἐπὶ τὴν κ. ἀναθεῖενD.18.294; “τὸ αἷμα ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὴν κ. ὑμῶνAct.Ap. 18.6.

II. of things, extremity,

a. in Botany, κ. σκορόδου head ( = inflorescence) of garlic, Ar.Pl.718, cf. Plb.12.6.4; “κ. μήκωνοςhphr.HP9.8.2; ῥίζα κ. ἔχουσα πλείονας tubers, Dsc.3.120.

b. in Anatomy, κεφαλαὶ τῆς κάτω γνάθου, prob. the condyloid and coronoid processes, Hp.Art.30; κ. τοῦ ὄρχεως, = ἐπιδιδυμίς, Arist.HA510a14, cf. Gal.4.565; μηροῦ, κνήμης κ., Poll.2.186, 188; of the base of the heart, Gal.UP6.16; but, apex, Hp.Cord.7; of the sac in poulps, Arist.PA654a23, 685a5; of muscles, origin, Gal.UP7.14.

c. generally, top, brim of a vessel, Theoc.8.87; coping of a wall, X.Cyr.3.3.68; capital of a column, CIG2782.31 (Aphrodisias), LXX 3 Ki.7.16, Poll.7.121.

d. in pl., source of a river, Hdt.4.91 (butsg., mouth, “οἶδα Γέλα ποταμοῦ κεφαλῇ ἐπικείμενον ἄστυCall.Aet.Oxy.2080.48): generally, source, origin, Ζεὺςκ. (v.l. ἀρχήΖεὺς μέσσα, Διὸς δ᾽ἒκ πάντα τελεῖται ῾τέτυκται codd.) Orph.Fr.21a; starting-point, “κ. χρόνουPlacit. 2.32.2 (κρόνου codd.), Lyd.Mens.3.4;
κ. μηνός ib.12.
[In a footnote here, I cite several ancient Greek texts where kephalē means “source” of a river and of other bodies of water.]

e. extremity of a plot of land, PPetr.3p.72 (iii B.C.), PFlor.50.83 (iii A.D.).

III. Ὁμηρείη κ. bust of Homer, IG14.1183.10.

IV. κ. περίθετος wig, head-dress, Ar.Th.258.

V. metaph., κ. δείπνου pièce de résistance, Alex. 172.15.

2. crown, completion, “κεφαλὴν ἐπιθεῖναιPl.Ti.69b; “ὥσπερ κ. ἀποδοῦναι τοῖς εἰρημένοιςId.Phlb.66d, cf. Grg.505d; “ὥσπερ κεφαλὴν ἔχουσα ἐπιστήμηArist.EN1141a19; consummation, “σχεῖν κ.” Pl.Ti.39d.

3. sum, total, “πάσας ἐρρηγείαςTab.Heracl.1.36; of money, IG12(9).7 (Carystus, iv B. C.), SIG245ii 36
(Delph., iv B. C.).

4. band of men, LXX Jb.1.17; right-hand half of a phalanx (opp. οὐρά), Arr.Tact.8.3, Ael.Tact.7.3.

5. Astronomy, κ. τοῦ κόσμου, of Aries, Heph.Astr.1.1. (ghebh-, cf. κεβλή and Engl. gable.

*Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, revised and augmented throughout by Sir Henry Stuart Jones, with the assistance of Roderick McKenzie, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940. http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dkefalh%2F

I personally own the latest edition of LSJ, the 9th edition (1996). This updated edition, also, does not give “leader” or “person in authority over others,” etc, as possible meanings for kephalē.

Kεφαλή in other Greek Lexicons

Newer lexicons, such as Bauer and Danker’s (BDAG), Pershbacher’s, and Mounce’s have benefitted from access to large databases of ancient Greek and their definitions for kephalē are more nuanced than those in older New Testament lexicons. Most newer lexicons do not give a straightforward meaning such as “ruler,” “master,” “lord,” or “leader” for kephalē. For example, BDAG’s two main definitions for kephalē are 1. the part of the body that contains the brain, and 2. a being of high status. Mounce includes “point of origin” as one gloss, and some of his definitions are about status. (Mounce’s entry for kephalē is here.)

The Brill Dictionary of Ancient Greek (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 largely a translation of the Hebrew Old Testament where rosh (“head”) could mean leader, so there may be interference from the source text here. BrillDAG also gives “beginning, origin” as a definition for kephalē.

Below is a screenshot of a paragraph from Richard S. Cervin’s article “Does Kephalē (“head”) Mean “Source” or “Authority Over” in Greek Literature: A Rebuttal.” [His article may be viewed here.] In this paragraph, Cervin states that lexicons for individual Greek authors (pre-classical, classical, and Hellenist authors) do not give “leader” as a meaning for kephalē.

Note the last sentence in this paragraph where Cervin quotes Dhimitrakou who states that “leader” as a meaning of kephalē is medieval. That is, kephalē was not a standard metaphor for “leader” when the New Testament was being written, but it was occasionally in medieval times. Cervin then goes on in his article to explain the reasons why most New Testament lexicons do have ‘leader” as a possible meaning. (More on this here.)

Kephale_Richard Cervin paper

I discuss the meanings and use of kephalē in Paul’s letters and in works contemporary with Paul in several articles. My more recent articles are better than my older articles. See here. Furthermore, Paul uses kephalē somewhat differently in 1 Corinthians than he does in Ephesians where it is used a few times in a head-body metaphor. I discuss Paul’s use of kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11:3 and Ephesians 5:23, and elsewhere, in a few articles. See below.

« 4 Reasons “head” does not mean “leader” in 1 Corinthians 11:3
« An Overview of Paul’s Use of Kephalē (“Head”)
«  Kephalē (“head”) as Metaphor in First-Century Texts
« All my articles on kephalē are here.
« All my articles on Ephesians 5 are here.
« All my articles on 1 Corinthians 11:2–16 are here.

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