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Kephale as ‘Source’ or ‘Origin?’

Why do some people say that there is no evidence kephale can mean ‘source’ or ‘origin?’

The Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott Greek lexicon lists, among the possible meanings of the Greek word kephale (translated as ‘head’ in English), ‘source’ or ‘origin.’ This is the word translated ‘head’ 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”) and Ephesians 5:23 (“For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior”).

Here’s the reference from the lexicon, and a link to the same entry, here.

d. in pl., source of a river (Hdt. 4.91) (butsg., mouth, oida Gela potamou kephalêi epikeimenon astu Call.Aet.Oxy.2080.48 ): generally, source, origin, Zeus k. (v.l. arkhê), Zeus messa, Dios d’ ek panta teleitai tetuktai codd.) Orph.Fr.21a; starting-point, k. khronou Placit. 2.32.2 (kronou codd.), Lyd.Mens.3.4; k. mênos ib.12.

And yet, there are those who insist that there is no evidence that ‘source’ or ‘origin’ are acceptable meanings for the word. Why is this?

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200 Comments

  1. fjs
    Comment #78910 posted January 25, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Tiro, just to qualify… I read it somewhere, thought it was Augustine. I think it was a compilation of commentary by the church fathers – this one was on Genesis – need to find it again. But regarding the content, I laughed because the statement revealed the social lens through which he was interpreting.

    Funny is that perhaps the Spirit was challenging his point of view based on the text, but he rejected it as impossible based on his estimation and experience of women in his day and time. Wonder where Augustine would be today?

  2. fjs
    Comment #78913 posted January 25, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    I found it… It is from the Ancient Christian Commentary on Genesis 1-11, page 68-69.

    …now suppose the woman was not made for to be his helper in begetting children, then how would she be able to help him? It would hardly be the case that she would be made to till the earth with him, for there was not yet any labor require to make her help necessary. In any case, if there were any such need, a male helper would be better, and the same could be said of the comfort of another’s presence if Adam were perhaps weary of solitude. How much more agreeably could two male friends, rather than a man and a woman, enjoy companionship and conversation in a life shared together. And if they had to make an arrangement in their common life for one to command the other to obey in order to make sure that opposing wills would not disrupt the peace of the household, there would have been proper rank to assure this, since one would be created first and the other second, and this would be further reinforced if the second were made from the first, as was the case with the woman.

    It reveals his lens… and proves that one does interpret Scripture through the lenses of one’s experience. We must always be humble.

  3. Comment #78919 posted January 25, 2008 at 3:03 pm

    Yes, it seems ridiculous to need to do this, but we really should define ‘human.’

    Ideas: only humans are made in the image of God, able to become children of God, the ones Jesus died for, given spiritual gifts in the church, able to be called ‘friends’ of God, all of ‘one blood,’ all of one ‘flesh and bone.’

    How does this question relate to egalitarianism then?

    Given all that is true of all humans, on what basis can it be argued that there is something intrinsic in half of them that is inferior to the other half? The only ‘out’ for male supremacism is to claim wome have ‘equality of being with inequality of role,’ but this is logically impossible unless the ‘role’ is temporary and voluntary. Given that femaleness is neither, and therefore not a role, then it means females are unequal in being, and thus not quite as human.

  4. Liz Liz
    Comment #78928 posted January 25, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    FJS (see comment 78885), it was comments like this from new Christians which got us going in researching the whole issue of equality. We knew that God couldn’t be like that so set out to prove it – so glad we did!

  5. fjs
    Comment #78935 posted January 25, 2008 at 8:57 pm

    Liz, I know, I agree God is not like that. Did anyone read Dan Kimball’s book They Like Jesus but Not the Church? He is writing about this current generation from coffeeshop interviews from regular, average unchurched people. Their consensus is that they really like Jesus and what he has to say but cannot identify with the church as it is.

    They see the church as sexist, Republican, and out of touch with the world they care about. Kimball wrote an entire chapter on how the church speaks about and treats women. He calls the church to become more sensitive, to create more speaking roles for women and to hear their voices. While egalitarian himself, he tries to respect other complementarian views encouraging such churches to lift some of the rigid restrictions.

    I wanted him to go further, but that was all he could do. It’s a start, I was glad he noted that the church’s attitude and restriction of women is a barrier to faith for many women.

  6. Watcher
    Comment #78969 posted January 26, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Which is only common sense, FJS (see comment 78935).

    Why would anyone want any part of any faith where the cards are stacked against you? Where your rights and the justice due you take a back seat to someone else, always? Where people give lip service to your value while restricting you to a plastic, man-made form that serves their own purposes, then calling it God’s order so you better fear and behave? After all, heaven is at stake. Oh and, by the way, God is male, so he is not only in total agreement with your total subjection, he is the author and finisher of it.

    It’s a wonder more women don’t go running and screaming in the other direction.

  7. ILikeReading2
    Comment #78970 posted January 26, 2008 at 8:35 am

    What strikes me as strange is that the more conservative male gender hierarchalists teach a view of male/female relations that is definitely harmful to women, and yet get upset at women for not accepting it.

    Yet, they would never allow themselves to be treated in such a manner. I keep thinking that we need to challenge them on this issue. Perhaps we should ask them to put themselves in the position they expect a woman should be in. This should be for at least a year, so they really have a chance to go through what they want women to go through.

  8. ILikeReading2
    Comment #78971 posted January 26, 2008 at 8:37 am

    Another thing the conservative gender hierarchalists don’t realize is that the non-Christian world doesn’t see them as they see themselves. They see themselves as defenders of the faith on the issue of women, and the world around them sees them as treating women like children.

  9. Mary
    Comment #78981 posted January 26, 2008 at 12:21 pm

    And that’s the charitable ones, ILike. Some of the more cynical (or accurate?) ones see them as despotic protectors of their own system of privilege. In the world, who doesn’t want to be the ruler? ‘It’s good to be the king!’

  10. fjs
    Comment #78990 posted January 26, 2008 at 4:11 pm

    Watcher, I am wondering why no one writes a book on why women hate going to church.

    There are no outreaches designed to reach feminists and others who see women as fully human. I wonder if they see Jesus as loving feminists at all?

  11. Suzanne
    Comment #78993 posted January 26, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    What is missing in this conversation is an understanding of why women buy into it themselves, and they do. I would highly recommend Pedagogy of the Oppressed by Paulo Freire. It is now outdated and considered Marxist propaganda, etc. However, it explains how those who are oppressed in a system buy into it and support it. It is a real eye-opener.

    Many women are strong supporters of male hierarchy. That is the question, why? Is it because of their desire to be attached to a male with power and to get power this way? Is is lack of adult responsibility for self? Is is simply the desire not to be alone, to be part of a couple in a world where men call the shots?

    Are some women able to work within the system in some way?

    At one level, there are lots of people who just don’t know anything else, and are not complicit. However, some are.

  12. fjs
    Comment #78997 posted January 26, 2008 at 5:06 pm

    I get that Suzanne; I do think a lot of women buy into it. If I think of why I did, it was because my church taught that this was how a woman expressed godliness. I did not have the interpretive tools to suggest anything different and did not want to go against God’s Holy Word. I respected the Scripture very much.

    I also remember a time when I could not read the Bible because I hated those passages that spoke of women being submissive – while I respected it, I was disturbed by it. I even sought pastoral counsel, which did not help much. There was something gnawing at the core… but no theological lift out. Which is in reality oppressive.

    I also think that people in general in church groups were not taught to be knowers for themselves. A sort of group-think existed in which one would be uncomfortable with being different.

    My family of origin issues also contributed to being comfortable with someone taking care of me – and reinforced women as caretakers and enablers of family, spouse. There were cultural and political (feminists are bad, hate their children and husbands) forces at work too that led me to believe that this role was good and expected and godly.

    Suzanne, I would like to read the book you suggested, I will look for it. Women are often most harsh on my sense of call and freedom and while I understand my own journey I don’t grasp all of the dynamics.

    Having said all of that, there are many non-churched, intelligent women who avoid church or when awareness sets in, exit the church. (Book: Exit Interviews) Or, who put up with it and use their gifts in other places.

  13. Julie
    Comment #79005 posted January 26, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    And you didn’t take the opportunity to rebuke her for her rebellion and inform her that she is living outside God’s blessing because of her attitude? Tsk, tsk.

    I’m sure that is what I would have heard from any church I’ve been to.

    Yep, I’m about ready to do just that. Why don’t any of you live in my town?

  14. Julie
    Comment #79006 posted January 26, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    Somehow the last post missed my quote from FJS (see comment 78885):

    My daughter recently said this… ‘if I must remain subordinate forever and if that is what God is like… I don’t want to be a Christian.’

    And, Watcher (see comment 78969):

    It’s a wonder more women don’t go running and screaming in the other direction.

    Guess I haven’t figured out how to lift quotes yet… sorry for being technologically inept!

  15. fjs
    Comment #79021 posted January 26, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Julie, I agreed with my daughter…

    I wish I had a community too in which there were people who shared my dream for a more just society of God’s people.

    ‘Honored are those who hunger and thirst for justice.’

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