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Saturday, November 18, 2006

Does kefale mean "leader"?

Metacrock's Blog: November 2005. In this post J.L. Hinman discusses the meaning of the Greek word kefale which literally referred to the head of a body, but was also used as a metaphor. Hinman interacts with debates over the meaning of kephale, including claims by complementarian Wayne Grudem and egalitarians Catherine Clark Kroeger and Berkeley and Alvera Mickelson.

The discussion is relevant to Bible translation since how we understand the word "head" as a metaphor in English may or may not be the same as the meaning of Greek kephale when it is used as a metaphor.


At Sat Nov 18, 01:18:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


It is intersting to note that the heart was the seat of the intellect in Hebrew and for the most part in Greek. In the domain of ancient medicine there was some basic understanding about the brain, but in the realm of philosophy and theology, the heart, lungs, liver and bowels shared the decison-making role, with the heart as the most common.

Deriving leadership theories from head is oblique.

I am not sure how this affects translation, except to realize that what appears in English as the mind, was in Hebrew the heart. This article helps there. Maybe some translation issues here.

At Sun Nov 19, 04:34:00 AM, Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Regardless of how κεφαλὴ is exactly translated, there does seem to be a hierarchy (ranking? gradation?) of some kind in Paul's statements such as this:

“But 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.” (1Cor 11:3 TNIV)

The use of κεφαλὴ may refer to a physical "top down" approach. The head is at the top of the body.

How or where that's applied is a different matter.

At Sun Nov 19, 09:38:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Rick said:

Regardless of how κεφαλὴ is exactly translated, there does seem to be a hierarchy (ranking? gradation?) of some kind in Paul's statements such as this:

That's what I always assumed, also, Rick. But the more I have studied the biblical passages in which Paul speaks about the head-body relationships, the less I am sure that there is any hierarchy involved. I say this because the focus of Paul's teaching in these passages seems to be on the *unity* of the head and the body. They each need each other. The head cannot say to the foot, I don't need you, etc. And the examples of headship which Paul gives never speak of leading, as far as I know. Instead, they speak about sacrificial love toward the "body".

For God so love the world that he *gave* his only Son... That's sacrificial love, giving his Son.

The kenosis passage of Phil. 2 has no hint of leadership. Instead, the head of the church humbles himself, temorarily giving up heavenly privileges because he sacrifically loves his body, the church.

Paul tells the head of the wife to sacrificially love her as Christ loved the church.

I was trained to believe there is hierarchy involved in the head-body relationships. But the more I study the Bible itself I don't find a focus on any hierarchy.

I wonder if we have imported our English understandings of the metaphor head to Paul's Hebrew and Greek understandings of the biblical head metaphor.

At Mon Nov 20, 03:12:00 AM, Blogger DavidR said...

Hmmm... Noticed this as I was finishing a cup of coffee, and just had a quick read through the κεφαλή article in the big L&S which I'm privileged to have beside my desk.

Now it's only a lexicon, but curiously (given my [shared] assumptions), nowhere is "leadership" given as a gloss, or "ruler" or the like.

After "top bit" :) the next main entry is "as noblest part, periphr. for the whole person" which ties in with Wayne's "wholistic" reading. Metaphorically speaking, we get "pièce de résistance" (!), crown/completion, sum/total, band (of men, citing LXX Job 1:17 for which Brenton gives "companies", but also so used by Arrianus. 2 C. AD).


David Reimer


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