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Friday, November 17, 2006

Women Leaders: Prostatis

In the Greek New Testament women are leaders, deacons, and apostles, and rulers, tyrants and providers, and heads of their household. Most of this is clear in English, but not all.

Think of Phoebe, the patron. She is the προστάτις πολλῶν, the patron of many. 'Patron' is one acceptable way to translate this word. But what does the lexicon say, and what would a reader of Greek notice in this word?

Prostatis is listed in the Liddell Scott Lexicon only as the feminine form of the masculine prostates. So one can really only go by that meaning. What does it say?
    1. one who stands before
    a) front-rank man
    b) leader, chief, administrator
    2. president or presiding officer
    3. one who stands before and protects, guardian, champion, patron
    4. one who stands before a god, suppliant
    5. prostate gland
So how did the NIV come to translate this as 'help'?

    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servant of the church in Cenchrea. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been a great help to many people, including me. Romans 16:1-2 NIV
When it is a man, let us call him the ruler and leader, but when it is a woman, let us call her a help, a great help to many. In English, some have derived the notion of the male leader and the female helper, but in Greek, they were the same word.

    I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me. Rom. 16:1-2 TNIV

Kenneth Bailey remarks about prostatis,

    Furthermore, Phoebe is called a prostatis over/to many. This word was applied to the leader of worship in a Graeco-Roman temple as well as to a governor, a chieftain, and the leader of a democracy.7 Dunn argues for patron/protector, or leader/ruler.8 A ninth century Arabic version translated this phrase, ‘qa’ ima ‘ala katherin wa ‘alayya’, in authority over many and over myself as well.
How best can a translation convey the association of prostatis with the act of ruling, leading or managing described in 1 Tim 5:14.

    One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; KJV.
    This word 'rule' is from the same root as prostates.

    This, in fact, is the only reference I can find in the Bible about a man ruling or leading the household. Of course, it meant his children and not his wife. I can't find the verse that says a man is to lead his wife. What I can find is the verse that says that a woman must rule the house.

      I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully. 2 Tim. 5:14 KJV.
    In each case, the man, and then the woman, is to rule, lead, manage, guide the house. Nothing is said about one spouse leading the other. In fact, both men and women feature as leaders in the New Testament.

    Here is another reference to leaders.

      τοὺς πρώτους Acts 13:50 leading men
      γυναικῶν τε τῶν πρώτων Acts 17:4 leading women
    Once again there has been a tradition of translating these as 'leading men' and 'prominent women', demonstrated in the NIV. There might have been a reticence to reveal to readers of English that women were leaders, and that Greek vocabulary placed women on par with men in terms of the words used to describe them.

    The household codes, the headship passages, derived from customs and beliefs established and recorded in Greek, are the exception in the scriptures. These codes already existed in Greek, we know this, and Paul and Peter had to come to terms with them. They do not establish how women were generally refered to in the gospels or the rest of the New Testament.

    For those sticklers who will search the NT for an exclusively male reference to leaders, I will mention that there is one reference to 'leading brothers' in Acts which has no parallel for women. In Acts 15, two leading men from among the brothers were sent with a letter to the Gentile believers, with a ruling on whether Gentile believers had to be circumcised and obey the law of Moses.

    That is just the kind of issue that men can deal with among themselves. I don't think there are any women compaining that this letter was written and sent by men, leading men, as the Greek says.

    In the meantime, I am still looking. In the gospels, in Acts and the epistles, outside of the household codes, when the Greek refers to real women, I have not found any distinct male and female roles. The supposed 'distinctions' between men and women do not appear in the story of the early church, at least not in the Greek.

    On the contrary, women provide for the disciples financially, they lead their own households to Christ, they have churches in their house, they are apostles, (not among the 12, who represent the 12 tribes of Israel) they are prophets, teachers and deacons. They are real women.

    Thanks to Michael Kruse for posting about Kenneth Bailey.


    At Sat Nov 18, 02:02:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Suzanne, I think you have to consider 1 Corinthians 11:3, and what "head" might mean in this context. But this has to be balanced by the remarkable parallelism in chapter 7 indicating that Paul treated men and women EXACTLY alike in issues of sex and marriage. This parallelism continues in chapter 11, verses 4-5 and 11-12. In verses 7-10 the parallelism seems to turn into a kind of antithesis, until it is suddenly broken in verse 10; whereas for the parallel to "A man ought not to cover his head" (v.7) we might expect "a woman ought to cover her head" (and indeed RSV has followed the parallel rather than the Greek text by rendering "a woman ought to have a veil on her head"), Paul in fact breaks the parallel with "a woman ought to have authority on/over her head".

    Of course you also have to deal with 1 Timothy 2:12-15. But I'm sure you are well able to do that.

    At Sat Nov 18, 10:04:00 AM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


    In this post I was specifically sticking to named women, real women. These women appear throughout the NT, and most are named. They are women that we know to have existed. They are, Johanna, Mary, Prisca, Lydia, Nympha, Chloe, Phoebe, Junia, and Phillip's daughter's. There are many more coworkers.

    One of the things I meant to highlight was that a coworker is thought of as a coleader it it is a man, but a helper if it is a woman. However, there are not different terms for referencing men and women in the Greek NT.

    The other passages 1 Cor. and 1 Tim. lead to endless vicious arguments as far as I can see. I can give my interpretation, but that can be countered and rebutted, and so on for ever.

    Why not choose examples of real women that were specifically commended and hold them up as role models? There is nothing to argue about.

    I really appreciate Wayne's mentioning the article by Kenneth Bailey to me. That might shed further light on the seemingly prescriptive passages.

    I am also trying to figure out what the supposedly biblical base is for the complementarian rhetoric. Where did the 'men lead - women help' rhetoric come from - not from the Greek New Testament, that I can see. Possibly some of the English translations have contributed to this split.

    I am trying to stick to the issue of translation and look at the terminology of the Greek for men and women and how it is translated.

    At Sat Nov 18, 11:40:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

    Suzanne said:

    Of course, it meant his children and not his wife. I can't find the verse that says a man is to lead his wife.

    I can't find one either, Suzanne. I don't think there is any verse in the Bible that says a man is to lead his wife. I think that is an idea that people have assumed is in the Bible or that they have extrapolated from the Greek word kephale with its literal English translation of "head."

    The assumption, for many people, is that the meaning of the Greek metaphor kephale, used by Paul, is the same as that of the English metaphor of head. But the lexical history of Greek kephale, especially up to the time of the writing of the New Testament, does not support the idea that the primary meaning of kephale is leader. If Paul wanted to convey that meaning, he would have used words such as EXOUSIA 'authority' or ARCHON 'ruler.'

    Once again, we see the danger of literal translation with the assumption that the literally translated words will have the same meaning in the target language that they do in the source language. But this is simply not true for much translation.

    Kephale does not mean 'ruler' or 'leader' in classical and Koine Greek. Of course, you know all this already, having begun your Greek study of Greek literature outside the New Testament. Paul used kephale as a metaphor as it was used by Greek speakers of his day and in Greek literature up to his day. He did not give kephale a new meaning when he used it as a metaphor when emphasizing the unity of the head and the body. Unity! The mystery of two becoming one. Body-head unity. Paul emphasizes these concepts several times. He never teaches that the head leads the body. Instead, he teaches that a head sacrificially loves a body. The beautiful kenosis passage in Phil. 2 gives the most powerful example of such sacrificial love. But Jesus also illustrated it when his disciples were arguing about importance and he sacrificially served them by washing their feet.

    At Sat Nov 18, 12:35:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...

    Thank you for the link to my blog! I noticed the reference in your post to the household codes. I wrote a post at my blog back in March called Paul's Subversion of the Empire and then reposted it at the end of September. I would covet your observations and critique of what I offer there, either here or at my blog, if you should be so inclined. I continue to do more research on the Household Codes for a project I am working on.

    Also, linked in the footnotes to my article is a post by Gordon Fee The Cultural Context of Ephesians 5:18-6:9 which I would draw your attention to as well.

    Thanks again!

    At Sun Nov 19, 09:40:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Thanks for the link to the excellent articles by Kenneth Bailey. Although I might question some of the details, as always Bailey gives a freh and very sensible perspective on the issues. He also reminds us how Paul's letters were specific responses to specific situations, and so should not be applied in very different circumstances without careful consideration of the differences.

    At Sun Nov 19, 08:51:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne E. McCarthy said...


    Here is Aristotle's Politics in English. Book 1

    Look at part V

    Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind

    part XII

    A husband and father, we saw, rules over wife and children, both free, but the rule differs, the rule over his children being a royal, over his wife a constitutional rule. For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female, just as the elder and full-grown is superior to the younger and more immature.

    Part XIII

    For the slave has no deliberative faculty at all; the woman has, but it is without authority, and the child has, but it is immature.

    The verb to rule or command is αρχειν. When it says that the woman is without authority the Greek says ακυριος.

    The Greek text of the Politics is online at the Perseus Project but I can't access it right now.

    I guess you have probably read this. Plato was a little different going for a more communal setup and allowing women more participation. Debatable, but not the same as Aristotle. Aristotle has probably done more damage to minority peoples than women, nonetheless, it is not negligible.

    At Mon Nov 20, 08:51:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    Hi Suzanne,

    Interesting article as always!

    Of course, it meant his children and not his wife. I can't find the verse that says a man is to lead his wife.

    Just a thought that was in my head when I read this: men are the head of the woman (1 Cor 11:13).

    Now, if the Bible only said that men are the head of the woman it would be difficult to say that the word refers to some type of ruling or controlling or leadership - but what do you do with the comparison to Christ and the Church and God to Christ?

    How is Christ the head of the church? How is God the head of Christ?

    Would it not be that in a similar way, men are the head of a woman?

    Or does Christ have no leadership or control over the church?

    Or did Jesus not follow the will of the Father?

    Just some thoughts, not sure where they lead.


    At Mon Nov 20, 08:58:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    Sorry, I just realized I quoted not only from 1 Cor. 11:13 but also from Eph. 5:23

    I just read some of J.L. Hinman's article on the "head" issue...interesting.


    At Mon Nov 20, 09:09:00 AM, Blogger Dave Spaun said...

    Suzanne -

    I've been following your series with interest, although I tend to lurk and not post much. This is an issue that I've been...well, struggling with for the past couple of years, as I was raised (and still minister in a church) in a strict complementarian tradition.

    However, I began to notice many of the 'details' that you've been mentioning thoughout your series, and so am moving (being moved? :) from some/much of those positions. Alright, enough about me...

    A couple of questions arise for me from this post:
    I notice that you use LSJ for your definitions, and was intrigued by the meanings given, especially since BDAG seems to be quite different.

    Under prostatis in BDAG, we find:
    "a woman in a supporting role, patron, benefactor (the relationship suggested by the term is not to be confused with the Roman patron-client system, which was of a different order and alien to Greek tradition."

    Of course, the only use of this term in the NT (but not extant NT-era Greek writings) appears in Romans 16:2. questions:
    1) If I understand things correctly (and certainly may not :), LSG covers the 'era' from about 11th century BC to the Byzantine period or so. BDAG is a much narrower range, +/- 200 years or so from the NT. Would this give insight into the meaning 'difference'?

    2) From the BDAG gloss & comments, it would seem that a more 'traditional' view of Phoebe would be in order. That is, she helped Paul a bunch, perhaps financially, but was not a 'leader' in the technical sense, that is, having authority beside/over Paul/others. Am I reading BDAG correctly here?

    3) If I am reading correctly, is there a diagreement between the two lexica? If so, how should we resolve it?

    4) Finally, why did you choose LSJ over BDAG for your definitions? I don't ask this because I think you 'cherry-picked' the lexical entries, nor am I in any way questioning your motives, etc. :)
    I just am curious as to your choice, and would like to know your reasons.

    Ok, that's enough! Thanks again for your series, and look forward to your replies.

    At Mon Nov 20, 10:37:00 AM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...

    Thanks for the Aristotle link Suzanne.

    Here two thoughts I have about the NT household codes.

    1. The codes were written for the householder to give instruction to him about how to maintain his household and preserve the social order. The codes were not addressed to the other members of the household as they essentially had no say in the household management. Yet Paul and Peter address all the members of the household. Everyone is now part of the life of the household and they are given justifications for their behavior that have nothing to do with subjugation to power hierarchies and everything to do with other centered submission in the Lord.

    2. Missing from all the NT biblical household codes is the instruction to the householder to “rule” his household. Whatever “head” means in Ephesians 5, the husband is not instructed to exercise “headship.” It is simply observed that he is the head. The only instruction he receives is to love his wife

    What I am suspect about the codes is that they subvert power hierarchies based on ascribed human categories without directly confronting them. If people live with the other-centered love taught by the apostles in these passages, then the structures will become obsolete and morph into a more shalom filled world. You end up at Galatians 3:28. Instead reinforcing traditional Greco-Roman values, the apostles were being highly subversive.

    At Mon Nov 20, 10:38:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Nathan, would you claim that God, as "head of Christ", rules over or controls Christ? If so, you are making a formally heretical claim, although one which some recent teachers have insisted on making in order to support their assertion that men must rule and control women.

    Dave, I have found countless times that BDAG's supposed definitions of words are in fact not much more than lists of how various traditional translations have translated the word. As such these definitions are controlled more by church tradition than by actual non-biblical Greek usage in any century. For an example of the inadequacy of the traditional lexicons, see Richard Rhodes' series on this blog a few months ago about ἐπιτιμάω.

    At Mon Nov 20, 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    "2) From the BDAG gloss & comments, it would seem that a more 'traditional' view of Phoebe would be in order. That is, she helped Paul a bunch, perhaps financially, but was not a 'leader' in the technical sense, that is, having authority beside/over Paul/others. Am I reading BDAG correctly here?"

    I know that one of things that Bailey emphasizes about the Rom. 16:2 passage is the nature of "letter carriers." Much was conveyed about the authority and importance of letter by the messenger sent to deliver it. High leadership status messengers indicated “high priority mail” if you will. So if Pheobe was just a sideline financial supporter delivering the letter, then Paul didn’t give much weight to what he was sending to the Romans. On the other hand, if Phoebe’s status is as Suzanne’s post suggests, then this letter was of great import.

    At Mon Nov 20, 11:55:00 AM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    I would say that Christ is Lord AND of the Church. He is both ruler above all earthly powers AND he is the originating life-giving source to his body the Church. He is the head, "...from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love," (Eph 4:16) and "...from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God." (Col 1:19) He, "...fills all in all." (Eph 1:23) These are classic examples of the head being the life giving source to the rest of the body.

    Christ is the point of origin/source, the "prominent point," for the Church. "He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything." (Col 1:18)

    Finally, with 1 Corinthians 11:3, many form a "chain of command" out of this verse.

    "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the husband is the head of his wife, and God is the head of Christ."

    Notice that the three dyads are out order for this. The third dyad needs to come first for this interpretation to work.

    In our highly individualistic culture we tend to struggle with issues of identity. Not so in biblical Middle Eastern culture. You were part of family and tribe. They were your point of origin. Whatever shame you brought on yourself you brought upon your family and tribe, and therefore, upon your "origin/head."

    When Jewish men would go to worship they would veil their face as a sign of shame before God. But in Christ, we are no longer under shame. Thus, for a man to cover his head as the Jews did, signified something ineffective about Christ's work and thus brought shame to the man's "head/origin," Christ. However, women have two “heads.” One is God in that they too are created in the image of God. But Eve was also taken out of man so the man is also the "head" of the woman in marriage. Traditional Greek and Hebrew men would have been greatly disturbed to see uncovered women speaking in public. If it was their wife, then it would bring great shame to them in the community. Thus, the woman was to keep her head covered so as to bring honor to her husband head.

    Verse three is likely from a creedal statement and is likely a chronological statement. Christ was in the beginning and created man. Then woman was created from man. Humanity sinned. So God created the new man Christ Jesus in whom the new creation would have its origin. Paul is calling for men and women to participate in worship in ways that do not give offense to the culture. That women are given equal status in worship seems to be the most overlooked aspect of the passage.

    Note the verses leading up to this verse three:

    1 Cor 10:31-11:2

    31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, so that they may be saved.
    11:1 Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 2 I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions just as I handed them on to you.

    Finally, while head carries the "ruler/authority" connotation in Hebrew, Latin and English, it does not in Greek. Gordon Fee notes that there are 180 cases in the OT where "head" can be taken to signify a leader or chieftain. When the Hebrew was translated into Greek, the Greek kefale (head) would be the straight forward translation. Yet in 174 case the used arche (leader). Why? Because head does not have the same connotation in Greek.

    At Mon Nov 20, 02:19:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    Yup, that must be what I mean Peter ;)

    But you didn't say what you think it means...

    I'll quote Barnes:
    "Christ, as Mediator, has consented to assume a subordinate rank, and to recognize God the Father as superior in office. Hence, he was obedient in all things as a Son; he submitted to the arrangement required in redemption; he always recognized his subordinate rank as Mediator, and always regarded God as the supreme Ruler, even in the matter of redemption. The sense is, that Christ, throughout his entire work, regarded himself as occupying a subordinate station to the Father; and that it was proper from his example to recognize the propriety of rank and station everywhere."

    This says nothing to Christ not being of the same substance as God - it talks only of role. As I would say it does in regards to women and men - this is about role, not that men are more "human" then women (as you insinuated that I must think that this verse means Jesus is less "God" than God - but like you said, if someone believes Jesus to be less than God, he is a heretic).

    At Mon Nov 20, 02:22:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    Michael -

    I understand what you said about Christ - but not quite about how it fits into the comparison between men and women.

    Can you elaborate?


    At Mon Nov 20, 05:55:00 PM, Blogger Kenny said...

    Suzanne - since we've disagreed on these issues before, I just wanted to step in in your support this time. I agree that it is very important to take seriously the examples of what the apostles actually did in our interpretation of what they said. I know a lot of people who hold what I regard as extreme and unbiblical positions on these issues, and, although I am certainly a complementarian, I have been at some pains to distance myself from such views. For instance, I know a lot of people who, despite Phoebe, don't believe that women can be deacons, and even a few people (all of them female, as far as I can remember) who, despite Lydia, the Proverbs 31 woman, and the women who supported Jesus' ministry financially, don't think that a married woman should work outside the home (even if there are no kids in the house)! I regard these positions as absurd and unbiblical, for precisely the reasons you say. If it can be decisively established that Paul permitted something in practice, it doesn't seem reasonable to interpret his epistles in such a way as to forbid the same thing.

    You know that I disagree on the interpretation of some of these verses, but I quite emphatically agree with your principle, and see it as an important factor that ought to moderate our views on this subject.

    I am not aware of any case of the New Testament recording as a matter of history any particular gender role statements in relation to individuals contemporary with the New Testament writer. The closest thing I am aware of is Peter describing Sarah as a role model for present-day women: "for in the past, the holy women who hoped in God also beautified themselves in this way, submitting to their own husbands, just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord" (1 Peter 3:5-6a).

    (I should note that I am rather uncomfortable with 1 Peter 3's talk about wives submitting to and obeying "disobedient" husbands, but I have yet to come up with another reasonable interpretation, and am wary of attempts to reinterpret the Bible in ways that make me comfortable.)

    At Mon Nov 20, 07:30:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    And the last shall be first, ;-)


    You wrote,

    (I should note that I am rather uncomfortable with 1 Peter 3's talk about wives submitting to and obeying "disobedient" husbands, but I have yet to come up with another reasonable interpretation, and am wary of attempts to reinterpret the Bible in ways that make me comfortable.)

    The context is very clear. We should feel as uncomfortable telling a woman to submit to a disobedient husband as we do telling a citizen to submit to a dictatorial government which denies human rights. That is what Peter says but how do we deal with it.

    It is clearly related to the submission of slaves to masters and the persecution of Christians by the governement. The submission of a woman to a hierarchical husband is clearly 'suffering'. Submssion may be beautiful in the way that a person suffering an injustice is beautiful, in the way that Christ dying for us is beaatiful. People suffer wrong because they have higher ideals and beliefs about what their suffering will bring about. They believe it will bring about good. This I accept.

    However, there is nothing about submission that furthers an intimate relationship, unless the husband, through the example of his wife's submission gives up hierarchy. The problem is that statistically we know that submssion usually encourages greater abuse and bullying and we end up with stories like this. How uncomfortable are we prepared to be?

    Submission to bullying rewards the bully and encourages them to continue in their practise. What would we say to a slave, run or stay. It depends, I guess, but would we really have taught all slaves to stay - some people did.

    At Mon Nov 20, 08:03:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...


    I read and enjoyed your post from last spring. I don't have much to add. The two verse that you quote are excellent, Eph. 4:15-16

    But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body's growth in building itself up in love.

    18 Do not let anyone disqualify you, insisting on self-abasement and worship of angels, dwelling on visions, puffed up without cause by a human way of thinking, 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows with a growth that is from God. (Colossians 2:18-19

    Also you mnetioned kephale as the person who was the head of a family or tribe in the OT. That is where the word was used in the OT.

    Overall, I am not that comfortable with analysing these scriptures myself, because there is a lot of argumentation and jusdgement, and discussion around who says what. I am more comfortable with the narrative parts of the scripture, as well as the straight lexical data.

    All I know is that I can't remember seeing kephale used in terms of authority and governing in anything I have read, but that doesn't mean much.

    The household codes, of course, the asymentrical relationships, were deeply Greek and hierarchical.

    At Mon Nov 20, 08:20:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

    Dave S.,

    I hereby make this confession. I quoted from LSJ for the following reasons,

    1. It is online and I can cut and paste.

    2. I was going to also quote from BADG but the time was short.

    3. I had already agreed that patron and benefactor are possible and acceptable.

    4. I was trying to show the association, the connotation of the word prostatis.

    5. I prefer LSJ because it is not theologically motivated. It is very old and not much affected by feminism either. Just a more neutral resource.

    6. BAGD only lists Iounias, the male name. It clearly says that although Iounias does not appear elsewhere as a male name, however, the context in Romans 16:7 probably rules out this being a woman's name. So it is not listed or represented as a woman's name. BAGD, 1979, page 380.

    Therefore, I take any lexical item relating to women in the BAGD as being slightly suspect.

    7. I actually like the entry for prostates, since it shows the association with αρχιερευς, the high priest.

    So the masculine use of the word meant 'high priest' but the femeinine means good help? Hmm.

    In reality, Phoebe must have been an important person, but we don't know what exactly she did. I am not making any extraordinary claims. However, I was trying to show that the word has a certain connotation, a circle of associated meaning that was eviident in Greek, that is not clear in English. I am trying to show the possibilities.

    Over and over, we can create an impression of "difference" between men and women by how we translate.

    At Mon Nov 20, 09:30:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    The only two places where head is used metaphoircally in terms of human relationships are in 1 Cor 11:3 (which I hopefully I have addressed) and Ephesiains 5. The household codes were not about three sets of relationships. (husband/wife, father/child, master/slave) They were about the relationship of the householder (paterfamilias) to his wife/children/slaves. As the paterfamilias, he theoretically had the power of life and death over household members. According to the household codes of the culture, the paterfamilias was to rule over his household for the sake of maintaining the social order. Yet not here, or anywhere else, does Paul tell the paterfamilias to “rule over” other members of the household. His only instruction to the husband in relation to his wife is to love her to the point of death. If Paul were merely mimicking the Greco-Roman codes, then we would expect words like arche and exousia. These are precisely the concepts he circumvents.

    So what about head? Notice that nowhere does Paul tell the paterfamilias to be the head. He simply observes that he is the head. I think there is the "honoring your origin" component of 1 Cor 11 at play here but I think there is more. As the one with the power and authority, the paterfamilias is the one who provides materially for those in the household and protects them. He is the “life-giving” source to the household just as Christ is the life giving/originating source for his body. Christ emptied himself of power and laid down his very life that he might become the firstborn (head) of a new creation.

    What I think this says about the paterfamilias is that just as Christ became the life giving source for the Church, by emptying himself of power, so he is to empty himself of power to become the life giving source to his wife. Meanwhile, as the wife is to submit to paterfamilias not because he is the ruler but because he is the one who has surrendered himself to become the life giving source. In other words, we are back to Ephesians 5:21:

    “Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

    At Mon Nov 20, 10:12:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    There is something peculiar about 1 Peter 3:5-6. In only one place does Sarah call Abraham lord:

    “So Sarah laughed to herself, saying, ‘After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?’” (Gen 18:12)

    There is no great indication of submission here. So to what is Peter referring? Here are some observations:

    First, the passage from 2:11-3:7 is a unit. How does it open?

    “11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.” (1 Peter 2:11-12)

    Peter’s intent is to minimize any cultural tensions that might obstruct people from coming to know Christ. As we look at the next verse, remember that according to the culture, wives were to submit to there husbands because the they were the ruler. What does Peter write in 3:1-2?

    “1 Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands…”

    Why? Because he is her ruler and it is her duty to submit?

    “…so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”

    I think we also have to ask if these are the same husbands receiving instruction in verse 7. I think it is unlikely. Verses 1 and 2 are addressed to women who have converted but their husbands have not. Paul is articulating a strategy to win them over. Be the perfect wife according to the culture and in so doing you will win them over.

    Now back to Sarah and “lord.” It turns out that there was a deutero–cannonical book called The Testament of Abraham. Hellenized Jewish teachers were troubled by the rather “bossy” attitude the saw reflected by Sarah in some Genesis passages. So in an effort to instruct women in the proper submissive decorum, fictional accounts were created like this testament, in which Sarah does submissively call Abraham lord. The book was contemporary to Peter’s letter. It appears the Peter was drawing the attention of these women to this story as a model of the behavior their husbands expected. By modeling it they might win them over.

    That is my take.

    At Mon Nov 20, 10:19:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    "Overall, I am not that comfortable with analysing these scriptures myself, because there is a lot of argumentation and jusdgement, and discussion around who says what. I am more comfortable with the narrative parts of the scripture, as well as the straight lexical data."

    I can appreciate the desire to stay focused. Thanks for taking the time to check out my post. I keep trying to run these ideas by as wide a variety of people, as possible looking for correctives.

    At Tue Nov 21, 06:36:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Nathan, whoever this Barnes is who wrote:

    "Christ, as Mediator, has consented to assume a subordinate rank, ... he always recognized his subordinate rank as Mediator, ... regarded himself as occupying a subordinate station to the Father",

    he or she is most certainly a "heretic" in formally rejecting the Chalcedonian definition in which Christ is of the "consubstantial" with the Father, and the Athanasian creed referring to "the Son almighty ... Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead".

    At Tue Nov 21, 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Sungkhum said...


    So do all three persons of the Godhead have the same role?

    I don't think I said anything (or Barnes for that matter) that had anything to do with the "Godness" of Christ, but rather speaks to Christ's role in the Godhead. I'm not sure what you do with passages like Philippians 2:8 as far as Christ's role in being obedient and humble - and to get back to the point - what that says in regards to the interpretation of the passages in which the fact that God is the head of Christ is compared with man being the head of a woman, you have yet to supply any alternative or meaning to God being the head of Christ - what does it mean and how then should we interpret the comparisons?

    Does the body follow the head? Or can the body rebel? While it is true that the head cannot be without the body - the head is of a higher rank, being that it has no master - for it controls the body, not vice versa (unless there is disease, but we aren't talking about that).

    Does each person of the Godhead have the same role? You make it out to be that way - but you have yet to back that up by Scripture - God is one, and all persons are equal, and there are huge mysteries here, but there still remains the fact that Scripture points to Christ submitting Himself to the Father and saying not His own words, but the Words of the Father - not on His own authority, but on the authority of the Father.

    So what does it mean? How do you interpret these things?

    Since you don't know of Barnes, and since I don't know who you respect - I will quote someone I assume you have heard of - Calvin? You might not agree with everything he said, but would you call him a heretic as you have so quickly said about another? You are well learned - so maybe he is a heretic and you know better than he.

    "God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren."

    And to clarify, this passage proves that Christ and God are of the same essence (though I argue, not having the same role), I'll quote someone else, Chrysostom:

    "Jesus, therefore, must be of the same essence as God: for, since the man is the head of the woman, and since the head is of the same essence as the body, and God is the head of the Son, it follows the Son is of the same essence as the Father"

    Maybe I am off my rocker, but it is interesting to talk about. If you can convince me from Scripture that what you say is true - I will do my best to follow the Word for that is my heart's desire, even if now, and though I know, my understanding is flawed - I desire to correct my errors if someone can point them out. If I am a heretic as you have inferred, please show me how I can be corrected.


    At Tue Nov 21, 11:47:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

    Nathan said:

    While it is true that the head cannot be without the body - the head is of a higher rank, being that it has no master - for it controls the body, not vice versa (unless there is disease, but we aren't talking about that).

    Nathan, I don't think that the Bible passages that speak of the relationship between head and body have anything to do with rank. Look at them in their context. The passages seem to be talking about the unity of the head and body. They form a single organism which is supposed to function well as its various parts interact with each other.

    I suggest (and that is all it is) that you are imposing the meaning of the *English* metaphor of head upon the biblical metaphor. I don't find any evidence that the biblical metaphor of head refers to leading.

    Can you point to any biblical evidence that the biblical head leads the body or is of a higher rank?

    At Tue Nov 21, 12:28:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    Hi Wayne,

    Yes, you may be right.

    I did find this verse though - do you think it points to the same metaphor?

    "and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;"
    (Colossians 2:10 NASB)

    Some of the looser translations seem to think of "head" in the leading/rank way:
    "and God has made you complete in Christ. Christ is in charge of every ruler and authority."
    (Colossians 2:10 GW)

    It is the same word as in the other passages from my understanding.


    At Tue Nov 21, 12:51:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

    Nathan asked:

    I did find this verse though - do you think it points to the same metaphor?

    "and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;"
    (Colossians 2:10 NASB)

    Good find, Nathan! I do not know what the metaphorical meaning of Greek kephale is in this verse. All I can do is point out that this verse does not have to do with the head-body metaphors. It is quite possible that kephale refers to rank and authority in Col. 2:10. That, however, does not mean that kephale refer to rank or leadership everywhere else it occurs in the Bible. Meaning must be determined within each context.

    At Tue Nov 21, 02:35:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    The Second Helvetic Confession was the most widely embraced of the Reformed Creeds, writtn in 1566. From Chapter II:

    We also condemn all heresies and heretics who teach that the Son and Holy Spirit are God in name only, and also that there is something created and subservient, or subordinate to another in the Trinity, and that their is something unequal in it, a greater or a less, something corporeal or corporeally conceived, something different with respect to character or will, something mixed or solitary, as if the Son and Holy Spirit were the affections and properties of one God the Father, as the Monarchians, Novatians, Praxeas, Patripassians, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Aetius, Macedonius, Anthropomorphites, Arius, and such like, have thought.

    This has been the teaching in the Roman, Orthocox and Protestant churches since Nicea until a couple of recent departures. American theologians like Charles Hodge argrued that blacks were inferior to whites, woman to men, and therefore should behave in subordiante manner; just as Christ did as subordinate (and inferior) to God the Father. The was resoundingly rejected by his successor at Princeton B. B. Warfield. Then in the 1980s, Grudem, Piper and company created an "equal in being, unequal in role" formula. This is a totally novel (and illogical) teaching that says the Christ is equal but eternally subordinate and women are equal but eternally subordinate.

    There is a difference between what is called "economic" suboridination and "ontological" subordination. It is possible for one of two equal beings to subrodinate themselves to another to accomplish some end. When the task is over, the subordination is over. Economic subordination speaks to Jesus work in redemption. It is a temporary subordination until he returns to the Father. You mention the Philipians passage. It is one of the key passages that has been understood to teach prescisely what I just described:

    Phil 2:5-11
    5 Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
    6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
    7 but emptied himself,

    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
    And being found in human form,
    8 he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death --
    even death on a cross.

    9 Therefore God also highly exalted him
    and gave him the name
    that is above every name,
    10 so that at the name of Jesus
    every knee should bend,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    11 and every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,

    to the glory of God the Father.

    He was equal with the Father. He become subordinate to the point of death to redeem humanity. At the end he is raised back up to "Lord," with a Capital "L", meaning he returns to the co-equal status with God he gave up. It is of limited scope and for a limited duration. Therefore, it is possible to have two equal beings who are unequal in functions, so long as the subordination is limited in time and/or scope. A soldier subordinatinng to an officer is an example of this. (Subordinate only in his function as a soldier for a fixed period.) A parent to child is another. (Once the child reaches maturity he or she is not subordinate.) This is not what is being said about women or Christ. The defining "role" is to be subordinate. It is total in scope and eternal. Therefore, the suboridnate party is unequal in being as well.

    Finally, as to Calvin, your quote is from a discussion about economic subordinaiton. Nowhere did Calvin teach that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father.

    At Tue Nov 21, 02:55:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    "every tongue should confess
    that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father."

    To whom does the glory go?

    To be honest, I have never heard of the things you are talking about, so I cannot speak farther. But I will do my best to do some study - it is interesting that you say Piper and other like him have come up with new doctrine - I have never heard that before.

    Do you know what Jonathan Edwards thought about this (Piper seems to get much from him)?


    At Tue Nov 21, 08:19:00 PM, Blogger Michael W. Kruse said...


    "To whom does the glory go?" To God the Father who has raised Christ back to equal status with the Father (verse 9). Lord is reserved for God. Either Jesus is co-equal with God or Paul is blaspheming God the Father in verse 11.

    I haven't personally investigated Edwards on this but I have never seen that he held to anything other than the historic teaching.

    If you want to get some background on this you can read Kevin Giles The Doctrine of the Trinity and Subordination. Also, I did a lengthy review of Giles book Jesus and the Father that may be helpful.

    At Tue Nov 21, 08:56:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    Thanks for your articles - I will look into them. But I don't really like to read many people who are still alive (just some advice from my mentors that I like to follow).

    Do you know of anyone who is dead and is well respected who wrote about this issue (and not Athansius, because from what I have read of him, he wasn't totally dealing with the same issue we are talking about (so not him, unless you feel he did talk about this issue, and then that would be fine).

    This is actually a very interesting point in regards to Christ being God and the roles therein - I am just about done with my first semester of Historical Theology at my seminary and we touched on the broad arguments, but nothing yet so specific.

    I still don't quite understand how it is that if Jesus submitted to the Father that it somehow makes Him less God, even if it was eternal, but I assume that is just because I haven't heard this perspective before.

    It is interesting that you cited a page from the "Christians for Biblical Equality" site...

    Thanks for your time,

    At Tue Nov 21, 09:16:00 PM, Blogger Sungkhum said...

    "and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;"
    (Colossians 2:10 NASB)

    Wayne said: "All I can do is point out that this verse does not have to do with the head-body metaphors."

    I am interested in knowing how you know that if it would be possible for you to take the time to explain.


    At Tue Nov 21, 11:03:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

    Nathan asked:

    Wayne said: "All I can do is point out that this verse does not have to do with the head-body metaphors."

    I am interested in knowing how you know that if it would be possible for you to take the time to explain.

    Gladly, Nathan. We look at the context, the most important first step of any interpretation of the Bible. There is no mention in the context of this verse of a body. There is no mention of a relationship between a metaphorical head and a metaphorical body. This passage in Colossians is about the authority that Christ has, not about his relationship to his Body, the Church. OK?

    At Wed Nov 22, 02:51:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Nathan, let me comment on your 11:17:32 AM and 12:28:57 PM comments before reading what follows.

    You quoted Calvin: "Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, ... He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature". Fine. This teaches what I would also say, that Christ chose to make himself subordinate and to assume human nature at the incarnation. This subordination is temporary and voluntary, which implies that it is not a matter of the eternal essence of Christ, which is the same as that of the Father, not subordinate. Perhaps Barnes meant the same, and if so he or she is not a heretic. The heresy comes in when, as you seemed to say and seemed to appeal to Barnes to support you in this, someone claims that the Son is eternally and essentially subordinate to the Father.

    You also complained, "you have yet to supply any alternative or meaning to God being the head of Christ". I don't consider myself under any obligation to do so in blog comments. I think there is something in the argument about kefale being a metaphor for "source" (which would make this a description of the "eternal generation" of the Son), and also Wayne made a significant comment that the point is unity, supported by Chrysostom's "the head is of the same essence as the body". But my main point here is that there is no basis for the assumption that kefale implies a difference in rank or subordination.

    As for Colossians 2:10, the NASB rendering "He is the head over all rule and authority" is a mistranslation, if intended to be literal as normal in this version. There is no word here meaning "over"; a literal translation would be "who is the head of all rule and authority", which is the RSV rendering. And this makes excellent sense if "head" is understood as "source".

    At Wed Nov 22, 03:02:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    Thank you, Michael, for saying much more than I did on the same lines.

    Nathan, you asked: "Do you know of anyone who is dead and is well respected who wrote about this issue[?]" If you choose to take your theology only from those who are dead, a very strange statement I must say, the position is very clear. For it seems that all of those who teach the eternal subordination of the Son are still alive. Well, with the exception of Hodge whom Michael mentioned, but Michael also mentioned that Warfield, also dead, and well respected in some circles, rejected this position. So if you want an argument about this one and insist on someone who is dead, try Warfield. Calvin also probably had something to say on this.

    At Wed Nov 22, 04:31:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

    More concerning Colossians 2:10: Ephesians 1:22-23 says something rather similar, but does use "head over" and does also link to the church as the body of Christ. But note carefully that it does not say that Christ is "head over the church, which is his body", but "head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way" (NIV). "Fullness" here must mean something like "completeness". So I take this as meaning that Christ was indeed put over everything, but as a head alone he would have been incomplete, and so the church is united with him as his body and so sharing with him in being over everything, as is clear from 2:6.

    In fact nowhere is Christ called "head over the church". In Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18 he is "head of the church". In fact Ephesians 1:22 is the only place in the NT where "head over" is used, at least in any metaphorical sense.

    At Tue Aug 26, 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Don B. Johnson said...

    Nice insight on prostatis.


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