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Saturday, September 15, 2007

head and submission poll results - post #5

The ninth statement in this poll is: "The head of an unmarried woman is her father." About one-third of the respondents voted that this is an explicit teaching of the Bible. I am not able to think of any part of the Bible which explicitly teaches this, but if I have missed any Bible passage which explicitly states that an unmarried woman has her father as her head please note that in a comment to this post.

The last statement in this poll is: "Church elders are the head of a congregation." Again, about one-third of the respondents voted that this is an explicit teaching of the Bible. I do not know of any part of the Bible which teaches headship for the elders of a congregation.

I realize now, as I have mentioned in post #4 of this series, that not everyone taking this poll has shared my understanding of what it means for something to be "explicitly taught" in the Bible. It is entirely possible that those who voted that fathers are heads of their unmarried daughters and church elders are heads of their congregations did so based on their understanding of the English word "head" as meaning 'leader'. It is true that elders of a congregation lead ("rule", "lead", "direct the affairs of") that congregation (1 Tim. 5:17). But an elder is not mentioned in the Bible as being a head (kephale) of a church.

When I created this poll, I intended "explicit teaching" about headship to require the occurrence of the Greek word kephale (which refers to the body part, head, and can have some metaphorical meanings which do not refer to the physical head) in a New Testament passage or its Hebrew equivalent in an Old Testament passage. I apologize for confusion that my lack of clarity on this may have caused poll respondents.

(UPDATED: thanks, Peter Kirk) There are four headship relations explicitly taught in the Bible that I am aware of. The first three are mentioned in 1 Cor. 11:3 in order:
  1. Christ : every man (I assume that this refers to every believing man)
  2. man (husband) : woman (wife)
  3. God : Christ
  4. Christ: church (Eph. 5:12)
Here are the ESV and TNIV renderings for 1 Cor. 11:3:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. (ESV)

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. (TNIV)
These two wordings are very close, although the ESV is less literal than the TNIV (yes, you read that right!) since it has "wife" instead of "woman" (Greek gune) and "husband" instead of "man" (Greek aner). I happen to believe that the ESV team has chosen the correct interpretation of the Greek words here, but it is an interpretation, nonetheless. Translation always consists of interpretation necessary to determine the meaning of the biblical text before it can be translated. What should be avoided is so-called "interpretive translation" which goes beyond the meaning of the biblical language texts as most biblical scholars understand it. (There are, however, paraphrases which do communicate the same meaning as the biblical language texts, so there are accurate paraphrases and inaccurate paraphrases.)

Each of the relations in 1 Cor. 11:3 is explicitly described with the Greek word kephale.

Eph. 5:23 repeats the first two of these kephale relationships:
For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. (ESV)

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. (TNIV
Both the ESV and TNIV translate Greek aner here as "husband" and gune as "wife."

Sometimes people say that "The Bible teaches that the husband is the head of the home," as on this webpage. I have frequently heard ministers say that a man is the head of his home or the head of his family. If we want to refer to whether or not a man is explicitly mentioned as the kephale of his home or family, then such statements are technically not true, since kephale relationships are limited, as far as I know, to the three mentioned above in 1 Cor. 11:3.

I personally believe that some of the disagreements concerning understanding of headship and submission would be narrowed if more people who spoke or write on the topic would more carefully focus on what the Bible explicitly says in the biblical language texts. There would still be disagreements about what some of the Hebrew or Greek words mean, but there would, I believe, be fewer disagreements. And, I hope, that the discussions or debates would be less heated than they often are.

If we claim to be biblical Christians it would do us well to study what the Bible actually says. If we want to create theological or ideological systems from the disparate teachings of the Bible, then we need to stipulate that we are speaking from the viewpoint of a man-made (person-made?!) systematization of interpretations of Bible passages.

I often read claims by egalitarians or complementarians which cite Bible passages as proof texts, yet the form of argument is more logical or inferential or even speculative, at times, than it is based on what the Bible explicitly teaches. One of the keys to understanding biblical headship in the Bible is to see how closely teaching about headship is linked to the relationship between kephale ("head") and soma ("body"). I suspect that this is significant. We should not, therefore, attempt to extend headship teaching outside of the head-body relationships, as taught in 1 Cor. 11:3.

The job of a Bible translator must be narrowed focused to what the biblical language texts actually mean by what they say. We must have grace toward one another when we disagree about what the text means. When we have such disagreements it is important not to call someone else's translation based on good exegesis an "error". Biblical scholars will come to different exegetical conclusions, and the word "error" should be used extremely carefully when discussing such differences. And "error" must never be claimed when the issue is really just a difference of interpretation of what the biblical text means. None of us have the final answer on what each biblical passage means.

I hope that you have found something interesting, perhaps even helpful, in this series discussing the poll on headship and submission. Even though the poll was flawed in that I did not make clear enough what I meant by "explicit teaching", I hope that we have all learned something through this exercise. Thank you to each person who voted in this poll. I will soon remove it from the margin of this blog and move it to my Bible translation surveys webpage which has many of my previous polls.

Finally, I must express my gratitude to Prof. Sarah Sumner of Azusa Pacific University, whose book, Men and Women in the Church: Building Consensus on Christian Leadership, and other writings challenge egalitarians, complementarians, those who may not indentify with either camp, and, in particular, me, to think more biblically ("explicitly" and precisely) about the issues dealt with in the poll and my discussion of the poll. I have blogged about Sarah's writings in the past:
If you read Sarah's writings and my posts, you can spot Sarah's influence upon my thinking. I want to think more and more biblically, as does she.

18 Comments:

At Sat Sep 15, 10:43:00 AM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Sometimes people say that "The Bible teaches that the husband is the head of the home," as on this webpage [linked above in the post]. I have frequently heard ministers say that a man is the head of his home or the head of his family. If we want to refer to whether or not a man is explicitly mentioned as the kephale of his home or family, then such statements are technically not true, since kephale relationships are limited, as far as I know, to the three mentioned above in 1 Cor. 11:3.

In the Old Testament (especially as translated into the language of the New Testament, or into Greek), aren't there references to "man" (but never "woman") as "head" of "home," "tribe," and "nation"? So is this (or isn't it) something the Bible teaches explicitly?

Numbers 1:2-4
2 Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them,company by company. 4 And there shall be with you a man from each tribe, each man being the head of the house of his fathers.
ESV

2 λάβετε ἀρχὴν πάσης συναγωγῆς υἱῶν Ισραηλ κατὰ συγγενείας αὐτῶν κατ οἴκους πατριῶν αὐτῶν κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἐξ ὀνόματος αὐτῶν κατὰ κεφαλὴν (i.e., kephale) αὐτῶν πᾶς ἄρσην 3 ἀπὸ εἰκοσαετοῦς καὶ ἐπάνω πᾶς ὁ ἐκπορευόμενος ἐν δυνάμει Ισραηλ ἐπισκέψασθε αὐτοὺς σὺν δυνάμει αὐτῶν σὺ καὶ Ααρων ἐπισκέψασθε αὐτούς 4 καὶ μεθ ὑμῶν ἔσονται ἕκαστος κατὰ φυλὴν ἑκάστου ἀρχόντων κατ οἴκους πατριῶν ἔσονται
LXX

And how about these chapters and verses: Exodus 6:14,25, 18:25; Numbers 1:16,18,20,22; Deuteronomy 28:13; 2 Samuel 22:44; 1 Kings 2:33, 8:1; 1 Chronicles 5:15,24 7:2,7,9,11,40; 8:6,10,13,28; 9:9,13,33,34; 2 Chronicles 1:2, 5:2; Ezra 1:5, 2:68, 3:12, 4:2,3, 8:1,29; Nehemiah 7:70,71, 8:13, 11:13,16 12:12,22,23; Isaiah 3:17 7:8,9?

Is there a difference between the New Testament (i.e., Paul in Greek making claims about men and males as head) and the Old Testament (i.e., Moses and the prophets, translated into Greek using the same words for head and men and males)? Is the former more explicit? Is that what you mean by the Bible saying something explicitly?

Thanks for taking more questions.

 
At Sat Sep 15, 11:33:00 AM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

Wayne, there is of course the additional kephale or "headship" relation Christ : church, in Ephesians 5:23 which you quoted without comment, further explained in 1:22-23.

JK, I note that in the passage you quote LXX uses kephale only for "head by head" for counting, a very common usage in many languages including English ("headcount") and by no means implying masculinity or authority (note we refer to "head of cattle"). In Hebrew for this usage the normal word for "head", ro'sh, was not used, instead gulgolet. literally "skull", was used, as in Numbers 1:2; Exodus 16:16, compared with 16:22, shows that this feminine word was not used only of males.

It is by no means accidental that in reference to "each man being the head of the house of his fathers" LXX uses archon, not kephale. The lesson of this is that the various Hebrew, Greek and English words for "head" do not have matching semantics.

 
At Sat Sep 15, 12:14:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Thanks, Peter. I even quoted Eph. 5:23 in my post, but still missed it when I enumberated the headship-body(ship?) relationships. I have updated the post, with a thanks to you.

J.K., the fact that the Old Testament lists men as "heads" of various people units is an important cultural note. As far as I know, there is nothing in the O.T. or N.T. which states that such a patriarchal system is divinely ordained by God and is to be maintained in other cultures and times. Specifically, I do not find any commands in the Bible instructing people groups to be sure to have a male as their "head."

Explicit Biblical teaching of the kind I am referring to in the poll and this series on it consists of instructions, commands, etc. that tell people what is expected of them, how they should live, what they should do.

We also have the biblical examples of men having more than one wife, and we have biblical teaching instructing men how to treat their multiple wives. But as far as I know, there is no biblical teaching that men should have more than one wife.

We have biblical examples of people owning slaves. We have explicit biblical teaching about how people should treat their slaves. But there is no teaching that people should have slaves.

I hope that these examples help show the difference between what is recorded in the Bible has having occurred and what it records as something that some group of people are told to follow/obey. It is the latter that I consider "explicit teaching."

 
At Sat Sep 15, 01:11:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Yes, Peter, of Numbers 1:2-4, your analysis is correct. (But let's leave aside for a moment the other verses you give as counterexamples to my point: namely those in Exodus 16 where the Hebrew is gulgoleth then nasiy' and the Hellene translation is kephale and then archon. You do make a fine point "that the various Hebrew, Greek and English words for 'head' do not have matching semantics.")

Let me offer another example of the points I was trying to make. The points are these:
1) Is what the Bible teaches explicitly about headship of man (never woman) over others confined to the New Testament?
2) Does Paul writing the New Testament use Greek because the LXX provides him with familiar contemporary language (not old-outdated Hebrew of yesteryear) to make his points about man (not woman) as head?

So here's another verse to help try to make my points: Judges 11:11

שארל םהילע ותוא םעה ומישיו דעלג ינקז-םע חתפי ךליו
:הפצמב הוהי ינפל וירבד-לכ-תא חתפי רבדיו ןיצקלו (MT)

καὶ ἐπορεύθη Ιεφθαε μετὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων Γαλααδ καὶ ἔθηκαν αὐτὸν ὁ λαὸς ἐπ αὐτοὺς εἰς κεφαλὴν καὶ εἰς ἀρχηγόν καὶ ἐλάλησεν Ιεφθαε τοὺς λόγους αὐτοῦ πάντας ἐνώπιον κυρίου ἐν Μασσηφα καὶ ἐπορεύθη Ιεφθαε μετὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων Γαλααδ καὶ κατέστησαν αὐτὸν ἐπ αὐτῶν εἰς κεφαλὴν εἰς ἡγούμενον καὶ ἐλάλησεν Ιεφθαε πάντας τοὺς λόγους αὐτοῦ ἐνώπιον κυρίου ἐν Μασσηφα (LXX)

So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD at Mizpah. (ESV)

Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the LORD in Mizpah. (JPS)

So here we have ro'sh and qatsiyn in typical Hebrew parallelism. The Greek is kephale with archon, and the English is head with leader or chief. Aren't they synonyms, and don't they both connote more masculine leadership rather than headcount?

So can this be explicit teaching by the Bible on male headship? And is it more or less explicit than Paul? (And what must an Old Testament example of explicit teaching by the Bible on headship of males look like to qualify as such explicit teaching?)

 
At Sat Sep 15, 01:50:00 PM, Blogger J. K. Gayle said...

Thanks, Wayne. (I didn't see your latest comment until after I'd already posted mine.) You wrote:

[T]hese examples help show the difference between what is recorded in the Bible has having occurred and what it records as something that some group of people are told to follow/obey. It is the latter that I consider "explicit teaching."

That really does help me understand what you mean. It's the should, as a general mandate to all peoples of all times in all places, that qualifies for you as "explicit teaching." It's not the historical record of behaviors or even the regulation of them in history that qualify as "explicit teaching" by the Bible for you.

That begins to answer my questions above.

But/and/so . . . what do you make of Jesus Christ's parables and his hyperbolic "explicit teachings" in the form of mandates? (The sermon on the mount seems full of them. But don't forget the parables.) Are we to take these as something the "Bible teaches explicitly" as intended for all people all places all times, including you and me here and now?

 
At Sat Sep 15, 03:22:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

It's the should, as a general mandate to all peoples of all times in all places, that qualifies for you as "explicit teaching." It's not the historical record of behaviors or even the regulation of them in history that qualify as "explicit teaching" by the Bible for you.

No, what makes something an "explicit teaching" in the Bible is whether there is a command or example to follow for some group, typically those who are addressed by that particular book of the Bible. I mentioned this in my my blog series. Some commands in the Bible are for other groups. For instance, the commands to slave owners are for slave owners, not to me, since I don't own any slaves. I differentiated in my blog post between teachings for a particular group and what might be the *application* of that teaching for other times and places.

But/and/so . . . what do you make of Jesus Christ's parables and his hyperbolic "explicit teachings" in the form of mandates? (The sermon on the mount seems full of them. But don't forget the parables.) Are we to take these as something the "Bible teaches explicitly" as intended for all people all places all times, including you and me here and now?

There is much that is "explicit teaching" in the parables of Jesus, as well as the Sermon on the Mount. It is, as always, a different matter as to who those teachings are for. We clearly know that they were intended for those who Jesus spoke to. I like to think he also intended them for people of other times and places, such as myself. But I can't prove which parts of the Bible are explicit teachings for me or are for me by application. The Bible was not written to me. It was written to people of other cultures who lived a long time ago. I get to read their mail, so to speak. I get to find out what they were explicitly taught.

It is not an easy matter to determine what explicit teachings of the Bible are teachings directly for us today. People debate this issue considerably. But should not be too difficult to determine whether or not something is explicitly taught in the Bible. To do so, we look for commands and examples that people were told to follow.

 
At Sat Sep 15, 03:27:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

J.K. asked:

And what must an Old Testament example of explicit teaching by the Bible on headship of males look like to qualify as such explicit teaching?

An explicit teaching anywhere, at any time, in any context, whether spoken or written, whether in the Bible or not, will typically have the form of a command, an example to follow, or some other genre which one can reasonably infer is intended to be followed.

An explicit teaching on male headship in the O.T. would need to look like teaching from any other kind of literature or speech, including the N.T.

This would be an example of something which could occur anywhere, including the O.T., which would be explicit teaching about male headship:

"Listen, all you people, select a judge to rule over you. Be sure to select only a man."

Such a teaching, of course, does not appear in the O.T. And we know that one judge, Deborah, was a woman. She had authority over men, including military men.

 
At Sun Sep 16, 06:01:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Deborah did not have authority over men. Nor, despite the claims of many to the contrary, did Deborah lead the army into battle, Barak did.

You cannot substantiate your claims form the Bible.

 
At Sun Sep 16, 08:52:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn commented:

Deborah did not have authority over men.

Note what the Bible says:

"She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites came to her to have their disputes decided." (Judges 4:5 NIV)

Deborah was a judge of Israel. The judges made decisions for the people. Deborah did not just judge the woman. She also judged men. In her role as judge she had authority to make decisions for both men and woman. That is authority over both.

Nor, despite the claims of many to the contrary, did Deborah lead the army into battle, Barak did.

This is correct, but Barak refused to fight unless Deborah accompany him into battle. Why? What was it about her role that he wanted her with him?

Note Judges 4:14:

"And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which c the LORD has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the LORD go out before you?” (ESV)

"Up!" was a command. Deborah commanded Barah in her role as a judge. The judges were the leaders of Israel before Israel had kings.

You cannot substantiate your claims form the Bible.

I believe that I have, Glenn.

 
At Sun Sep 16, 03:57:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Wayne,
The judging was done under a palm away from the normal public setting, also to settle disputes does not automatically give authority.

As to Barak, if you look at Judges 4:6 you will see that the Lord had spoken directly to Barak telling him what to do, as such bypassing Deborah.
God prompted Deborah to remind Barak of what he should be doing, the fact that Barak insisted on Deborah coming along earned him a rebuke and loss of honour. Judges 4:9

As such if Barak had been obedient to Gods instructions then Deborah would not have been involved with the battle at all and even when she was there she did not lead the troops into battle Barak did.

Unlike all the other Judges Deborah had no military role.

It was Barak who summoned the troops from Zebulun and Naphtali, not Deborah.

That Barak needed the prompting and encouragement of Deborah is against him and if Deborah had been the one in authority, as you claim, then surely she would have called the troops to battle, God would have spoken through her to Barak in the first instance and her presence would not have involved loss of glory.

As such your case remains unproven.

That is the plain reading of scripture as opposed to the imposition of personal preference.

 
At Sun Sep 16, 04:19:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn, thanks for your most recent response. As far as I can tell, you can correctly stated the facts about Barak, as recorded in scripture. Like you, I want to find my facts directly in scripture on not impose "personal preference", which you mention in your final sentence.

You said at the beginning of your comment:

The judging was done under a palm

Yes, that is what scripture says.

away from the normal public setting,

Do you mean a place such as the gates to a city where the elder men sat and often made decisions?

also to settle disputes does not automatically give authority.

What scriptural basis do you have for this claim, especially with regard to Deborah's role as a judge over Israel?

 
At Sun Sep 16, 04:46:00 PM, Blogger Suzanne McCarthy said...

Unlike all the other Judges Deborah had no military role.

She did have a role, but the real crunch was that the victory over the enemy would be given to Jael, just to show that it clearly was a woman who conquered the enemy.

What I really want to know is what the military has to do with spiritual leadership.

 
At Mon Sep 17, 01:55:00 AM, Blogger Glennsp said...

So Wayne, why have you ignored the rest of what I wrote?

 
At Mon Sep 17, 08:22:00 AM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn responded:

So Wayne, why have you ignored the rest of what I wrote?

I didn't, Glenn. I addressed each section of your preceding comment with my following comment. I found three sections in your comments. Following is my response to each section:

You said at the beginning of your comment:

The judging was done under a palm

Yes, that is what scripture says.

away from the normal public setting,

Do you mean a place such as the gates to a city where the elder men sat and often made decisions?

also to settle disputes does not automatically give authority.

What scriptural basis do you have for this claim, especially with regard to Deborah's role as a judge over Israel?


If you see anything from your comments which I did not address, please point it out and I will be glad to comment on it.

Have a good day,
Wayne

 
At Mon Sep 17, 01:22:00 PM, Blogger Glennsp said...

Okay Wayne, here is the bit I think you missed;
"As to Barak, if you look at Judges 4:6 you will see that the Lord had spoken directly to Barak telling him what to do, as such bypassing Deborah.
God prompted Deborah to remind Barak of what he should be doing, the fact that Barak insisted on Deborah coming along earned him a rebuke and loss of honour. Judges 4:9

As such if Barak had been obedient to Gods instructions then Deborah would not have been involved with the battle at all and even when she was there she did not lead the troops into battle Barak did.

Unlike all the other Judges Deborah had no military role.

It was Barak who summoned the troops from Zebulun and Naphtali, not Deborah.

That Barak needed the prompting and encouragement of Deborah is against him and if Deborah had been the one in authority, as you claim, then surely she would have called the troops to battle, God would have spoken through her to Barak in the first instance and her presence would not have involved loss of glory."

 
At Mon Sep 17, 02:07:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn, thanks for clarifying. My answer remains as I already stated in response to that section of your message:

As far as I can tell, you can correctly stated the facts about Barak, as recorded in scripture. Like you, I want to find my facts directly in scripture on not impose "personal preference", which you mention in your final sentence.

Please see my message. Thanks.

 
At Mon Sep 17, 02:10:00 PM, Blogger Wayne Leman said...

Glenn, perhaps my typo in my response threw you off. I meant to type "have" but my fingers typed "can".

 
At Tue Sep 18, 02:56:00 PM, Blogger Peter Kirk said...

JK, sorry to be slow replying to your comment questions to me. In response I would point you, and other readers here, to Michael Kruse's new post on this subject. This includes a quote from Gordon Fee on how Hebrew ro'sh meaning leader or chieftain is translated kephale in only six cases out of 180. Your Jephthah example must be one of those few exceptions where the translator chose to be more literal, perhaps because two different renderings were needed for near synonyms. Michael clearly shows how kephale in Greek (apart from these six cases of over-literal translation) did not have the meaning of authority or ruler. He then starts to examine what else the word might mean in the contexts we are interested in.

 

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