head and submission poll results - post #5
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:
- Christ : every man (I assume that this refers to every believing man)
- man (husband) : woman (wife)
- God : Christ
- Christ: church (Eph. 5:12)
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)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.)
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)
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)Both the ESV and TNIV translate Greek aner here as "husband" and gune as "wife."
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
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: