The Religious A priori

Women And Christianity

Neither Male Nor Female:

Does kefalh mean "source?" The primary evidence that I can find is not as strong as I would like it to be. Some authorities can be found that render the word as such:

Catherine Clark Kroeger

"The Classical Concept of Head as "Source", from the appendix of Gretchen Gabelein Hull's book Equal to Serve. pgs. 267-268

The concept of head as "source" is well documented in both classical and Christian antiquity and has been long accepted by scholars. Some evangelicals, however, have shown a reluctance to deal with the data…….…… To find earlier works, we must use Greek-Latin dictionaries, of which there are a great abundance. In these the definition of "source" for kephale is well attested. Henry Petrina's Lexicon Dictionarium Graecolatinum of 1577 lists the following meanings: caput, vertex, summa pars, apex cerni, exorium, origo (source or origin), statura coporis.

Clark's article then goes on to give several examples of head being used as source in ancient Greek. Following is first example:} Pages 268

Cyril, Archbishop of Alexandria, wrote of Adam: Therefore of our race he became first head, which is source, and was of the earth and earthy. Since Christ was named the second Adam, he has been placed as head, which is source, of those who through him have been formed anew unto him unto immortality through sanctification in the spirit. Therefore he himself our source, which is head, has appeared as a human being. Yet he though God by nature, has himself a generating head, the heavenly Father, and he himself, though God according to his nature, yet being the Word, was begotten of Him. Because head means source, He establishes the truth for those who are wavering in their mind that man is the head of woman, for she was taken out of him. Therefore as God according to His nature, the one Christ and Son and Lord has as his head the heavenly Father, having himself become our head because he is of the same stock according to the flesh.

In case you have lost count, kephale is defined as "source (arche) no less than four times in this single paragraph. In his application of the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:3, Cyril bases his argument upon this definition. Christ was begotten of the Father, who is His source, woman was drawn from man, who is her source.

She also gives examples from classical Greek consisting of:
the Orphic Fragments.

She sites Patristic examples:

Athanasius (fifth century A.D.)
Cyril of Alexandria (died 444 A.D.)
Theodore of Mopsuestia (died 428 A.D.)
Basil (the Great) (329-379 A.D.)
Eusebius (died 339 A.D.)
John Chrysostom, (Bishop of Constantinople--A.D. 347-407)
Photius (died 891 A.D.)

Payne also gives extra biblical examples (see P. B. Payne, ‘Response’, in Women, Authority and the Bible, edited by A. Mickleson, (IVP, 1986).

One of the major early articles which influenced the Mickelsens was Stephen BeDale's "Meaning of Kephale in the Pauline Epistles," Journal of Bilical LIteartureV (1954) 211-215

Kroger also mentions a Clark article.

Answering the Critics

Perhaps the major defender of the Complamentarian cause is Wayne Grudem. Grudem is connected to the councial for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. He is a Bible scholar and has a prodigeous output, much of which is amied at arguing with the major egalitarians. Grudem's arguments, however, are lack luster and misleading. Let's critically examine an article published on Leadership Universitie's website:

Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
A Response to Evangelical Feminism

Wayne Grudem and John Piper
this article is on Leaderhsip University

Appendix 1 Part A
The Meaning of Kephale ("Head"):
A Response to Recent Studies
Wayne Grudem

Grudem is concenred to answer an article from 1989 by Richard S. Cervin in Trinity Journal, "Does Kephale ('Head') Mean 'Source' or 'Authority Over' in Greek Literature?

I am not concerned to defend Cervin as I am to examine Grudem's arguments. Most of his article is about arguing with Cervin.Rather than go by the order of the article, I will isolate what I think are the four major issues, and take them in my own order, by passing most of the argument with Cerin.

(1) few sources for Kephale as "source"

(2)Many more sources for "supirior rank."

(3) Method (patristics vs. classical Greek)

(4)Battle of the Lexicons

Examining these issues:

(1) few sources for Kephale as "source"

Grudem begins by criticizing two examples of classical Greek that Cervin presents. These are two of the examples used by Kreoger.

a. All the articles and commentaries depend on only two examples of kephale in ancient literature: Herodotus 4.91 and Orphic Fragments 21a, both of which come from more than four hundred years before the time of the New Testament, and both of which fail to be convincing examples: Herodotus 4.91 simply shows that kephale can refer to the "end points" of a river---in this case, the sources of a river, but elsewhere, the mouth of a river---and since "end point" is a commonly recognized and well-attested sense of kephale , we do not have convincing evidence that "source" is the required sense here. The other text, Orphic Fragments 21a, calls Zeus the "head" of all things but in a context where it is impossible to tell whether it means "first one, beginning" (an acknowledged meaning for kephale ) or "source" (a meaning not otherwise attested).

It seems that Grudem is reading in an assumption about what the Greeks would make of Zeus being "head" of all things; it could have meant 'source' and seems reminicient of Pauline usage in speak of Christ in Collosians. Grudem also seems to admit that "end-point" is a "commonly recongized and well attested sense of Kephale," which would seem to document the egalitarian cause better than his own; he admits that kepahle is used of souce. He acknolwedges that kephale is used as begining, or first, that would seem closely related to source. But there is a way to tell. That example is actually in Liddell and Scott, it's listed in plural meanings, where it also says that Kephale means "source" or head of a river!

On the Perseus site:

d. in pl., source of a river, Hdt.4.91 (butsg., mouth, oida Gela potamou kephalęi epikeimenon astu Call.Aet.Oxy.2080.48 ): generally, source, origin, Zeus k. (v.l. archę), Zeus messa, Dios d' ek panta teleitai tetuktai codd.) Orph.Fr.21a; starting-point, k. chronou Placit. 2.32.2 (kronou codd.), Lyd.Mens.3.4; k. męnos ib.12. e. extremity of a plot of land, PPetr.3p.72 (iii B.C.), PFlor.50.83 (iii A.D.). III. Homęreię k. bust of Homer, IG14.1183.10.

The dictionary entry itself says its starting point. That would indicate origin or source. But my own translation:

"From out of the midst of Zeus all things are made perfect."

That would seem to imply source.

But the use in Orphic literature is more than just this one fragment, as Kroeger* expalins:

In the case under discussion, a line of Orphic poetry may be found in the works of seven later writers, running all the way from the sixth century B.C. to about one thousand A.D. Here we discover the word kephale (head) being used interchangeably with arche (beginning, source or point of origin). The fragment speaks of Zeus as the beginning, middle and end of all things. The interchange of two terms recurring in the same quotation is important because it demonstrates that in the writers' minds they have the same semantic value and may be freely exchanged. It is the more valuable because the usages extend over so long a period of time.

The oldest, an Orphic fragment probably from the sixth century B.C., declares:

Zeus was born first, Zeus last, god of the bright bolt:

Zeus is the head (kephale), Zeus the middle, from Zeus are all things made.

Sometimes, however the last line runs

"Zeus the beginning (arche), Zeus the middle and Zeus the end".

She concludes:

"Four times Zeus is called head, kephale, and three times arche, source or beginning. Thus the two terms appear synonymous in this context."

(2) More sources for Kephale supirior rank?

Grudem continues:

"The search of 2,336 examples turned up forty-nine texts where kephale had the meaning "person of superior authority or rank, or 'ruler,' 'ruling part'"; therefore, this was an acceptable and understandable sense for kephale at the time of the New Testament."

This is rather amazing that out of 2,336 examples only 49 are in his favor and yet he takes it for victory! What about the other 2,287 examples? If this proves that Kephale doesn't mean "source," surely it also proves that it doesn't' mean "authority over, or superior rank." This would average out pretty fairly with the LXX evidence, in both cases "superior rank," while not impossible is fairly rare. Of course he adds, "the meaning 'authority over' best suits many New Testament contexts." That is of course if we ignore the evidence given on the previous page and forget that all NT examples invovle some aspect of 'source' if they do involve authority at all.

I have not found Grudem's list, but it would be crucial to check it to see how many times he find Kephale used for arche. If his past performance is any indication, he probably assumes that any time Kephale is put over in palce of arche, it means ruler. Actually, this is not the case, as Kroeger documents:

The confusion over various sources was compounded when my colleague repeatedly failed to differentiate between archon, meaning ruler or commander, and the cognate arche meaning beginning, first principle or source. To be sure, arche can also indicate authority, rule, realm or magistracy. Almost never, however, does arche denote the person ruling. That sense is supplied by the cognate, archon. This misunderstanding of meaning led to a number of mistranslations and hence to unwarranted conclusions.(Ibid.)

The upshot is that we cannot be sure how many of Grudem's examples really hold, and there aren't that many to bein with. Moreover, his 18 examples of Kephale or Rosh in the LXX have been whittaled down to about 8 or 4 (if we aren't charitable). On on the other hand, as Kroeger points out, there are more examples in the Orphic lit of kephale as source than just that one listed above, and the ancient lexicon she uses of Photius contains more than one reference. There are also multiple references in the Patristic lit.

(3)Method:Patristic vs. Classical

He castigates Cervin for not examining the new testament examples of the word. he taks him to task for using sources far removed from the NT. In so doing he alys out a pretty good method of approach:

"If the meaning of a certain term as used by Aristotle was "under dispute" because some author had recently challenged the traditional understanding of Aristotle's use of that word, I imagine Dr. Cervin would use the following procedure: He would first look carefully at the uses of that term in Aristotle and try to decide from the context what meaning the word had in each case. Next he would look at the uses of that word in literature closest to Aristotle in time (what linguists call "synchronic analysis" of a term). Then he would look at uses further away in time, subject matter, and culture---writers who shared less of a common linguistic stock with Aristotle because of the possible changes in language over time. ("Diachronic analysis" refers to such tracing of the different uses of a word over time.) Such a procedure would be characteristic of sound linguistic analysis. But this is just the opposite of what Cervin does, for he dismisses the New Testament texts without examining even one verse. Then by other means he dismisses examples from other literature closest to the New Testament.

This method is a pretty good way to proceed. It is surprising that it is also not what Grudem does either. Most of his examples come from the Patristics. Now he criticizes Cervin for using Heroditus who was Ionian and wrote 500 years before the NT. But himself uses North African and Byzantine Patristic sources which are at least 300 years after the time of Paul, and which are more heavily influenced by the Latinate meaning, that will become important latter. Iononian is very different than Koine. I've read the entire NT in Greek, and I've read Heroditus. They are very different, but not so different that I could not understand them. I found Heroditus confusing in places but readable. Corinth may not have been as far removed from Ionia as fourth century Byzantium. Moreiver, Emphasis of Paul's day was probably closer in language to Corinth than was Byzantium of the Eastern empire and the Patristics.

It could be more logical to use examples from 500 years before the NT and not from the next century after, as the influence of the Roman meaning had begun to change the understanding of "head." The Latin sense would carry the authoritative connotations.

Gilbert Bilezikian
Beyond Sex Roles


It was much later that the word kephale began to be used as "authority" under the pressure of Latin usage, as evidenced in the writings of some post apostolic church fathers. For Paul and his correspondents the use of the word kephale as a synonym for ruler or authority would have been as meaningless as attempting to do the same today with tete in French, or Kopf in German.

Grudem continues:

"The other corpus of literature most closely related to the New Testament is commonly referred to as "the Apostolic Fathers" (the name originally was intended to signify authors who knew the apostles personally). These writings are also extremely valuable for understanding New Testament usage, because the proximity in time, culture, and subject matter means that these writers shared a linguistic stock that was almost exactly the same as that of the New Testament writers. Yet again with regard to a citation from the Shepherd of Hermas (Similitudes 7:3, where a husband is referred to as "the head of your household"), Cervin admits that the sense "leader" attaches to the word head, but he rejects this as valid evidence for the use of a word in the New Testament because he says that the author was unknown: "We do not know who wrote the Shepherd. . . . If the author were a foreigner, it is entirely possible that this metaphor could have been calqued from his own native language. If this were the case, then this would be another example of an imported, not a native metaphor" (p. 105).

How very strange then, that his first criticism against Kroeger is that she uses mostly Patristic literature: "Since all the additional metaphorical examples cited come from the fourth century A.D. and later, it does not seem that they are very helpful for determining New Testament usage, especially in light of Ruth Tucker's research showing that earlier Fathers took kephale to mean authority and not source."

But the Patristic literature is not closest to the environment and linguistic usage of the New Testament, not by a long shot. It is the closest we have from Christian literature, and so Grudem assumes it would bare the closest theological resemblence, but even that is an assumption that cannot be borne out. The doctirne of the chruch changed a great deal by that time, but I will not go into that here. The closest linguistic usage fo NT Greek would be the Koine Greek of the common merchents of the day, especially those living in Palestine. The Syboline Oracles and other Jewish heterodox works in Greek would be closer to the NT usage than the Patristics, as has been illustrated on my Messiah pages with the use of Logos for Memra.

The next closest would be Josephus. He lived in Palestine in the first century (although late), he wrote in Greek. On the other hand, he was writting for Roman audience, so the Latin meaning of "head" might be an influence. After that the next closest might be Attick Greek of Arostotle, as Grudem's discription of method indicates. What we see in the evidence for Kephale as "source" is a wide range of uses, which cover classical, Jewish intermtestamental, and patristic, and only begins with Heroditus.

But this is hardly a sufficient basis on which to reject the evidence of this quotation. The Shepherd of Hermas was so widely known in the early Christian world that for at least two centuries many thought that it should be included as part of the New Testament canon (in 325 Eusebius still classified it among the "disputed books"; see Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 3.3.6)."

But yes it is a sufficient basis, because the Shepard of Hermas probalby orinated at Rome (according to Ramsey, and Kirsop Lake) which means it would use the term in the Latonate sense and thus not be representative of Jewish usage in Asia Minor of Palestine. It doesn't matter how beloved the book was in third century Aisa minor.

On the other hand, it is not just a simple matter of Patristic vs classical; as Kroeger shows above, the meaning "source" was still clinging to the word in Patristic times. There is probably a complex admixture of neuanced meanings that we haven't evne begun to explore, involved in the Patristic use of Kephale. Perhaps this is a fertile ground for future scholars.

Grudem tries to imply that the meaning of "source" for kephale came latter than his patristics:

"Apart from these six late patristic writers, Kroeger cites no new metaphorical uses of kephale in her article.... in light of Ruth Tucker's research showing that earlier Fathers took kephale to mean authority and not source." That is absurd! To think that it didn't mean "supirior" or "authority" in the interestamental period (born out by the LXX) but then came to mean that in Paul's day, then changed to mean source after the Patristics? That is especially unlikely in light of the analysis of Paul's use of Kephale aside from 1 Cor 11 and Eph. 5. Most Grudem supporters admit that these passages connote "source" as well as "authority." (see previous page).

Kroeger demonstrates that Grudem's major Patristic source is actaully not documentation for the comp. meaning of Kephale, but supports the view that the word means source:

The definition of kephale is of contemporary importance not only because of the debate over the proper role of husband and wife in Christian marriage but because I Cor. 11:3 speaks of God as head of Christ. One of the points of disagreement between my colleague and my own work was over the treatment of the term by John Chrysostom, one of the earliest exegetes, a fourth century scholar whose first language was Greek. The commonly held anatomical views of antiquity, that the head was the source of the body's existence, led him to conventional metaphorical uses. From the head, he said, the senses "have their source and fount."

In the head are the eyes both of the body, and of the soul. . . . All the senses have thence their origin and source. Thence are sent forth the organs of speech, the power of seeing and of smelling, and all touch. For thence is derived the root of the nerves and bones.

The spirit or vital principle, he explained, "descends from the brain, communicates the sensitive faculty which is conveyed through the nerves."

Chrysostom's twenty-sixth homily on I Corinthians 11:2 demonstrates concerns for both theology and praxis.. The text reads "But the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God". He realized that this text might be pounced upon by heretics wishing to subordinate the Son. He uses here the technical term elattow, employed in christological controversies for the diminishing of the Son.

The first section of the homily is in fact a refutation of subordinationist arguments. He observes that the heretics propel themselves into a dire situation by their misunderstanding of the text. They misconstrue what the apostle intended by his use of the term kephale. For this reason he engages in a semantic discussion with profound theological implications. A major part of his argument revolves around the definition of kephale.

Chrysostom understands well that in I Cor. 11:3 "head" is employed as a metaphor and as such cannot be comprehended in precisely the same sense in each of its occurrences within the text.

"Therefore if we choose to take the term "head" in the like sense in all the clauses, the Son will be as far removed from the Father as we are from Him. Nay and the woman will be as far removed from us as we are from the Word of God."

The meaning in the individual case must be determined by the occasion (to aition). No wooden assignment of definition for him. He fully recognized that there was a broad semantic range.

How then should kephale be understood as informing the relationship between Father and Son? In what way could the imagery be comprehended, what associations should be accepted and what rejected? As applied to the Trinity, kephale must imply "perfect oneness and primal cause and source." Although Chrysostom elsewhere argued for the subordination of women to her husband, here he maintained that the term "head" in no way implied inferiority. Indubitably he viewed one of the meanings of "head" to be "source" or "point of origin" and deemed it theologically important.(Ibid.)

*The abvoe URL for the Kroger qutoation on Orphic lit. is to a text document created on google search. This article was downloaded by permission of the author from, where other free articles are also available. (the original article requires a speicail "reader" software).

The quotation is fomr an original paper presented by Dr. Kroeger at a recent meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society. Google search says:If you have questions, please contact Dave Leigh at

Next: Part III

The Religious A priori