Three Heads

three heads (2)

6) 1 Cor 11:3: This verse begins a detailed section of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians concerning the proper appearance of a person’s head when praying and prophesying in church (1 Cor 11:3–16).[1]

Just prior to this, the apostle commanded that no one give offense to Jewish people, gentiles, or others within the congregation (1 Cor 10:31–11:2).[2]

In that time and place, people considered a woman’s failure to cover her hair a provocative act which stimulated male lust.[3]

Within Judaism, the public display of a woman’s hair constituted grounds for divorce (m. Ketubah 7:6).[4]

Consequently, Paul argued that the attire of one’s physical head reflected upon the glory or shame of one’s symbolic head.[5]

The misuse of newfound individual liberty for Christian women without regard for cultural propriety affected relationships within the congregation.[6]

Therefore, Paul wrote, “But I want you to know that Christ is of every man the head, and a man [is the] head of a woman, and God [is the] head of Christ.”

While the arrangement within each word pair suggests precedence, their overall order refutes any notion of subordination.[7]

Instead, the apostle extolled the order of creation and the continued interdependence of men and women in the new creation (Gen 1:26–28; Gen 2:18–25; Luke 1:26–33; 2 Cor 5:16–17).[8]

By maintaining gender distinctions, women could fully utilize their gifts and callings in the church (Rom 16:1–12).[9]

The controversy surrounding this verse centers upon the specific meaning of the word “head” (kephalē).[10]

In secular usage, the term referred to something which was supreme, exhibited prominence, or occurred first.[11]

It did not refer to a chief or leader until the Byzantine Era (330–1453).[12]

How we translate kephalē greatly affects our understanding of the relationships within each of the three pairs.[13]

Typically in Paul’s letters, a metaphorical use of the word “head” connects it to a metaphorical body.[14]

Kephalē can refer to a chief or a leader in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX).

Yet, it occurs in only six of the 171 times when the Hebrew term rosh refers to a ruler (Cf. Judg 11:11; 2 Sam 22:44; Ps 18:43; Isa 7:8–9; and Lam 1:4–5. Typically, the Greek translators used kephalē as the word for a physical head—in 226 of 239 total occurrences in the LXX—rather than for a symbolic one.[15]

Within the New Testament, kephalē could depict relationships between a person and an entire community.[16] It does not connote a sense of authority over one individual over another.[17]

The only unequivocally similar usages of the term in the New Testament (NT) occur in Eph 1:22–23 and Col 2:9–12,[18] where Paul referred to Jesus and the church.

In all five NT usages of “head” (kephalē) concerning Christ and the church, the word depicts Jesus as the nurturer who provides for our growth and well-being (Eph 4:15–16; Col 1:18–20; and Col 2:18–19). Christ does not hold headship over the church—but for it—as our servant-provider.[19]

Therefore, Paul called for all believers to submit ourselves to each other, following Christ’s example (Mark 9:33–35; Mark 10:42–45; John 13:1–5, 12–17; Eph 4:15–16; Eph 5:18–30).[20]

Furthermore, within 1 Cor 11, the word “authority” (exousia) appears only once. It refers to a woman’s own prerogative to prophesy (prophēteuō) (1 Cor11:5, 10).[21]

In the NT, this involved proclaiming God’s plan of salvation and delivering authoritative instruction to others based upon the Word of God.[22]

Concerning 1 Cor 11:3, John Chrysostom (347–407) wrote, “Had Paul meant to speak of rule and subjection, as thou sayest, he would not have brought forward the instance of a wife, but rather of a slave and a master.”[23]

Some scholars assert that kephalē in this verse connotes prominence, as it does in the first appearance of the term in the Greek translation of Isa 7:8 and in Jer 31:7.[24]

Given the patriarchal cultural context, viewing the husband as the preeminent member of a couple has some merit.[25]

However, the primary controversy within this verse concerns whether kephalē carries the meaning “source,” as in 1 Cor 11:8 and Eph 4:14–15.[26]

The Hebrew term “head” (rosh) can refer to the first in a series, the beginning of something, or the origin of a river (Cf. 1 Chron 12:9; Isa 40:21; Gen 2:10).[27]

Paul explicitly noted the creation order of humanity later in this chapter (1 Cor 11:8–12).[28]

When taken in the context of the entire passage, the meaning “source” or “origin” provides the best fit.[29]

The Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 484–425/413 BC) used the term in this way. He wrote, “From the sources (kephalē) of the river Tearus flows the best and fairest of all river waters; hither came…the best and fairest of all men, even Darius…king of Persia and all the mainland.”[30]

According to the Orphic Fragment 21A (ca. 3rd–2nd century BC), “Zeus is the head (kephalē), Zeus the middle, and by Zeus all things were fabricated.”[31]

The Jewish philosopher Philo (ca. 20 BC–40 AD) reported, “And of all the members of the clan here described Esau is the progenitor, the head (kephalē) as it were of the whole creature.”[32]

Jacob’s twin brother served as the source of his entire clan.[33]

Elsewhere, Philo employed wordplay to capture three meanings of kephalē. He wrote:

For as in an animal, the head (kephalē) is the first and best part…so too the virtuous one, whether single man or people, will be head (kephalē) of the human race and all the others like the limbs of a body which draw their life from the forces in the head (kephalē) and at the top.[34]

Therefore, we can translate this verse as “But I want you to know that of every man, Christ is the source; and of a woman, the man [is the] source; and of Christ, God [is the] source.”

As the one through whom all things were created, Jesus originated every man (1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:15–18; John 1:1–4).[35]

The derivation of a woman from a man refers to God’s fabrication of Eve from Adam (1 Cor 11:11–12; 1 Tim 2:13).[36]

When Christ became human, he came to Earth from the perfect fellowship of the Trinity (John 14:26; John 17:1–5; 1 Cor 3:18–23; 1 Cor 8:6; 1 Cor 11:12; 1 Cor 15:26–28).[37] Thus, the source of Christ is God.[38]

Their relationship exemplifies unity, love, and bringing glory to one another (John 1:18; John 10:17–18, 30; John 17:24–26).

The great theologian Athanasius (296–373) asserted it was “the Father who generated Him as His beginning; for ‘the Head of Christ is God.’”[39]

Cyril of Jerusalem (ca. 315–386) attested:

As I have said many times, He did not bring the Son from nothing into being, nor take him who was not into sonship, but the Father, being eternal, eternally and ineffably begat one only Son…the Father is the head of the Son; one is the beginning, for the Father begat his Son, Very God, called Emmanuel, and Emmanuel, being interpreted is God with us.[40]

Cyril of Alexandria (ca. 375–444) addressed all the elements of 1 Cor 11:3. He wrote, “Thus we say that ‘the head of every man is Christ.’ For he was made by him…as God; ‘but the head of the woman is the man,’ because she was taken out of his flesh.…Likewise, ‘the head of Christ is God,’ because he is of him by nature.”[41]

In this chapter, Paul focused upon the glory and shame in relationship with one’s source, rather than upon who had authority over whom (1 Cor 11:7–9).[42]

 Image via Wikimedia Commons

a) Read 1 Cor 11:3. Why was Paul concerned about the proper attire for a person’s head in the church? What makes the arrival of Adam, Eve, and Jesus a logical sequence? How did secular Greeks use the word kephalē until the fourth century AD? Why does Christ’s relationship with the church fail to promote viewing the term “head” as someone in authority over another person? What did Paul’s use of the typical term for “authority” (exousia) enable women to do? Which nuance of the term “head” did early theologians use? How does translating kephalē as “source” affect your understanding of this verse?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Women Praying and Prophesying (1 Cor 11:4–6 and 1 Cor 14:34–35)

 

[Related posts include Women Praying and Prophesying; Having Authority over Her Head (1 Cor 11:7–10); Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12); Let Us Make Humanity (Gen 1:26); A Well-Watered Garden (Gen 2:8–14); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); A Parade of Animals (Gen 2:19–20); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); A Transfer of Loyalty (Gen 2:24); Naked and Not Ashamed (Gen 2:25); In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1–2); The Light Shines in Darkness (John 1:3–5); Partners in Ministry (Acts 18:1–3, 18–20, 24–26 and 2 Ki 22:11–23:4); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); New Creatures in Christ (2 Cor 5:17); Unity in the Spirit (Eph 5:18–21); Submissive to One Another (Eph 5:21–24); Sacrificial Love (Eph 5:25–30); The Firstborn of All Creation (Col 1:15–18); Domineering Women (1 Tim 2:12–14); and Greek Translation of the Old Testament]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]

 

[1]Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 503.

[2]Verbrugge, “κεφαλη” (kephalē), TDNTWA, 302–4, 303.

[3] Keener, IVPBBCNT, 1 Cor 11:2–16.

[4]Sola and Raphall, trans., Eighteen Treatises from the Mishnam. Ketubah 7:6, 259, http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/etm/etm126.htm.

[5]Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 208.

[6]Grenz and Kjesbo, Women in the Church: A Biblical Theology of Women in Ministry, 108.

[7]Garland, 1 Corinthians, 513.

[8]Witherington, Conflict and Community in Corinth: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians, 236.

[9]Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 503.

[10]Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission, 66.

[11]Heinrich Schlier, “κεφαλη” (kephalē), TDNT 3:673–81, 673–4.

[12]Henry George Liddell and Robert Scott, “κεφαλή” (kephalē), in A Greek-English Lexicon, 9th Ed. (rev Sir Henry Stuart Jones and Roderick McKenzie; Oxford: Clarendon, 1940), http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.04.0057%3Aentry%3Dkefalh%2F.

[13]Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 553.

[14]Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 508.

[15]Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, 554–5.

[16]Garland, 1 Corinthians, 514.

[17]Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (NIGTC; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 815.

[18]Lincoln, Ephesians, 67.

[19]Gilbert Bilezikian, “The Issue I Can’t Evade: The Headship of Husbands is a New Testament Teaching,” Priscilla Papers 17, no. 2 (1 April 2003): 5–6, https://www.academia.edu/35109479/The_Issue_I_Cant_Evade_The_headship_of_husbands_is_a_New_Testament_teaching.

[20]Craig S. Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1992), 157–8.

[21]Ciampa and Rosner, The First Letter to the Corinthians, 532.

[22]Gerhard Friedrich, “προφήτης” (prophētēs), TDNT, 6:781–861, 848, 851.

[23]John Chrysostom, “Homily 26,” in The Homilies of St. John Chrysostom on the First Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians (trans. Hubert Kestell Cornish and John Medley; Oxford: John Henry Parker, 1839), 348–68, 352, https://archive.org/details/thehomiliesofchr01chryuoft/page/352.

[24]Garland, 1 Corinthians, 516.

[25]Alan F. Johnson, “A Review of the Scholarly Debate on the Meaning of ‘Head’ (Κεφαλή) in Paul’s Writings,” ATJ 41 (2009): 35–57, 54, https://biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ashland_theological_journal/41-1_035.pdf.

[26]Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 554.

[27]Brown, Driver, and Briggs, “רֹאשׁ,” (rosh), BDB, 910–1, 911, https://archive.org/details/hebrewenglishlex00browuoft/page/910.

[28]Blomberg, 1 Corinthians, 208–9.

[29]Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 555–6.

[30]Herodotus, Herodotus, with an English Translation, Vol. 2 (trans. A. D. Godley; LCL; London; New York: Heinemann; Putnam, 1920), 4.91, 293, https://archive.org/details/herodotuswitheng02herouoft/page/292.

[31]Isaac Preston Cory, trans., “Orphic Fragments,” in Ancient Fragments of the Phoenician, Chaldaean, Egyptian, Tyrian, Carthaginian, Indian, Persian, and Other Writers (London: William Pickering, 1832), 289–300, 209, https://archive.org/details/ancientfragments00coryrich/page/290.

[32]Philo, “On the Preliminary Studies,” in Philo in Ten Volumes (LCL; trans. F. H. Colson and G. H. Whitaker; Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press; Heinemann, 1932),458–551, 61, 489, https://archive.org/stream/PhiloSupplement01Genesis/Philo%2004%20Tongues%2C%20Migration%20of%20Abraham%2C%20Divine%20Things%2C%20Preliminary#page/n497/mode/2up.

[33]Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 555, note 46.

[34]Philo, “On Rewards and Punishments,” in Philo, Vol 8 (trans. F. H. Colson; LCL; Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Press, 1939), 312–389, 125, 389, https://archive.org/stream/PhiloSupplement01Genesis/Philo%2008%20Special%20Laws%20IV%2C%20Virtues%2C%20Rewards#page/n411/mode/2up.

[35]Garland, 1 Corinthians, 515.

[36]Fee, The First Epistle of the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 556.

[37]Garland, 1 Corinthians, 515.

[38]Keener, Paul, Women, and Wives: Marriage and Women’s Ministry in the Letters of Paul, 33–4.

[39]Athanasius, De Synodis (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald Robertson, rev Kevin Knight; NPNF2–04; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature, 1892), 1.26.2, Http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2817.htm.

[40]Cyril of Jerusalem, “Lecture 11: On the Son of God as Only-Begotten, Before All Ages, and the Creator of All Things,” in The Catechetical Lectures of St. Cyril, Archbishop of Jerusalem (trans. Richard William Church and John Henry Newman; Oxford; London: Parker; Rivington, 1839), 110–122, 117, https://archive.org/details/a566189200cypruoft/page/n169.

[41]Cyril of Alexandria, de recta fide ad Arcadiam et Marinam, 5.6 in Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 556, note 49.

[42] Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Rev. Ed., 556.

 

 

 

Go to Women Praying and Prophesying

 

[Related posts include Women Praying and Prophesying (1 Cor 11:4–6 and 1 Cor 14:34–35); Having Authority over Her Head (1 Cor 11:7–10); Interdependence (1 Cor 11:11–12); Not Good! (Gen 2:18); An Equal and Adequate Partner (Gen 2:21–23); In the Beginning Was the Word (John 1:1–2); The Light Shines in Darkness (John 1:3–5); Effects of the Fall Reversed (Rom 5:12–21 and Rom 16:1–12); Redemption through Christ’s Blood (Eph 1:7–8); Equality with God (Phil 2:5–6); A Summary of Trinitarian Creeds (Appendix to Phil 2:5–6); Taking the Form of a Slave (Phil 2:7); Obedient to the Point of Death (Phil 2:8); and The Name Above Every Name (Phil 2:9–11)]

[Click here to go to Women and Marriage Throughout Redemptive History; or to Chapter 8: Pain and Desire (Genesis 3:16, 20)]

 

[1]Verbrugge, “kephale,TDNTWA, 302–4, 303.

[2]Athanasius, De Synodis (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. John Henry Newman and Archibald Robertson, rev Kevin Knight; NPNF2–04; Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature, 1892), 1.26.2, Http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/2817.htm.