Does ‘Head’ Mean Authority?


At the end of my last post I mentioned the debate about the meaning of kephale, or head, in the New Testament.  Since then I’ve realized how vast the resources are the subject, so this post will be a sprinkling of my thoughts on the subject, and links to more resources.

But first, I want to clarify the some things about this blog and myself:

~ The purpose of this blog is to explore, study, and discuss the Bible.  It is not to TEACH.  I do not claim to be a teacher. I do not have all of this figured out.  I am a student of the Bible, and the subject of gender roles interests me greatly.

~ Complementarianism is a fairly new teaching.  Prior to complementarianism, the Christian church taught that women were inferior and responsible for sin entering the world.  Society was heavily influenced by the church.  Therefore, society in general had a prejudice against women which was endorsed by the church(although prejudice against women came from other religions and secular ideas as well, not only from the Christian church).  This prejudice was challenged during the civil rights movement, and along came the idea for “roles” in the church and marriage relationships, which is a politically correct way to say the same thing people believed all along; women are inferior to men and must be under their authority.  Complementarianism is not “counter-cultural”.  The ideas taught in the complementarian model line up with what cultures believed all through the ages, until the past fifty years(these ideas have changed in the western world, but there are some modern cultures that are not egalitarian).  Again, I am not attempting to teach the previous statements; they are simply true, and with a bit of research anyone can find these things out.

~ This blog is not about being rebellious or divisive; it is about discovering the truth about gender and the Bible.  Shouldn’t we be certain that what we are taught is true, that it represents what the Bible says accurately?

Now onto the meaning of kephale.  Wayne Grudem claims his research proves the meaning of the word kephale/head in the New Testament is definitively authority/leader.  This view appears to be accepted without question by complementarians.  However, here is an article that shows how Grudem’s research is wanting.  Out of 2,336 instances of the word kephale in Greek literature, Grudem found 49 that mean authority.   That’s  only a 2.1% occurrence, which hardly proves that authority, as Grudem says, “is a ‘common and readily understood’ meaning of the word.”(1) The article by Richard S. Cervin goes on to explain why Grudem’s research is incomplete, and explains other possible meanings of kephale in Greek literature.  In my opinion, it is misleading to say that head always means leader in light of such scanty evidence.

There is no doubt, Christ is the kephale of the Church; the cornerstone.  The Church came out of Christ.  Christ brings unity to the Church as the head.  Christ’s headship of the church is characterised in Ephesians as building, nourishing, and unifying.  It is a metaphor for the unity of the marriage relationship, and in no way includes leadership or authority of husbands over wives.  When the NT talks about Christ being the head of the church and husbands being heads of their wives, it is referring to unity, not hierarchy.  Jocelyn Andersen asks in her book(2), “Can any man aside from Christ claim initiation or active participation in any act of headship?  The kephale of the women is the man. This is a simple act of existence.  This is simply information about the sequence of events which led to the wounding of the first human male’s body in order to form the human female.  The fact that the man is the head of the woman has nothing to do with hierarchy and everything to do with prepositional sequence of creation, and that is not something that can be ‘play-acted’ out…no human…can claim ‘headship’.  The fact that a man is called ‘the head’ of woman in no way confers a position of ‘headship’ upon men.  That position is reserved for Christ alone.”(author’s emphasis)

A husband does not have authority over his wife, or decision-making power(1 Corinthians 7:4-5).  “Every Christian has only one Lord and that is Jesus Christ, our Head, from whom the whole body originates and is fitly joined together and nourished.” ~ Jocelyn Andersen

No adult human being has the right, let alone “divine” right to be “lord” over, or make decisions for, any other adult human being…

~”Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ.” Matthew 23:10

~”You shall worship the Lord God, and him only you shall you serve.” Luke 4:8

~”For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5

~”We must obey God rather than men.” Acts 5:29

1.  Richard S. Cervin, ‘Does kephale(“head”) Mean “Source” or “Authority Over” in Greek Literature?’:  A Rebuttal, CBE International

2.  Jocelyn Andersen, Woman this is War! 2010  ~ Although the title of this book comes off as divisive, Andersen is simply quoting complementarian leader, John MacArthur, who states in his teaching, “The Fulfilled Family”, the following…”Gentlemen, don’t even think about marriage until you have mastered the art of warfare.”  (bold mine)  The Bible never teaches that men and women are in a battle with each other in life or in marriage.


About creativehomeschooler

I'm a homeschooling mom of two creative children. I created this blog to highlight the things I'm thankful for during my days. It can be a challenge to homeschool, but I try to look at the grace my children and I experience. And these kids come up with some neat projects, so I hope to encourage and inspire others who may be reading.

3 responses »

  1. That misunderstanding has caused sooo much trouble and untold damage….it is still shocking how ONE word has caused such division and damage when it intended unity. By the way I like how you describe comps you Keep it short simple but true!!!

  2. That quote from John Macarthur at the end is a worry! Do you know where it’s from?

    I agree with Andrea. You’d think – judging by the amount of insistence on this subject – that the Bible says that husbands are leaders and authorities a lot. But it doesn’t.

    The Bible never calls husbands leaders or authorities.

    In the whole Bible, it is only Paul who uses the word “head’ in regards to husbands/men. And he does this twice.

    Paul calls the husband the “head” of the wife in Eph 5:23 with the sense of unity (head-body metaphor); and he calls man “head” of the woman with the sense of source in 1 Cor 11:3. The first man was the source for the first woman. But Paul goes on to say that men and women and are mutually dependant on each other; and that all come from God (1 Cor 11:12.)

  3. It says under the John MacArthur quote that he is actually quoting a WWII Field Marshall called Montgomery, so it’s a quote of a quote! But he obviously agreed with it; scary. The quote appears between the foreward and the introduction of Jocelyn’s book. Have you read it? She goes through every complementarian argument and does a good job of showing the deceptiveness of the teaching.

    There is insistence that husbands are leaders and authorities over their wives; it concerns me so much that this teaching seems to go virtually unquestioned! There is such an important difference between viewing your husband as your leader and viewing him as your partner with which you are so united that it’s like you’re part of the same body.

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