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. (Ephesians 5:23)
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. (1 Corinthians 11:3)
The Greek word kephale is pivotal to understanding gender roles in Scripture. It is simply translated into English as head. Yet, it can refer to two things:
- Literal, physical head, or a
- Metaphorical symbol.
The meaning of the metaphorical symbol is what has caused the controversy. There are huge volumes of explanations on kephale meanings, and much debate. I can only re-write what I’ve read in my own words, in my own way. Its a humble attempt, I realize. 🙂
I believe head (kephale) in the relevant gender passages means source. If something is a source, it fills what comes after it with its own essence. The source of a river is the same as the river, it just comes before and is the vehicle by which the river is.
In this manner, God is the head/source of Christ (Jesus). We know the Word (pre-incarnate Jesus) was with God from the beginning in perfect union, but when the Word became flesh as Christ, He emptied His divinity to take on human form. Yet, even in His humanity, He was God. Why? Because He took the same essence as His source… God. God is the head of Christ.
In the same way, Christ is the source of spiritual man. We are filled with His Essence, His Spirit, and become children of God. What Christ is, He shares with us. And of course, Christ is the source of spiritual women too! Men do not save women. Jesus does. Men do not provide women spiritual life, Jesus does. Christ is the head of men and women.
Women have two heads, two sources. Eve was pulled from Adam. She was Adam’s flesh and bone. He was her source. They were of the same stuff. Because of this shared essence, man is not superior. He is the same as her. Head and body, one.
We [modern English speakers] use the term [head] often for a person in authority (cf. ‘Heads of State’), but this usage was unknown in antiquity (except for a few passages in LXX). LSJ note usages of kephale for the whole person, for life, extremity, top (of wall or column), source, etc., but never for the leader of a group. S. Bedale reminds us that the functions of the central nervous system were not known to the ancients, who held that we think with the midriff, the phren. The head was thus not the controlling factor; we must seek its significance elsewhere. ‘Head’ was used of the ‘source’ (as ‘head’ of a river)… Paul is saying that the woman derives her being from man, as man does from Christ and Christ from God. (Morris, Leon. The Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, 1 Corinthians. Inter-Varsity Press, England. p.149)
Not leader, Head.
The husband is the head of the wife. Its a fact. It is not something the husband becomes. It is not something the husband can NOT be. He is her head, regardless of action. No where does Paul instruct the husband to learn to be a better head. Paul instructs the husband on loving his wife, and states he is her head.
Beware the teaching that takes one interpretation of head and builds a vast structure of tradition on a debated meaning. Nowhere does Paul say the husband is the leader of the wife. He is her head.
Search for yourself how you will interpret kephale.
- Wayne Grudem asks Egalitarians to answer six questions. The first is questioning the Greek meaning of kephale as source not authority: http://strivetoenter.com/wim/2009/07/04/wayne-grudems-an-open-letter-to-egalitarians/
- Egalitarians believe in male headship: http://www.cbeinternational.org/?q=content/i-believe-male-headship
- John Calvin believed head meant authority. At least he was consistent: http://www.wadeburleson.org/2010/09/one-has-to-admire-bold-consistency-and.html
- God does not equate Himself as master, but husband: http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/2011/05/06/the-christ-as-husband-metaphor-its-about-love-not-leadership/