III. Response to Other Recent Studies
1. (1986) Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, "What Does Kephale Mean in the New Testament?"
In their 1979 and 1981 articles in Christianity Today, Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen exerted wide influence
in the evangelical world by arguing that head in the New Testament often meant source but never authority
over. I responded to those articles in my earlier study (34). But in this 1986 article
they give further development of what I will call the Septuagint argument, an argument only briefly used in
a. "The Septuagint Argument": This is an argument that is also used by Philip Payne (35)
(Article 3 above) and by Gordon Fee in his commentary on 1 Corinthians (36) (Article
7 above). It may be summarized this way:
The Septuagint translators used kephale to translate the Hebrew word ro'sh
(head) in a sense of leader or ruler in only eight out of the 180 cases (37) in which
Hebrew ro'sh means leader or authority over. In all the other cases they used other words, most
commonly archon, ruler (109 times). Therefore, since the Septuagint translators had about 180 opportunities
to use kephale meaning leader, and they only did so eight times, it shows that the translators desired
to avoid kephale in the sense of authority or leader over.
The Mickelsens, Philip Payne, and Gordon Fee all see this as a significant point. The Mickelsens say it
shows that the Septuagint translators recognized that kephale did not carry the Hebrew meaning of
leader, authority or superior rank (38). Payne says, When the Old Testament meaning
of ro'sh was 'leader,' the Septuagint translators realized quite clearly that this would not be
conveyed by kephale, so they resorted to some other translation in 171 cases out of 180 (39).
Fee says that the Septuagint translators almost never used kephale to translate Hebrew ro'sh
when 'ruler' was intended, thus indicating that this metaphorical sense is an exceptional usage and not
part of the ordinary range of meanings for the Greek word (40). Several points of
response may be made to this argument:
(1) That the Septuagint translators used another word much more commonly to translate ro'sh when
it meant leader is not so significant when we realize that archon was the common word that literally
meant leader, whereas kephale only meant leader in a metaphorical sense. It is true that the Septuagint
translators preferred archon to mean authority, as I noted in my earlier article (p. 47, n. 17).
But I have never claimed, neither has anyone else claimed, that kephale was the most common word
for ruler. In fact, the most common word for ruler, the one that literally meant ruler, was archon.
It is not at all surprising that in contexts where the Hebrew word for head meant ruler, it was frequently
translated by archon. All I have claimed is that kephale could also mean ruler or authority
in a metaphorical sense of head. It is not the most common, but it is a clearly recognizable and clearly
understood word in that sense. The fact that a word that literally meant ruler, authority (archon)
should be used much more often than a word that metaphorically meant ruler, authority (kephale)
should not be surprising-it is only surprising that people have made an argument of it at all.
(2) The Mickelsens and the others who have used this Septuagint argument fail to note that these eight
examples are many compared to the Septuagintal examples of kephale used to mean source, of which
there are zero. No one who has made this Septuagint argument has mentioned this fact. To use an athletic
analogy, if the score at the end of a baseball game is eight to zero, one begins to wonder why anyone would
declare the team with zero to be the winner because the team with eight did not score very many runs. Yet
that is what the Mickelsens (and Payne, pp. 121-124, and Fee, pp. 502-503) conclude with respect to kephale
meaning authority over -they just say that the eight examples meaning authority over are very few, and
fail to tell their readers that their preferred meaning ( source ) has zero occurrences in the Septuagint.
(3) Those who make this argument also fail to mention that in Genesis 2:10, when the Hebrew term ro'sh
means source or beginning (of rivers), the Septuagint translators used another term, arche, source,
beginning, not kephale, head (41).
(4) When those who make this argument from the Septuagint give the number of occurrences of kephale
meaning authority or leader in the LXX as eight, they give a misleadingly low number. The Mickelsens and
Payne arrive at their low numbers by dismissing five texts (42) where there is a textual
variant (apparently Judges 10:18; 11:8, 9; 1 Kings [LXX 3 Kings] 8:1, and one of the instances in Isaiah
7:8) (43). Yet these variant readings are in Codex Alexandrinus, one of the three
great ancient manuscripts of the Septuagint (44).
Moreover, there seems to be an inconsistency on the part of these authors when they dismiss these variant
readings but fail to mention that the single text they most strongly appeal to for kephale as source
(Orphic Fragments 21a, Zeus the kephale…) also has kephale only as a variant reading, with
arche in other manuscripts. In short, there is no good reason not to count these additional five
examples of kephale meaning authority as well. This gives a total of thirteen in the LXX.
Furthermore, the Mickelsens dismiss three texts where God tells the people He will make them the head
and not the tail with respect to the other nations, or, in punishment, will make other nations the head
and them the tail (Deuteronomy 28:13, 44; Isaiah 9:14) (45). They say that head here
is just used to complete the metaphor: it would not make sense without the use of head in contrast to tail
(46). But Payne seems right to admit these three examples, (47)
since they just extend the metaphor to include tail as follower, one ruled over as well as using head to
mean leader, ruler (especially in the context of nations who rule other nations) (48).
Allowing for a correction on one of the Septuagint instances I earlier counted, I have now adjusted my
own count of instances in the Septuagint to sixteen instead of the earlier thirteen (49).
Those sixteen instances of kephale meaning authority over in the Septuagint are the following:
1. Deuteronomy 28:13: [in relationship to other nations] And the Lord will make you the head, and not
the tail; and you shall tend upward only, and not downward; if you obey the commandments of the Lord your
God, which I command you this day. (Compare with the following passage, where rule and authority are in
2. Deuteronomy 28:44: [If you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God…, verse 15] The sojourner
who is among you shall mount above you higher and higher; and you shall come down lower and lower. He shall
lend to you, and you shall not lend to him; he shall be the head, and you shall be the tail. All these
curses shall come upon you….
3. Judges 10:18 (A): And the people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, 'Who is the man that
will begin to fight against the Ammonites? He shall be head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.'
4. Judges 11:8 (A): And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, 'That is why we have turned to you now,
that you may go with us and fight with the Ammonites, and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.'
5. Judges 11:9 (A): Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, 'If you bring me home again to fight with
the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.'
6. Judges 11:11: So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and all the people made him head and leader
7. 2 Kings (2 Samuel) 22:44: David says to God, You shall keep me as the head of the Gentiles: a people
which I knew not served me.
8. 3 Kings (1 Kings) 8:1 (A): Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel with all the heads of the
9. Psalm 17(18):43: David says to God, You will make me head of the Gentiles: a people whom I knew not
10. Lamentations 1:5: [of Jerusalem] Her foes have become the head, her enemies prosper, because the
Lord has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives
before the foe.
11 -12. Isaiah 7:8: For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin (in both cases
head means ruler here: Damascus is the city that rules over Syria, and Rezin is the king who rules over
13 -14. Isaiah 7:9: And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.
15. Isaiah 9:14-16: (In the context of judgment) So the Lord cut off from Israel head and tail... the
elder and honored man is the head, (51) and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail;
for those who lead this people lead them astray. Here the leaders of the people are called head.
16. Jeremiah 31:7 (LXX 38:7): Rejoice and exult over the head of the nations (52).
(5) We should also note in this regard what it actually means to have sixteen (or even eight) instances
of a term used in a certain sense in the Septuagint. It is really a rich abundance of examples. Many times
in New Testament exegesis, if a scholar can find two or three clear parallel uses in the Septuagint, he
or she is very satisfied. That means we can assume that first-century Jews could read and understand the
particular term in that sense. Let me give a contemporary example. Imagine that I turn to a concordance
of the RSV and see that there is only one occurrence of a certain English word, such as aunt
(53). Do I conclude, That means that twentieth-century readers don't know what aunt
means, and we can be especially certain of this since aunt occurs only in an obscure portion of Scripture
(Leviticus 18:14), a passage that people today seldom read ? Should I conclude that people speaking English
today do not know the meaning of aunt?
Certainly this would not be legitimate. Rather, I would conclude that the translators of the RSV
assumed that aunt was a good, understandable English word-so commonly understood that even a single use
of it in the whole Bible would be understood without its having to appear time after time in various contexts
comparison of which would make its sense clear. They put it in expecting readers to understand it. The fact
that they used it meant that they thought it was a commonly understood term.
The same principle is true with the Septuagint. If I find even two or three clear instances of a word
used in a certain sense, I can rightly conclude that readers in the first century A.D. could have understood
the word in that sense. The translators wrote expecting that the readers would understand. But in the case
of kephale meaning authority over, ruler, we have not two or three examples, but sixteen (or at
least eight, even by the minimal count of the Mickelsens, or nine, according to Payne). That is really
an abundance of evidence for kephale meaning leader or authority over.
In conclusion, to those who say, Only eight examples in the Septuagint, I think it fair to respond,
A very significant eight examples, and more accurately sixteen, and compared to zero examples for 'source,'
they look very convincing.
b. Other Meanings for kephale Claimed by the Mickelsens: After rejecting the meaning authority
over, leader for kephale, primarily on the basis of its Septuagint usage and the absence of this
meaning from Liddell-Scott, (54) the Mickelsens provide other meanings for the term
In 1 Corinthians 11:3, they say kephale means source, base or derivation (55).
Now I recognize that one lexicon gives the meaning source for kephale (56).
But when the Mickelsens affirm that base and derivation are possible translations of kephale they
are claiming senses that no lexicon has ever proposed, and they are doing it with no examples of kephale
meaning these things in any other literature either. Where do they get these meanings?
In Ephesians 5:23, where it says that the husband is the head of the wife, they say that head means
one who brings to completion (p. 108). They explain, the husband is to give himself up to enable (bring
to completion) all that his wife is meant to be (p. 110).
Then with respect to Colossians 1:18, where it says that Christ is the head of the body, the church,
the Mickelsens say that head means exalted originator and completer (p. 108). We should note that the Mickelsens
call these ordinary Greek meanings (p. 105) for kephale, and tell us that these are Greek meanings
that would have been familiar to the first readers (p. 110). But a number of these ordinary and familiar
Greek meanings have never been seen in any lexicon or claimed in any writing on the meaning of kephale
before the Mickelsens' work in 1986. The meaning exalted originator and completer is in no lexicon. The
meaning one who brings to completion is in no lexicon. The meaning base, derivation is in no lexicon.
But if this is so, then what convincing examples from Greek literature do the Mickelsens give to show
these to be familiar and ordinary meanings? They give none. Then what authorities do they quote to support
these new meanings? They give none. In short, they have given no evidence to support their assertions that
these are ordinary meanings. It would not seem wise to accept these meanings as legitimate senses for
In fact, this attempt to give some alternate sense to kephale in New Testament contexts where
the meaning authority over seems so clearly evident from the contexts is one more example of a disturbing
tendency among evangelical feminist scholars today, a tendency to search for any meaning but authority
for the word kephale in the New Testament. Even in Colossians 2:10 (where Christ is called the head
of all rule and authority) and Ephesians 1:20-24 (where God has exalted Christ far above all rule and
authority and power and dominion and has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all
things for the church), the Mickelsens still are unable to admit the meaning authority over, but say that
head here means rather top or crown (extremity) (p. 106). When this can happen even in texts where authority
is so clearly specified in context, one wonders if it is a prior doctrinal conviction rather than sound
linguistic analysis that has led to their conclusions in these texts.
c. The Argument from Liddell-Scott: Although all the lexicons that specialize in the New Testament
period list ruler, leader, or authority over as a meaning for kephale at the time of the New Testament
(57), the Mickelsens and others have strongly emphasized that Liddell-Scott does not
include this meaning. What is the significance of this? First, our earlier survey showed that the meaning
authority over was not very common-indeed, is hardly found at all-before the Septuagint, about the second
century B.C. Nonetheless, the evidence we have cited above showing around forty examples of this meaning
indicates that the omission from Liddell-Scott must have been an oversight that we hope will be corrected
in a subsequent edition. In fact, Joseph Fitzmyer recently wrote, The next edition of the Greek-English
Lexicon of Liddell-Scott-Jones will have to provide a sub-category within the metaphorical uses of kephale
in the sense of 'leader, ruler.' (58)
Second, Liddell-Scott does list under the adjective kephalaios (head like) the following meanings:
metaphorical, of persons, the head or chief (pp. 944-945). Liddell-Scott then lists eight examples of this
sense. Similarly, for kephalourgos (literally, head of work), it lists the meaning foreman of works
(p. 945). Therefore, the meaning authority over for kephale itself would probably have been understandable
even if not commonly used in earlier periods well before the time of the New Testament.
This suggests a possible reason why the noun kephale itself was not found in the earlier history
of the language with the meaning authority, ruler. Perhaps because the adjective kephalaios or this adjective
used as a substantive could function with the meaning chief, ruler in an earlier period, there may have
been no need for the noun kephale to take a similar meaning. Yet later in the development of the
language the noun kephale also came to take this sense.
Endnotes to Appendix 1 Part B
33. It should be noted that though the publication date of Women, Authority
and the Bible, in which articles 1-4 appear, is 1986, the essays were written for a conference in 1984,
before most of the authors had access to my 1985 article.
34. Pages 46-47, 52-53.
35. Philip B. Payne, "Response," in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed.
Mickelsen, pp. 121-124.
36. Gordon D. Fee, First Corinthians (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), pp.
37. The Mickelsens use the number 8 out of 180; Payne (p. 123) uses 9, but the form
of the argument is the same.
38. Berkeley and Alvera Mickelsen, "What Does Kephale Mean in the New Testament?"
in Women, Authority and the Bible, ed. Mickelsen, p. 104.
39. Payne, "Response", ibid., p. 123. In footnote 35, p. 123, Payne
explains that he only counts nine exceptions (verses where kephale means leader ): Judges 11:11;
2 Samuel 22:44; Psalm 18:43; Isaiah 7:8-9; Lamentations 1:5; Deuteronomy 28:13, 44; and Isaiah 9:14, because
five others are in variant readings found in some but not all manuscripts (Judges 10:18; 11:8-9; 1 Kings
(LXX 3 Kings) 8:1; 20:12), and he thinks that in yet three others (Deuteronomy 32:42; 1 Chronicles 12:19;
Psalm 140:10) the word refers to the physical head and is not a metaphor for leader or authority (in these
last three he is correct, and I did not cite those as examples of leader ).
40. Fee, First Corinthians, p. 503.
41. This is also the case when referring to a related idea, the beginning point
of something, such as the beginning of a night watch (Judges 7:19; Lamentations 2:19), or the beginning
of a period of time (Isaiah 40:21; 41:4, 26: 48:16; 1 Chronicles 16:7, etc.).
This is interesting in light of the use of kephale in Orphic Fragments 21a, where kephale
seems to mean beginning or first in a series (see below). If this meaning was commonly recognized at the
time of the LXX, then kephale could also have been used in these texts, but arche was preferred
by the translators.
We should also note that when the New Testament wants to say that Christ became the source of eternal
salvation (Hebrews 5:9), it uses not kephale but a perfectly good Greek word meaning source, aitios,
source, cause. This does not of course prove that kephale could not also mean source in a metaphorical
sense, but it shows that in both the Old Testament (Genesis 2:10) and the New Testament (Hebrews 5:9),
where there is a text that unambiguously speaks of source in the sense that the Mickelsens and others
claim kephale takes, the term used is not kephale but something that means source without
Philip Payne, "Response", p. 119, n. 21, quotes S. C. Woodhouse, English-Greek Dictionary
(London: Routledge Kegan Paul, 19322) to show that kephale does not mean authority or chief. Although
we think that may be an oversight in light of the examples we earlier adduced, Payne should perhaps also
have mentioned that Woodhouse lists under source of rivers, etc. pege, krene, and krounos,
and under origin arche, pege , and rhiza (root), but not kephale in either case.
It does not seem fair to cite Woodhouse to show lack of support on one side but fail to note that he gives
no support to the other side either.
Moreover, Payne fails to tell the reader that Woodhouse's Dictionary is written to help students write
compositions in Attic Greek and is specifically taken from the vocabulary of authors from Aeschylus to
Demosthenes (pp. v, vi) (ca. 500 B.C.-322 B.C.). It does not cover the Koine Greek of the New Testament
at all. Such a citation is troubling in a widely read popular book, for it conveys to the non-specialist
reader an appearance of scholarly investigation while in actual fact there is little substantive relevance
for it in the present discussion.
42. The Mickelsens actually dismiss six texts as having textual variants (p. 104),
but they do not specify which those are. I am using the number five from the response by Philip Payne (pp.
43. They do not specify exactly which texts they are not counting because of textual
variants, but these five do have variants in the readings of Codex Alexandrinus, one of the major ancient
manuscripts of the Septuagint.
44. The second instance in Isaiah 7:8 is found in several manuscripts and omitted
only by Sinaiticus among major manuscripts.
45. Once again the enumeration is not exact between the Mickelsens and Payne. The
Mickelsens say that four examples have the head-tail metaphor, but do not list them. Payne specifies these
three texts in his response, and I have used his number here.
46. Mickelsen and Mickelsen, What Does Kephale Mean…? p. 103.
47. Payne, "Response", p. 123, n. 35.
48. See note 38 with reference to my inclusion of Deuteronomy 28:13, 44; Jeremiah
31:7 (LXX 38:7).
49. In addition to the three verses listed in the previous footnote, the articles
by Payne and the Mickelsens have persuaded me to look again at Lamentations 1:5 (her foes have become
the head; her enemies prosper), and to count this as a legitimate instance of kephale meaning
leader or authority over. These four examples, together with the deletion of the one I had erroneously
counted (see above, p. 445, for discussion), bring my total to sixteen in the Septuagint rather than the
thirteen I had previously listed.
50. Philip Payne (article 3, p. 123) disagrees with the sense authority over in
this text because he says the translators replaced the idea of leader with 'heads [meaning tops] of the
staffs' they carried. I discussed this interpretation on pp. 441-442, above, in response to Richard Cervin.
51. In this second occurrence of head in this verse, the LXX has arche (here
in the sense of leader, ruler), not kephale.
52. Joseph Fitzmyer says of this passage, The notion of supremacy or authority is
surely present, and expressed by kephale (Another Look, p. 508).
53. In fact, aunt only occurs once in the English Bible (RSV), at Leviticus
18:14. There are many other commonly understood English words that occur only once in the Bible, such as
(using the RSV): abstinence, acquaintance, afternoon, agent, anklet, anvil, armpit, aroma, arsenal,
audience. Other common words occur only twice: ambassador, ant, antelope, ape, awl.
54. I discuss the absence of the meaning leader, authority over from Liddell-Scott
in the next section of this article.
55. Page 107.
56. I discussed the legitimacy of using Liddell-Scott's definition of source above,
pp. 432-433, 453-454.
57. My earlier article (pp. 47-48) cites definitions from BAGD, Thayer, Cremer, New
International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (henceforth referred to as NIDNTT), and (for the
Septuagint) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (henceforth referred to as TDNT). See also
58. Joseph A. Fitzmyer, "Another look at Kephale in 1 Corinthians 11:3,"
NTS 35 (1989), p. 511.
Richard Cervin is hardly correct when he says the contributors and editors of [Liddell-Scott] included
a team of theologians, Milligan among them (p. 86). In fact, the Preface to Liddell-Scott mentions no team
of theologians but simply says that the results of the study of the meanings of words in the New Testament
are readily accessible and mentions some lexicons that are generally sufficient (p. ix). H. Stuart Jones,
the editor of the most recent edition of Liddell-Scott, mentions only that Professor Milligan sent him
some advance proofs of his specialty lexicon of the papyri as they illustrate New Testament usage. Jones
also mentions A. H. McNeil and A. Llewellyn Davies regarding their advice on the Septuagint and the Hexapla,
but the preface mentions nothing else concerning any team of theologians.
From Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood edited by Piper J and Grudem W, p. 450-54.
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