Kephale as Fountainhead in 1 Corinthians 11:3 | CBE International

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Kephale as Fountainhead in 1 Corinthians 11:3

From the 1950s to the present, there have been three major scholarly positions on the metaphorical meaning of Paul’s use of kephalē (“head”): “leader,” “source,” and “preeminence.” Over the years, scholarly consensus has shifted from the traditional meaning “leader,”1 to “source” in the 1980s and 1990s,2 and most recently to “preeminence” around the turn of the century.3 This article analyzes major studies by prominent representatives of each view, namely, Wayne Grudem, Stephen Bedale, and Richard Cervin. The argumentation in these publications is considered in order to come to a conclusion on the most common meaning of kephalē, and then the most appropriate meaning in the specific context of 1 Cor 11:3 is evaluated. It is then concluded that of these proposed meanings, “source” is both the most common and the most appropriate to this passage. Finally, the English translation “fountainhead” is affirmed as the most suitable term for communicating the meaning “source” in 1 Cor 11:3.

Summaries of Representative Articles

Wayne Grudem

Wayne Grudem has been a vocal proponent of the traditional meaning “leader” as it has come under fire in recent decades. In 1985, he published a word study on kephalē. Using Thesaurus Linguae Graecae,4 a new resource at the time, Grudem combs through 2,336 occurrences of kephalē, 302 of which are metaphorical uses.5 According to his analysis, of these 302 metaphorical occurrences, 39.4% of the uses are synecdoche (a literary device in which a part stands for the whole), 22.9% refer to an “extremity, end, top; ‘starting point’ in series or row,” and 16.2% refer to a “person of superior authority or rank, or ‘ruler,’ ‘ruling part,’” with the other categories of usage under 10% each.6 Of particular note for Grudem is that “source, origin” comes in at a firm 0%; in large part, this is because Grudem distinguishes sharply between “source, origin” and “starting point.”7 In addition, the meaning “ruler” is able, for Grudem, to include the idea of nourishment, which is more naturally associated with “source”:

Especially when we realize that the image of head [in Col 2:18–19] involves not just authority but leadership, direction, guidance, and control, then the following idea of the whole body being knit together and growing together is appropriate. Whether the idea of “nourishing” carries an image of food that is transported through the mouth (a part of the head) to the rest of the body is not made clear here. If “source” were a common meaning for head elsewhere it might convey some such nuance in this passage also.8

Grudem offers this “mouth” hypothesis rather than engaging with any of the attested, ancient notions of the way in which the head physiologically provides nourishment as a source. Aristotle refers to the head as “the wellspring or source of moisture.” Aristotle and the fifth-century BC philosopher Alcmaeon of Croton believe that the head or brain produces sperm. Plutarch reports that some people do not eat eggs for the same reason that they do not eat brains, namely, believing the brain “to be the source of generation.” Similarly, Aetius Amidenus Medicus (fifth/sixth century AD) views the head as “the root and source of the entire bodily condition.”9 These texts do not pose a problem for Grudem only if his analysis proves true that there are no extant examples of kephalē meaning “source” metaphorically.

Stephen Bedale

However, Stephen Bedale argues otherwise, in a brief but influential 1954 article, “The Meaning of Kephalē in the Pauline Epistles.” Bedale focuses on the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT, abbreviated LXX) and NT examples for his analysis, taking it as a given that kephalē never means “leader” in classical (or modern) Greek.10 In the LXX, kephalē is infrequently used to translate the Hebrew word for “head” while carrying the sense “leader,” which is a normal metaphorical meaning in Hebrew.11 Although this meaning is foreign to Greek, Bedale understands it as able to be adopted at times to reflect a leader having seniority (i.e., being born first) and thus having authority. This is a rare usage, however, and Bedale argues that it is more common for (1) the literal meaning of the Hebrew word for “head” to extend to mean more generically “top,” or to refer to the whole through synecdoche, and for (2) the metaphorical meaning of “head” to be “first” and thus also “beginning,” “source,” or “origin.”12 It is this metaphorical meaning of “source” that Bedale views as fitting the contexts of 1 Cor 11, as well as Col 2 and Eph 4, although he grants that in Eph 1 and 5 it may also communicate a sense of “over-lordship.”13 Bedale does not intend to argue that someone being “head” cannot also be the foundation for authority, but rather that this authority, when it exists, is based on “a relative priority (causal rather than merely temporal) in the order of being.”14 He argues that, for Paul, because the male is the source of the female, “the female in consequence is ‘subordinate.’”15 Some scholars have agreed with Bedale that the Pauline usage is hierarchical, whereas other scholars have viewed kephalē as indicating only origin and not authority.16

Richard Cervin

Richard Cervin proposes a third reading in his 1989 article, which is a response to Grudem’s 1985 article discussed above, as well as to Joseph Fitzmyer’s similar 1989 article, “Another Look at Kephalē in I Corinthians 11:3.”17 Cervin goes into great detail analyzing every example offered by Grudem and Fitzmyer, providing them in both Greek and English, but he does not tabulate the meanings he assigns to them, as Grudem does. His own summary of his analysis is that:

Of Grudem’s 49 examples, the 12 of the NT are illegitimate as evidence on the grounds that one cannot logically assume what one intends to prove. This leaves 37 examples, only four of which are clear and unambiguous examples of kephalē meaning “leader”. . . . Eleven examples are dubious, questionable, or ambiguous . . . twelve examples are false . . . seven other examples are illegitimate . . . two examples do not exist . . . and one example . . . cannot be decided. Of the four clear examples, three are from the LXX and one is from the Shepherd of Hermas, and it is very likely that all four of these are imported, not native, metaphors. Six of the questionable examples come from biblical sources, while all of the false examples have been from non-biblical writers.18

The above summary indicates how Cervin understands himself to have disproved Grudem, but it does not demonstrate how he has arrived at his own conclusion that “preeminence” is the best understanding of kephalē, in many cases and in Paul. To provide my own summary of Cervin’s argument, he looks at forty-nine instances19 of the word kephalē, and he finds fifteen instances of “preeminence,” six of “leader, and three of “source,” and he either disqualifies or excludes the remaining twenty-five. Cervin argues that Paul most likely means “preeminence” by kephalē in 1 Cor 11, both because “preeminence” is the most common meaning of kephalē, and because this meaning is appropriate to “the male-dominant culture of which Paul was a part.”20 Cervin acknowledges that the metaphor may be difficult for modern readers to understand, but concludes with the warning, “It is presumptuous for us to think that we can understand every aspect of a world which existed two thousand years in the past. Just because we might have difficulty with a given metaphor does not mean that Paul would have had the same difficulty; it is after all his metaphor, not ours.”21

“Source” as the Meaning of Kephalē in 1 Corinthians 11:3

Of these three articles, Cervin’s provides the most thorough presentation and analysis of the relevant texts. Nevertheless, my analysis differs from his in certain places. I see nine to eleven instances of “source,”22 five to nine instances of “leader,”23 and six to eight instances of “preeminence.”24 One instance refers to a literal top25 and one to a literal front.26 Five further instances are too unclear to be categorized.27 In addition, because “head” is a common metaphor for leadership in both Hebrew and Latin, a number of Greek texts have clearly been influenced by an imported meaning, but show textual resistance to accommodating this additional metaphorical burden, thirteen instances from Hebrew and two from Latin.28 All of these instances are either in translations or in reported speech, and there is no evidence of their authors importing meanings from Hebrew or Latin into texts that they themselves generated. In addition, the use of the preposition eis (“into,” etc.) in the frequent phrase eis kephalēn suggests that kephalē was functioning as a simile rather than indicating a standard metaphorical meaning.29 I have excluded these fifteen passages from the final count because, although Paul can certainly be a complex writer, it would be uncharitable to posit that he intentionally and uniquely generated a metaphor that his audience would be sure to misunderstand.

Quantitatively, I find “source” to be the most common meaning, but not by far. There are also other patterns of note, however, which tilt the evidence in favor of “source.” The meaning “source” is found in a greater number and range of authors: in seven to eight authors, both classical and Hellenistic, both Greek and Jewish, and in history, poetry, philosophy, dream interpretation, apocalypse, and parable. Both “leader” and “preeminence” occur less broadly. “Leader” is found in three authors, both classical and Hellenistic, both Greek and Jewish, and in philosophy, dream interpretation, and biography. “Preeminence” is found in three authors, only Hellenistic and Jewish, and in the LXX, philosophy, and history.30 The meaning “source” also tends to have less explanatory framing (about forty words per occurrence), compared to “leader” (about sixty words per occurrence) and “preeminence” (about fifty words per occurrence), which could suggest that it was understood more easily.

Although “source” emerges as the most common meaning, it must be recognized that kephalē could be used as a metaphor fairly fluidly, and in some cases different meanings could overlap or appear one after the other in the same passage. Kephalē could also be used differently even by the same author; Philo, for instance, uses the meaning “source” twice, “leader” two to four times, and “preeminence” two to four times. According to the textual evidence, “source” is the meaning that should be referred to first in working to understand a metaphorical use of kephalē, but “leader” and “preeminence” are legitimate options when “source” fails to make sense within a passage.

In Paul’s letters, kephalē is used in a metaphorical sense in the undisputed letters only in 1 Cor 11:3, and in the disputed letters several times in Col 1:18, 2:10, 19 and Eph 1:22, 4:15, 5:23.31 First Corinthians 11:3 is also unique in using kephalē to describe three relationships: between Christ and man, man and woman, and God and Christ; Colossians refers to only the first relationship, and Ephesians refers to the first and second. Because the usage of kephalē in 1 Cor 11:3 is indisputably Pauline and most widely descriptive, it is useful to start with this passage in any discussion of “head,” whatever position one holds on the authorship of Colossians and Ephesians, or the development of Paul’s thought on gender over time.

First Corinthians 11:3 presents a set of relations which are crucial to Paul for understanding his view on head coverings32 and gender relations in vv. 4–16. The meaning of kephalē must fit both the sequential organization of v. 3 and the application in vv. 4–16. The meaning “source” fits the presentation in v. 3 very well: “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God” (NIV).33 Paul has ordered these three relationships deliberately, and their order is quite logical if viewed as describing relationships of source chronologically. Gilbert Bilezikian argues that it is “inconceivable that Paul would have so grievously jumbled the sequence in a matter involving God, Christ, and humans, when he kept his hierarchy straight as he dealt with a lesser subject in 12:28.”34

Taken chronologically, the order progresses smoothly from explaining the source of man, to the source of woman, to the source of Christ.35 All of these relationships are also explicitly affirmed by Paul elsewhere in 1 Corinthians, so Paul’s audience would also be familiar with them from their non-metaphorical formulations: “yet for us there is one . . . Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor 8:6 NRSV); “Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man” (1 Cor 11:8 NRSV); “Christ is of God” (1 Cor 3:23b NIV).36 Indeed, the meaning “source” makes good sense of the presentation of 1 Cor 11:3.

This meaning also fits the content of the verses which follow. Of the thirteen verses of the ensuing discussion, two verses are explicitly statements about source, and another three are concerned with distinct but related issues of image, purpose, and (in)dependence:

Indeed, man was not made from woman, but woman from man. (1 Cor 11:8 NRSV)

For just as woman came from man, so man comes through woman; but all things come from God. (1 Cor 11:12 NRSV)

For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection37 of God; but woman is the reflection of man. (1 Cor 11:7 NRSV)

Neither was man created for the sake of woman, but woman for the sake of man. (1 Cor 11:9 NRSV)

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman. (1 Cor 11:11 NRSV)

Five verses, over a third of this passage, are concerned with the concept of “source” and its related ideas. For comparison, prayer and prophesy are the subject of three verses (vv. 4–5, 13), and head coverings are the subject of six verses (vv. 6–7, 10, 13–15); thus these major concepts also take up about the same amount of space in the passage. The explanatory principle of “source” is entwined throughout Paul’s advice on the situation at Corinth,38 and it was thus appropriate for Paul to have begun with a governing theological principle concerning sources.

Although the meaning “source” works well with the passage, it is still worth considering whether “leader” or “preeminence” may work even better. Neither, however, fares as well. “Leader” does not match the presentation of 1 Cor 11:3 (as indicated in the quotation from Bilezikian above). The chain of command could work for the first two relationships (i.e., Christ is the leader of the man,39 who is the leader of the woman), but the third relationship interrupts the logic by belatedly adding a further party, God, who should have been at the beginning of the list if the order were hierarchical. In the remainder of the passage, the idea of leadership is also out of place. There is no mention of man being the leader of woman, or having any relationship of authority over her. The only mention of authority is in fact the exact opposite, affirming that “a woman ought to have authority over her own head” (1 Cor 11:10 NIV).40 Similarly, 1 Cor 11:11 states that “in the Lord woman is not independent of man or man independent of woman” (NRSV), implying that women and men mutually have authority over each other. Nowhere in this passage, nor in the rest of 1 Corinthians, is there any affirmation of a man leading a woman or being in a relation of hierarchy over her.41 Similarly, there is a reference to “the Son” in the future being “subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him [i.e., God], so that God42 may be all in all” (15:28), but this is a future reality, not a present one, implying at least that in the present time Christ is not subjected to God. The meaning “leader” does not fit either the presentation of 1 Cor 11:3 or the content of the following verses, and the messages that would be communicated in v. 3 with the meaning “leader” do not occur elsewhere in the letter.

“Preeminence” also does not match the presentation of 1 Cor 11:3. The notion of “preeminence” works for the first two relationships (i.e., Christ is the preeminence of the man, who is the preeminence of the woman), but the sequence becomes nonsensical if God, the preeminence of Christ, is tacked onto the end. The matter of the following verses is more complex. Many scholars have recently taken note of the honor/shame language which fills the passage: “disgraces” (vv. 4–5), “disgraceful” (v. 6), “image and reflection [or glory]” (v. 7), “degrading [or a dishonor]” (v. 14), “glory” (v. 15). This observation has led to the interpretation that a person can call attention to their “head” either honorably or shamefully through their actions, thus impacting their “head” either honorably or shamefully.43 This is an innovative reading, and at first it does seem to support the contention that “preeminence” is an appropriate notion for the passage. However, when we look at the use of kephalē as “preeminence” in other texts, honor/shame language is fairly infrequent. The terms “glory” (eudoxias) and “image” (eikonas) appear in Philo (On Rewards and Punishments 114) but all other texts are devoid of such honor/shame language. Instead, there appear terms mentioning visibility,44 height,45 difference,46 praise,47 and propriety.48 The lexical dissimilarity with 1 Cor 11 is not necessarily a problem, but it should be a caution against too quickly assuming that honor/shame language is connected with the notion of “preeminence.”

An even more serious concern is that, if this passage does concern “preeminence,” the logic here in 1 Cor 11 is entirely disconnected from parallel texts, perhaps even functioning contrary to them. According to the “preeminence” interpretation of 1 Cor 11, a person must conduct themselves appropriately in order to reflect well upon their “head.” However, in all eight of the possible texts in which kephalē means “preeminence,” there is no relationship at all between the honor of the head and the actions of the body or tail. Instead, the relationship is simply one in which greater honor is given to the head than to the body/tail. In addition, in seven of these eight texts, this greater honor given to the head has no influence on the head or the body/tail at all, but is simply represented as a mark of static difference. In the one text in which a change does take place, again in On Rewards and Punishments 114, the influence takes place the wrong way around, with the head influencing the surrounding onlookers, and the sight of the head is always good, rather than needing to be controlled: the head is “conspicuous on every side, not for its own glory but for the benefit of the beholders. For to gaze continuously upon noble models imprints their likeness in souls which are not entirely hardened and stony.” For those who understand Paul to be arguing for women to cover their heads, such a “preeminence” metaphor makes no sense, because within this metaphor there are no circumstances in which covering the “head” would be good or necessary to preserve the “head.” Even for those who hold the minority view that Paul is arguing for women to not have to cover their heads, the idea that the “head” could ever be disgraced by the actions of the body is inconsistent with the idea of preeminence in On Rewards and Punishments, in which the eminence of the head cannot be tarnished. The meaning “preeminence” does not fit the order presented in v. 3, the content of vv. 4–16 is lexically dissimilar from most other “preeminence” passages, and the logic of vv. 4–16 does not fit the logic of the one lexically comparable passage.



The meaning “source” is the most common among metaphorical uses of kephalē overall, and it fits the context of 1 Cor 11:3–16 extremely well, whereas neither “leader” nor “preeminence” is coherent in the passage. Moreover, although “leader” is often viewed as the traditional position on the meaning of kephalē, multiple ancient interpreters also conclude that “source” is meant here. Modern exegetes thus need not be concerned that a modern invention or anachronistic interpretation is being forced. According to Eusebius (260/265 – 339/340):

The great apostle teaches that God is head of the Son and the Son of the church. . . . Surely then he would be author of the church and head, and the father author and head of him. Thus the one God is father of the only begotten Son and the one head of Christ. Since there is one source [archē] and head, how would there be two gods, when that one alone claims as father no one higher nor any other causative principle?49

Similarly, Cyril of Alexandria (c. 376 – 444) writes:

Therefore of our race [Adam] became first head, which is source [archē]. . . . 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. . . . 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 . . . 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.

Thus we say that the kephalē of every man is Christ, because he was made through him and brought forward to birth. . . . And the kephalē of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source [tēn archēn]. Likewise, the kephalē of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.50

St. Athanasius (c. 296 – 373) “declared that the Son had been begotten before the ages, not as though He were unbegotten of the Father but that He had the Father as His Source [archē]. He then quotes the words of Paul, ‘The Head of Christ is God.’”51 For St. Basil (329 or 330 – 379) too, “because the Son had the Father as His one source [archē], it was said that God was the head of Christ.”52 And for Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. 350 – 428), “just as Christ was considered head of all who had been born anew in Him, so the woman has man as her head ‘since she had taken her being from him.’”53 Finally, John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) “asked, How then should we understand head? and answered, understand it in the sense of ‘perfect unity and primal cause and source [aitian kai archēn tēn prōtēn].’”54 Chrysostom is aware that “the heretics” claim that “head” means “leader,” or more precisely that it indicates that another “is under subjection.”55 He rejects this, however, “for 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. For what if the wife be under subjection to us? It is as a wife, as free, as equal in honor.”56 These early interpreters all affirm that kephalē communicates a relationship of source, only rarely facing any disagreement.


If scholars come to a consensus that kephalē carries the meaning “source” in this passage, how should this impact the English translation of 1 Cor 11:3? One option is to make no change and to continue translating kephalē literally as “head,” perhaps with a clarifying footnote. The problem with this solution is that “head” is overwhelmingly understood to mean “leader” when used metaphorically in English, especially in the context of gender dynamics, such as in stock phrases like “head of the household.” Another option would be to change the word to “source” to reflect its figurative meaning. This would also not be appropriate, however, since readers would then not appreciate the play on the literal occurrence of “head” elsewhere in the passage. The translation “fountainhead” is suggested by Bilezikian, and this is an excellent alternative which captures the wordplay of the passage while also communicating the meaning “source.”57 Translators and translation teams that accept the meaning “source” should in turn render kephalē as “fountainhead” in 1 Cor 11:3.

This article has reexamined the meaning of kephalē in 1 Cor 11:3 by evaluating the three major interpretations of the textual evidence and then considering the context of 1 Cor 11:3–16. It has concluded that “source” is the most appropriate understanding of this metaphor, both lexically and in the context of this passage. This interpretation has fallen out of scholarly favor in recent years, but I suggest that it should be revived in light of the analysis discussed here. The meaning “source” is also able to be interpreted non-hierarchically, unlike “leader” or “preeminence,” and the profound potential social implications should prompt exegetes to examine the evidence yet again.


1. Hans Conzelmann, 1 Corinthians, trans. James W. Leitch, ed. George W. MacRae, Hermeneia (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975): 186; Fred Fisher, Commentary on 1 & 2 Corinthians (Waco: Word, 1975): 173; William Baird, Knox Preaching Guides: 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, ed. John H. Hayes (Atlanta: John Knox, 1980): 45.

2. Gordon D. Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987): 502–5; J. Paul Sampley, “The First Letter to the Corinthians: Introduction, Commentary, and Reflections,” NIB 10 (Nashville: Abingdon, 2002), 790, 930.

3. Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians, IBC (Louisville: John Knox, 1997), 183; Anthony C. Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 800; David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, BECNT (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003), 508; Joseph A. Fitzmyer, First Corinthians, Anchor Yale Bible (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 409.

4. See

5. Wayne Grudem, “Does Kephalē Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A Survey of 2,336 Examples,” TJ 6, no. 1 (Spring 1985): 48, 50–51.

6. Grudem, “Does Kephalē Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’?” 51.

7. Grudem, “Does Kephalē Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’?” 44–46, 51.

8. Grudem, “Does Kephalē Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’?” 58.

9. Catherine Clark Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” in Equal to Serve: Women and Men Working Together Revealing the Gospel, by Gretchen Gaebelein Hull (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 270–71.

10. Stephen Bedale, “The Meaning of Kephalē in the Pauline Epistles,” JTS NS 5 (Oct 1954): 211.

11. Bedale, “The Meaning of Kephalē,” 213.

12. Bedale, “The Meaning of Kephalē,” 212.

13. Bedale, “The Meaning of Kephalē,” 214.

14. Bedale, “The Meaning of Kephalē,” 215.

15. Bedale, “The Meaning of Kephalē,” 214.

16. See Philip B. Payne, Man and Woman, One in Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Paul’s Letters (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 135; Cynthia Long Westfall, Paul and Gender: Reclaiming the Apostle’s Vision for Men and Women in Christ (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2016), 85, 87.

17. Richard S. Cervin, “Does Kephalē Mean ‘Source’ or ‘Authority Over’ in Greek Literature? A Rebuttal,” TJ 10, no. 1 (1989): 85, 107. An updated version of Cervin’s arguments can be found in Priscilla Papers 30, no. 2 (Spring 2016): 8–20.

18. Cervin, “Does Kephalē Mean,” 111.

19. This is coincidentally the same number as Grudem, but the examples are not exactly the same. Cervin removes some of the examples offered by Grudem and adds some other examples, such as those offered by Fitzmyer.

20. Cervin, “Does Kephalē Mean,” 112.

21. Cervin, “Does Kephalē Mean,” 112.

22. Herodotus 4.91; Orphic Fragment 21A; Philo Preliminary Studies 61, On Rewards and Punishments 125; Artemidorus Onirocriticon 1.2, 1.35, 3.66; T. Reuben 2.2; Shepherd of Hermas Similitudes 7.3; [Plutarch Pelopidas 2.1, Moralia 629d–e (Table Talk 6.7)]. For further examples of the meaning “source” which are not considered in any of these three articles, see Philip B. Payne, “Evidence for Kephalē meaning ‘Source’ in Greek Literature and in Paul’s Letters,” paper read Nov 16, 2016, at the ETS Annual Meeting in San Antonio, TX, 12–13, 16.

23. Plato Timaeus 44D; Philo On Dreams 2.207, Moses 2.82; Plutarch Agis 2.3, Moralia 647c (Table Talk 3.1); [Plutarch Pelopidas 2.1, Moralia 629d–e (Table Talk 6.7); Philo Moses 2.30, The Special Laws 184].

24. LXX Deut 28:13, 28:44; Philo On Rewards and Punishments 114, Moses 2.290; Josephus Jewish War 3.54, 4.261; [Philo Moses 2.30, The Special Laws 184].

25. LXX 3 Kingdoms (1 Kgs) 8:1.

26. LXX 3 Kingdoms (1 Kgs) 21:12 (20:12).

27. Herodotus 7.148.3; LXX Isa 7:8–9; Gregory Nazianzus Greek Anthology 8.19; Libanius Oration 20.3; Athanasius Apol. II contra Arianos 89 (PG 2.409 A).

28. LXX Judg 10:18, 11:8, 11:9: Manuscript A gives kephalē for “head, leader,” but manuscript B gives archōn. The consistent difference in translation indicates that kephalē, although a more literal translation, did not carry the same Hebrew meaning in Greek, and was resisted by manuscript B.

LXX Judg 11:11: In both A and B, the clarifying expression “as a leader” is given as a gloss, eis hēgoumenon in A and eis archēgon in B. Both manuscripts reflect that kephalē did not communicate the Hebrew metaphor accurately by itself and chose to add clarification of the metaphor.

LXX 2 Kingdoms (2 Sam) 22:44, Ps 17:44 (18:43), Jer 31:7 (38:7): “head of the nations” appears to be a stock phrase which required a literal translation of “head.”

LXX Isa 9:13–14 (14–15): The appearance of the word “head” appears in a literal sense to communicate a head and tail metaphor. However, when the meaning of “head” is explained, it is necessary for the translator to replace the word “head” with “government.” The translator does not replace the word “tail” similarly. This suggests that kephalē could not typically mean “leader” in Greek, so it was necessary to explicitly explain the metaphor by using the word “government.”

Aquila Deut 5:23, 29:10 (29:9), 3 Kingdoms (1 Kgs) 8:1, Ezek 38:2: Aquila’s translation of the OT was notoriously literal, so much that “it was incomprehensible to native Greeks!” (Cervin, “Does Kephalē Mean,” 21). In additional, the first three occurrences are all of the phrase “heads of the tribes,” which may be a stock phrase.

Theodotion Judg 10:18: Theodotion’s text may have also been too literal, likely more so than the LXX but less than Aquila.

Plutarch Cicero 14.6: Catiline would have been speaking in Latin, in which caput has a widely recognized figurative meaning “leader.” Plutarch notes that this is a riddle, likely to account for the difficulty in Greek. For comparison, when Cicero recounts the same story in Pro Murena 51, he indeed uses the word caput, and he does not make a similar remark about the speech being a riddle, but on the contrary writes that Catiline was speaking frankly (apertissimus).

Plutarch Galba 4.3: Galba would also have been speaking in Latin, as above. Cervin does not know of a source text for this story, as he did for Catiline’s story, but it is likely that the source would have used caput.

29. Payne, “Evidence for Kephalē,” 7–9.

30. It would have been important for this metaphor to be comprehensible to both Jewish and Greek members of the letter’s audience, because the congregation at Corinth seems to have been made up of both Jews and Gentiles (Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament [New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997], 512).

31. Scholars often distinguish between letters for which Pauline authorship is undisputed and for which Pauline authorship is debated. Such terminology is common and does not necessarily reveal a writer’s opinion. The undisputed letters are Rom, 1–2 Cor, Gal, Phil, 1 Thess, Phlm; the disputed letters are Eph, Col, 2 Thess, 1–2 Tim, Titus.

32. This passage has also been interpreted as dealing with hairstyles. For simplicity, the topic will be described as “head coverings” in this article, but this is not meant to imply that a position is being taken in the debate, as it does not impact the reading of the meaning of “head” here.

33. Some translations, most notably the NRSV, translate the relationship of “head” between men and women as a relationship between husbands and wives. It is outside the scope of this article to argue for a translation of “man” and “woman” rather than “husband” and “wife,” but there is no mention of marriage in 1 Cor 11, or in the immediately preceding or following chapters, and it will thus be assumed that it is unwarranted to limit the scope of the passage to refer to husbands and wives.

34. Gilbert Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says about a Woman’s Place in Church and Family, 3rd ed. (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006): 106. See also Bilezikian’s instructive diagram (p. 106).

35. It is outside the scope of this article to investigate what is meant by God being the source of Christ. I am not entirely in agreement with Bilezikian that this relationship refers exclusively to Christ’s birth, as this is not an event that Paul discusses very frequently. A precise Trinitarian relation is also unlikely to have been in mind either for Paul or his audience. One possibility is that God is the source of Christ in terms of the resurrection, which is discussed extensively in 1 Cor 15 and elsewhere in the Pauline corpus. Regardless, what is of importance is that there are multiple defensible ways in which God may be described as the source of Christ.

36. The NRSV translates the genitive as possessive (“belongs to God”), which is certainly possible, but leaving it as a simple genitive (“of God”) opens up the statement to communicate source as well as possession.

37. Here and later, an NRSV footnote offers “glory” as an alternative for “reflection.”

38. It is also outside the scope of this article to offer a reading of what exactly Paul is suggesting to the congregation at Corinth and how his argument functions. All that is being suggested here is that the concept of “source” is crucial to Paul’s argumentation, regardless of how a scholar chooses to read the rest of the passage. I follow Padgett in reading vv. 13b–15a as statements rather than questions and understanding Paul as giving women authority to do what they like with their head coverings (Alan G. Padgett, As Christ Submits to the Church: A Biblical Understanding of Leadership and Mutual Submission [Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011], 108, 124). However, the thrust of this article’s argument about “head” functions equally with a wide variety of readings of this passage.

39. Alternatively, even this first relationship may be viewed as untrue if kephalē means “leader,” since Christ is not yet the recognized leader of every existing man, as “Christ has not yet ‘put all his enemies under his feet’ (1 Cor 15:25)” (Payne, Man and Woman, 129).

40. The NRSV (like various other translations) translates “a symbol of authority on her head,” which may be construed as a woman showing that she is under the authority of another person by the symbol (i.e., covering) on her head. This has added words to the Greek, however, and exousian echein in the NT always means “to have authority,” never “to be under another’s authority” (Matt 7:29, 9:6, Mark 1:22, 3:15, Luke 5:24, 12:5, 19:17, John 10:18, 19:10, 11, Acts 9:14, Rom 9:21, 1 Cor 7:37, 9:4, 5, 6, 2 Thess 3:9, Heb 13:10, Rev 11:6, 14:18, 16:19, 18:1, 20:6).

41. I am excluding 1 Cor 14:34–35, which many scholars regard as an interpolation or gloss. My view is it is a Corinthian quotation which Paul is refuting. Those who regard the passage as a genuine Pauline saying should nevertheless be able to agree with my above claim that 1 Corinthians does not contain “any affirmation of a man leading a woman or being in a relation of hierarchy over her.” Though 1 Cor 14:34–35 does mention quietness and shame, it does not mention leadership or specify hierarchy with respect to women.

42. Or, “Godhead” (Payne, Man and Woman, 134–5).

43. Linda L. Belleville, “Kephalē and the Thorny Issue of Head Covering in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16,” in Paul and the Corinthians: Studies on a Community in Conflict. Essays in Honour of Margaret Thrall, ed. Trevor J. Burke and J. Keith Elliott (Leiden: Brill, 2003), 229; Judith M. Gundry-Volf, “Gender and Creation in 1 Corinthians 11:2–16: A Study in Paul’s Theological Method,” in Evangelium Schriftaugslegung Kirche: Festchrift für Peter Stuhlmacher zum 65. Geburtstag, ed. Jostein Ådna, Scott J. Hafemann, and Otfried Hofius (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1997), 159.

44. periphanestatō (“distinguished”), periphainesthai (“conspicuous”), perisēmotatō (“conspicuous”), horōntōn (“beholders”), thaumasiōtaton (“wonderful”), prosōpon (“front”). For all that has been said by scholars concerning the uncovered woman as immodestly exposed to the gaze of others, Paul does not make any reference to onlookers or to women (or men) as the objects of literal sight.

45. anō (“on high”), epanō (“top”), huperanō (“superior”), basin (“pedestal”), prosanischousa (“dominating [or eminent]”).

46. diapherontōs (“distinguished”).

47. epaineta (“praiseworthy”).

48. oikeiotaton (“suitable”).

49. Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” 276.

50. Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” 268, 277, italics original to Kroeger.

51. Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” 276.

52. Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” 276.

53. Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” 276.

54. Kroeger, “The Classical Concept of Head as ‘Source,’” 276.

55. Lucy Peppiatt, Women and Worship at Corinth: Paul’s Rhetorical Arguments in 1 Corinthians (Eugene: Cascade, 2015), 88.

56. Peppiatt, Women and Worship at Corinth, 90.

57. Bilezikian, Beyond Sex Roles, 137. Another option which has similar effects is the word “headspring.” However, this word is less common (according to the Google Books Ngram Viewer), and thus may be less likely to be understood. Readers may also be quicker to think of the gymnastics move, an entertaining but unrelated concept. There is a chance that the word “fountainhead” may be too heavily culturally associated with the Ayn Rand book of the same title, but this would not likely be an obstacle to understanding.


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