Saturday, April 05, 2008

Kephale in Philo

I still seem to fall on more evidence for the strange hermeneutic presented in Grudem's Kephale studies.

Rob has posted one of the original articles on Kephale by Grudem, 1985. I took another look at the references from Philo. Grudem argues that Philo uses the term kephale "head" with the meaning "authority over".

I don't have the Greek version of Philo but I think one can see from these excerpts that "head" means something else,
    If, then, any one proves himself a man of such a character in the city he will appear superior to the whole city, and if a city show itself of such a character it will be the chief of all the country around; and if a nation do so it will be the lord of all the other nations, as the head is to the body occupying the pre-eminence of situation, not more for the sake of glory than for that of advancing the interests of those that see.

    For continual appearances of good models stamp impressions closely resembling themselves on all souls which are not utterly obdurate and intractable; (115) and I say this with reference to those who wish to imitate models of excellent and admirable beauty, that they may not despair of a change for the better, nor of an alteration and improvement from that dispersion, as it were, of the soul which vice engenders, so that they may be able to effect a return to virtue and wisdom. On Reward and Punishments 124
Although the terms "lord" and "chief" occur here, a close reading will show that the "head" is actually the "model" and has no authority whatsoever. Philo continues,
    For as in an animal the head is the first and best part, and the tail the last and worst part, or rather no part at all, inasmuch as it does not complete the number of the limbs, being only a broom to sweep away what flies against it; so in the same manner what is said here is that the virtuous man shall be the head of the human race whether he be a single man or a whole people. And that all others, being as it were parts of the body, are only vivified by the powers existing in the head and superior portions of the body. (126)

    These are the prayers on behalf of good men who fulfil the laws by their actions which it is said will be accomplished by the grace of the bounteous and beneficent God, who honours and rewards all that is good for the sake of its similarity to himself. We must now consider the curses appointed against those who transgress the commandments and the Laws.
The lawgiver is discussed in a different category. The "head" is the virtuous person. I see no indication that this person has ruling authority. In another book, Philo gives an example of this kind of person, Philadelphus,
    Ptolemy, surnamed Philadelphus, was the third in succession after Alexander, the monarch who subdued Egypt; and he was, in all virtues which can be displayed in government, the most excellent sovereign, not only of all those of his time, but of all that ever lived; so that even now, after the lapse of so many generations, his fame is still celebrated, as having left many instances and monuments of his magnanimity in the cities and districts of his kingdom, so that even now it is come to be a sort of proverbial expression to call excessive magnificence, and zeal, for honour and splendour in preparation, Philadelphian, from his name; (30) and, in a word, the whole family of the Ptolemies was exceedingly eminent and conspicuous above all other royal families, and among the Ptolemies, Philadelphus was the most illustrious; for all the rest put together scarcely did as many glorious and praiseworthy actions as this one king did by himself, being, as it were, the leader of the herd, and in a manner the head of all the kings. On Moses II:29
Here "head" means "most illustrious" and simply cannot mean "authority over" since Philadelphus is head of the kings in his family who lived before him and followed him. He simply never had authority over the other kings in chronological succession with him. Was Philadelphus really the "ruling authority" over his own father?

Thanks to Rob for bringing this article to my attention. Much still needs to be done to release men and women from a ruler - subject relationship, and allow them to enter into a relationship of hesed, which is "covenant love" and is simply called kindness, or lovingkindness in the King James Bible. The scriptures are so clear on the fact that hesed is the core value in relationships.


mike said...

This looks like exactly the same criticism that Richard Cervin made in his response articles - Grudem's excerpt were too small and didn't look at enough of the context.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I guess Cervin did not have the knack of writing at a level that would capture the minds of the populace. Yes, Cervin was right but his name is not well known.