Thursday, October 28, 2010

More about kephale in Philo

On Denny Burk's recent post about a commentary of Ephesians, Derek writes,
What part of “in a manner” do you not understand about Philo’s text and explanation? The mechanics of his interaction with the other kings is simply not relevant here and Philo says as much. All that is needed is to understand the way a leader relates to his herd. That’s it. Read it again and more carefully and you’ll see it.
The difficulty is that "leader of the herd" is not a particularly literal translation of this phrase. I would prefer to see Derek engage with the passage in Greek, rather than continue to comment on the English. This is from Fitzmeyer, page 86,
    Philo speaks of Ptolemy II Philadelphus as one who was outstanding among the Ptolemies and expresses it thus,

      genoumenos kathaper en zōō to hēgemoneuon kephalē tropon tina tōn basileōn

      being, as the head is the leading part in a living body, in some sense the head of kings [of the Ptolemaic dynasty]. (De Vita Mosis 2.5.30)
The word translated as "herd" is ζῷον, "animal, creature, image" found here,
πρῶτον μέν νυν τύπον ποιησάμενος λίθινον ἔστησε: ζῷον δέ οἱ ἐνῆν ἀνὴρ ἱππεύς, ἐπέγραψε δὲ γράμματα λέγοντα τάδε: “Δαρεῖος ὁ Ὑστάσπεος σύν τε τοῦ ἵππου τῇ ἀρετῇ” τὸ οὔνομα λέγων “καὶ Οἰβάρεος τοῦ ἱπποκόμου ἐκτήσατο τὴν Περσέων βασιληίην.”

First he made and set up a carved stone, upon which was cut the figure of a horseman, with this inscription: “Darius son of Hystaspes, aided by the excellence of his horse” (here followed the horse's name) “and of Oebares his groom, got possession of the kingdom of Persia. Herodotus Histories
The truth is that Philo's use of kephale is as a metaphor, and we are not exactly sure how to translate it. It is not an established way to say that someone had authority. Philo uses the word kephale elsewhere to denote a person of exemplary virtue. There is no indication that Paul wants us to believe that the husband in a marriage relationship naturally displays an exemplary morality that the wife would do well to emulate. The comparison is strained.

Here is a longer article about kephale in Philo. I regret that these are not full posts, but simply responses to a discussion which is ongoing on Denny Burk's blog, where I have been blocked.

The main question that I am left asking is why such a passage would be considered one of the most significant pieces of evidence that kephale means "authority."


Kristen said...

It's frustrating that you have been prevented from posting on Burke's blog. Even if the passage did refer to "leader of the herd" -- often times when one is talking about herds, the "leader" is simply the sheep or cow that's walking in front. It doesn't always mean an "alpha male" who rules the rest of the herd.


Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't think it is worth my time to comment there, but of course, when my posts are cited, and then contradicted, it would be nice to be allowed to defend them.

Jay said...

Burke didn't post my comment either. Not that I really care, I just tried it to see if he was "man" enough to do it. If we see God's creation as it really is, an organic unity rather than some imposed hierarchy, we have a beautiful picture. If we see God's "order" as essentially hierarchical we create an unnatural structure.

Don said...

I can read pages before and after 86, but not page 86 for some reason, it says I have reached my limit.

Kristen said...

It appears that you have been allowed to comment on that blog, Sue. I'm glad.