Monday, January 02, 2006

Kephale - money in the bank

We have been discussing the Greek word 'kephale' on Iustificare here. I wish to respond with two points. First, when Aristotle discussed the complementary faculties of the man and the woman, he used the expression, 'the rule of the soul over the body.' Since I have read this in Greek, I can say for sure that he never uses the expression 'kephale' to denote leadership, decision-making, or any other function. He discusses leadership and responsibility in the most minute detail, books and books about who gets to decide, lead, govern etc. without ever using the term 'kephale'.

Second, 'kephale' is a cognate term to the Latin 'caput', and the terms 'captain' and 'capital' are both derived from it. I believe also that somewhere 'kephale' is refered to as a person who advances at the front of the troops in war, or as the unit of infantry that advances at the front of the larger unit. I do not have a reference for this at the moment and so will come back to that another day.

Basically, 'kephale' meant sum, summary, or capital amount of money. Now let's look at Ephesians 1. I will try it out, replacing kephale with captain and then with capital and see how it works.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he[c] predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. 9And he[d] made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head (captain/capital amount), even Christ.

11In him we were also chosen,[e] having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession—to the praise of his glory.

Thanksgiving and Prayer
15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit[f] of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head (captain/capital) over everything for the church, 23which is his body, the fullness (rest of the troops/entire sum) of him who fills everything in every way."

Some men think first of the military metaphor and others the banking metaphor. Some will say that Christ is asking us to join the army. Others may see that Christ is like money in the bank for us and the church is the entire sum, principal and interest. A quick glance at verse 14 and other passages marked in purple shows us that the banking metaphor is not completely unlikely. Even references to adoption and redemption are associated with money.

What was the most obvious reading in Greek? Not necessarly ruler. Highly unlikely that it was ruler. Some day I will research the other suggestion - that 'kephale' was the sharp point that led the troops to war. That does not imply the brains behind the strategy, but the one who takes the most risk. Others say that 'kephale' means the source, the origin, the nourishment, as the head of a river.

Probably men should be the first to confront an intruder in the home, as Gerald said, maybe they should be the main providers; but in this economy, they should not feel constrained to support a woman staying home as the children grow up. That should be worked out completely and entirely according to the mutual agreement of the couple involved.

I have never seen a reference to 'kephale' being the decision-maker, the ruler or governor in Greek. Not that the Greeks weren't completely preoccupied with this idea - they were, but they found other words to express it.

1 comment:

Jeremy Pierce said...

I suggest looking at Anthony Thiselton's I Corinthians commentary, which takes off from a large body of literature that appeared after Gordon Fee's commentary (the main proponent of "source" among the most recent commentators), including work by Judith Gundry-Volf and A.C. Perriman.

He argues that the primary meaning is the literal head as opposed to the physical body, but the extended sense is multifold, most importantly signifying prominence and preeminence. It doesn't entail leadership or authority, though it can have that connotation. Thiselton thinks this complements but doesn't guarantee other scriptural statements about the non-symmetrical relationship between men and women in terms of authority that Paul grounds in the creation order in I Timothy 2. David Garland's more recent commentary resists the connotation of authority. Garland is a full-blown Fee-style egalitarian, so this is no surprise. Both Garland and Thiselton reject as no longer tenable the view of Fee and others that 'kephale' means "source". I believe Craig Blomberg's commentary takes a similar view, if I remember correctly. This means that a number of commentators seem to be converging on a consensus here, one that cuts across the egalitarian/complementarian debate, people like Fee and Grudem notwithstanding.

Nowhere in this discussion does anyone intimate that the far more remote Aristotle is all that important. Classical Greek in general is pretty remote from Paul's late Hellenistic context. Besides, he's so much more obviously influenced by the LXX than by Greek literature, though he does adapt Stoic and Epicurean categories once or twice to serve his purposes.

For that reason, I think Grudem's focus on the LXX usage of this term to translate positions such as chiefs or other leaders in the OT is more relevant than Fee wants to allow, even if Fee is right that that couldn't be the primary meaning. Thiselton and Garland simply accept that it couldn't be the primary meaning, while insisting that sometimes it is part of the connotation. Then they differ on whether it's part of the connotation here. Fee seems to rule out this possibility from the outset, never considering that such a connotation might appear even if the primary meaning has nothing to do with authority.

Also, I'm not sure why the Latin 'caput' is supposed to that relevant. It's a different language, and it's not likely to have the same semantic range, even if that term is the one most commonly used to translate 'kephale'. The same is true of the Hebrew that 'kephale' translates, but the fact that Paul read the LXX makes it important to see how the LXX uses 'kephale'. I don't see how the same concern can come up with the Latin translation, since Paul wouldn't have been reading the Vulgate.