Sunday, January 08, 2006

Why Aristotle and other things

Jeremy commented on my post of last Sunday with this. Thanks for you thoughtful input here.

    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.
I had thought to shortcut, even circumvent, all of this by simply not refering to 'source' as a possible translation for 'kephale'. I was just going to let 'source' drift off into oblivion on its own. But I do appreciate your following this debate so closely.

    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.
I bring up Aristotle for other reasons. After all, he does the consumate job of detailing the non-symmetrical relationships of master - slave, man - woman, father - son. These are 'koinonia', this is how our basic needs are met, our 'soteria', wealth creation, and so on.

I also think that men who say that 'woman have decision-making power but are without authority' should know that they are quoting directly from Aristotle. I don't know whether Paul was influenced by Aristotle but its for sure that the Spanish Conquest of America greatly benefited from Aristotle's contention that some people were naturally slaves, and the British Empire also used Aristotle to justify their ascendancy.

If Paul was familiar with Aristotle, but I don't say that he was, Gordon Fee says not, the question would be whether he was trying to a) confirm, b) modify or c) contradict Artistotle's outline of the non-symetrical nature of 'koinonia'.

However, from the time of the church fathers, Aristotelian thinking has influenced the church. Another important concept in Aristotle is that he based the non-symmetrical nature of the 'koinonia' on the fact that, in nature, slaves, barbarians (being natural slaves), and women were inferior in their participation in 'logos' or Reason. Slaves, barbarians and women were ruled by the appetites of the body, and needed to be governed by the mind, the intellect of the master, husband, or ruler. The child, is different, in that he, that is the son, is only immature, he will grow up to be of like nature with the father, then he will particpate in Reason.

As an aside, it was the debate between Sepulveda and Las Casa at Valladolid, which convinced me that Aristotle is important and has influenced western thought significantly.

However, back to Jeremy on Paul,

    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.
I introduced the idea of a 'capital sum of money' because 'sum of money' was given as one of the meanings of 'kephale' in the Liddell-Scott dictionary, not based on the connection with 'caput'. Sorry I wasn't clear about that. I did post the meaning of 'kephale' here.

However, the connection to 'caput' did make me think more about the word 'capital' in English and inspired me to write this post, partly tongue-in-cheek. It was a semi-spoof on the way people do hermeneutics, and partly a way to extend our appreciation of the range of meaning that 'kephale' has. I don't mean to make fun of this, but to try and break out of the mindset which says it is all about one person being the boss over another. How much fun is that?

I am now reading up on 'soter' in Ephesians 5. Peter Kirk has already mentioned the notion of nourishment and care from Ephesians. In looking at 'soter' I find protector and guardian. Ancient Greek women weren't going to have access to their money in the bank if they didn't have man, either husband or legal guardian, to do their banking for them.

Once again, I truly appreciated Steven Tracy's article here. He expands on the following theme,

    The Father's headship over the Son is specifically reflected in loving intimacy, sharing authority, honoring and protecting.

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