Monday, September 28, 2009

Kephale as "source"

While I have often remarked on the poor attestation of kephale as "leader," "authority" or even "superior rank." I have not always been a strong supporter of kephale as "source." Kephale is the Greek word for "head." However, in English "head" can be used of a person who is in a leadership position. It can be used in this way directly and without comparison, metaphor or elaboration, as in "head of state." This expression does not exist in ancient Greek.

Some have suggested that kephale should best be understood as "source" instead, but others say that this has little legitimacy. I would like to review the literary evidence for kephale as "source." The first and most interesting example is from an Orphic fragment,
    Zeus is the first. Zeus the thunderer, is the last.
    Zeus is the head (kephale). Zeus is the middle, and by Zeus all things were fabricated.
    Zeus is male, Immortal Zeus is female.
    Zeus is the foundation of the earth and of the starry heaven.
    Zeus is the breath of all things. Zeus is the rushing of indefatigable fire.
    Zeus is the root of the sea: He is the Sun and Moon.
    Zeus is the king; He is the author of universal life;
    One Power, one Dæmon, the mighty prince of all things:
    One kingly frame, in which this universe revolves,
    Fire and water, earth and ether, night and day,
    And Metis (Counsel) the primeval father, and all-delightful Eros (Love).
    All these things are United in the vast body of Zeus.
    Would you behold his head and his fair face,
    It is the resplendent heaven, round which his golden locks
    Of glittering stars are beautifully exalted in the air.
    On each side are the two golden taurine horns,
    The risings and settings, the tracks of the celestial gods;
    His eyes the sun and the Opposing moon;
    His unfallacious Mind the royal incorruptible Ether.
In some occurrences of this prayer the Greek word arche is found instead of kephale. This is teh intial part of the Liddell. Scott, Jones entry for arche,
I suggest that one possible interpretation of kephale is as arche, origin or source. Perhaps Paul in writing 1 Corinthians, was more interested in creating a cosmogony than maintaining a gender hierarchy of human interaction. More on this later.

PS Thanks to those who commented on my googling difficulty with my school blog. It nows googles appropriately. Apparently I was not patient enough.


Dave said...

Hi Suzanne!

We have been having a similar discussion regarding kephale here
Origin and source are synonyms!


Suzanne McCarthy said...

Yes, thanks for your excellent comment here. I will cite it,

"C’mon Gab, this is not engaging with the argument at hand and does not warrant your comment, “Hopefully egals will see that the claim that head means ’source’ is not valid”.

If you had not noticed, some of us do not automatically accept a 24 page article by Grudem as the last word on such matters! With regards to Grudem and “head” you might like to check out what Cheryl has written here

I have read this article before and there are major flaws with it that are typical of Grudem. He is very sly in the way he operates. He is very subtle in the way he changes words and their meanings to construct what appears a strong argument.

An example from this article is how he sticks to a very strict definition of what egals claim “head” to mean. He then gives other definitions and pretends they are very different, and yet they are very similar, such as “origin, top, capital of column, starting point” and pretends that these are completely foreign to the idea of “source”.
Then, when he gets to his study of the usage of “head” in ancient Greek Lit. he shows “head” used as “authority” as 2.1% of the total. He lists the use of “head” as “source” at 0%. Of course he also lists its use as “top, starting point” (he forgets to include “origin”…sly!) which is at 3%. So if you look at his results it actually comes closer to backing up the egal position than the comp position."

This is also in light of the fact that he decides which category to put each occurence under, often taking them out of context (see Cheryls blog post listed above where he fails to cite texts in full).

So Gab, instead of citing a Grudem article, please give us some textual evidence as to why we should refer to “head” as authority/ruler. I will then show you what I have to show it as meaning “source/origin”!

Anonymous said...

Hi Suzanne,

Does it concern you that the strongest evidence for kephale to mean 'source' is actually from a source with variant readings and is dated to 500BC approx?

I ask because many people dismiss the LXX examples that it has a leader overtone on the basis of variant readings. If the LXX cases are considered illegitimate, should we not also consider the Orphic Fragment illegitimate?

theasdgamer said...

I see a head/glory dichotomy being pictured in 1 Cor. 11. Glory proceeds from the head. Paul is using this dichotomy to explain certain practices he recommends in churches.