- 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?
Now I would like to disentangle some of the threads of your very interesting question.
First, you ask about the dating of the evidence for kephale as "source". Is the major occurrence dated around 500 BC, and doesn't this mean that is has little to no influence on how we read Paul in the letter to Corinthians?
Second, doesn't the fact that kephale is a variant reading in the Orphic fragment mean that we should also accept the use of kephale as a variant reading in the LXX?
I think it is essential to examine the use of kephale in both the LXX and in the Orphic literature to understand the influence that each of them would have in first century Christian literature. Let us assume that Paul is writing to a multithnic group of believers. Would this group be more familiar with the passages in the LXX using the term kephale in a hierarchical sense, or with the literature of Orphism using the term kephale in the sense of beginning or source?
A detailed discussion of the Orphic fragment occurs in Modern Linguistics and the New Testament by Max Turner,* page 171.
- In this fifth-century B.C.E. fregment, Zeus is called κεφαλή ("Zeus was first, Zeus is last with white vivid lightening: Zeus the head, Zeus the middle, Zeus from whom all things are perfected"). An alternative text has ἀρχή instead, and so it is inferred that "source" is what κεφαλή must have meant here. But this could be an instance of ἀρχή ("beginning,""head of time"), a sense already recognized in Classical Greek.
.... so it must be said that we have no good evidence of κεφαλή meaning "source" in the public domain of Paul's day. Those who wish to protest that "head" as "authority over" is relatively rare should at least be prepared to admit that "head" as "source" is considered rarer "probably to the point of vanishing altogether.)
Here is my problem. We are trying to decide what the word κεφαλή meant in Greek, not in English. If an author cannot break out of his English mindset in order to do exegesis, it is very difficult to discuss this. In my opinion, κεφαλή in 1 Corinthians should be treated as if it meant ἀρχή, and then the different interpreters can digress from there into discussing man as the origin or beginning of the human race, or God as the first principle of the godhead, or whereever you wish to go. This was the practice of the early church fathers, who also interpreted
κεφαλή as "authority" along with the other possibilities. But at least for them, they could discuss the various interpretation as interpretations.
To say, as Turner does, that the meaning "source" is virtually non-existant in the public domain at the time, denies the fact that ἀρχή has this meaning, and that κεφαλή and ἀρχή are considered synonyms, in some contexts, from the time of the Orphic fragment, in 500 B.C.E. to the time of Cyril of Alexandria in the 5th century A.D.
Here are the two citations,
- Therefore of our race he become first head [κεφαλη], which is the source [αρχη], and was of the earth and earthy. Since Christ was named the second Adam, he has been placed as head, which is source, of those who through him have been formed anew unto him unto immortality through sanctification in the spirit. Therefore he himself our source, which is head, has appeared as a human being: indeed, he, being by nature God, has a head, the Father in heaven.
Here is the passage on Zeus, 6th century B.C.E.
- 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.
I have to question why someone would work with a sense of the dominance of English semantic organization replacing the Greek semantic organization of the words κεφαλη and ἀρχή.
Now what about the notion that the citation from the Orphic fragments would have been unknown in the Hellenistic era as it comes from the 6th century B.C.E.? In fact, this is the very opposite of the truth. It was a well-known citation, judging from its influence on other authors of Paul's time.
Here is a passage from Josephus, for example,
- The first command is concerning God, and affirms that God contains all things, and is a Being every way perfect and happy, self-sufficient, and supplying all other beings; the beginning, the middle, and the end of all things.
Of overall significance is the simple fact that Orphism as a religious tradition endured from at least the 6th century B.C.E. throughout the Hellenistic era to become a tradition which rivaled Christianity. Plutarch ( A.D. 46 - 120) was a follower of Orphism.
Orphism contained rituals of purification and initiation, communion services centred on a meal of raw flesh and a libation cup, and offered the hope of personal salvation and immortality. It was a widespread tradition, and no doubt was better known to the inhabitants of Corinth than the passages in the LXX which use the term κεφαλη with the sense of hierarchy.
The passages in the LXX which use the term κεφαλη in this sense are listed by John Hobbins in this post. (Num 1:2.20; Deut 28:13.44; Isa 9:14; 19:15; Ps 17:44 (= 2 Kgd 22: 44); 117:22; Isa 7:8; Jer 38:7. To the list one must certainly add Judg 10:18.) I don't see any of these passages encorparated into common rituals of Corinth. I have read Max Turner and John Hobbins on this issue and I respectfully disagree with their position.
I welcome further questions from the anonymous commenter although I would encouage him or her to provide a name of some kind for future reference. Thank you.
*This article is found in Hearing the New Testament ed. by Joel Green.