Sunday, October 19, 2008

Heirs Together, Part 6: Who Gets to be the Head Honcho?

This sermon is largely taken from a previous post in my "Husband as Head" series.

Peter 3:7 “...Live with heirs together with you of God’s gracious gift of life

In previous sermons I have noted that the Bible does not say that the husband is the head of the home nor of the family, but the head of the wife. The Bible also does not say that the man must always lead. Some parts of the Church have long taught many things about marriage—much more than the Bible actually says. Besides Eph. 5:22, which is about wives submitting, the main one is Ephesians 5:23: “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.”
From this rather simple passage, and a couple of others, have come a myriad of teachings that are extrapolated from the text.

EXTRAPOLATE: To infer or estimate by extending or projecting known information.

It is sometimes necessary to extrapolate from a text. When we do so, wisdom and humility would say we had best be careful to avoid dogmatic assumptions. To extrapolate is to infer. To infer is to derive by reasoning; conclude or judge from premises or evidence, to guess; speculate; surmise. One may believe that the Bible infers that the husband must be a servant leader, but that does not mean the Bible actually says this.

Here are some examples of teaching that have been incorrectly extrapolated from this verse:

The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is of the church. Thus, the husband is prophet, priest and king of the home.
The husband is the “leader," or the "authority" of the home.
The wife needs leadership from the husband.
The wife must always graciously submit to the leadership of her husband.
There is a hierarchy of the home. God is the supreme head, and under God's leadership is the husband, then the wife, then the children.
The husband must exercise “headship.”
The husband must exercise “servant leadership.”
Someone must be in authority in the home. God says that is the man.
The man should consider his wife's opinion, but he has final say.
The man will be held responsible, not the woman.

The Bible actually says NONE of these things.

Remember, the New Testament was not written in English. What we have are various translations. It is very important that we not impose meanings that come from English word usage, metaphors or idoms.

In English the word head has 38 meanings! Two are adjectives, six are verbs and thirty two are nouns. However, two are most common.
1. the round thing on top of the neck where the brain is housed and where the face is set
My head hurts. My head is too big for this hat.
2. the one in authority, the leader, the boss.
He is the head of this department. She is the head of the women’s ministry committee.

Please note that there is only one meaning for the English word “headship.” Headship means “authority over” or “rule.” The Bible never says the husband has “headship” over the wife. So, like “helpmate,” can we just stop saying it?

Okay, so the husband is the head of the wife….but that is in English which has almost 40 meanings for the word! So, what is the word in Greek?


Kephale is not the word Paul uses when he wants to say authority. Kephale is a head—”the round thing that houses the brain and where the face is set. “ Want to see some examples?

Some of us have heard, read, and been taught that the husband is the head so he is the leader for so long that it is very difficult to read that scripture passage any other way. So let's use a different English word that means head. Let's use noggin. If we read "The husband is the noggin of the wife, just as Christ is the noggin of the church..." we would likely understand that noggin was a metaphor. A metaphor is never literal; it is an emblem, a symbol. We would know that the husband is not the wife's literal head (noggin), nor is Christ the literal head (noggin) of the Church.

Kephale must be a metaphor. So what did this word mean to the original readers (hearers)? What was the Greek (not English) metaphor?“Kephale" didn't have the normal meaning of "authority" or “leader” in Paul's day and in the Greek language. There were other words for "authority." Here are three examples:

I Cor. 5:24 “…He will put down all rule and all authority and all power.” arche or archon

Heb. 13:17 “Obey those that have spiritual rule over you, and submit yourselves for they watch for your souls. hēgeomai

I Timothy 2:2 “Remember kings and all that are in authority over you…” hyperochē

Paul used "heart" (not head) for the intelligent control of the body, which was the Greek way of thinking. There was no knowledge of the "head" controlling as we know it today.

KEPHALE is a literal word for head (noggin), but a metaphor for SOURCE.

Kephale means "source." This is important because it teaches the Ephesians that women were created from the same substance as men. It refutes the pagan idea that women were made of an inferior substance between that of man and animal. Paul, therefore, undermines this pagan notion by referring to the man as the kephale ("source") of the woman in creation and exhorts husbands to love their wives as their own bodies (vs. 23). She is bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh, (Gen. 2:23)--a fitting and equal partner. Eddie L. Hyatt & Susan C. Hyatt

Most translations just translate kephale literally as head, but here is what can happen when we use English metaphors where they do not belong:

"The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church…” The Message

“The husband has authority over the wife in the same way that Christ has authority over the Church.” Today’s English Version (Good News Bible

In my opinion, this is simply wrong, bad hermeneutics, bad translation work! Remember, kephale means “head” (noggin) in Greek. But, unlike in English, it does not mean leadership or authority or rule. Let's go back to Ephsians and read it using the word source when the Bible says kephale.

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband [or man] is the source of the wife [or woman] as Christ is the source the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

Doesn't Jesus Christ have rule and authority over the Church? Yes, certainly. But given the context, is this passage more likely to be speaking of Christ’s rule and authority over the church, or is it speaking of his love, his care, his death being the source of life for the church? Which fits the passage best?

Remember Genesis? The man was the source, the origen, of the woman, wasn’t he? Wasn’t the woman “taken out of the man?” Wasn’t she “bone of his bone…flesh of his flesh?”

Lets look at another passage that is often used to teach that the husband is in authority and that the home is a hierarchy of command, I Cor. 11:3, 11 and 12. And let's see what happens when we use source where the Bible uses kephale.

“Now I want you to realize that the kephale [source] of every man is Christ, and the kephale [source] of the woman is man, and the kephale [source] of Christ is God. In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.”

These verses are not about hierarchy and who gets to be boss over who. Both the language and the context of the passage fit beautifully with kephale as source. Paul is affirming our interdependence, both on God and on one another. Yes, woman came from man, but man now comes from woman. All come from God. How much more clear this passage becomes when we stop thinking that "head" means leader or one in authority!

The title of the sermon today may be silly, but guess who gets to be the HEAD HONCHO? The Bible never says the husband is in authority over the wife. We know that we all submit to one another our of respect for Christ: wives honor and respect their husbands and husbands love and sacrifice for their wives. God is the head (and this time I mean the AUTHORITY) of the Christian home. Under God the husband and wife are partners, heirs together of God’s gracious gift of life.

The man is the kephale, the source, of the woman, as Christ is the source of the church. We express our mutual dependence on God and our honor for our mates by showing love for one another and by having a heart that is willing to submit in humility - because of our Lord Jesus Christ!


Alaska said...

This is fantastic stuff!!!

Anonymous said...

I think it is funny how there are less and less comments. :)

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Funny? Why?

LoieJ said...

Laughing at Kris's comments. I've also wondered about that...of course, Wordy One here is way behind in reading. I just printed three of these so I can catch up when I'm not at the computer.

luthien_alcalime said...

Hello, first I would like to congratulate you on your blog and for teaching people the correct way, not thetarditional way, God bless you and that you may continue recahing to many more!
I just would like to ask a personal opinion in one matter that has troubled me a lot for several weeks.( I place the comment here because it seemed the right place and because I don`t know how to send a private message, I am not very good with how blogs work. If you don`t want this published here could you email me a response to please)

Although I am egalitarian, the comments posted by complementarians sometimes scare me, for example I read an article about a Book by Bunny Wilson called Liberated through submission, I don`t know if you have read it or come across it? Here is the link to 1 online chapter.

And I just got worried about how she claims that submitting to a husband`s authority will make you happy but worst are the examples that she gives of women who seem to work! And that is what troubles me!

Again I would like you honest opinion, is this just a another way of brainwashing woman into giving all authority to their husbands (which I know it`s not since the word khepale does not carry such a meaning) but I would like to ask you what do you think about the book in general, the chapter and interview? Do you believe she is all wrong? Why has she sold so much copies and gives so much interviews if traditional marriages seem to bring more violence and oppression to women?

I also heard she gave these quotes :

“Bunny Wilson, a speaker for Chosen Women, a women’s PK satellite group, writes in her book Liberated through Submission that men should "rule with a hand of steel that is covered with velvet." She tells women to "go against" their "feelings, thoughts and opinions, and `yield pleasantly' to authority," including their "husband, pastor or employer." And just about any male authority figure. Wilson states "Our job is to submit to our teachers and our Professors...even if we know they are wrong. It is then in God's hands.” “

But I just want to know, those this principle work? Do you believe it? Or is it just a weird way of brainwashing women to commit idolatry towards their husbands? I would like your opinion on this, it seems like a magic formula to me, but I am scared of how much marriages she says she has helped.

I would love your answers and opinions on this please, it would mean a lot to me.

Sincerely , Andrea

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Andrea, I'm so sorry that I have commented back to you sooner. I will send an email because there is one thing I don't want to post here, but I will say that feeling afraid is something I understand. This is not surprising, considering the way the subject is often presented, and how often, frankly, it is presented incorrectly. The very fact that I was AFRAID to be wrong was a bit of a clue to me that something was amiss. Honest questions and seeking need not lead to fear. Who might be the author of that? Just asking. I have read Bunny's article, and I DO NOT agree with it. I think it is full of contradictions and double-speak.

Dorcas (aka SingingOwl) said...

Obviously I meant to say "have not commented."