Saturday, November 2, 2013

Meaning of The Biblical Word Head, Boss, Leader or Source?

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”.

My first post is about the word "head" and it's true meaning in the biblical sense, since this word is often controversial in the Christian community as various Christians and scholars have various definitions of the word.  Many Christians have taken the above verse to mean that the husband is the boss, superior rank or ruler who has a higher authority and power in the marriage.  These folks will reason that the government, school, or organization needs a head who’s in charge so why not in marriage?  Some more patriarchal groups think it doesn’t just refer to male authority in marriage but male authority in general even to fathers and unmarried daughters or male pastors. They get this idea from the bible verse 1 Corinthians 11:3: “But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God". 

 I always been frustrated with this type of thinking and can’t help but believe it is based chauvinism and patriarchy.  This type of thinking as caused many conflicts in marriage where husbands confused their position as power to rule or dominate their wives sometimes in a very abusive manner.  Of course, there are some Christian groups who will say it’s okay for the husband to rule over their wives as long as they do it in a loving way.  Then, there are those who soften the word even further stating that the husband is to lead lovingly rather than rule over.  Growing up in a home where my parents had a marriage based on equal partnership where there are no power plays, I can’t help feel skeptical and even bothered by the idea of the husband having authority over his wife.  I honesty believe that if god created men and women to be equal in god’s kingdom and equal in worth and value in personhood, that should include marriage. 

On the other side, other Christian groups believe the word simply means source.  However, this didn’t satisfy me enough because I wanted to learn the truth of the biblical meanings not just what satisfies me.  In the past, I’ve even asked both my parents on this subject and they both gave me their input of the meaning but I still wanted to do some research on this subject matter.  After studying the research over the internet numerous times off and on over couple of years, I’ve finally come to a conclusion on what the word means.  My conclusions are not simply based what is convenient or what satisfies me but what I really makes sense to me and why I believe the true meaning. 
First from what I’ve learned, the biblical meaning of the word head isn’t the same as the typical English meaning.  In Greek translation, the word head is "kephale".  Kephale can be used to mean source of life.  This could be what meaning in 1 Corinthians 11:3.  After all, god created Adam in his own image, then he created Eve by using the Adam’s rib.  Kephale also means the physical head of a body.  In the bible, numerous times the church is metaphorically referred to as Christ’s body and Jesus as the head.  Romans 12 4 5: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”.  Colossians 1:18 -"And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence".  1 Corinthians 12:12-13 - “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit”.  1 Corinthians 12:27: “Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it”.  Ephesians 1:22-23:  And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way”.  
Basically, Paul was using a head/body metaphor in which each member of the church function as one body giving their individual talents and gifts to it.  Jesus is the head joined together with the church in unity giving life and energy to it and nourishing it in order for the church to grow and function.  In this way, Jesus is also the source of life of the church being it's originator and source of growth, breathing life into it and bringing it to completion.  Some may argue doesn’t the head control the body?  Actually the brain controls your entire body.  Besides, Since the human head and body are joined together and if the head was cut off the entire body would die.  Jesus and the church are joined together in unity and oneness.  Also,  as I think about it more, we normally take care of and nourish our bodies by feeding it properly and thus our bodies grow healthy.   If we starve and don’t take care of our bodies properly, we can die or become unhealthy.  In order to allow the church to live and continue to grow, Jesus as its head, feeds the entire body, nourishing and taking care of it properly. 
Another meaning of kephale is foremost in terms of position, like a cornerstone in a foundation or capstone over a door.  Jesus is often described in the bible as the head cornerstone of the church.  Psalm 118:22-23:  The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes”.  Ephesians 2:20 :  “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone”.  Acts 4:11 : “This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone”.  In these verses, the chief cornerstone can also mean the head of the corner.  In biblical times, the cornerstone was the first stone laid at the corner of the building of two intersecting walls.  This was the most important stone, since if removed the entire building would collapse.  Metaphorically, Jesus is considered the head cornerstone of the church and the two walls are the Jews and the gentiles who are now joined together by Jesus as a foundation.  He has brought both groups together as one. 
A final meaning for the word kephale, is military term which refers to the one  who is out in front leading the troop.  This is not the job of a higher ranking officer, but rather a point man who is the first solider of a troop or a platoon heading into battle, taking the greatest risks.  He takes his orders from a commanding officer who is usually out in the rear.  Although I don’t know if this term as any relation to Jesus, some may argue that once again Paul was using a metaphor in which Jesus is out in front leading the way for his church out of sacrificial love in which he even gives up his life for it when he allowed himself to be crucified.   I myself, am not completely sure any more although I used to stubbornly support this theory.   Head was also translated for another Greek word "ache/archon".  Arche means point of origin, first in terms of importance and beginning, while Archon means ruler, chief, magistrate and leader.  These words were never used in  the scriptures Ephesians 5:23 or 1 Corinthians 11:3.  The Hebrew word "ro’sh" could also be translated to either arche/archon or kephale depending on how it’s used.   As for the word authority, the Greek word is "exousia" which also is never used in the two verses.
In summary, the true biblical meaning of the word head(kephale) isn’t boss, ruler or the one in charge.  It’s meaning in relation to Jesus and the church is metaphorically Jesus is the head and the church is the body joined together in unity and oneness.  The source of life and growth and in which Jesus is the originator, completer and nourisher of the church giving it life and nourishing and nurturing its growth and bringing strength to it.  As the head cornerstone, Jesus is  first in position in building up the church uplifting it giving huge support as a foundation.  My next post will discuss head as the husband’s role in marriage.

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