Kephale is the Greek word translated as “head” in Eph 5:22, 1 Cor 11:3, and elsewhere. I’ve had more debates than I like about “the true meaning” of Kephale, and I don’t wish to go through the linguistic arguments here. If you want to read about it, start with Wayne Grudem’s The Meaning Of Kephale (“Head”): An Evaluation Of New Evidence, Real And Alleged.
I think we can get the truth without having to have a Masters in Greek!
“But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.” [1 Cor 11:3 ESV]
“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” [Eph 5:23 ESV]
The five appearances of “head” in those verses are Kephale. What would happen if we exchanged the word with X (the unknowing quantity in math) and “solved for X” based on context?
But I want you to understand that the X of every man is Christ, the X of a wife is her husband, and the X of Christ is God.
For the husband is the X of the wife even as Christ is the X of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.
Whatever “X” is, we have four examples of it – Christ and man, husband and wife, God and Christ, and Christ and the Church. What’s more, Paul says the word functions the same in these four relationships. Whatever the word means, it must be applied consistently across the four relationships mentioned. Obviously, God is not the same as a man, so there may be some difference, but we cannot in all integrity make the word mean one thing in some of those relationships, and something entirely different in others of the relationships.
One big reason for the debate about Kephale is that translating it as “head” is a problem for those who say God intends husband and wives to “mutually submit to each other.” Personally, I think the “solve for X” approach blows a hole in the egalitarian approach. Does Christ wait for agreement and consent from the Church before acting? Didn’t Jesus say to God “Not My will, but Yours be done?”
Bottom line: while I may not be as “strong” on headship as some, I am convinced it is the only biblical model for marriage. Feel free to disagree in the comments!
Note: I won’t be discussing this Sunday as I had another post promised. I will get back to this on Monday, with submission.