That Headship Issue | Jesus Creed

[Excerpted from original article]

Male authority and leadership in the home and church is frequently supported by verse 23 which says, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church.” The term “head” is often read today to mean “ruler” or “authority.” The original Greek text of Ephesians however, does not allow for such an ordered interpretation of the word “head.” In this passage, the limits of the English language blur an important distinction between several meanings of the term that is translated “head” in English. Rather than indicating hierarchy, and therefore the unilateral submission of wives to their husbands, the Greek word for “head” used here by Paul is properly understood to convey the ideas of dependence and unity.

Kephale, the Greek word which is translated “head” in this passage, means “source,” and conveys the idea of one who willingly sacrifices and lays down their life. Thus, kephale indicated to Paul’s audience chronology rather than leadership or authority. This understanding of “head” is consistent with Paul’s assertion in 5:23 that Christ is the head or kephale of the church. Another Greek word which can be translated “head” in English is arche. Arche was used in Paul’s time to convey the idea of hierarchy, and was also utilized to mean “leadership” or “ruler.” Significantly, Paul did not use this word when speaking of marriage in Ephesians and thus he explicitly avoided conveying the idea of gender hierarchy and therefore male authority.
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