Saturday, April 19, 2008


As I tried to show in my last post, this whole thing of who's the boss? became an issue between male and female only after the fall and the entrance of sin. It was never a problem originally because there was only one boss. God Himself. Then that fiasco that culminated in Genesis 3:16 which is the description of what resulted between human and divine relationships. Down deep every fallen individual wants to be in charge of their own life. So the process of redemption began in time and on earth. [It had already had it's beginnings in eternity. Redemption is no after-thought with God.]

But, interestingly, God is now working with fallen humanity which eventually sets up a culture or society that is also fallen. It is within that context that God works to bring about His plan to restore relationships to their original plan and purpose. God accommodates Himself to the culture produced and, in many ways, even inspires His word [through men and centuries of time] using the words and the meaning of words that are within that fallen culture. His revelation progresses to the final word He gives in Christ Himself of course. [Hebrews 1:1] He defines the full picture of redemption and gives conclusive meaning to all the Father's plan and purposes that are to be re-established through Grace. ["This is my beloved Son..hear ye Him."]

This is illustrated well in the account of Israel's desire for a King. They wanted one. They got one. Saul. You remember that, I'm sure. Later God gave a better one..David..and the beat went on. Now remember, God's plan and purpose was always for Him to be their only Sovereign. But fallen culture/society [a collection of the life strategies of fallen people] produced something other. Even in a chosen nation like Israel. God worked within a Covenant relationship with her, for sure, but He had to shape, protect, and even condemn some 'bent out of shape' relationships with her along the way . But that's where God worked. Within that structure.

Priests? The same situation. A High Priest was needed to bring about redemption because of having to work with fallen humanity. Originally, God was Sovereign, Lord, King, High Priest, Ruler, you name it..He was it to His human creation. And, ultimately, Jesus would/will be seen as Lord, King, Master, High Priest. You name it, He is it. The human king is not. The husband is not. The pastor is not. [The father is NOT the Prophet, Priest or King of the New Covenant home Jesus is]. In the New Covenant, Grace restores those relationships to their original intention and, eternity, at His return, will only bring it all home. This must not be missed if we are to understand the New Testament.

That brings me to the illustration of all I've said that will help us the most, I think. It is the understanding of Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3 against the backdrop I've just given. It is there [because we unfortunately try to make a hierarchical interpretation of those passages fit with God's purpose in creation when it doesn't at all] that major confusion is set up in New Covenant relationships if we're not extremely careful.

We must remember that in scripture no one is commanded to "subject" anyone under them. Originally that was not intended and would violate God's plan. [This is why slavery is so abhorrent. It violates God's original plan and purpose for humanity although He worked within a fallen culture where it, unfortunately, was the norm often times. The same can be said of gender slavery.] It is certainly true that in the New Covenant kind of relationship we have in Christ, [a new culture/society] because of Grace, that forced subjection certainly isn't allowed. That would obviously violate the forbidding of such as commanded in Mark 10:42-44 and other places.

Well then what is it the passages in question [Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3] are saying? That is what we turn to now.

In Ephesians 5 and similar places where there is to a "subjecting" [serving--hupotasso] it is in the middle voice [Greek] which means to choose to serve. [In English we have the active and passive but the Greek is more intricate than that.] For the Church or Body of Christ, it is never by fiat or because of a demand by someone who is the ruler of someone else. There is but one Lord for all believers.

In fact, this whole section of Eph. 5 is not speaking about authority or rule at all or even "who's the boss." It is addressing a serving [subjecting] that is chosen from within the person doing the serving. In Ephesians 5:21 it is everyone choosing to serve each other. This refers to male and female, pastor and people, parents and children, anyone who is in Grace. Remember this is the New Covenant. [The new culture in Christ.] In verse 22 the word "submit" isn't even there. Verse 22 is connected to verse 21 [there were no verse/chapter divisions originally, as you know I'm sure] where it is used for all Christians toward each other as we've said.

It is only then that verse 22 describes the wife's serving of her husband, with verses 25-31 describing the husband's serving of his wife as Christ does the Church, and all this is an outgrowth of all being filled with the Spirit. [verse 18] It is this change of heart that comes because of Grace [remember that horrible thing of Genesis 3:16 where everyone wanted to be the 'boss'] that is being described and it continues to be described in chapter 6 of children to parents [a different word is used here] and slaves to their masters. They were to choose to serve in a different way. From the heart as to the Lord. The masters were to do likewise to the slaves.

Of course there were those in charge as the parents were of the children [that's why the different word] and masters were of their slaves. But, notice, there is a lesser inherent condition where one is in charge of another because of some unique lacking such as the maturity of children or the non-freedom of the slaves. If men are to be in charge of women in the family, what is it that is lacking in the female that makes male authority inherently needed? There is none. And in Ephesians 5 or Colossians 3 [or Genesis 1 and 2 for that matter] there is none indicated. It took the fall for the problem of lording it over to arise as reflected in fallen cultures. No ruling or authority meant here at all. It is serving that is at issue here. Not "authority."

The problem seems to stem from the meaning of the word "head" in this passage. It isn't speaking of "rule" or "authority." It is speaking of origination or source. If ruling or authority had been intended, the word [remember His revelation was given in that Greco/Roman culture not ours] "arche" [archon-Rom 13:3] meaning leader or ruler would have been used. Or even the word "exousea." [Rom 13:1-2] meaning "authority" would have said it. But the word is, indeed, "kephale." It meant to them the origination or source. [As God is to Christ and Christ is to the Church and the man is to the woman.] In fact, it's interesting to me the scriptures never declare the man to be the "head" of the family but the wife only. Both husband and wife are the source [head in the Greek way of thinking] of that family of the New Covenant. But had the "authority" or "rule" of Christ of the Church or the husband of the wife been intended other language would have been used. As, for example, in scripture, [because of their culture understanding it this way] to "rule," the feet are used metaphorically. "To be put under [some one's] feet." What did "head" mean to them? As I said...origination or source.

A side note of interest. In Colossians 2:10 we are told [told to all christians] "In Him you have been made complete and He is the head over all rule and authority." In verse 15 it is pointed out He, by His Cross work, has "disarmed all rulers and authorities." So...we are to not allow ourselves to be judged [a standard set and deemed violated by another] concerning food, drink, new moons sabbaths or such because, as verse 19 says, all of us are connected to the Head. [Christ] It is not saying He's the authority over all authorities or rulers. [Though He certainly is.] It's saying He is the source of all Authorities that exist. Now He has disarmed all and is the only source [head] of life, nourishment, [rule and authority too for that matter reversing that Genesis 3:16 mess] for all His people in the New Covenant established on Grace in Christ.

It is true that redeemed Christians are living in a fallen culture with established "rulers" authorities" and will until He returns and are to obey [serve] them. But it is inside out. It is a heart issue for us. Were we to operate the Church or family that way, [with rulers or authorities by virtue of position] we would be bringing our fallen culture into the meaning of scripture and not be letting scripture alone be our guide. You can see, I'm sure, that I do not believe the scriptures support a patriarchial approach to the family at all. You have to bring fallen culture in as a foundation for that kind of view. The sufficiency of the scripture is where I believe we ought to stand. Where Christ is our Head [source] AND Lord. [Boss]

That brings me to say this in conclusion. The cultural context in which the scriptures were inspired used language with their meaning not ours. I've said this ad-nauseam. To us, "head" means "boss" or "leader" or "one in charge." Not to them. It meant origination or source. It is trying to interpret the text with our cultural connotations rather than the original connotation of their language that gets us into hot water with the intended meaning of scripture it seems to me.

[ A final aside. I've read where someone said, though I can't remember who or where at the moment, that Aristotle believed the head was the source of male sperm and it traveled down the spine to the genitals. Plato believed the head was the seat of the soul which was, in his mind, a seed itself. He often used 'Kephale' to refer to the beginning of a story. Athena is said to have come from her father's [Zeus] head. No wonder Paul would use 'head' the way he did. It had the meaning of "source" to them and that WAS the truth God was speaking. Culture does impact scripture but let's be sure we know how, why, and which one is doing the impacting.]

More to come on the next post about this kind of stuff.



traveller said...

Paul, as always an articulate work of insight and erudition.

One of the most important points you make is concerning the meaning of kephale. When we impose our current cultural understanding of "head" onto scripture we make a serious interpreational error.

Thanks for your wisdom.

Paul Burleson said...


So much for my goal of short posts. But, I'll be, every time I tried to stop it seemed it would have been totally disjointed to have done so. Thus...a book instead of a post. Oh well.

After reading Wade's post and comments about patriarchial positions gone amuck, I felt I needed to state my case more strongly.

Dusman said...

Brother Paul,

Thanks for this edifying post!

Paul Burleson said...


Unless I've forgotten something, this is your first time to comment. Don't let be the last. Thanks for stopping by.

Lin said...

Thanks for going into Kephale. Since we know the Holy Spirit inspired every single word including grammar, it does not make sense that Kephale would be the inspired word for 'authority' over someone.

What confuses me is why so much time is spent trying to prove Kephale means authority when the question really is: Why Kephale?

Bryan Riley said...

Us youngin's who were raised SBC really appreciate someone like you going through this and doing so with a strong biblical foundation. It's hard for someone to accuse you of suddenly jsut being GenX or Y and postmodern. :)

Paul Burleson said...


No one can accuse me of being Generation x, y, or z that's for sure. I'm still back in the Louie Lamour days and if I have to explain who he is.. nuff said. :)

You have raised a thought for me though. I might need to give record of the journey from Fundamentalism [capital F intended] to where I am today with my present understanding of women in scripture as to marriage, church and life in general. That's an idea for a little later perhaps.

As always, I appreciate you and your family much.

Lin said...

"I might need to give record of the journey from Fundamentalism [capital F intended] to where I am today with my present understanding of women in scripture as to marriage, church and life in general."

That would be instructive for many, I think. I have met quite a few people who are coming out from legalistic backgrounds and Patriarchy.

bryan riley said...

My dad and I read all of Louis L'Amour's books. I still remember all the Sackett boys. And I remember the Walking Drum. Yol Bolsum or something like that. May there be a road.

Paul Burleson said...


You've asked the right question. Why Kephale? I think you and I know don't we. Paul was NOT saying anything about authority or rule. He was speaking of something entirely different. Had authority OR rule been his intention, there were other words that would have said it well.

Lin [you know what I mean here] those folks are arguing over whether you "eat or ride a pig" aren't they. :)


Good for you. You even spelled his name correctly. I didn't.

Lin said...

"those folks are arguing over whether you "eat or ride a pig" aren't they. :)"

Absolutely. But what is so sad is the great beauty and truth one misses when they do not read that passage with the understanding of 'source' or 'origin'.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

Thanks for sharing from the heart. I have thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the last several weeks.

Do you not agree that when a man gets it right in understanding auhority being in our Lord Jesus Christ, then the issue of "headship" manifests itself in servant leadership, sacrificial love and an overwhelming attitude that it does not revolve around me?
It's like preaching the whole counsel of God. There is no other option but His on this issue. It also applies to our culture at work, marriage and parenting. The accountability issue is enough to make sure I got it right before the Lord.

Thanks for working hard to simplify an important topic. We do make it hard sometimes. And I, too, love Louis L'Amour's books. you can't live in south Texas and do otherwise.

Appreciate you and your family very much.

Steve in San Antonio

Paul Burleson said...


Good to hear from you again.

My problem with this thing of "head" is that, in the passages where it is referenced or spoken it has to do with source or origination, not authority or rule.

In Eph.5 Paul is addressing serving. The originating order of things is the Church comes from [kephale] Christ, Christ from God [God gave His only Son] and woman from man. [Put to sleep and took a rib] This is in contridistinction to the Temple of Dianah teaching [located on a hill outside the city of Ephesus] out of which some of the women had been converted.

It was the false teaching Paul is addressing in 1 Timothy. Remember Timothy was Pastor of that Church as Paul had been. That particular false teaching was that women were created first and were superior to men.

Paul shows the order of creation/origination and that, in christianity, ALL are to serve one another from the heart. [Eph. 5:21]

As I said in my post, if Paul had wanted to adress authority or rule, he would have NOT used kephale but other Greek words entirely.

There is ONLY one "head" of the entire Body of Christ [which a saved woman is part of] if by head is meant to rule or be Lord. It is Jesus. But the Man IS head of the woman, if by head we mean source originally.

By the way, it's interesting that this IS true originally. [Adam and Eve] But since that time every man has come from woman by birth including the Messiah. :) [Paul was talking about the original event to show wone were, in fact, NOT superior and did NOT come first in creation as that mystery religion said.]

Paul Burleson said...


Would you believe my TERRIBLE spelling on the previous comment. [Don't answer that. :)]

I'm just going to leave it up. Sorry.

Steve Miller said...

Brother Paul,

I guess what I am trying to get across is that I can determine my attitude on the "boss" issue, fully understanding the correct word usage and interpretation, if I am mindful of the difference between a proud, unbroken spirit and that of a broken, contrite heart. Wade's blog helped me remember this and your sharing adds to the application. Thanks again.

Paul Burleson said...


How right you and and I DO hear what your saying. I missed it last time. Sorry.

In reality, you've just described the difference between one who is trying to be "boss' and one who is truly being "servant." It is, as you point out really a heart issue.

Good words both times.

Aussie John said...


I'm glad I stumbled (?) over your page a few weeks ago. Reading this article makes this old timer feel much less alone amongst the surrounding forest of legalists and spiritual policemen.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie John,

I know the atmosphere you are describing with the"forest of legalists and spiritual policemen."

I'm hoping we can continue enjoying the grace air we're breathing. I hear it in you.

Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Kathleen said...

Thank you for sharing this. I've been studying gender "issues" in scripture for a short while now (about 2 years) and my understanding has opened up through just the pure reading of the Scriptures, to let Scripture interpret Scripture. Understanding context and culture is very important.

I'm currently attending an FIC church that has taught many times that the father is "prophet, priest, king" of the household. Gender issues are starting to become more of an issue (or I'm just recognizing it), and I heard the teaching elder teach on Ephesians 5, but literally skipped verse 21 (submitting to one another) in order to hammer the point that wives must submit to their husbands. I showed my husband when we got home and he agreed and went to a men's sermon meeting to discuss the previous sermon and brought it up.

My husband studied 4+ years of Greek at Multnomah School of the Bible in the '90s and continues to study on his own. He's verified many of the same things I've learned recently online and through my own studying of God's Word that the gender issues that are thrown around in patriarchal circles are based on presupposition and Scripture doesn't soundly support some of what they're teaching.

Thank you so much for the encouraging post.

Paul Burleson said...


Thanks for stopping by.

It sounds like you and your husband are practicing New Covenant christians who are searching the scriptures "to see if those things be so." Good for you.

I'm sure many Pastors/Elders [and others] will struggle with your new found views but that's OK. Speaking the truth in love is always the way to go and it sounds like you two are doing that well.

Our son, who pastors a fellowship, is always reminding his folks that grace and truth are always coupled in scripture and grace comes first. Truth is important but never to the loss of grace. Keep it up.