1 Cor 11: 10 ECHEIN EXOUSIAN EPI KRFALHS
Pastor Mark Eddy
markeddy at adams.net
Fri Oct 25 16:53:45 EDT 2002
I am very new to the list, so these comments may be "reinventing the wheel." And I do not have a copy of
Fee's arguments, but I have studied this many times, so I think I can offer a few suggestions below.
Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church
(Sorry, I forgot to include my personal information the first time I sent this.)
----- Original Message -----
From: "jerker karlsson" <jerker_k at hotmail.com>
To: "Biblical Greek" <b-greek at franklin.oit.unc.edu>
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 4:51 PM
Subject: [b-greek] 1 Cor 11: 10 ECHEIN EXOUSIAN EPI KRFALHS
> The passage 1 Cor. 11: 10 is famous, if not infamous, when it comes to the
> phrase “EXOUSIAN ECHEIN EPI THS KEFALHS”. Two main ways have been suggested
> along which the phrase should be interpreted. The first way, and the
> traditional, is that EXOUSIAN is understood as a metonym bearing the meaning
> of head covering. The other way, suggested by Gordon Fee et.al., is that the
> phrase is read as the fixed expression “EXOUSIAN ECHEIN EPI”. Now, I have
> some questions, or objections, regarding the interpretation suggested by
> among others Fee.
> First of all, even if “EXOUSIAN ECHEIN EPI” is an expression of a rather
> fixed nature in terms of meaning so is the “EPI THS KEFALHS”. The latter
> always, at least in Novum and LXX, means too wear something on the head or
> get something in the hair.
This statement is not completely true. Take a look at the following verses:
2 Sam. 1:16 "Your blood be on your head" (see also 1 Kings 2:37; Ezek. 33:4; Acts 18:6)(meaning: "you
deserve the death penalty")
Psalm 66:12 "you let men ride over our heads."
Psalm 140:7[139:8] "O LORD, my Lord, the strength of my salvation, you covered over my head in the day of
battle." (although the EPI here is probably only due to the verb EPESKIASAS.)
Proverbs 25:22 "you will heap burning coals on his head." (see Rom. 12:20)(Your adversary does not
literally wear coals of fire.)
Jonah 4:8 "the sun beat down on the head of Jonah."
Judith 8:3 "the scorching heat came over his head and he fell on his bed and died."
Revelation 10:1 Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a
rainbow over his head." (Admittedly, this is close to meaning that he was wearing a rainbow.)
> My question would then be; is there any reason
> why it should be more natural to read the phrase as Fee suggests and not as
> I (and probably others) suggests? The thrust of Fee’s very argument is that
> “EXOUSIAN ECHEIN EPI” is in it self an unshakable unity with a fixed
> meaning. Indeed, I’m in total agreement with him. But I would like to beg to
> differ on whether the phrase actually is what Fee suggests it is. Why not
> instead read “EPI THS KEFALHS” as the fixed part of the phrase? Fixed with
> the meaning “wear on the head”?
From the examples above, it is clear that EPI THS KEFALHS on occasion means "over the head" instead of
the head." And in a few of these passages "head" connotes more than just a person's physical head. It can
represent the entire person.
> The second question I would like to raise is on the relationship between
> “OFEILEI” and “EXOUSIAN ECHEIN”. To be obliged to have or to do something is
> in it’s inner meaning a rather clear concept. Less clear however, is the
> obligation to have power. How on earth, or in heaven, can one be obligated
> to have power? To do something with one’s actual power perhaps, but just to
> have it!? Is there, foremost in the Greek language, or in Greek and Jewish
> thinking any parallel to the command Fee suggests we should read in these
"Power" is not a good translation of EXOUSIA. "Power" seems to connote the physical ability to do
something. It connotes the ability to force someone else to do something (similar to the English
expression [which I do not condone]: "Might makes right."). EXOUSIA is better translated "authority,"
meaning the God-given right to do something or control someone's actions.
If the "authority over her head" is her husband's authority, then she can easily be obligated to have
this. This is the sense of Ephesians 5:23-24: "a man is head of his wife as also Christ is Head of the
church; He is Savior of the body. But as the church is subordinate to Christ, so also the wife (is to be
subordinate) to her husband in everything."
KEFALH is obviously used in two senses in 1 Cor. 7. It refers an authority over a person in verse 3. I
refers to the physical head of a man or a woman in verses 4,5, & 7. I am inclined to believe that St.
is using a play on words in verses 4 and 5, so that the first KEFALH is the person's physical head, but
the second KEFALH in the verse is that person's "higher-up." Thus, in verse 4 if a man prays or
"having (something [a Jewish prayer shawl?]} down from his head" he dishonors his Head, namely Christ.
any woman who prays or prophesies with her "head uncovered" dishonors her head, namely her husband. I
would be interested in hearing people's reactions to this.
Of course, if in 1 Cor. 7:10 EXOUSIAN is used metonymically for "symbol of authority," then it is easy to
understand how St. Paul could say that she "ought to have" such a "sign of authority" on her head. If she
doesn't have such a "symbol" of her husband's authority over her on her head, then she ought to put one
However, I would like to propose another translation of this verse. "Because of this the woman ought to
have an authority over her head, because of the angels." The "authority" that she ought to have "over"
head is her husband (or father, if she is not yet married). I would be interested in hearing your
objections to this understanding of the text. Alternatively, could Paul be saying ""the woman ought to
have authority over her head," meaning, the Christian woman ought to be able to know how properly to
control what she has on her head, without having to have someone else tell her what to wear? For example,
I can tell my wife how I like her hair, but she fixes it herself (the way she wants to). As long as she
doesn't disregard me, her head, she has the authority to do this. I don't think that Paul means this, but
I would be interested in hearing your arguments for why he does not mean this.
> I know that this topic was discussed on b-greek back in 1997, but I don’t
> think these particular questions were raised then.
> /Jerker Karlsson
> Lund, Sweden
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