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Sep 20, 2007


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Peter Kirk

Interesting. The Philo evidence seems rather convincing, as well as that from Plotius.

I wonder whether the puzzling Trinitarian doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son can be linked with "God is the head of Christ" in 1 Corinthians 11:3; was this verse appealed to during Trinitarian controversies? As for "the husband is the head of the wife", there is an obvious sense in which he is the source of the semen received by her. But I await your further evidence.

Peter Kirk

Having now read her article, I see that Kroeger got in before me in referring to Trinitarian applications of 1 Corinthians 11:3, for this lies behind her Athanasius, Cyril and Chrysostom quotations. It is interesting that Chrysostom prefigured the modern controversy about how complementarianism is linked with functional subordination of the Son.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Peter. I'll have more about 1 Cor. 11:3 later. Chrysostom's quote is interesting isn't it?

J. K. Gayle

Thanks for the link, Michael.

I wonder if it's not a bit too absolutely overstated to say "the head was not the bodily organ responsible for intellect and control in Greek." Could there not have been wordplay by Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, and others?

For instance: Although H. Rackham translates a phrase of Aristotle (from Nicomachean Ethics) with the usual sense you mention, he guides us to other possibilities. For example, Rackham translates "κεφαλὴν ἔχουσα ἐπιστήμη" as "consummated knowledge," but he footnotes this by saying: "Literally ‘knowledge having as it were a head,’ a phrase copied from Plato, Plat. Gorg. 505d." So we follow Rackham and Aristotle to something not just literal. There's another figurative use of "κεφαλῆς" or "head." Plato's Socrates is speaking to Callicles in The Gorgias, saying: "καταλείπειν, ἀλλ' ἐπιθέντας κεφαλήν, ἵνα μὴ ἄνευ κεφαλῆς περιίῃ. ἀπόκριναι οὖν καὶ τὰ λοιπά, ἵνα ἡμῖν ὁ λόγος κεφαλὴν λάβῃ" or "Why, they say one does wrong to leave off even stories in the middle; one should set a head on the thing, that it may not go about headless. So proceed with the rest of your answers, that our argument may pick up a head." And Callicles replies "ὡς βίαιος εἶ, ὦ Σώκρατες. ἐὰν δὲ ἐμοὶ πείθῃ, ἐάσεις χαίρειν τοῦτον τὸν λόγον, ἢ καὶ ἄλλῳ τῳ διαλέξῃ" or "How overbearing you are, Socrates! Take my advice, and let this argument drop, or find some one else to argue with."

Why does Socrates want Callicles to put a head on the argument? Is Socrates suggesting the head will provide authority to the argument? or will be its source somehow or something? Rather: Does an intelligent argument not need a head? Could this not be an early Greek association of head with argumentation, with dialectic, with rhetoric, with intelligence? (When it comes to figurative language, can we afford to make an absolute once-and-for-all determination of the possible range of uses and meanings?)

Michael W. Kruse

J. K. thanks for a fascinating quote. I have a few more posts to come that I hope will flesh some of this out more.

My point was that it does not appear to me that the head was the organ from which intellect/control sprang in the sense that we understand the brain to "rule" the body. That does not mean that "head" did not metaphorically symbolize aspects of intellect based on other conceptions of the significance of the head to the body. Maybe my next post will make things a little more clear.


thanks for the great links. they have all been useful to read up on.


I would suggest rather that head could be one end or the other. It is both ends and not the middle. The heading is at the top of the chapter, and the chapter must end with a summary or conclusion.

But, of the many words for which I have googled a definition, the English word "head" beats them all. It would not be suitable to enumerate them all, so I'll leave them all unsaid.

It really doesn't matter, since so many women today must go about without a "head" in any case, and don't suffer much for it.

Michael W. Kruse

Thanks Suzanne. Do you have any particular ancient quotes in mind that would illustrate this? I'd love to learn more.

I know that both ends of a river were called the head. So the starting point of the Mississippi River in Minnesota would sometimes be called the head (where the water begins but the mouth of the river where it flows into the Gulf of Mexico could be called the head (because that was the origin point from which you might travel inland.)

J. K. Gayle

Didn't Hippocrates, the great Greek M.D., say that the head is not to be considered center or even the main end of the body? (And he had a lot to say about the head, physically and physiologically. Obviously, in Hippocrates we can also "read" what he says metaphorically, positionally and as a positing various things about what "head" means. But then again Hippocrates didn't have access to Grey's Anatomy or to that great growing body of works in English, however sexist much of it, which may be so easily accessed via googling of the internet.)



I looked up some of it a while ago, but I have forgotten now where it is. I didn't keep notes, especially since it doesn't seem that relevant to translation. That is, I would still translate it head.

But, I often do think it means progenitor, that is, the husband is the father of the children.

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