Exploring the Greek Word Kephale Translated “Head” Part 2

marriage 5

In part one of the study on kephale, the Greek word for head, we learned that kephale means physical head or when used figuratively; originator, competitor, source of life or simply source and should not be translated authority over.[1]

In Ephesians 5:18-24 tradition supports looking at the word head as meaning authority over, but is that what Paul had in mind?  Let’s read the passage and then break it down for better understanding

18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, 20 giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,21 submitting to one another in the fear of God.

22 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wivesbe to their own husbands in everything.

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The verb for verses 18 through 22 is found in verse 18—“be filled.”  Filled with what?  Filled with the Spirit and, because you are filled, what else will you do?  Do what it says in verses 19 through 22 (speak, sing, give thanks, submit) where this crazy long sentence finally ends.

In the Greek there is no period after verse 21 and the word submit has been added by translators to verse 22.   This means that the “submission” expected of wives to husbands in vs. 22 is the same as that required among all believers in vs. 21.

Understanding what Paul meant when he used the word submit is critical to grasping his meaning in this passage. It will help you tremendously if you will go back and read the blog post entitled Submission in order to understand why the Greek verb hupotasso, translated submit or subject in the New Testament is an incorrect translation.  Hupotasso [2] actually means give allegiance to, identify with, tend to the needs of, be supportive of, or be responsive to depending on context.

As you can see, the context in Greek does not support understanding head in verse 23 as an authority word. Paul is using a head and body metaphor [3] to show the oneness of Christ and His body the church which parallels with the oneness that should be found in marriage. The play on words is easy to see in the Greek, but is lost when translated to English.

23 For the husband [4] is head (kephale) of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. 24 Therefore, just as the church is subject (hupotasso) to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. (NKJV)

Kephale means source, completer, originator or source of life.  The words husband and wife can also be translated man and woman making the meaning similar to the passage in 1 Corinthians 11:3 discussed in Part 1 on Kephale.  There we saw that the source (kepahle) of the woman was the man and the source of Christ was God.  But here Paul is making a point about marriage so we must look further into the passage for understanding.

What is clear in the Greek in verse 24 is that in the same way that the physical body hupotasso(s) (supports) the physical head so the wife supports her own husband. We can also understand, that in the metaphor, His body, which is the church, supports the head (Christ).

In this whole passage Paul is using the head and body metaphor to show the oneness of Christ and His body the church as an example of the oneness that should be found between the husband and the wife in marriage.[5]

In their outstanding article “The Head of the Epistles” [6] Berkley and Elvira Mikelsen put it this way,

“Christ does have authority over the church (Matt. 16:18).  But most of the passages that deal with Christ as the head of the church do not point to his authority over the church, but rather the oneness of Christ and the church.  In Ephesians 5:18-33, this oneness is applied to husband and wife.

If we are to see a meaning in “head” in Ephesians 5:23 beyond the head-body metaphor of mutual dependence and unity, we must do so on the basis of the immediate context.  Christ’s headship of the church is described like this: “Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (v. 25).  Christ gave himself up to enable the church to become all that it is meant to be—holy and without blemish.

As Christ is the enabler (the one who brings to completion) of the church, so the husband is to enable (bring to completion) all that his wife is meant to be.  The husband is to nourish and cherish his wife as he does his own body, even as Christ nourishes and cherishes the church (v. 29).”

In the last sixty or more years many word definitions have been found that should by now be part of every Bible translation.  Tradition dies hard, but the Spirit is moving to shine the light on false doctrines that promote hierarchy or chain-of command structure within the Body of Christ.


[1]  There is a very rare use of kephale to mean authority, but it would not be a usage familiar to Paul’s audience. If Paul wanted to convey the idea of authority he would have chosen the word archon which means authority, rulership, or leadership.

[2] Hupotasso has this meaning when used in the middle voice which is the only way Paul used it.  See the article on Submission to understand what is meant by the grammatical term middle voice

[3] A metaphor is a way of using language where you make a comparison to let people understand something as it relates to something else. It is sometimes called a parable.

[4] In verse 23 the word aner translated husband can also be translated man and gune translated wife can also be woman.

[5] Ephesian marriage was not like marriage described in Genesis where a man leaves his parents and becomes one flesh with his wife.  In secular Ephesus oneness was not the purpose of marriage.  Men had wives for the purpose of producing legitimate children.  To make matters worse, the wife was closely related and dependent on her father not her husband.  For further discussion see “Who’s the Boss” by Eddie and Sue Hyatt.

[6] Berkeley and Alvera Mikelsen, “The Head of the Epistles”  God’s Word to Women Website.  The Mikelsen article gives every figurative scripture using “kephale”.  I highly recommend that you read it.  www.godswordtowomen.org/head.htm



  1. [sorry if this is a duplicate – had a login issue when i posted before]

    You say, “Hupotasso [2] actually means give allegiance to, identify with, tend to the needs of, be supportive of, or be responsive to”

    I’ve never seen any of these definitions for υποτασσω in any lexicon. What is your source for them? Do you have any examples in Greek literature using υποτασσω in these senses?


    • Shimosi:

      I am on vacation and away from my books. Please be patient and I’ll send you a list on Tuesday the 13th. Until then, be sure to read the article on hupotasso entitled Submission. I believe there is a link within this article.



    • Shimosi:

      First let me say that I do not read Greek. My work on these issues has come from years of study of books and articles along with confirmation by an “amen” in my spirit. When I came to know the Lord, it was critical to me to be obedient to His Word. When I found my spirit in conflict with traditional views, I needed to know His truth. I believe you are looking for the same.

      I don’t know how advanced you are in Greek so just in case you need to know: hupotasso in the middle voice is hupotassomai (hoop-o-TASS-o-my). I have found that lexicons don’t give me information about suffixes. In this case, knowing the change of meaning because it is in middle voice is critical.

      There are some good articles on the Christians for Biblical Equality website. Try typing hupotasso into their search feature. I want to send you a number of sources however, I can’t figure out how to get links to function in this comments section. I’m sending them to your email and will consider putting some up at the end of the article. While all may not give these exact definitions, they have basically the same meaning.



      • I have experienced that ‘amen’ reading your articles on head and submission. Trying to obey the traditions of men is like being under a great weight or having one’s head under water, while the Spirit-led truth in articles like yours that helps us see how all these truths fit together so beautifully is like finally having that weight lifted or coming up for air! Thank you!


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