The Bible and Gender: An Exposition of Selected Scriptures (Illumination Publishers 2020) is notable because it is authored by the International Churches of Christ Teachers Service Team, a group of 12 experienced ministers, about half of which have or are pursuing doctorates and a quarter of which are women.[1]   

The book’s stated goal is to help explain the meaning of scripture “in an attempt to create dialogue” and help Bible readers interpret passages on “the role of women in the ministry of the church.” It says it does not seek to define ICOC doctrine. 

Overall, for purposes and with caveats described below, it is a worthwhile book with a major problem in its analysis of the Apostle Paul’s use of “head” or kephale and in its tendency to make statements restrictive towards women and girls without accompanying justification, such as relative to 1 Timothy 2:12.

I. Summary

The eight chapters of The Bible and Gender address nine passages relevant to Biblical teaching on women and four are briefly summarized here to illustrate.[2]

Genesis 1-3: In the Beginning …

Chapter 1 exegetes Genesis 1-3, discussing various Hebrew terms.  It describes God giving a divine command to woman and man (be “fruitful and multiply”), noting they “complement each other by design in gender-specific roles, and it is in the distinction of gender that humanity ensures its existence,” and explaining God gave rule over the earth to both. The chapter reasons nothing suggests ezer (often translated “helper”) in Genesis 2 implies “an inferior or subordinate status relative to the man.”  Instead, Eve is a “fitting counterpart.” 

In Genesis 3, both Adam and Eve are given the consequence of ‘itsavon (pain), she in childbirth, he in work, but Eve’s consequences, unlike the serpent and man, is not attached to a curse.  The consequence of sin for Eve expressed in Genesis 3:16 is hardship in being a companion in procreation and “her relationship with her husband will be unequal and difficult.”[3]

1 Corinthians 11: Heads, and Praying and Prophesying Women

Headship describes “heavenly hierarchy,” per chapter 2, with the order of creation giving “natural hierarchy with Adam as head of Eve.”  Because kephale meaning “head” in 1 Corinthians 11 (e.g., “kephale of a woman is the man”) is “congruent” with its references to head, hair, and authority and lexicons list “head,” the team chose to translate “kephale as ‘head’ …”

Chapter 2 also reasons 1 Cor 11 shows “women prayed and prophesied in the corporate worship.”[4]

1 Corinthians 14:34-35: Only a Very Specific Silence

Chapter 3 claims 1 Corinthians 14:33-40 (“… Women should remain silent in the churches ….”) refers to silence “in the critique of the prophets” and to not acting disruptively and that women “sing, pray, and speak just as tongue speakers and prophets could sing, pray, and speak when it was their turn.”  

It says the order Paul urges in vv. 33-40 refers to women not violating “divine headship” of 1 Cor 11:3-10.  Its reflections include women “participate fully, limited only by a call to practice propriety in worship” and “order is paramount in Paul’s teaching regarding corporate worship to alleviate … conflict especially regarding gender-specific roles.”[5]

1 Timothy 2:8-15: “Different” Offices for Women

Chapter 6 (by 7 of the team) says “in every place” in 1 Tim 2:8 (want men “in every place to pray …”) could mean “every place of worship,” house churches, or everywhere, but asserts later “the context is the assembly of the church” and 2:12 refers to women not teaching “in the setting of corporate worship.”  

Citing women praying and prophesying in the church in 1 Corinthians, it reasons 1 Tim 2:12 seems a “more authorized and ecclesiastical type of teaching.”  Paul did not intend in 2:12 to “exclude women from using their gifts and abilities in the context of the corporate church meeting” and its principles relate to decorum and demeanor, so “[n]o woman, or man for that matter, should take it upon himself or herself to usurp authority or have a domineering manner.”

Paul teaches, however, that “men and women have different offices in the ministry,” The Bible and Gender says[6]         

II. Strengths of the Book

The book’s strengths include devoting a chapter each to eight of the most-discussed pericopes (or pericope pairs) on gender, often with a phrase-by-phrase commentary on relevant verses.  The discussion is generally clear, accessible, and methodical. 

The chapter on Genesis 1-3 is particularly well done (though not without flaw). 

Chapters are highly organized, and the book covers an impressive amount of substantive ground in a relatively short 144 pages. 

The book was written by what it calls “community theology,” a collaborative writing process in which any committee member could voice their opinion and every member of the team agreed that the final draft was ready.[7] The chapters contain many ideas. 

III.      Weaknesses

Lack of Evidence and Reasoning on Key Points, Simply Assumes Points in Favor of Excluding Women

Weaknesses of The Bible and Gender include a tendency to make conclusory assertions about key points without accompanying evidence or reasoning. 

In many cases, a sentence containing a proposition material to a controversy regarding gender appears as if it were dropped into a chapter at the last minute, with neither evidence nor reasoning accompanying the proposition.[8]  Chapters 2 on headship and 6 on 1 Timothy 2:12 stand out in this regard, but it occurs from Chapter 1 onward.

Outcome Bias

Chapter 3 on 1 Corinthians 14 (“… Women should remain silent ….”) and Chapter 6 show signs of outcome bias.

Chapter 3 seems to go out of its way to attach verse 33 (“… God is not a God of disorder …”) to verses 34-35, expressing the passage as verses 33-40. The chapter visually shows verse 33 attached to verses 34-40 and having no paragraph break between them, saying it quotes from the NIV 2011, but the NIV does not attach verse 33 to verses 34-40 and has a paragraph break between. This unusualness and alteration is joined by the chapter declaring “order” means “women do not violate the ‘divine headship’,” “[w]omen are directed to maintain a supportive role in worship and not usurp the leadership,” and “order is paramount” for various purposes “especially regarding gender-specific roles,” all without explanation or evidence.

Furthering the appearance of intentional outcome bias, while all of the rest of the book’s chapters quote from the 2011 NIV, Chapter 6 departs the norm to quote from the 1984 NIV and from a co-author’s own translation. Both those refer to not permitting a woman “to have” or “to exercise” authority over a man, appearing on its face as a broad exclusion. The gone-missing 2011 version signals a much narrower focus, referencing “to assume” authority over a man.

Doesn’t Engage With Scholarship Having a Different View

Moreover, in many cases throughout the book, authors fail to engage meaningfully with scholarship having a different view than their key assertions. 

Many Other Weaknesses

Other weaknesses include the uneven scholarly quality of the chapters (compare chapter 1 with chapter 2, for example), a failure to address 1 Timothy 3 relative to elders and overseers, and ambiguity and contradiction in many chapters. 

That the book was written by a collaborative writing process in which any committee member could voice their opinion and every member of the team agreed that the final draft was ready to be released probably, on balance, is a strength, but it also likely resulted in some sentences or thoughts appearing “dropped in,” contradictory, underdeveloped, or disjointed.

Another weakness is that the chapters vary on adhering to stated goals of the book (“not to define” doctrine or practice, “an attempt to create dialogue,” etc.), as several offer a conclusion on disputed points, often with relatively minimal discussion or evidence.[9]

IV. Stand-Out Weakness is its “Headship” and Kephale Analysis

One of the more important issues on the topic is the meaning of the Greek word kephale in 1 Corinthians 11, Ephesians 5, and elsewhere. The book’s analysis of kephale, though, stood out among analytical weaknesses of The Bible and Gender. It is described here as an example of the weaknesses in scriptural analysis in the book. Similar weaknesses are seen in the book’s analysis of 1 Tim 2:12 and elsewhere.

Chapter 2: Confused Kephale Analysis

Chapter 2 appears to view the choices regarding the meaning of kephale in 1 Cor 11:3 (“But I want you to realize … kephale of the woman is man….”) to be between (a) “head” as a metaphor for authority or (b) “source.”[10]  It is largely undisputed, though, that kephale is used as a metaphor here and that “head” is an appropriate translation.  

The dispute is whether kephale or head has a meaning here in the metaphorical sense of (a) authority, as in head of a company or (b) source, origin, or representative, as is in the head of a river or the head of a line of children at school. 

In other words, the dispute is not whether “head” in 11:3 is an appropriate translation, but instead the dispute is over where in the semantic range the metaphorical meaning of head (kephale) resides. 

Chapter 2 thus seems to mis-analyze the issue altogether, pitting “source” vs. “head” as the possible meaning instead of “source” vs. “authority,” for example. 

By doing so, Chapter 2 completely misses that the end of 1 Cor 11:3 “… the head of (kephale) Christ is God” indicates that kephale (head of) cannot have a meaning in the sense of authority, as scripture establishes Christ is God, not that Christ is under the authority of God. In other words, interpreting kephale as meaning authority over relative to “kephale of the woman is man” in 11:3 produces a heretical interpretation of the end of 11:3, that the authority over Christ is God instead of recognizing Christ is God.

Meanwhile, interpreting kephale (head) in the sense of “source,” “origin,” or “representative of” comports with scripture. That is, Chapter 2 also misses that scripture (see, e.g., John 1, Ephesians) establishes Christ’s source, origin, and what he represents is God and that Christ is the source, origin, and first representative of all things.

And it completely misses that the rest of 1 Cor 11 indicates Paul is emphasizing source, origin, and representation of man is woman and of woman is man and similar concepts. For example, 1 Cor 11:5-12: “… every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head … A man … is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man …. Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God. …”

And when Paul mentions and means authority, he uses the normal word for authority, not kepahale. For example in 11:10 Paul says “It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels.”

Chapter 5: Kephale Out of Context

Chapter 5 takes steps toward a more complete analysis, citing some arguments for a meaning in the sense of source, but the chapter again places in opposition “source” / “origin” vs. “head.”  In a somewhat circular argument, it describes and emphasizes Jesus as the authority over the church. 

Neither Chapter 2 nor 5 engage substantively with scriptural descriptions and emphasis of Jesus as the source and origin of the church and all things (e.g., John 1; Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15-16; 2:14-17, 4:4; 4:11-13; 5:23; Col. 1:18; Col. 2:10, 19; John 17:20-23).

This failure can be seen in Chapter 5 partially quoting scripture, rendering it out of context in a way that keeps the modern, capitalistic thought of “head” as authority front of mind.  For example, in finding Ephesians 1:22 “conclusive” to viewing kephale as indicative of authority or leader and in quoting Ephesians 4:15 as illustrative of such, Chapter 5 of the book quotes verses 1:22 and 4:15 out of context.[11] 

Leaves Out Even Very Next Verses, Showing Source and Origin

That is, Chapter 5 leaves out context of what it quotes, including even the very next verses, both of which suggest that kephale in 1:22 and 4:15 means “head” in the sense of source, origin, and similar concepts. 

Verse 1:23 explains Christ’s body is the church and Christ fills that body (thus is the source and origin of the church, his body) and fills everything, giving insight into what kephale over or above all in 1:22 means.

Verse 4:16 explains it is “From [Jesus)], the whole body … grows and builds itself up in love,” giving insight into the source and origin (from Jesus) nature of kephale of 4:15 (“… we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the kephale ….”).

This failure to engage context might explain why the book sees authority in Ephesians 5:23-30.[12]  If one is imbued with the modern, secular concept that “head” is about power, authority, and leadership, then failing to engage context and the full scripture can easily result in erroneous views of women and men as an authority-based, hierarchical relationship.

Might Explain Why It Misses Implications of Husband and Wife as One

And failing to consider the full context might explain why the book does not engage the view that Paul, in Ephesians, first establishes:

(a) Christ is source and origin --- kephale --- of his church, as the church is Christ’s own body, as they are one body (e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15-16; 2:14-17, 4:4; 4:11-13; 5:23; see also Col. 1:18; Col. 2:19; John 1; John 17:20-23; 1 Cor 12:12-27; Rom 12:5); and 

(b) Christ is the savior of his own body, his church (5:23, 25).

Then, Paul goes on to connect this to the husband-wife relationship, explaining in parallel to the above in Ephesians 5 that “as” or “in the same way” (5:28):

(a) a husband is kephale of his wife, as she is his own body and he is her own body, as they are one body, “one flesh”---“own bodies,” “himself,” “own body,” “their body,” “his own flesh” (e.g., Ephesians 5:23, 29-31; see also 1 Cor 6:16 "one flesh" and "one body"); and

(b) a husband is the lover, nourisher, and cherisher of his own body, his wife.  (5:21, 28-33)  

Bodies, Mutual Submission, Love, and Reverence, Not Authority

Authority is not in view in Ephesians 5. To the contrary, love, service, reverence, care, and sacrifice are emphasized.

It is love, service, reverence, care, and sacrifice towards bodies, not authority over bodies, emphasized.

Indeed, Jesus is described as submitting himself for his own body, the church, including loving it and sacrificing for it. (5:23,25; see also Philippians 2) And the church is described as submitting itself to its own body, Jesus (5:23, 29-30).

And a husband is described as submitting himself to his own body, his wife, including loving and sacrificing for her. (5:21, 23, 25, 29-31) And a wife is described as submitting herself to her own body, her husband, including respecting him, as they are one body, “one flesh.” (5:21-23, 29-31, 33)

Paul makes the source and origin (the kephale) of those bodies — oneness, one flesh, same body, own flesh, own body — key in his argument.

Power, Authority Not in View in Context

Too often, people read “head” (kephale) in Ephesians in a modern, capitalistic, Western sense, as in head of a company, with power, with authority, when there is no such definition in the text, instead of reading it the sense in which Paul uses it, to discuss source, origin, same body, one flesh.

And too often people read Ephesians 5:22-33 by itself, rather than reading it with 5:21 and rather than recognizing Ephesians is a letter, to be read from start to finish to understand it.

Reading Ephesians as a letter from the beginning helps one to see that Paul emphasizes Jesus and the church as one body, with Jesus as source and origin (head, kephale) of that body, the church. (e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15-16; 2:14-17; 4:4; 4:11-13; 5:23, 25, 29-30; see also Col. 2:19; John 1; John 17:20-23).

And, similarly, wife and husband are one body, “one flesh.” (Ephesians 5:28-33) Previously, they were separate, but they became united as one, the same body, one flesh. (5:28-31)

Whether Paul is referring in Ephesians 5 to wife and husband now as origin and source of one another, as they are one body, one flesh, or to males (Adam) as source and origin of females (Eve) generally before becoming or returning to “one flesh” and to females (mothers) as source and origin of males, too, is unclear. (See also 1 Cor 11:12) Either way, it is origin and source that Paul emphasizes within those relationship, not authority.

Profound Mystery of Origin and Source, Not Authority; Mutual Submission

Understandably, Paul describes this “one flesh” and Christians as one body, as all members of Christ’s body, as a “profound mystery,” as he is talking about Christ and the church. (Ephesians 5:30-32) Of course, if Paul were referring to authority, as in Christ is the authority over the church, it makes no sense that he would call it a “profound mystery,” as that was not so mysterious. But that he is referring to source and origin, as people (husbands and wives, Christ and all Christians) as one being, one body, is quite profound and quite the mystery.

Regardless, Paul encourages mutual submission, including husbands loving their wives and wives respecting their husbands, not one having authority over another. (5:21, 33)

Same Source and Origin, One Flesh, Not Authority

That is, by not engaging context, the ICOC Teacher Service Team’s book misses the view that Ephesians 5 and 1 Cor 11 do not encourage submission, sacrifice, and love due to authority over and of bodies, but instead due to the source and origin of bodies under consideration—of the bodies of the church, husbands, wives.

Husbands and wives are encouraged to submit to and love one another not because the husband has authority over the wife but because they are the source and origin of one another, they are one flesh, one body—the husband and wife’s source and origin is their oneness, their same body.

Paul emphasizes in Ephesians 5 via metaphors that the husband is the source and origin of his wife— using kephale—and that the wife is the source and origin of the husband, as she is his body, they are one—husband and wife as “one flesh.”

Indeed, Paul begins by stating that husbands and wives are to “[s]ubmit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (5:21) That is, they are to submit to one another — husbands to wives, wives to husbands — out of reverence for Christ, not out of who has authority.

Christ — Paul establishes earlier in the letter to the Ephesians (e.g., Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:15-16; 2:14, 4:11-13; 5:23) and scripture establishes elsewhere (e.g., Col. 2:19; John 1; John 17:20-23) — is the source and origin of the church.

And submission, Paul explains, is a two-way street: not just her to him, but him to her. (Eph 5:21)

She is to do so as she does to the Lord because her husband is the kephale, the source and origin of her — they are one body — as the church does so to Christ because he is the kephale, the source and origin, of the church — his body, a unity. (5:21-24; see also John 17:20-23) He is to do so as Jesus does to the church because they are one body, one flesh — his origin and source is her, also, as they are one. (See also 1 Cor 11:11-12)

The book’s failure to consider context relative to kephale — context of the whole book of Ephesians, for example — and to conclude that kephale is about authority and hierarchy is a major weakness of The Bible and Gender.

V.        Conclusion: Recommended With a Caveat

I recommend The Bible and Gender to scholars and ministers in the International Churches of Christ, as this book will highly likely serve as a reference for anyone in the ICOC who engages meaningfully in practical discussions about the relevant scripture. 

The book has value beyond the ICOC, as it serves as an easy-to-read, basic outline of some of the main issues associated with many of the passages relevant to gender discussions, much of the scriptural analysis is verse-by-verse, parts of its scriptural analysis is well done, and it prompts thought in an accessible manner.  Thus, ministers outside the ICOC may find it useful as an outline and to prompt thoughts for further consideration. 

It is easily worth its price for its organized approach and stoking of thoughts.  Many scholars and ministers will appreciate the scholarly insight of the first chapter, on Genesis 1-3. 

I do not recommend the book as a reliable scriptural guide by itself, though, mainly due to the uneven nature of its scriptural analysis, the volume of unsupported assertions (e.g., relative to 1 Tim 2 and 1 Cor 14:34-35), and its kephale analysis.  But for a spur to considering various issues, it is of considerable value. 

The Bible and Gender may be useful in the church-classroom setting as an outline, but not as a sole resource, given its weaknesses described above.   

While the bulk of this article discusses the primary weaknesses of The Bible and Gender, my criticism is meant to further God’s kingdom and all of our work in that regard. 

The authors should be appreciated for spending much time to provide their thoughts to us and for challenging us to think more about these issues.  I thank all of them for their work and for caring about the kingdom of God and Biblical teaching on women.




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Sources & Notes

This article is derived from a paper presented in September 2020 at the Stone-Campbell Journal Conference that reviewed three books on the subject of Biblical teaching on women. The review’s components largely follow the journal’s guidelines on book reviews (usually much shorter).

An article on the first of the three books was published in September, see Steve Gardner, “‘On Gender’ by Renee Sproles (Book Review),” Authentic Theology (September 18, 2020).

An article reviewing the second was published earlier this month, see Steve Gardner, “Women Serving God,” Authentic Theology (October 1, 2020).

For a discussion regarding scripture on this issue, see Steve Gardner, “20 Passages Asking Women to Speak, Teach, Lead, and Have Authority Over Men, In the Assembly  and Elsewhere,” Authentic Theology (September 3, 2018).

For a discussion regarding 1 Tim 3 and female elders, see Steve Gardner, “10 Churches of Christ Where Women Speak in the Assembly: Female Elders (Part 2),” (April 3, 2019).

[1] ICOC Teachers Service Team, The Bible and Gender: An Exposition of Selected Scriptures (Spring, Texas: Illumination Publishers, 2020).

[2] The Bible and Gender, pp. 3-5, 141-144; 4, 6-7; 3-140. Eight: Genesis 1-3, 1 Cor 11:1-16, 1 Cor 14:33-40, Gal 3:26-29, Col 3:18-19 and Eph 5:21-33, 1 Tim 2:8-15, Titus 2:3-5, and 1 Peter 3:1-7 

[3] Ibid., pp. 8-27; 11-12; 15; 17; 21 (citing Gen. 3:16-17); 24.

[4] Ibid., pp. 38-39; 39 n. 20; 47.

[5] Ibid., pp. 55; 56; 59.

[6] Ibid., pp. 3, 101; 108; 110; 113; 114; 114-116; 116.

[7] Ibid., pp. 4-5.

[8] Examples from two chapters: Chapter 2 makes several conclusory statements without offering proof or reasoning to support them, such as: “The role and order of the Trinity are similar to distinctive roles and order among humans.”; “Headship does not diminish women but rather describes the heavenly hierarchy described in” 1 Cor 11:1-16; “Adam was formed first and Eve second thus creating a natural hierarchy with Adam as head of Eve.”;  “Birth order defined privilege and responsibility in the ancient world.”; “Since the Trinity has an order of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the ordering of males and females is plausible.”; and “[H]eadship describes spiritual hierarchy, benevolent authority ….” Chapter 6 does the same, such as: “The setting is the public assembly of the church in Ephesus.”; “The same dynamic that we see in Ephesus must have existed in Corinth.”; “Clearly, those women in Timothy’s ministry were not permitted to hold ecclesiastical authority.” (this was after recognizing a “big question” is whether 2:12’s authority refers to usurping and seizing control or a more general sense, including in an ecclesiastical setting); and “Paul teaches that men and women have different offices in the ministry.” Similar such statements are made from Chapter 1 to the end.

As another example, when discussing 1 Cor 14, the book seems to go out of its way to attach verse 33 (“… God is not a God of disorder …”) to verses 34-35, expressing the pericope as verses 33-40, which is unusual. The chapter quotes verses 33-40, saying it quotes from the NIV and shows, visually, verse 33 attached to verses 34-40. But the NIV does not attach verse 33 to verses 34-40. This is joined by the chapter declaring “order” means “women do not violate the ‘divine headship’,” “[w]omen are directed to maintain a supportive role in worship and not usurp the leadership,” and “order is paramount” for various purposes “especially regarding gender-specific roles,” all without explanation or evidence. (p. 56, 59)

More on Chapter 3: I note that Chapter 3 of The Bible and Gender, the chapter focusing on the “Women should remain silent in the churches ” passage of 1 Corinthians 14, attaches verse 33 of 1 Corinthians 14 to a pericope including verses 34-35, expressing it as 1 Corinthians 14:33-40, which is unusual and telling. It seems to go out of its way to attach verse 33 (“… God is not a God of disorder …”) to verses 34-35, expressing the pericope as verses 33-40, which is unusual. Verse 33 says “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.” The book says it is quoting from the NIV translation from 2011, its latest release, and quotes 14:33-40 at the very beginning of the chapter to set the stage. (50) The book shows, visually, verse 33 attached to verses 34-40 in what it quotes. (50) The NIV 2011, however, does not attach verse 33 to verses 34-40. It attaches it to verses 29-32 (just as the NKJV, NLT, and multiple other translations do; even among the translations that attach the second part of verse 33 (33b) with verses 34-35, the vast majority do not attach the “disorder” part, the part Chapter 3 emphasizes)). And The Bible and Gender does not show a break between verses 33 and 34 (50), as does the NIV 2011 that the book purports to quote. That the book would go out of its way to attach verse 33 to verses 34-35, contrary to the translation the book says it is quoting, both by addressing it in Chapter 3 as the unusual pericope of “1 Corinthians 14:33-40” and by misrepresenting the flow and lack of paragraph break of what it says it is quoting (NIV 2011), suggests outcome bias in the analysis. Indeed, this can be seen in Chapter 3 as the chapter declares things like “order” means that “women do not violate the ‘divine headship’ which Paul has already discussed in 11:3-10,” that “[w]omen are directed to maintain a supportive role in worship and not usurp the leadership,” and that “order is paramount … to alleviate disunity, power struggles, and conflict especially regarding gender-specific roles.” (p. 56, 59) These declarations are made without explanation or evidence. Ibid.

This is also joined by the chapter referring to “as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people” as possibly coming after verse 34. (54) And the chapter attaching “critique of prophets” as the subject on which women are to remain silent, without evidence. (55)

All of the other chapters in the book quote from the 2011 NIV: 9, 43, 50, 61, 82-86, 121, 133 ; cf. 102 (for chapter 6, only one that quotes the 1984 version instead of the 2011 version) ; cf.

[9] The Bible and Gender, pp. 4-5.  See, e.g., supra, footnote 59.

[10] Ibid., pp. 38-40.  Chapter 5 is labelled “Chapter Four” in the copy I have. Ibid., p. 79.

[11] Ibid., pp. 90-91; 92-94; 93.

[12] For an introduction to this, see Marg Mowcko’s writings on the subject. See, e.g., Liddel, Scott & Jones lexicon, one of the respected lexicons of Ancient Greek, “does not give “authority” or “leader” as meanings of kephalē. It does, however, give “source”, “origin” and “starting point” as possible meanings ….” See, e.g.>

Also see early church fathers, for example:

“Athanasius (296-373), bishop of Alexandria, quoted from the First Creed of Sirmium which states,

For the Son is the Head, namely the beginning of all: and God is the Head, namely the beginning of Christ . . .

John Chrysostom (c. 349 – 407) was adamant that “head” doesn’t mean “leader” in 1 Corinthians 11:3. He said that if we take “head” with the sense of governing, the passage won’t make sense and it will lead to false ideas about Jesus Christ, which is his primary concern. (Homily 26 on First Corinthians)

Cyril (376-444), Archbishop of Alexandria, in De Recta Fide ad Pulcheriam et Eudociam wrote:

… [Adam] became first head, which is source, … Since Christ was named the second Adam, he has been placed as head, which is source, of those who through Him have been formed anew …. Therefore he himself our source, which is head, has appeared as a human being. … Because head means source, he establishes the truth for those who are wavering in their mind that man is the head of woman, for she was taken out of him. Therefore as God according to his nature, the one Christ and Son and Lord has as his head the heavenly Fa­ther, having himself become our head because he is of the same stock according to the flesh.
(See Patrologia Graeca 76, pp. 1336-1420.)”


For additional discussion regarding kephale (“head”) in 1 Cor 11, see the Sources & Notes section of Steve Gardner, “Does Helper in Genesis 2:18 Imply Women Are to be Submissive and Subordinate to Men,” Authentic Theology (March 8, 2018).


This article I wrote reviews “The Bible and Gender” by the International Churches of Christ (ICOC) Teacher Service Team.

The book discusses several passages relevant to the discussion regarding Biblical teaching on women.

Its strengths include devoting a chapter each to eight of the most-discussed passages on the topic, often with a phrase-by-phrase commentary, and a high degree of organization.

Weaknesses of the book include often making conclusory assertions about key points, without accompanying evidence or reasoning.  Material assertions sometimes appear dropped into a chapter at the last minute, with neither evidence nor reasoning accompanying the proposition.

One of its main weaknesses, its discussion of kephale (head), is discussed in some detail in the article.

Those in the ICOC should pay particular attention to the book, as it is likely to feature in many discussions regarding gender within the ICOC for the foreseeable future.

Comments and questions welcome.

Pictures in text from Pixabay. Cover picture of The Bible and Gender cover (Illumination Publishers 2020).

Updated: Revised conclusion to include dropped phrase, edits and deletions for clarity. Added to kephale discussion. 3/24: Made clearer that Chapter 1 is not without its issues, too, and that the “headship” analysis is not the only problematic analysis and that the recommendation is for the purposes and with the caveats described at the end. Fixed the Chapter 4 / 5 designation in the text. Chapter 5 is erroneously labeled Chapter 4 in the book itself at the start of Chapter 5, thus mislabeling two chapters as Chapter 4 at the start of chapters. Added headers to make easier to read. 1/17: Some grammar and flow and introduction editing. 3/27-28: Added the commentary on Chapters 3 and 6.


More on one body thus being source: Keep in mind that when referring to “source” when discussing kephale, such is short-hand for the meaning of kephale being in the sense of source, representative of, origin, and the like. Since Jesus and the church (broadly speaking) are one body, is that body (and the church) a or the kephale of Jesus? We know that God is the kephale of Jesus (see John 1; 1 Cor 11). We also know that there is a unity or one body of Jesus, God, the Holy Spirit, the Father, and the church. See, e.g., Eph 5; John 17. In a sense, then, a kephale (source of Jesus, representative of Jesus) can be viewed as the church, e.g., a source of Jesus to the world, a representative of Jesus to the world. John 17, for example, explains that Jesus is in the church (“I in them”). Also see scripture like 2 Cor 5:20 (“Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”); Eph 5 (“Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us …”). Jesus is a representative of humans, too. See, for example, 1 Cor 15:45 (“The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. “).

Of course, a human is not “the” source of Jesus. Scripture suggests it is God, of course. And then Jesus is the source of the church, making it his own body. Scripture indicates that there is a unity of the church, Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, God. (e.g., John 17; Eph 5) Thus, the Christian church (made up of humans) becomes a source or representative of Jesus through the power of Jesus (God) and the church’s unity and one-body nature with God and Jesus.

A distinction here, too, may be that scripture indicates that one of the ways in which husband and wife are one body is that they are “one flesh,” whereas there is no “flesh” indication relative to the one body nature of Jesus and the church or of Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit, God, the church in John 17 that stood out for me.

I suppose this is one of the reasons Paul refers to this in Eph 5 as a “great mystery”!

More on husband and wife being the source of one another upon marriage: One means they are “one flesh”, not just “unity.” Genesis and Eph 5 plainly says it. Once they are one flesh, there is just one source of them, that one flesh.
Becoming one is a scriptural basis of marriage. Gen 1-2, Eph 5. They are one. When married, at that point, two are now one. Thus now only one source of each, the one flesh.

Mark 10:8 “So they are no longer two, but one flesh….” No longer two. Just one. There’s now only one source for each, the one flesh, each other. Mark 10:9 “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

More on husband and wife submitting to one another: 1 Cor 7: “Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.”