SEED & BREAD
HEAD - A WORD STUDY
(Originally published 10 Dec. 79)
In the New Testament we are told: "The head of every man is Christ; and
the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor.
11:3). From this statement the question naturally arises, "What is God
telling us here? What does this mean?" Later we read: "The husband is
the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the ekklesia" (Eph.
5:23). Then we are told that Jesus Christ is "the head of all
principality and power" (Col. 2:10); and finally we are warned against
any course of action that would involve us in "not holding the head"
(Col. 2:19). What is meant by these statements? Is it not evident that
the truth here depends upon the meaning of the word "head"?
It has long been my conviction that a vast amount of confusion and
misinterpretation in regard to Godís Word is caused by failure to enter
into and realize the full meaning of many commonly used English words.
Certain English words may well be an almost perfect translation of a
Greek word, but if we fail to get inside of the English word and
discover its basic meaning, it will be of little value to us. For
example, the word body is as accurate a translation of the word sOma as
one could desire. However, this could create confusion if we do not know
what body is, what the basic meaning of the word is, and what character
of things can be properly designated by this term. An ocean is a body of
water, but the rain as it falls could not be called by this name.
However, each separate raindrop is a body. The word throne is a very
good representation of the Greek word thronos, but if we think of a
throne as being basically an ornate chair where a sovereign sits when
conducting affairs of state, then we will be erroneously thinking that
the derived or figurative meaning is the basic one. This is wrong, for
the basic and fundamental meaning of throne is "a center or seat of
government." How can we ever understand Godís declaration: "Heaven is My
throne, and earth is My footstool" (Acts 7:49), as long as we think of a
throne as being an ornate chair?
Some words are very difficult to get into. We become so blinded by
popular usage that we cannot see the stem because of the foliage. The
English word head is one of these. Its basic meaning has been covered up
by popular usage in reference to the upper part of the human body or the
anterior portion of an animal body. Then, adding to this is the idea
that "head" also means ruler, chief, principal person, or "the boss."
However, when the top part of the body is called a "head," this is a
figurative use of the word. This is not its basic or fundamental
In English the word head is a noun, an adjective, a transitive verb, and
an intransitive verb. If Websterís New International Dictionary is
consulted, it will be found that the noun has twenty-seven definitions,
the adjective has four, the transitive verb ten, and the intransitive
verb three. Thus, any time we come upon the word head, it could have any
one of these forty-four meanings. However, if the context shows it to be
a noun, then only one of twenty-seven definitions is possible.
Nevertheless, every one of these forty-four uses or meanings can be
traced in some way and related to the original, basic meaning of the
word "head." If not, then it does not belong to the "head" family of
words. It will be another word altogether with the same spelling.
Take, as an example, the familiar and much-used word money. Its basic
meaning is "a medium of exchange." Therefore we can truly say that the
dollar, the pound, the franc, and the peso are monies. But we have in no
way defined the word money by saying these things about the dollar,
pound, and peso. In view of this if we should be asked, "What is money?"
it would be of no value to say the dollar is money. The only correct
answer would be that money is a medium of exchange.
In Hebrew we find the word rosh, which is familiar to many because of
its use in Rosh Hoshana. In Greek we have the word kephalE, and in
English the word "head." These three words are identical, they agree in
their basic meanings, and the Hebrew and Greek forms are used
interchangeably by the Holy Spirit. (Compare Matt. 21:42 with Psa.
118:22). However, the basic meaning of these three words is very poorly
understood, and since all usages are founded on this intrinsic
significance, it is important that it be fully comprehended.
This meaning will be clearly seen in the first occurrence of this word
in the Bible. In Genesis 2:10 we read of a river which "went out of Eden
to water the garden; and from thence it parted and became four heads (rosh)";
that is, it became four other streams which watered other areas. These
streams are called "heads," and they could properly be called this since
each one was an outflowing source that supplied. This is the intrinsic,
basic meaning of the word "head."
I trust that no one will become sidetracked here as the numerous
figurative uses of the word "head" begin to come to mind, such as the
head of a nail. A portion of a nail can be called the head because it is
on the top and because of its shape. However before anything can be
called a "head" it must be an outflowing source of supply, or in simpler
words, a feeder.
In the Bible the great majority of the occurrences of the word "head"
will be found to speak of the top part of the human body. This is a
proper usage, for the head is an outflowing source of supply to all the
rest of the body. It is the seat of the intellect, and the place where
movements, ideas, and thoughts originate. If the foot is injured even
slightly, the message will be sent to the head which will analyze the
pain and dispatch the healing forces to that spot and then direct the
actions that are necessary for healing and repair. Truly the top part of
the human body is a constantly outfiowing source of supply and it
deserves the name it has been given, the head.
In the epistles of Paul there are some very important occurrences of
this word where it is evident at a glance that it has no connection with
the top part of the human body. Many ill-equipped readers come upon
these passages, and it being evident that they do not speak of the human
head, have only one other idea to read into them. They think it must
mean ruler, chief, master, lord, or "the boss." How much better it is to
be able to see that Paul said in 1 Cor. 11:3: "But I would have you to
know that the outflowing source of supply of every man is the Christ."
Many Scriptures gave witness to the truth of this. "He giveth to all
life, and breath, and all things." "For in Him we live, and move, and
have our existence" (Acts 17:25 and 28). "He that giveth breath unto the
people upon the earth, and spirit to them that walk therein" (Isa.
42:5). Truly God in Christ is an outflowing source of supply to every
"But," some will be sure to say, "What about the next statement? Does
this say that the outflowing source of supply of woman is the man?" Yes,
that is exactly what it says, and in no way does it say that the ruler
of woman is the man, as some would like it to say. It would be good if
every man who names the name of Christ should seek to know his
responsibility and duties as an outflowing source of supply to his
woman, that is, his wife. This could well be the secret of a good
marriage and a happy home.
That the outflowing source of supply of the Christ is God is an evident
truth that needs no proof. But for the weak in faith I would suggest a
careful reading of John 5:19-27.
Please note that I am not suggesting that the basic definition be used
as a translation. The Greek word kephalE should be translated "head" in
every occurrence. I am simply setting forth the idea that should come
into our minds when we come upon certain occurrences of the word "head."
In view of these facts the truth declared in Eph. 1:22 should be
understood as telling us that God has subordinated every sovereignty,
authority, power, and lordship under the feet of Jesus Christ, and has
constituted Him as the outflowing source of supply over all to the
outpositioned ones, which are His substance. And in Eph. 4:15 we are
exhorted to make all our growth to be upward in Him who is the
outflowing source of supply, even Christ.
In Ephesians 5:23 we are told that the husband is the outfiowing source
of supply of the wife, even as Christ is the outflowing source of supply
of the ekklesia, all who ever had or ever will have a position out of
Him. Have I been this to my wife? This is the question that every
believing husband should ask himself.
In Colossians 1:18 we find an occurrence of the word "head" that is
transcendent in the truth it declares. Here Jesus Christ is said to be
the outflowing source of supply of the essence (body) of those who have
a position out of Him. He said He would build His ekklesia out of
Himself. Truly, He loved the ekklesia and gave Himself for it
Colossians 2:10 tells us that Jesus Christ is the outfiowing source of
principality and authority. The word principality has to do with rule.
The Principality of Monaco is ruled by a Prince and this fact
constitutes him a principality. However, this Principality, the Prince's
s position and authority, all flows out of the Republic of France.
However, many kings, princes, and monarchs have made the bold claim that
their position, their right to rule, and their authority flowed from
God. We strongly disagree, but we can tolerate this in secular affairs.
But when it comes to the realm of divine things we must ever be adamant
in our opposition. No man today can claim any sovereignty or authority
in the things of God. If they do, then let them trace it back to Christ.
This they cannot do.
In Colossians 2:19 we are exhorted to "hold fast the Head." Never let go
of or allow yourself to be cut off from the One Who is our source of
supply. Remember that when "religion" has said its last word and made
its last claim there is really nothing that we need save God flowing to
us through Jesus Christ. May we be able to say with godly Asaph: "Whom
have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire
beside Thee" (Psa. 73:25).
Issue no. 118