In 1 Corinthians 11:3 it is written:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(1 Corinthians 11:3, ESV)
Does Paul mean that God ranks higher than Christ?
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"Head" Is a Neutral Word in the Bible
There is nothing unusual about Paul's use of the word head in 1 Corinthians 11:3. Whether you interpret the word--in the sense it is used in verse 3--as origin (i.e., source) or authority over, each interpretation is correct in its own right.
Where I think we get off the track is in thinking of the relationships Paul addresses in this chapter in hierarchical terms. The word hierarchy comes from Greek hierarkhiā, the rule of a high priest (hierarkhēs, high priest). The idea of "rule" has carried over into the definition of the word hierarchy today, in the sense of "the guy/gal who is higher up the food chain in a company," for example, and rules over the people "below" him or her.
The World's View of Headship Is Oftentimes Not Biblical
In companies with what is called "top-down management style," there is very little, if any, interaction between "higher ups" and the employees "beneath" them (sorry for all the quotation marks!). The phrase "reporting relationships," in which "Mr. X reports to Ms. Y," for example, is certainly preferable to "superior-to-inferior" relationships, but the concept of linkage applies to both expressions. There is a link, however weak or strong, which makes one employee accountable to an employer, who is sometimes referred to as the person who signs the paycheck!
In the Godhead, However . . .
In the Godhead, the relationship among the three persons of the Trinity is characterized by love, one for the other. The Father loves the Son for his willingness to do his Father's will wholeheartedly. The Son demonstrates his love for the Father by making the Father's will the overarching priority of his entire life. The Spirit empowers or energizes the relationship between Father and Son in a sort of behind-the-camera way, content to let the spotlight, so to speak, be on the Son. He demonstrates his love for the Son and Father by revealing Jesus (who is God incarnate) to God's image bearers.
Call the relationships among the Godhead what you will. One thing is clear: there is no superior/inferior distinction in the relationships; rather, there is a distinction of roles, each of which expresses love continuously and naturally.
And in the Church . . .
In my younger days, much was made in my denomination of the role of women in the church to be submissive to men, particularly wives to husbands. Not so much attention was paid to the role of the husband to
"love his wife as Christ loved the church, and gave himself for her . . ." (Ephesians 5:25).
Now I ask you, which is the more challenging role, that of the wife or that of the husband? If you said "husband," I'd agree. The impossibly high standard for husbands vis a vis their wives is the love Jesus demonstrated to his body the Church by allowing himself to be put to death for them. There could be no greater love than that:
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends," Jesus said in John 15:13 KJV.
Biblically speaking, a husband is therefore no more superior to his wife than the wife is inferior to her husband. Since the relationship is to be characterized by unselfish love (Christ-like love of husband for wife, and loving submission of wife to husband/head), there is no inferiority or superiority involved; just differing roles.
A Modern-Day Analogy
That's why I applaud TV shows such as "Undercover Boss," in which the CEO of a company "works" incognito at a few branches of his or her corporation, interacting with employees who think he or she is just another employee, or a person on temporary assignment for some fake reason.
Once the undercover boss starts interacting on a one-to-one basis with the real employees of the company, the boss begins to see the company's employees in a new light; namely, as real people, with real challenges and struggles, but also as valuable people to the company for what they bring to the table. The boss, after the big "reveal" then rewards the employees (with whom s/he has been observing and interacting) with gifts of money, promotions, additional mentoring, and so on.
Within the Godhead, there is no CEO; rather, there are simply three equals having different roles which they delight in performing. The same is to hold true within the relationships acted out within the church universal and within each local church assembly in which believers gather together in Jesus' name:
". . . Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body" (Ephesians 5:23 NASB).
Out of gratitude for their Savior's loving sacrifice at Calvary, the body's members are to submit out of their love for Christ. They demonstrate that love by being obedient to the Savior. The quintessential hallmark of their obedience Jesus is their loving submission to one another. Interestingly, Bible interpreters sometimes fail to notice the "submit to one another" which precedes "wives, submit to your husbands"!
"Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ" (Ephesians 5:21 NIV, my emphasis),
which is followed by
"Husbands, love your wives" (v.25),
"wives [,] submit to [your] husbands in everything" (v.24).
In conclusion, in the Bible there is of course only one Trinity. There are, however, other lesser trinities in the Bible. An important one is the "trinity" consisting of God, the saints, and the "ain'ts." This trinity has a vertical component, to be sure, but it also has a horizontal component. The vertical component is obvious: the saints "report to" God by loving him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.
The horizontal component is equally obvious but perhaps more difficult to demonstrate; namely, the saints are to love one another as Christ loved (and loves) the church, and then to reach out in love to the "ain'ts," encouraging them through loving deeds and words to become both a part of the family of God through Jesus, and also a part of the family of God in a local assembly of believers.
"For God showed his love for the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in the Son will no longer be separated from God in this life and in the life to come, but will have eternal life, beginning now and continuing forever, even after physical death" (John 3:16, rhetorician's liberal paraphrase!).
When dealing with the meaning of a word it is important to consult a relevant exhaustive lexicon. The premier lexicon for Koine is BDAG. Reasoning from a later, extra-biblical theology to define the word is reckless and dangerous:
κεφαλή, ῆς, ἡ (Hom.+) gener. ‘head’. ① the part of the body that contains the brain, head ⓐ of humans, animals, and transcendent beings. Humans: Mt 5:36 (on swearing by the head s. Athen. 2, 72, 66c; Test12Patr; PGM 4, 1917; cp. Juvenal, Satires 6, 16f); 6:17; 14:8, 11; 26:7; 27:29f; Mk 6:24f, 27f; 14:3; 15:19; Lk 7:46; J 13:9; 19:2; 20:7; 1 Cor 11:4b (JMurphy-O’Connor, CBQ 42, ’80, 485 [lit.] ‘his head’=‘himself’), 5ab, 7, 10; 12:21; Rv 18:19 (cp. Josh 7:6; La 2:10); 1 Cl 37:5; 56:5 (Ps 140:5); B 13:5 (Gen 48:14); Hm 11:20; Papias (3:2 [not g and h]); GJs 2:4; 9:1; AcPl Ha 11, 1.—Animals: B 7:8 (of the scapegoat Lev 16; cp. vs. 21).—In apocal. presentations in connection w. human figures: Rv 1:14; 4:4; 9:7 12:1; 14:14; 19:12; w. animals: 9:7, 17, 19; 12:3 (s. p 542 δράκων); 13:1, 3; 17:3, 7, 9 (cp. Ael. Aristid. 50, 50 K.=26 p. 517 D.: ὤφθη τὸ ἕδος [of Asclepius] τρεῖς κεφαλὰς ἔχον. A person sees himself in a dream provided with a plurality of heads Artem. 1, 35 p. 37, 14: δύο ἔχειν κεφαλὰς ἢ τρεῖς. Also the many-headed dog Cerberus of the underworld in Hesiod, Theog. 311 al. as well as Heraclit. Sto. 33 p. 49, 14); Hv 4, 1, 6; 10; of angels Rv 10:1.—The hair(s) of the head (Philo, Leg. ad Gai. 223) Mt 10:30; Lk 7:38, 44 v.l.; 12:7; 21:18; Ac 27:34. τὴν κ. κλίνειν lay down the head to sleep Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58. Sim. J 19:30 (s. Hdb. ad loc.). κινεῖν τὴν κ. (s. κινέω 2a) Mt 27:39; Mk 15:29; 1 Cl 16:16 (Ps 21:8); ἐπαίρειν τὴν κ. (s. ἐπαίρω 1) Lk 21:28; shear the head, i.e. cut the hair as a form of a vow Ac 21:24; cp. 18:18. Of baptism ἔκχεον εἰς τὴν κεφαλὴν τρὶς ὕδωρ D 7:3. Of the anointing of Jesus’ head IEph 17:1. κατὰ κεφαλῆς ἔχειν have (someth.) on the head (s. κατά A 1a) 1 Cor 11:4a; also w. specification of object ἐπὶ w. gen. Rv 14:14; Hv 4, 1, 10; or εἰς 4, 3, 1. ἐπάνω τῆς κ. above his head Mt 27:37. Also πρὸς τῇ κ. J 20:12. (ἀστὴρ) ἔστη ἐπὶ τὴν κ. τοῦ παιδίου GJs 21:3 (cp. Mt 2:9).—Well-known expr. fr. the OT: ἄνθρακας πυρὸς σωρεύειν ἐπὶ τὴν κ. τινος Ro 12:20 (s. ἄνθραξ). A curse-formula: τὸ αἷμα ὑμῶν ἐπὶ τὴν κ. ὑμῶν your blood be on your own heads (s. αἷμα 2a and cp. Demosth., Ep. 4, 10 τ. ἄδικον βλασφημίαν εἰς κεφαλὴν τῷ λέγοντι τρέπουσι; 6, 1; Maximus Tyr. 5, 1d; Aesop, Fab. 206 P.=372 H.//313 Ch.//222 H-H. ὃ θέλεις σὺ τούτοις ἐπὶ τῇ σῇ κεφαλῇ γένοιτο; Phalaris, Ep. 102 εἰς κεφαλὴν σοί τε καὶ τῷ σῷ γένει)=you are responsible for your own destruction Ac 18:6; cp. GPt 5:17. ⓑ in imagery οὐκ ἔκλινας τὴν κ. σου ὑπὸ τὴν κραταιὰν χεῖραν you have not bowed your head under the mighty hand (of God) GJs 15:4. Of pers. (Plut., Galba 1054 [4, 3] G. as κ. ἰσχυρῷ σώματι, namely of the Galatian territories) Christ the κ. of the ἐκκλησία thought of as a σῶμα Col 1:18; cp. 2:19 (Artem. 2, 9 p. 92, 25 ἡ κεφαλὴ ὑπερέχει τοῦ παντὸς σώματος; schol. on Nicander, Alexiph. 215 ἡ κεφαλὴ συνέχει πᾶν τὸ σῶμα); Christ and Christians as head and members ITr 11:2. (SBedale, JTS 5, ’54, 211–15; New Docs 3, 45f [lit.]; not ‘source’: JFitzmyer, NTS 35, ’89, 503–11.) S. mng. 2a. ② a being of high status, head, fig. (of Asclepius IG II2, 4514, 6; in gnostic speculation: Iren. 1, 5, 3 [Harv. I 45, 13]. ὁ μέγας ἄρχων, ἡ κ. τοῦ κόσμου Hippol., Ref. 7, 23, 3). ⓐ in the case of living beings, to denote superior rank (cp. Artem. 4, 24 p. 218, 8 ἡ κ. is the symbol of the father; Judg 11:11; 2 Km 22:44) head (Zosimus of Ashkelon [500 A.D.] hails Demosth. as his master: ὦ θεία κεφαλή [Biogr. p. 297]) of the father as head of the family Hs 7, 3; of the husband in relation to his wife 1 Cor 11:3b; Eph 5:23a. Of Christ in relation to the Christian community Eph 4:15; 5:23b. But Christ is the head not only of the body of Christians, but of the universe as a whole: κ. ὑπὲρ πάντα Eph 1:22, and of every cosmic power κ. πάσης ἀρχῆς καὶ ἐξουσίας the head of all might and power Col 2:10. The divine influence on the world results in the series (for the growing distance from God with corresponding results cp. Ps.-Aristot. De Mundo 6, 4): God the κ. of Christ, Christ the κ. of man, the man the κ. of the woman 1 Cor 11:3cab (s. on γυνή 1). JFitzmyer, Int 47, ’93, 52–59. ⓑ of things the uppermost part, extremity, end, point (Pappus of Alex., mathematician [IV A.D.] in the 8th book [ed. CGerhardt 1871 p. 379 τῇ κεφαλῇ τοῦ κοχλίου=at the point of the screw; Judg 9:25; En 17:2; Jos., Bell. 2, 48, Ant. 3, 146; oft. pap of plots of ground) κ. γωνίας the cornerstone (so M‘Neile, Mt ad loc.; REB (main) corner-stone, and w. proper omission of the alternative rendering at 1 Pt 2:7 in NEB mg.; the cornerstone thus forms the farthest extension [cp. PFlor 50, 83] of the corner, though JJeremias, Αγγελος I 1925, 65–70, ZNW 29, 1930, 264–80, TW IV 277–79 thinks of it as the capstone above the door; so also OMichel, TW IV 892, V 129 [difft. 151]; KSchelkle, RAC I 233f; RMcKelvey, NTS 8, ’62, 352–59 [lit. 353 n. 1–3]. S. HGressmann, PJ 6, 1910, 38–45; GWhitaker, Exp. 8th ser., 22, 1921, 470ff. For another view s. lit. s.v. ἀκρογωνιαῖος) Mt 21:42; Mk 12:10; Lk 20:17 (on these three pass. s. JDerrett, TU 102, ’68, 180–86); Ac 4:11; 1 Pt 2:7 (Selwyn ad loc.: “extremity and not height is the point connoted”); B 6:4 (all Ps 117:22).—κ.=capital (city) (Appian, Illyr. 19 §54) Ac 16:12 D (but ‘frontier city’ AClark, Acts of the Apostles ’33, 362–65 and JLarsen, CTM 17, ’46, 123–25).—B. 212. Schmidt, Syn. I 361–69. DELG. M-M. EDNT. TW. Sv. Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., pp. 541–542). Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
So what Paul is saying is that God ranks higher than does Christ and therefore Christ must obey God. In fact, the passage is defining the chain of command:
So in Paul's chain of command Christ obeys God, man obeys Christ and the wife obeys her husband. Some read this as women in general being ranked lower than men.
In fact, Paul says that all of Christ's authority derives from God who gave him authority:
KJV Eph 1:20 Which he [God] wrought in Christ, when he [God] raised him from the dead, and [God] set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Eph 1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: Eph 1:22 And [God] hath put all things under his feet, and [God] gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Eph 1:23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.
Paul and all of the scriptures consistently teach that any authority that Christ has he has because God gave it to him:
KJV 1Co 15:24 Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. 1Co 15:25 For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. 1Co 15:26 The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. 1Co 15:27 For he [God] hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 1Co 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
KJV Mat 28:18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power [authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth.
So Paul is saying that God ranks higher than the Christ. God and Christ are not "eternally co-equal" but rather God is superior to Christ and any authority that Christ has is given by God without God in any way ceding his authority over the Christ.
The Greek word κεφαλὴ in 1 Corinthians 11:3 should mean " source" or " origin." This is the suitable reading in the text because it is naturally supported by the context as well as by Biblical paradigm:
Christ came from God the Father-- He is the only begotten Son who is of same nature with the Father ( John 1:14,18;3:16; 8:42). Subordinate in role, equal in nature.
Eve came from Adam ( 1 Corinthians 11:8). Subordinate in role, equal in nature.
In fact, the NLT has the Greek word κεφαλὴ translated as "source" in 1 Corinthians 11:3.
"The source of every man is Christ, the source of woman is man, and the source of Christ is God." 1 Corinthians 11:3 (New Living Translation)
New Living Translation footnote on 1 Corinthians 11:3
Reading κεφαλὴ as head is simple enough, if you allow for the fact that there are 3 meaning for head.
As you read 11:3 they will all be Metaphor 1.
Our triune God (Trinity as you say) are 3 distinct persons. 1 God, 3 Persons.
See Mark 1:10-11
And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
1 Gods 3 person all present at the same time. Remember The Father sent the Son! The Son was under authority when He came.
Hope the helps Peter