Muraoka on ΚΕΦΑΛΗ in 2002 & 2009

The closest in 2009 edition (A Greek-English Lexicon of the Septuagint) that Muraoka gets to defining κεφαλή as referring to a position of authority is this:

Definition #4: he who or that which plays a leading role.

And even then, the context of his entry makes it clear that “leading” refers to prominence not authority. The full entry for this sense looks like this:

4. he who or that which plays a leading role: in a societal group (?), Nu 1.2, 20; De 28:13, 44 (: : οὐρά ‘tail’); ~ὴν καὶ οὐράν, μέγαν καὶ μικρόν Is 9:14; (|| ἀρχή); ~ὴν καὶ οὐράν ἀρχὴν καὶ τέλος 19.15; κ. ἐθνῶν Ps 17.44 κ. γωνίας ‘corner-stone’ 117.22. b. principal city: Is 7.8 c. principal nation: Je 38.7.

First, note that “in a societal group” is considered as questionable by Muraoka (the “?”).

Let’s look at these cited examples more closely:

Numbers 1:2: Λάβετε ἀρχὴν πάσης συναγωγῆς υἱῶν Ισραηλ κατὰ συγγενείας αὐτῶν κατ̓ οἴκους πατριῶν αὐτῶν κατὰ ἀριθμὸν ἐξ ὀνόματος αὐτῶν κατὰ κεφαλὴν αὐτῶν, πᾶς ἄρσην

The Hebrew text reads, “head by head,” which the LXX translates as “κατὰ κεφαλὴν αὐτῶν.” And this may very well be a reasonable Greek translation of the Hebrew: “by their heads,” as in count them by their heads. And even if it refers to “heads of families,” is the emphasis on “heads of families” as leaders of families or “heads of families” as representatives of families? Which would be more likely with regard to a census?

Numbers 1:20 is identical to this.

Deuteronomy 28:13

καταστήσαι σε κύριος ὁ θεός σου εἰς κεφαλὴν καὶ μὴ εἰς οὐράν, καὶ ἔσῃ τότε ἐπάνω καὶ οὐκ ἔσῃ ὑποκάτω, ἐὰν ἀκούσῃς τῶν ἐντολῶν κυρίου τοῦ θεοῦ σου, ὅσα ἐγὼ ἐντέλλομαί σοι σήμερον φυλάσσειν καὶ ποιεῖν

Here the context refers to Israel position among the nations. If they obey him, they will be the head (εἰς κεφαλὴν) not the tail (μὴ εἰς οὐράν). No authority here. Just Head/Body imagery. This image returns in 43-44:

ὁ προσήλυτος, ὅς ἐστιν ἐν σοί, ἀναβήσεται ἐπὶ σὲ ἄνω ἄνω, σὺ δὲ καταβήσῃ κάτω κάτω, 44 οὗτος δανιεῖ σοι, σὺ δὲ τούτῳ οὐ δανιεῖς, οὗτος ἔσται κεφαλή, σὺ δὲ ἔσῃ οὐρά.
The foreigner who is among you will go up against you, very high over you, but you will be brought down, very low. He will lend to you, but to him, you will not lend. He will be the head, but you will be the tail.

Authority? Or Social Status? Definitely the latter.

Isaiah 9:14: καὶ ἀφεῖλεν κύριος ἀπὸ Ισραηλ κεφαλὴν καὶ οὐράν, μέγαν καὶ μικρὸν ἐν μιᾷ ἡμέρᾳ, 14 πρεσβύτην καὶ τοὺς τὰ πρόσωπα θαυμάζοντας( αὕτη ἡ ἀρχή) καὶ προφήτην διδάσκοντα ἄνομα( οὗτος ἡ οὐρά).
And the Lord will cut off from Israel the head and the tail, great and small in one day, elders and the τοὺς τὰ πρόσωπα θαυμάζοντας [?] (these are the head) and the prophets teaching falsely (these are the tail).

This one is a little more difficult – and I’m not sure how to translate τοὺς τὰ πρόσωπα θαυμάζοντας (literally: those who marvel before faces??? Not sure.). In any case, considering that “leader” is not a natural Greek meaning for the word and there’s nothing explicit in the text that would suggest “leader,” I’ll default against it for this one. But as always, comments on this one are welcome.

Isaiah 19:15: καὶ οὐκ ἔσται τοῖς Αἰγυπτίοις ἔργον, ὃ ποιήσει κεφαλὴν καὶ οὐράν, ἀρχὴν καὶ τέλος.
And there is no work for the Egyptians that they can do – head or tail, beginning or end.

Actually, this verse is rather suggestive that κεφαλὴ could potentially mean “beginning,” which is suspiciously similar to “source.” Semantically speaking, it’s only a very small metaphorical step.

Psalm 17:44 ῥύσῃ με ἐξ ἀντιλογιῶν λαοῦ, καταστήσεις με εἰς κεφαλὴν ἐθνῶν, λαός, ὃν οὐκ ἔγνων, ἐδούλευσέν μοι,
You will deliver me from the arguments of the people. You will appoint me as head of nations; a people whom I did not know, served me.

I’d say that this is our best candidate for “leader” we’ve seen yet, but thus far, one out of seven isn’t that great.

Psalm 117:22: λίθον, ὃν ἀπεδοκίμασαν οἱ οἰκοδομοῦντες, οὗτος ἐγενήθη εἰς κεφαλὴν γωνίας
A stone that the builders rejected, this became as the head of the corner

Nope, nothing here. I’m not even sure why it’s listed in the “in a societal group” section…

This marks a distinct change from the 2002 edition of the lexicon, which looked like this:

4. chief of a society group (?): Nu 1.2, 20; De 28.13, 44 (:: οὐρά ‘tail’); ~ἠν καὶ οὐράν, μέγαν καὶ κικρόν Is 9.14 (|| ἀρχή) ; ~ἠν καὶ οὐράν, ἀρχὴν καὶ τέλος 19.15.

What do you think? Is the change for the better or worse? Why?

What citations would you have included here that he leaves out?

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