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?

15 thoughts on “Muraoka on ΚΕΦΑΛΗ in 2002 & 2009

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  1. I assume you know that Muraoka’s approach is interested in what the Greek words meant to an audience who had no knowledge of the underlying Hebrew. I suspect, although I cannot be certain, that his methodology plays into the lexical breakdown that you mention here.

    I just sold my 2002 edition of Muraoka and plan on picking up the 2009 edition at SBL. Maybe I’ll have more thoughts when I’ve got the lexicon in front of me.

    1. Yes. But that isn’t terribly relevant here anyway. None of the examples he cites have reference to leadership & authority in the Hebrew either (again with Psalm 17:44 being the best candidate).

      I’m tempted to pick up the 2002, since the changes between the two editions are illuminating sometimes and also, they’re dropping in price at Amazon.

  2. Hi Mike,

    Thanks for taking this up again. You might remember that I took a stab at the subject matter here:

    I have two basic issues with your approach.

    (1) It’s too obvious that your preferred point of arrival is that the metaphorical deployment of kephale
    is describable as if superordination / subordination is not involved. The question may have to be framed more neutrally to be convincing to those who are not already so inclined to your position.

    (2) Metaphors are porous to context. Sense, denotation, and reference all have to be considered. When that is done, I think the disjunction you assume between “authority” and “societal status” is unconvincing.

    For example, you suggest that the Deut 28 examples have to do with societal status, not authority. But surely, both passages imply that the head stands “on top,” not “underneath,” in the sense of a power differential.

    Status and power are extremely difficult to disentangle.

    I think Muraoka is on the right track, so long as one emphasizes that in all or almost all of the following instances, κεφαλή is metaphorical for that which plays a leading role, not denotative. Num 1:2.20; Deut 28:13.44; Isa 9:14; 19:15; Ps 17:44 (= 2 Kgd 22: 44); 117:22; Isa 7:8; Jer 38:7. To the list one must certainly add Judg 10:18. In the NT: 1 Cor 11:3; Eph 1:22; 4:15; 5:23.

    1. (1) It’s too obvious that your preferred point of arrival is that the metaphorical deployment of kephale

      I take my cue from that fact that KEPHALE as “authority” is the meaning that needs to be proven. It’s not a typical Greek meaning and for that I reason, I assume it false ahead of time — note that in Ps 17, I accept that it’s possible there. That’s not preferential treatment of a meaning, that’s just good lexicographical work. Turner wants to add a new sense that isn’t necessary.

      (2) Metaphors are porous to context. Sense, denotation, and reference all have to be considered. When that is done, I think the disjunction you assume between “authority” and “societal status” is unconvincing.

      I assume “authority” isn’t what the point is here because authority isn’t a normal meaning. It’s not a Greek meaning. Yes, metaphors are porous. I’ve never denied that. What I do deny is positing additional meanings where they aren’t necessary.

      1. I understand. However, there are two matters that might push you to reconsider your rhetorical strategy.

        (1) In scholarship as in real life, shifting the burden of proof on your opponents (I use the word loosely), no matter how justified, is bad form. If you have a decent argument, the argument ought to prevail on its own.

        (2) Since this is translation Greek written for a community, the Jewish one, that was in part diglossic / triglossic for centuries such that Hebrew and Aramaic and Greek as used in Hellenistic Judaism entered into an adstratum relationship, one has to reckon with the possibility that the semantic range of the underlying Semitic word(s) “bled” into Greek as used by the community. Languages in contact, blah, blah.

        Now, it seems that you want to suggest that the relevant range of instances of the metaphorical use of Hebrew rosh can also be understood without any implication of a power differential or of superordination / subordination. But there is no consensus to that effect among Hebraists. On the contrary.

        1. As for (1), I don’t need to shift it. That’s how lexicography works. This is exactly how Grudem argues against other “new” meanings for words like ANER. Besides, I’ve already conceded in the post itself that there is at least one example that Muraoka cites which rather clearly refers to authority.

          As for (2), I’m assuming Muraoka’s methodology for his lexicon: what do these words mean to an audience that no longer knew Hebrew. So I’m not saying anything at all about rosh. If I wanted to discuss the Hebrew text and it’s relationship to the Greek, this post would have looked incredibly different — I’d be looking at a the consistency of KEPHALE being used with reference to an “authority” usage of ROSH in comparison with the consistency of ARCHE being used.

          Now, separate from that, it appears that you want to argue that the underlying Semitic words “bed” into the Greek as used by the community. My first question is: Which community? All communities? How large of a scale do you argue for language contact? In Palestine/Israel? Egypt? The Diaspora? All of the above? Even on this point it’s going to be impossible to talk about Jewish Greek speakers as a whole because the 1st century BC simply didn’t have the contact from community to community that we have today where you can be in Wisconsin (yes?) and debate with me in BC. And then we have to ask, moving to NT writers: If it was only one or two of those communities, which of the NT writers were apart of a community whose mental lexicon shifted because of the Hebrew? Does this shift in the lexicon necessitate that a given NT writer didn’t know of the typical Greek usage of the word and also understand that usage?

          That’s a lot of questions. That’s a lot of “Blah, blah, blah.” Enough questions & blah, blah, blah that I feel justified at this point with taking a conservative position on the amount of language changed that actually happened between Greek & Hebrew.

  3. Mike,

    I’m not sure that Grudem is the best model for lexicography in a linguistic mode. He takes a more philological approach. He lacks Turner’s linguistic sophistication.

    Linguistic “interference” of an immense variety of kinds is well-attested in Jewish literature in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek in Greek and Roman antiquity. That being the case, I don’t see how you can dismiss the possibility of semantic bleeding in this instance.

    1. That’s the understatement of the year. I should have used Poythress’ name since they wrote the book together and Poythress is the one with a quality linguistic background. But in either case, all I’m appealing to is the avoiding the multiplicity of senses, which Turner himself strongly advocates (Linguistics & Biblical Interpretation, 143-4 — as a side issue, Turner can be frustratingly redundant. He’s said virtually the exact same thing at least three times now in three different articles/books). Albert Piertsma wouldn’t want to multiply senses based on their occurrence in the LXX either. I’m not alone.

      Now with that said, I still wouldn’t reject interference totally — I think it’s valid on a case by case basis for this word. I’m slower here in the LXX because of when it was translated, which makes me cynical about how much language change there would have been at this point. I would consider later NT usage to be valid for this sense (just as I acknowledged it in the Psalms above in this post). But it’s definitely 1) a later sense and 2) a sense with more limited usage.

  4. As long as we all can agree that kephale should not be rendered literally as “head” in Ephesians 1, we’ll get along famously.

    Concerning τοὺς τὰ πρόσωπα θαυμάζοντας in Isaiah: perhaps it means “those with shocked expressions on their faces”? I say this from the viewpoint of one with only one year’s Hebrew experience, and no familiarity with Hebrew Isaiah at all.

    1. The Hebrew is something like: “prominent men.”

      As for Ephesians 1, no I wouldn’t say “literal head.” Ephesians 1:22 is an incredibly difficult verse for a variety of reasons.

      But my purpose here was simply looking at Muraoka’s lexicon and his method & goals in light of this particular entry.

  5. Hello everybody

    I’m totally new to this mode of scholarly discourse. I don’t even know if it is proper or prudent to jump into the pan.
    Anyway, I’m delighted over the interest, whether positive or negative, my lexicon is awakening. Much better than to be ignored.
    Let me say a couple of things.
    In the entry of my lexicon the word ‘authority’ appears nowhere. So this must stem from NT specialists grappling with Eph 1.21.
    The multiplicity of senses, polysemy, is a real headache for lexicographers. Working on the latest ed., I often discovered that two or more distinct senses I had postulated in the 2nd ed. could be subsumed under one. I guess that even in the 3rd ed. there remains scope for such a reduction.
    I venture to think that among the 9 references listed there are quite a few more for which the definition given comfortably sits.
    As for Nu 1.2 there is no chance that ‘head count’ is meant here.
    For thaumazoo prosoopon, vider s.v. thaumazoo 2b. In any case it cannot mean ‘shocked expression on their faces’ for it’s about the face of beholders.
    Not being a NT specialist I might be labouring the obvious, but /kephalee/ at Eph 1.21 cannot mean ‘authority’ in its abstract sense, but rather a person invested with authority. But the normal word for ‘authority’ is /exousia/, isn’t it?
    Ps 117.22 is NOT listed among a group of references having to do with ‘societal group’. The semi-colon does here a tricky thing.
    When I saw the sense 4 as cited on the first page and spotted a word ‘principle’ I got horrified, but looking the entry up in my lexicon itself I heaved a sigh of relief, because I’ve found it spelled ‘principal.’

    1. Hi Dr. Muraoka,

      I apologize for the typo (principle/principal) — sometime my fingers type faster than my brain.

      It was, indeed, the fact that the word “authority” appears no where in your entry that led me to write this post from the beginning. Though, definitely not a NT lexicon, I still view your work as a relevant Hellenistic lexicon with data, albeit significantly earlier than Paul, that is still worth using. This is especially the case since, as far as I know, yours is the only thoroughly independently conceived lexicon for the Hellenistic period we’ve seen published since Souter’s little pocket lexicon.

      When I have a change, I’ll try to work through your comments here in relation to my initial post and the other comments. Thank you for sharing your valued perspective.

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