by Kelly Pelton (written 23 Jan 2022)

"Men are the head," they said, as though "authority"
is the obvious meaning of the Greek word kephalē,
though the face of the male ancestor or progenitor
was the image used to represent the Roman family.*

The face of the family was its source and identity,
the giver of life to all his descendants; we see
the family resemblance to its paterfamilias
to whom all give honor in their dependency.

The head was the cause of life, the patron who gave plenty,
his descendants the seed, the beneficiary
of this familial relationship in Roman Empire culture,
and yes, the pagan world treated it as hierarchy.

But Paul had in mind a truer concept of family
and uses a metaphor for relative vulnerability,**
the head and body of husband and wife, Christ and church
that communicates the Lord's household interdependency.

Neither without the other is God's community,
and Christ is the source of life abundant and free,
and women were formed from men as Eve from Adam,
and men make wives of women whom they marry.

Husband and wife in Christ share full equality,
and the church is not a male-governed community.
If Christians resemble their true Paterfamilias,
the fear that fuels favoritism gives way to holy intimacy.

*Phrases and concepts in this post are gratefully gleaned from the following book:

Westfall, Cynthia L. Paul and Gender. Baker Academic, 2016, pp. 13-16, 61-105.

**Sumner, Sarah. Men and Women in the Church. IVP Books, 2003, pp. 182-190.