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Larry Crabb: Fully Alive

August 31, 2013

This stuff really freaks me out, so I would like to hear what others think of it. First, Crabb defines women from the etymological root of neqebah, as “bored with a hole,” and then he defines man in this way,

Zakar means “to leave a mark, to make an impact.” In ancient Near East culture, the word referred to a king’s assistant, to a man charged with the important privilege of reminding the king of matters that required his royal attention. Zakar came to mean someone who remembers something important…

Now here is what he writes about women.

Screen Shot 2013-08-30 at 9.24.45 PM

Neqebah box





























On Christianity Today, Crabb summarizes it like this,

 Neqebah (female) means one who is open to receive, has an invitational style of relating. And zakar (male) means one who remembers something important and then does it.

Men do important things and women are open to receive? Men are assistants to the king, and women are a box with a hole bored in it? Is there something wrong with my eyesight?

The chapter on men has been removed from the Google books preview, but there was nothing about how the soul of a man is shaped like an object which does a menial task of creating a hole in something. So women get to go out in public with souls shaped like vaginas, and men are important people.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. August 31, 2013 1:30 am

    Zakar means “to leave a mark, to make an impact.”

    Maybe it’s just my ladybrain being obsessed with ladywork like cleaning, but something that leaves a mark is staining something. This doesn’t strike me as a positive attribute. Also, impacts make dents that ruin things. 😉

    On a more serious note, it strikes me as a distortion of scripture to extract these two words from their context in Gen 1, where they are a) almost throwaway words, and b) clearly being presented in parallel, then go on an etymological joyride[1] from which you make claims about the essential nature of women and men. And it is an even bigger distortion to do this when right there in the next chapter, which is actually about the creation of women, Gen 2:23 tells us something about the essential nature of women and men:
    And Adam said, This [is] now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called woman (isshah), because she was taken out of man (ish).

    (And hey, doesn’t that sound like the *man* was punctured, if the woman was taken out of him?)

    [1] I’m all for etymological joyrides, but do it responsibly, people!

  2. August 31, 2013 3:58 am

    I am just thinking about how this text, the creation story came to be. We have a people with a language, here being Hebrew, which already has a developed vocabulary for their basic ideas such as man and woman, male and female, animals trees……. So the author/s have to use their language to create the story, so when they refer to the neqebah and zakar they really don’t have much choice about the etymologies of these words. They might have a degree of freedom about how to use these already existing words in a literary fashion to give the content of their story a special meaning, but just how much can we put upon the text just because the author needed to used those existing words.

  3. August 31, 2013 9:46 am

    Yikes. How about we instead read a few women (using Portuguese and French and English) poking holes in this sort of phallogocentrism?!

    Hélène Cixous, in her book Stigmata: escaping texts, page 123, translates and quotes “Clarice Lispector, who did not think in terms of phallogocentrism.”

    Cixous points out that Lispector, nonetheless, provides a definition of the term:

    We have seen this before; it is the ‘phallocratic system’ . . . [T]his is how she [Lispector regards the way some men are bound to considering language only, or at least primarily, in terms of their penis, and therefore in terms of the female’s lack of one]:

    a ‘system of inflexible last judgment, which does not permit even a second of incredulity’

    And then there’s Nancy Mairs, in her book Voice Lessons: On Becoming a (Woman) Writer, page 41, charging this:

    The fundamental structure of patriarchy is thus binary: me/not me, active/passive, culture/nature, normal/deviant, good/bad, masculine/feminine, public/private, political/personal, form/content, subjective/objective, friend/enemy, true/false, [“the important privilege to leave a mark, to make an impact” / “a hole”]…. It is a structure, both spatial and temporal, predicated upon separation, not relation. It demands rupture, [“open to receive” a “boring open”] the split into halves engendered by the abrupt erection of the phallus: those who have and those who have not. It speaks the language of opposites.

    Luce Irigaray, in her book, to be two, page 13, likewise, notes a condition that the phallogical centrism of some men requires but how that might be reimagined:

    If the third dimension is found in the beyond, we become images-of, reduced to two dimensions, with a bit more subjectivity and with a bit more or a bit less of the object: phallus or baby.

  4. August 31, 2013 2:11 pm

    I think it’s ironic that Crabb titled his book “Fully Alive.” To be fully alive includes making an impact on the world; in giving that distinction to men and not women, and by defining women in terms of passive reception rather than activity, he has rendered only half of us fully alive.

    I also fully agree with the silliness of basing spiritual truth on the etymologies of the words the writers had to use. Should we claim that the Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek languages are themselves inspired by God? The Bible story about languages makes no such claim; it says they came about because God desired to confuse and dis-unify the humans at Babel.

  5. August 31, 2013 2:17 pm

    zkr suggests the need for memory to me – and nqbh has also a sense of appointment and particularly to a new ‘name’ in Isaiah 62:2. Perhaps the male needs to remember the need for grace (Psalm 38 – lhzkyr) – it is somewhat obvious that the will to power in the male expresses itself through inordinate desire. And the female role with its ultimate in Mary the image of the church (prefigured in Isaiah 62) and of each in which Christ is formed. Certainly there is a genitalium figura dicta as Gesenius notes – but it hardly justifies violence hierarchy or domination.

    I suspect that the etymological fallacy can be played several ways

  6. August 31, 2013 2:20 pm

    missing a verb above – read ‘has’ for ‘with’. Psalm 38 is particularly important as a reminder of Psalm 6 – that psalm that corrects the overconfidence of psalm 5. The inscription for remembering is shared by Psalm 70 – and by the name Yhwh.

  7. Dana Ames permalink
    August 31, 2013 5:44 pm

    Sigh. Some of Crabb’s thought in other places about other issues has been helpful. This is not. He is a complementarian, but he wants to be nice about it… This doesn’t do what he wants it to do.

    My faith tradition doesn’t see all scripture as having the same “weight,” and reads Genesis and everything else through the lens of the Incarnation/Death/Resurrection of Christ. In my tradition, to be fully human is to be able to give up one’s life for another (in physical death, but also the many other ways we die to self for the benefit of others), just as Jesus the New Adam did for us, and we recognize women and men both as capable of doing that.

    Glad you are back on the blog, Suzanne. Hope your time away was fruitful.


  8. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    August 31, 2013 7:24 pm

    The problem is that zakar can also refer to the shape of the male genitals, and neqabah can refer to the elite leaders in the nation. So why does Larry Crabb choose to say that women have souls in the shape of their private parts, but he doesn’t mention the same thing for men.

    I could go to the same lexicon that Crabb used and say that men have souls shaped like “pricks” (since that is what it says in the lexicon) and women are the elite in the nation (Amos 6:1). But Crabb says that women have souls shaped like holes, and men have important things to do.

    You cannot blame this kind of reasoning on the Bible. You have to go to a lexicon and admit the facts. Either you say both men and women have souls shaped like their privates, and this is how we are to interact in public, OR you can say that men have important stuff to do, and women are distinguished as the elite in the nation. But why take the literal language for the woman, and treat her like a box, and ignore the literal language for the male?


    Thanks for drawing attention to the favourable interpretation of neqabah, as “named” or “distinguished.”


    I don’t think there is anything negative about the Hebrew words for male and female in Genesis. It is the interpretation, based on etymology, that Larry Crabb has somehow decided to pronounce as spiritually significant, that is the problem. Why don’t friends of his just tip him off that speaking of women as boxes having holes bored in them is not cool?

  9. September 17, 2013 11:03 am

    I’m catching up after a summer of writing.

    Here on some thoughts on why I think Dr. Crabb is wrong:

    On Biblical Masculinity and Femininity

  10. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    September 17, 2013 2:26 pm

    Hi Joel,

    I just commented on your post.


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