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Dr. Crabb’s Jesus’s “female” literally means “the breast” – say what?

September 17, 2013

As if Crabb’s Jesus’s “female” literally means “the breast” isn’t confusing enough, let’s just look at where that comes from. It’s from Moving beyond gender stereotypes: An interview [of Jonathan Merritt] with Larry Crabb, from the following snippet of the Q&A (with my added red font sometimes bold for emphasis here):

JM: You say that a woman is most feminine to the degree that she relates to others in a way that reveals something wonderful about God that no man can as fully reveal. Can you give some examples of these unique opportunities for women?

LC: My view based mostly on a word study. The word for “female” in Hebrew is nekebah. It literally means, “one who is open to receive.” And then when our Lord refers to that passage in Mark chapter 10, the Greek word for “female” Jesus uses is “θῆλυ“ (Mark 10:6), which literally means “the breast.”  It means “one who is supplying to nourish.” I this suggests that a woman is feminine, and she reveals the beauty of a relational God when she reveals that God is open to receive people like me! God is open to invite us into relationship, even though we don’t deserve it. And when a woman is willing to be open—in a relationship, with her husband, with her kids or with her friends—to receive, honor, respect, and nourish anything that comes, that is the beauty of femininity.

My wife and I had our 47th anniversary recently, and I believe that my wife reveals something of the invitational nature of God. In our relationship, whenever I move in poor ways, when I feel inadequate and weak and back away from things, my wife doesn’t lose a vision for me. Instead, she communicates to me how differently she knows I could behave and how I could handle things. That calls forth my masculinity and I know that when I do move in appropriate ways, she’s going to be very supportive, very receptive, very encouraging about it and that means the world to me.

In the interview, Larry Crabb is moving beyond his knowledge of Hebrew to his understanding of Greek. (See Suzanne’s post here and Dr. Joel M. Hoffman’s post here.)

Strangely, Dr. Crabb constructs his singular view of femininity from his etymology of a Hebrew word which he reinforces by his etymology of a Greek word, now with Jesus speaking it.

And this Greek word he has Jesus using to mean “literally” and largely, solely actually, the breast.

And Mr. Merritt, who holds a Master of Divinity from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Master of Theology from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, gives us all a link from “θῆλυ“ in his transcribed interview to, where we find among other things the following:  “thēlus; from prim. root θη- thē- (to suckle); female:—”

And, therefore, we follow the rhetorical enthymeme, as if it’s some non-fallacious Barbara syllogism of very tight logic (which I put again in red font sometimes bold):

And then when our Lord refers to that [Hebrew Bible] passage in Mark chapter 10, the Greek word for “female” Jesus uses is “θῆλυ“ (Mark 10:6), which literally means “the breast.”  It means “one who is supplying to nourish.”

I guess the best thing to do is to look first at the Hebrew (which Suzanne does do, starting in with “This stuff really freaks me out,” and which Joel does do too, getting to how “Dr. Crabb makes fundamental factual and methodological errors”).

Now, what about the Greek? Well, it’s just as freaky how Dr. Crabb reads the Hellene.

Here are just a few quick questions to get our conversation started:

  1. Does Dr. Crabb implicate the Greek words in his book as he constructs his view of the species of sex?
  2. Why doesn’t Dr. Crabb discuss “the Greek word for ‘male’ Jesus uses, or ‘ἄρσεν‘ (Mark 10:6),” which Mr. Merritt could then hyperlink to What does Dr. Crabb’s Jesus’s “male” word literally mean then?
  3. Does it make a difference that the gospel writer is putting the Greek words in Jesus’s mouth? Does it make any difference at all that somebody else at least two and a half centuries before Jesus rendered “that [Hebrew Bible] passage” of Genesis 1:27 and of Genesis 5:2 into Hellene? Isn’t the connection from Jesus’s mouth to the pen of Moses or, as Joel puts it, to “the mouth of God” just a bit of a stretch?
  4. Could it be that the Septuagint translators were aware of Homeric uses of (a) θάομαι and (b) θάω and (c) θέω and even (d) θεός? And wouldn’t they have understood how these words “literally mean” (a) not only “to suck” but also “to wonder at, admire” and (b) not only “to milk [as in ‘to milk the sheep’]” but also “to run” and (c) not only “shine, gleam” but also (d) “god” which in the Septuagint is also often “God, the Deity“? Isn’t each and every one of these, etymologically, related to θῆσθαι, which stems from “prim. root θη- thē“?
  5. So where does that leave “biblical” Hebrew, Jesus-Greek, “females”?
2 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    September 17, 2013 8:01 pm

    And when the doctor asks the nurse to administer care, who is supposed to suckle whom? This kind of thing goes beyond the bizarre.


  1. “ἄρσεν καὶ θῆλυ” in “Aristotle,” “Moses,” and Paul | BLT

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