Adam's Rib -- Or Not?

Warning: This particular post discusses a part of the male anatomy and may make some readers uncomfortable.

A new book has apparently been released by biblical scholars John Kaltner and Stephen L. McKenzie of Rhodes College in Memphis, TN, named The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book, co-written with Christian satirist Joel Kilpatrick. The book's synopsis begins with a eye-opening question: exactly which of Adam's bones was Eve made from?

We all know the story of how Eve was created from Adam's rib. But what if, perhaps, "rib" was a mistranslation and the body part she was really created from was Adam's penis bone? This would explain why human males don't have such a bone, unlike other male mammals. That's only one of many surprising and fun biblical twists readers will encounter in The Uncensored Bible.

According to an brief announcement about the book in the Salt Lake City Tribune, the authors answer that it is possible that Eve was made from the penis bone.

In the account of Eve's creation, the Hebrew word used for "rib" is "tsela," but that's not how it's translated in other parts of the Bible. Rather, it's usually translated as a "side" or "appendage" jutting out from a central structure.

All male mammals possess a penis bone - except humans and spider monkeys. So was the "bone" used to create Eve not actually Adam's rib after all? The authors conclude the theory has "compelling advantages" over traditional interpretations and is not "bizarre, outrageous or unreasonable."

Personally, I find this idea to be a little silly. After all, does it really matter which bone Eve was taken from? I mean, is there some deep theological point that arises if Eve was created using the penis bone as opposed to the rib? None that I can see.

Even so, I am not sure that the case can be effectively made. First, a quick check through my concordance reveals that the word "rib" is never used in the Old Testament after its use in Genesis 2 (which contains the verses in question). There is a reference to ribs in 2 Samuel 2, 2 Samuel 3, 2 Samuel 4 and 2 Samuel 20, but all of those use a phrasing or idiom that appears to mean that the various people were stabbed through the abdomen. In each of these cases, there is no word that is directly translated as "rib." Hence, the Bible does not give any indication that a particular word definitely means rib. At the same time, it does not show that a word other than the word used in Genesis 2 is the preferred word for "rib." (And before anyone asks, there is no word in the Hebrew word in the Bible for "penis bone".)

The Hebrew word tsela is the word translated in Genesis 2 as "rib". The word tsela is never used after Genesis 2 to describe any part of the human body at all. It is used, instead, in many places (with the majority being found in Exodus) to describe the "sides" of things. It is also translated in other places as corners, boards and chambers. A complete list of the uses of tsela can be found in the link to the word. What is notably absent is any usage in the Bible of the word as "an 'appendage' jutting out from a central structure". It isn't that it can't be seen as an "appendage" -- it is the "jutting out" part of the description that I find problematic.

(As a side note, I wonder how the fact that man is the only primate, besides spider monkeys, without a penis bone is explained by evolution? What evolutionary advantage did man obtain by losing the penis bone? Hmmmmmmmm. This may have to be a follow up post.)

So, while I personally think that this book would be fun to read, I am not too sure that I am going to buy into the conclusions it reaches. At least, they will have to go a lot further to convince me that "penis bone" is really a possible translation of the word tslela Genesis 2:22.


I have seen that term translated as "inner chambers" or "inner being." Katherine Bushnell traced the use of that reading to the Babylonian talmud. At that point a Talmudic rabbi says that woman came from rib and that set the interpretation. She may also include the penis bone thing a well. Her point is it's not the original reading and its a way to degrade women.
Anonymous said…
Regarding evolutionary theory, the answer is likely quite simple. Missing baculae did not have a survival benefit, but rather a sexual benefit. In short, early human women liked it more when the bone was missing, and so it worked its way through the population.

The common ignorance of such effects is the product of poor grade-school teaching of evolution, but it's obvious when you think about it: surviving means nothing unless you get to reproduce as well. Females generally choose who gets to do that, and they may select for things that show off "excess fitness," like the time to hang around and give pleasure. (Notably, other mammals without bones tend, like us, to spend more time on copulation). This is especially true in a generally successful species like humans, who can give more weight to such secondary considerations.

The Biblical interpretation that women are a penis bone might be regarded as demeaning to women. But the lack of bone itself is instead a testament to the thoroughness of women's power in shaping the human.
Anonymous said…
Because the penis bone may have been something that Adam had, but does not have now. Quite possibly, Adam is Eve, and Eve is Adam???

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