The Adam and Eve Story: Eve Came From Where?

Adam and Eve in the Bible

“So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the Lord God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man.”
—Genesis 2:21–22, NRSV

creation-of-eve

ADAM AND EVE IN THE BIBLE. This mosaic from the Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, depicts the creation of woman in the Bible. Eve is shown emerging from Adam’s side. Most translations of the Adam and Eve story say that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, but Ziony Zevit contends that she was created from a very different part of Adam’s body.

According to the Bible’s creation account, after making the heavens and the earth, God created humankind. The Adam and Eve story in Genesis 2 states that God formed Adam out of the dust of the ground, and then Eve was created from one of Adam’s ribs. But was it really his rib?

The Hebrew word that is traditionally translated as “rib” is tsela‘. Ziony Zevit, Distinguished Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, California, believes that this translation is wrong, as do many scholars. It was first translated as “rib” in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible from the mid-third century B.C.E. However, a more careful reading of the Hebrew word for “rib” in the Adam and Eve story suggests that Eve was created from another, very different, part of Adam’s anatomy—his os baculum (penis bone).

Zevit carefully examines the account of the creation of woman in the Bible in his article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” which appears in the September/October 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
 


 
In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.
 


 
Of the 40 appearances of tsela‘ in the Bible, the Adam and Eve story is the only place where it is translated as “rib.” Usually it means the side of something. Zevit explains the nuance of this word:

This Hebrew word occurs some 40 times in the Hebrew Bible, where it refers to the side of a building or of an altar or ark (Exodus 25:12; 26:20, 26; 1 Kings 6:34), a side-chamber (1 Kings 6:8; Ezekiel 41:6), or a branch of a mountain (2 Samuel 16:13). In each of these instances, it refers to something off-center, lateral to a main structure. The only place where tsela‘ might be construed as referring to a rib that branches off from the spinal cord is in Genesis 2:21–22.

According to Zevit, “rib” is the wrong translation for tsela‘ in the Adam and Eve story in the Bible. Zevit believes that tsela‘ should be translated as “a non-specific, general term,” such as one of Adam’s lateral limbs, in the Adam and Eve story. Thus, it refers to “limbs lateral to the vertical axis of an erect human body: hands, feet, or, in the case of males, the penis.”

Which of these lateral limbs lacks a bone? Human males do not have a penis bone, but many mammals do. Zevit concludes that in the story of Adam and Eve in the Bible, the woman was created from the man’s baculum to explain why this appendage does not have a bone.

To see Ziony Zevit’s full explanation of the Adam and Eve story in the Bible, read his article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” in the September/October 2015 issue of BAR.

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BAS Library Members: Read the full article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” by Ziony Zevit in the September/October 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

Not a BAS Library member yet? Join the BAS Library today.
 


 
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on September 15, 2015.
 


 

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Creation of Woman in the Bible
Mary Joan Winn Leith takes a look at the creation of woman in Genesis 2

Lilith in the Bible and Mythology
Dan Ben-Amos explores the figure of Lilith

How the Serpent Became Satan
Shawna Dolansky examines Adam, Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden

What Does the Bible Say About Infertility?
Joel S. Baden and Candida R. Moss place the command to “be fruitful and multiply” in context
 


 

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  • Rob says

    This could be qualified as “fake news” as it misleads young innocent maidens concerning male anatomy.

  • Walter says

    This title, Eve came from where? attracted my attention, I thought the article would deal with her “pre-biblical origin,” I was wrong. By 1898-9 Professor Morris Jastrow Junior of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, had, in an article published in a scholarly journal of that time, identified “from where Eve had come from.” He argued that she was a recast of Shamhat (his Ukhat) in the Epic of Gilgamesh (his Epic of Izdubar), and that Adam was a recast of Enkidu (his Eabani) in the same epic. Genesis’ god, who brought a naked Eve and presented her to Adam, I concluded, must be Sadu/Saidu, the Hunter, from Uruk, who brought Shamhat/Eve to the watering hole in the midst of the desert-like wilderness called EDIN in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Enkidu is portrayed as being made of Edin’s clay by a goddess, he is hairy and naked and of great strength. His companions are wild animals, bulls and antelope. With them he eats grass and laps water at Edin’s watering hole. He sets free animals caught in the hunter’s traps. Fearful of Enkidu’s strength, the Hunter asks Gilgamesh for help. He is told take a prostitute from the temple of Uruk to the watering hole. When Enkidu arrives with his animal companions, she is to disrobe and entice him with sex. After sex, he will attempt to return to his animal companions, who will reject, and flee from him. He will return to the prostitute and accept her as his new companion. She will convince him to leave EDIN and live in Uruk. No more animals will be released from the hunter’s traps in the EDIN. She does as told, and Enkidu mates with her. His animal companions flee from him, he accepts her as his new companion. Before leaving the watering hole she gives him part of her garment to cover his nakedness, and together, both leave EDIN clothed. They encounter a shepherd’s camp in EDIN, they offer Enkidu bread and wine, he refuses them, he knows only to eat grass and drink water with the beasts. Shamhat intercedes and convinces Enkidu to partake of the food and drink he does so. The shepherds announce, now he is a civilized man and a beast no more, for beasts do not consume the gods’ foods: alcoholic drink and bread (man-processed foods not available to EDIN’s beasts). On his death-bed he curses the Prostitute, blaming her for his coming death. His patron god upbraids him, telling him she did him good, she gave him a robe fit for a king to cover his nakedness, she gave him food and drink fit for gods to consume, she gave him as a companion-in-arms, Gilgamesh. A chastened Enkidu withdraws the curse and blesses the Prostitute. I have published a book on all this, in 2010, available at Amazon.com, Walter R. Mattfeld, The garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-Biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths. Illustrated and with maps. My website also has more info, http://www.bibleorigins.net

    • John says

      Walter, after reading your previous, I would be interested to know how this Babylonian ‘Epic of Gilgamesh’ is ‘somewhat’ similar to the account of the Biblical flood……..it must have been some rain to flood the earth in six days; after all the Biblical food lasted forty days and we know where that water came from……..the lucid canopy of water that surrounded the earth’s atmosphere.
      I mean, the Gilgamesh epic came from Babylon…..and it is known, that Babylon was the centre of astrology, divination, etc., the city itself had over fifty temples in it to worship the plethora of gods they had………..if you believe in Gilgamesh, Walter, I think that you believe that fairies live down the bottom of your garden.
      The Genesis account of creation of the earth and all living things on it is simple and easy to understand,……..even scientifically, as was the deluge of Noah’s day. The ‘creative days’ in the Bible span over thousands of years; NOT twenty four hour days as ‘creationists would have one believe.
      Even Jesus and other apostles made mention of the the flood of Noah’s day;
      Matthew 24:37-39; Luke 17:26, 27; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:5, 6; Hebrews 11:7.
      The prophet Isaiah mentions it at Isaiah 54:9 …….they certainly did not mention the epic of Gilgamesh……….maybe they did not believe in fairy stories.

  • Matt says

    The notion being presented has a problem with it.
    DNA – doing surgery on a human body does not change or alter the DNA structure. When God was completed with Adam, he said, “it was good” which also means “completed” in terms of mans creation. Therefore, the DNA structure was also completed. If man had a “penis bone” then, our DNA code today would have that, and men would have one now; which we don’t.
    In many translations the Bible says “from the side of the man”. Then God closed up the skin and fashioned Eve. Let me look real quick at my side…… hmmmm….. no protrusive appendage… just skin and…. oh, look at that…. my RIBS are there.
    Leave the veracity of the Bible intact. If we choose to doubt one thing, then we are apt to choose to doubt others.

  • Kenneth says

    Wow, how far out will some go to get in print. There seems to be absolutely no evidence for this speculation.

  • Mark says

    The human rib, using a precise surgical procedure, is the only bone in the human anatomy that can be removed in its entirety and then completely grow back.

    • John says

      Mark, that is not quite true, the entire rib can be removed but, the periosteum or sheath, must be left intact otherwise the rib will not regrow.

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