The Washington Post’s Gene Weingarten Discovers the True Adam and Eve Story

Was Eve made from Adam’s rib or some other part?


This mosaic from the Cathedral of Monreale, Sicily, depicts the creation of woman in the Bible. Eve is shown emerging from Adam’s side.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gene Weingarten has discovered the true origin of the story of Eve. In his latest weekly humor column “Below the Beltway” featured in the Washington Post Magazine and newspapers around the country, Weingarten discusses Ziony Zevit’s article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” from the September/October 2015 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.

According to the Bible’s creation account, after making the heavens and the earth, God created humankind. The story of Adam and Eve 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? Ziony Zevit, Distinguished Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, California, examines this question in his BAR article. And the answer is “No.”

As the point where three of the world’s major religions converge, Israel’s history is one of the richest and most complex in the world. Sift through the archaeology and history of this ancient land in the free eBook Israel: An Archaeological Journey, and get a view of these significant Biblical sites through an archaeologist’s lens.

The Hebrew word traditionally translated “rib” is tsela‘. Biblical scholar Ziony Zevit says that this translation is clearly wrong, and many scholars agree. 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 supposed Hebrew word for “rib” in the Adam and Eve story indicates that Eve was created from another, very different, part of Adam’s anatomy—his os baculum (penis bone).

“Instantly, I knew this article was important,” writes Weingarten. “That is because it finally explained the origin of a common fallacy, a spectacularly stupid bit of scientific misinformation under which I had labored for the first 16 years of my life until a high school bio class set me straight: Men are not short one rib, as the creation myth implies. Men and women have the same number.”


Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Adam and Eve Story: Eve Came From Where?

The Creation of Woman in the Bible

Should We Take Creation Stories in Genesis Literally?

Cain and Abel in the Bible
Bible Review’s Supporting Roles by Elie Wiesel

What Happened to Cain in the Bible?

Who Was the Wife of Cain?


42 Responses

  1. Pat Collins says:

    Who knew there was a bone in the penis. Some of us were apparently left out.

  2. fr.Paul the poor says:

    Peace of God be with you all. I’m a monk in one of the Coptic monasteries in Egypt. i appreciate your great efforts in biblical arch. research. i’d like to know : How can i get your magazine ” hard cover. and how can i pay the amount.please, i’m all eager to your kindly reply. thanks in advance.

  3. Kurt says:

    Does the bible say humans are made of dirt?”And Jehovah Elohim formed Man, dust of the ground” Genesis 2: 7

  4. Paul Ballotta says:

    Correction: the god Damuzi was not fertilized while in the netherworld during the summer, which is why women mourned for Tammuz in Ezekiel 8:14.

  5. Paul Ballotta says:

    Correction: “le-marbeh” (increase/abundance) in Isaiah 9:6.

  6. Paul Ballotta says:

    That’s an interesting point that Kurt brought up (though stem-cell research is a controversial political wedge issue) and it reminds me of the novel by Frank Herbert, “The Jesus Incident,” which is set in the future when humans are colonizing other planets but in order to survive a work force had to be created consisting of genetically modified humans who could adapt to different environments. The original human prototypes retained their status as the administrative ruling class (creators) who looked down with disdain on the lower working class consisting of human/animal hybrids (the created). The hybrids exhibited a belief in a supreme being (God), while the ruling class tended to cynically see themselves as being the center of the universe (gods).
    The famous verse from Isaiah 7:14, “a young woman is with child,” that was mistranslated as, “a virgin is with child,” was actually a Jewish messianic prophecy according to the Talmud (B.T. Sanhedrin 94a), where it mentions the child Immanuel’s kingdom in Isaiah 9:6:
    “For the increase (Hebrew “le-marbeh”) of the realm and for peace without end…”
    Apparently the occurance of the letter ‘mem’ in ‘le-marbeh” is the only time in the Old Testament where a final letter ‘mem’ is not located at the end of the word. The closed letter ‘mem’ is symbolic of a woman’s womb that has been fertilized as opposed to an open letter ‘mem’ that is symbolic of pre-natal womb.
    If we go back to the origin of this prophecy in Isaiah 7:10-17, we have Isaiah asking King Ahaz for a sign, either from the netherworld or from heaven, whereupon Ahaz refuses, self-righteously stating that he will not put God to the test. Isaiah then gets a bit testy, telling Ahaz that he has made men weary and asks if Ahaz will also try to make God weary (apparently the practice of rulers wasting resources silencing their critics, known in modern times as Richard Nixon Syndrome, has been around for sometime).
    The “sign” from the netherworld and heaven does seem to be a reference to the Mesopotamian goddess Ishtar who was known as the Queen of Heaven and in myth she descends to the netherworld to rescue her ungrateful lover, the fertilized god Damuzi. The Canaanite goddess Astarte’s name is derived from Ishtar and this fertility goddess’ name, Astarte/Ashtoreth originally meant ‘womb,’ or “that which issues from the womb” (“The Hebrew Goddess” by Raphael Patai, p.67).
    The 13th century book of mysticism, “The Zohar” (1:34), makes a connection between the final letter ‘mem’ in the name ‘Adam” with the letter ‘mem’ in the word “le-marbeh” (increase/abundance) in Isaiah 9:14.
    “This is the only time in the entire Bible that a final ‘mem’ appears out of place, before the end of the word – a peculiarity that stimulated the rabbinic mind” (“The Zohar, vol. 1” by Daniel Matt, p.216, n. 893).

  7. Kurt says:

    What of the description in Genesis that Eve was fashioned from Adam’s rib? (Genesis 2:21-23) Before dismissing the account as myth or fantasy, consider the following facts: In January 2008, scientists in California, U.S.A., produced the world’s first mature cloned human embryos from adult skin cells. In fact, using similar techniques, scientists have cloned at least 20 animals. The most famous of these, Dolly the sheep, was cloned in 1996 from the mammary gland of an adult sheep.

    What will come of such experiments remains to be seen. But the point is this: If humans can use biological material from one organism to produce another one of its kind, could not the almighty Creator fashion a human from existing biological material of another human? Interestingly, surgeons routinely use the rib bone in reconstructive surgery because of its ability to regrow and replace itself

  8. Pail Ballotta says:

    The above quote is from ‘The Bahir; Illumination” by Aryeh Kaplan, p.66.

  9. Pail Ballotta says:

    If this sounds like s sub-plot in a Dan Brown novel with a secret society of masons placing mysterious clues in their architecture, it’s probably because it is. A Jewish book of mysticism that circulated in Europe in the 12th century contains such a clue when the “rib” that God used to construct the woman is equated with the side of the sanctuary:
    “It is thus written (Genesis 2:24), ‘And they shall be one flesh.’ But she was taken from his ribs, as it is written (Genesis 2:21), ‘And He took one of his ribs.’ Does He then hsve a rib? Yes. It is written (Exodus 26:20), ‘the ribs of the tabernacle.’ The Targum renders this, ‘the side of the tabernacle.'”

  10. Pail Ballotta says:

    It appears, Julia, that Christians have been duped with the Greek and subsequent Latin translation of the Hebrew word “tsela” as ” rib,” when all along the word means “side,” usually in the context of a structure:
    “In each of these instances; it refers to something off-center, lateral to a main structure” (“Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib – or His Baculum?” by Ziony Zevit, BAR, Sept./Oct.2015, p.34).
    Also the translation of the woman being the man’s “helper” (Genesis 2:20) is misleading since the Hebrew word “samekh” means “support” and the woman was constructef, ot ‘built” (Hebrew “yabin”) out of ” one of his lateral limbs/branches/appendages” (BAR, p.34) that is described in Genesis 2:22.

  11. Julie says:

    Why do people feel they have to “correct” God’s Word?
    How would they like it if people decided to change what they wrote.
    Because they knew better.
    What makes you think He doesn’t really mean what He says.

  12. Rob Palmer says:

    Some guys are better endowed than others. I, for one don’t want a Baculum. Think how uncomfortable it would be with tight levis? We would all be driven to nudity, like all the other little mammals.

  13. Pail Ballotta says:

    The flow that is described in Genesis 2:6 as rising up from the ground is the source of water that the earliest settlements in the northern Negev were built around, as the archaeological evidence has shown:
    “Clusters of sites have been found along wadi banks in peripheral areas of Palestine. The best example is perhaps the northern Negev, where a comprehensive survey and excavations have revealed over seventy Chalcolithic settlements over a distance of 110 km along the banks of the Beersheba Brook and its continuation, the Besor Brook. Another concentration is to be found farther northward, on the banks of the Gerar Brook. This is a region of loess soil, in which winter floods have carved deep wadi courses. The floodwaters comprised a periodic source of water, which was made available year round by digging shallow pits in the wadi beds. The region was entirely uninhabited in Neolithic times, and the Chalcolithic inhabitants found here a primeval land that was ideal for widespread settlement based on herding and agriculture” (“Archaeology of the Land of the Bible: 10,000-586 B.C.E.” by Amihai Mazar, p.60).
    See also Isaac’s ordeal squabbling over wells with bedouin shepherds in the Gerar Brook, Genesis 26:17-22.

  14. Pail Ballotta says:

    Australopithicus would likely be founf in Genesis 1:28, where Adam has the manual dexterity to to subdue and exploit the resources within their grasp or “rule.” This coming after a gestation period of approximately 30 million years, symbolized by the 3 times the word for create, “bara,” appears in Genesis 1:27, when primates evolved into an upright bipedal creature who risked the relative safety of the tree-dwelling life with all its amenities like Egypt (Hebrew “Mitzrayim,’ meaning ‘wealthy ones”), in exchange for a risky investment in the land of Canaan.

  15. Pail Ballotta says:

    Good references to Australeopithicus and Homo Erectus, Ladislao #11, as the former are meantioned in Genesis 1:26-29 while the latter is mentioned crypticly in Genesis 2:5; “there was no man to cultivate the ground.’ The ground, or ” adamah,” is described as dry clods of packed dust, which best describes the condition of the soil in the Negev desert. We know that the migration route of Homo Erectus passed out of Africa and into Asia that passed through the same route as the Israelites out of Egypt. The reference to the first Adamic prototype in Genesis 2:5 can also refer to the settlement phase of the Negev before they were abandoned in the mid-27th century B.C.E., after the Egyptians abandoned their pursuit of copper mines and opted for an alternative source of copper through trade with Bibylos having also become dependant on lumber from the merchants of Bibylos to fuel their ruler’s obsession with mortuary monuments. The Negev wasn’t re-settled until the establishment of the Davidiic monarchy in 1000 B.C.E.
    I heard in the comments a reference to Viagra and I think a good analogy of a “penis crutch” would be this ancient network of settlements that were dependent on the Egyptian monarchy. Another type of crutch is a rock musician who depends on his guitar.

  16. Brent Dawes says:

    I think it all boils down to the fact that Ziony Zevit is a product of a westernized university, namely Berkeley. He has probably been taught evolution, that man came from monkeys, monkeys have a baculum. I think it is just another devious way to mock the creation story and to promote evolution instead or at least to put the idea in some people’s minds anyway.

  17. Jerry Blaz says:

    The Hebrew, as it comes down to us, is interpreted by prior interpretations. For instance, the assumption that whatever was taken from Adam’s body was a “tzelah” whatever that meant to the writer of that statement, it never states in the Hebrew “from the side,” nor does it mean that “tzelah” is a rib, but might have a more generalized definition, even though other Hebrew Biblical and post-Biblical texts might use the term metaphorically to describe a dimension of an inanimate object, so Ziony Zevit’s interpretaton cannot be dismissed without a more substantive argument other than to dismiss this interpretation as salacious or sinful or whatever.

    Zevit brings into the discussion the inherent basic level of understanding a herding people who have butchered meat and dissected the bodies of their livestock in the process and therefore were aware of the existence of a penis bone while other experiences involving human dead made them aware of the lack of a human baculum. So, for them, the “tzelah” in vss. 21-22 in Genesis II could just be a baculum.

  18. Giigi says:

    I have never once believed that woman came from man. Women are the part of the species that is capable of reproduction. I believe in God and science and I’ve come to see Genesis 1 and 2 as the best way people in that time could interpret the wonders or God and science. For me 6 days could be the equal of 60 million years. For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night

  19. alexanderr13 says:

    In Genesis, it’s says that Eve was formed from one of the tselas of Adam. The 3rd century BC Greek Septuagint translates this as ribs. Apparently neighboring languages also contain early forms of this word that mean rib; but with a much earlier date for Genesis, which I strongly favor, it can be argued that this is due to the influence of this single most famous occurrence of the word.

    Especially, because there are 43 other occurrences of this word in the Bible, none of which would make sense to be translated as rib.

    An excerpt from the article:
    “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…is in Genesis 2:21–22.”

    The author proposes that tsela should be translated baculum, which is a penis bone, present in other mammals, but lacking in humans. There are several good arguments against this, including that this would’ve been an imperceptible anatomical feature (mere mm.) in an unlikely region of dissection, in the animals that anyone, back then, would’ve been likely to dissect, assuming that anyone was dissecting animals, at all: moreover, it would also assume knowledge of the human lack of one.

    But conclusive evidence against this hypothesis is found in the Biblical context itself: it reads that “one of Adam’s tselas” was taken from him. Humans would have only had one baculum; and if not, since only “one” was taken, where is the other?

    I propose another translation, which would make sense literally here and metaphorically in every other occurrence in the Bible, where it refers to “a side or half of a frame or set of slats;” and it would explain all the early mistaken renderings as rib, as being only slight off. It means ribcage.

    This would also explain why there is only one heart on one side of man: his wife has his other one.

    Finally, it captures perfectly the closeness and depth of the relationship of the man and woman of whom the first Adam and Eve were only types: Jesus and Mary, who were truly of the same flesh and of one set of hearts.

  20. Gary W. Harper says:

    What is “on the side”, but the testes?

    Woman is flesh of the flesh, and bone of the bone, is she not? What is sperm, but strictly DNA in a protein sheath, with a flagellum for motion and some sugars for energy attached?

    You are not penetrating deeply enough below the surface, for the origin of all of this…

    Look to the double helix of all information, encircling the Tree of Life, rooted within in the clay of the Garden of Eden. From this stump, Living Waters pour forth. From this root, a Green Branch arises.

    You have to understand the overall context of Parsha Bereshit, and all of Genesis, really. It is all about birth, fruition, and growth.

    It is the first honeymoon, of the bride and the Groom. This origin, is the end of all religious experience, of the Revelation; the Alpha, which is the Omega, are the Origin, are positive and negative infinity; are the Mobius strip of Torah, white and black sides merged; all, are One.

  21. Tom says:

    Aaron is correct and Shirley’s comment has merit. As a biology major, I learned that many placental mammals are endowed with a baculum (penis bone)…except humans! Shirley’s comment would tend to uphold that biologic fact.

  22. Kwame Ajamu says:

    Don’t you get it, the people back then were ignorant, and did the best that they could do, while making up the story!.

  23. shirleyg20 says:

    On a serious note, I think this article was a waste of space. On a humorous note, my first thought was, ‘So is that why men need Viagra?’

  24. Rick Barlow says:

    Really, what is most important, how God made woman or the fact He did indeed make woman? I think the latter.

  25. Allen says:

    If we believe the creation account in Genesis 1, man and woman were created simultaneously. “Male and female, created he them.”

    Genesis 2 appears to be a later (and much more fanciful account.

    Genesis 1 makes much more sense than Genesis 2. I believe this puts the “rib story” in the area of Hebraic legend.

  26. ilan bergman says:

    Let the writer have his 15 minutes in the spotlight with his not so clever theory and then let him fade away.

  27. Pete says:

    if you were 16 in HS Biology class and still thought men were one rib short….. you have other problems! If a man loses his arm in an accident, is his son born with one arm? A little common sense goes a long way.

  28. Ladislao Errazuriz says:

    Like most of the ancient scriptures, this idea is mostly allegorical or metaphorical, with lessons to be garnered.
    If rendered in 20th Century anthropological lingo, the translation would say that the original Australopithecus and Homoerectus human ancestors had a penis bone, useful for procreation in awkward positions.
    However, the first homosapiens endowed with infuse science, had his natural prosthesis divinely (that is surgically) removed, in order to provide him with a desired companion assembled from it.
    The absence of such a useful procreating bone from all subsequent homoerectus males eventually led the species to develop chemical substitutes, such as sildenafil, but such a recent application of infuse science took almost a million years to acccomplish.

  29. Don Bailey says:

    The word “bara” means to create out of nothing. It also means to create something new and different. It is used when God made (bara) Eve. She was something new and different from all that Adam knew–flesh and bone but different than Adam, yet of the same “kind” as Adam. In my opinion the rib taken from Adam was cellular and had to do with ribosomes. God took one of the ribosomes (‘one of the ribs of Adam”) and made woman, the female opposite of Adam. I contend that I am on more solid ground than baculum, chamber or womb./Don Bailey

  30. Ray Ashmore says:

    A solidier loses a leg in Iraq, comes home to his wife, she gets pregnant and her newborn is short one leg, right? And since when do penuses have bones? But, if it can be done, God can surely do it.

  31. Bob says:

    Actually, plastic surgeons routinely use rib bone for reconstruction because if removed carefully (leaving the periosteum), the rib will completely grow back. True, Adam,s children would still have all their ribs due to DNA but Adam didn’t have to go around without a rib either.
    I see no truth in the history of the word “tsela” tat can lead to any other avenue than “side” or “rib” – false article.

  32. David says:

    I believe traditional Jewish philosophy says that Eve was created from Adam’s side; that is, they were two fully-formed people, but attached side by side. It wasn’t until they were separated that they (and we) could face each other and know each other.

  33. Regina says:

    I believe God used part of Adam’s DNA to create woman – the helix curve (rib).

  34. Dennis Swaney says:

    Those that say if the Genesis description is true, males would have one less rib. Ah, MAYBE Adam might have but his descendants would have the full number. Just because an organ or other body part is removed from an adult, it doesn’t mean the adult’s children would be missing that part; they would have it. The FULL set is still locked into Chromosomes and DNA.

  35. bob says:

    This sounds like the kind of article Satan would write. Distracting from what matters.

  36. LS says:

    The penis is not on the “side” of anything; it is in the center. I see no grounds at all for this theory, except maybe to stir up some prurient attention.

  37. Aaron says:

    That would mean we were created more like monkeys… Male monkeys do have a baculum. Humans do not. Do I believe “rib” is the right translation? No. Perhaps “chamber” or “womb” would be a better theory. Nonetheless, I do not have a baculum, so I cannot support the article. Man was made in the image of God. That image is unchanging, He is the God that does not change.

  38. albertv8 says:

    The point is GOD make women, from man. That’s why she is called wo men.

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