Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Was woman made from rib - or "penis bone"?

So יהוה Elohim caused a deep sleep to fall on the man, and he slept. And He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. And the rib which יהוה Elohim had taken from the man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.  (Genesis 2:21-22, ISR)

Some scholars argue that the word "rib" in the scripture above is wrong.  They argue that the word should be instead "penis bone".  What?  Human males don't have a penis bone!  In some mammals that do have this bone it is called the "baculum".  But that's precisely the point of the argument.  These scholars use the fact that human males don't have a penis bone to intimate that it was the penis bone from which Eve was made and not the rib.  Let's discuss the argument:

Ziony Zevit, Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, California, is the latest of those scholars promoting this theory.  The Hebrew word translated in Genesis 2 as "rib" is צלעת  [tsela‘].  Zevit says: "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."

Zevit goes on: "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.' "

Really?  Tsela' has to be one of Adam's "limbs" - a hand, foot, or penis? 

I think not Mr. Zevit. 

Genesis 2:21 says Adam was made to sleep and while sleeping, the verse continues: YHWH  "took one [אחת, e'chat] of his מצלעתיו [mi'tselatov], and closed up the flesh in its place."  So we have the action described as taking ONE of his mi'tselatov, meaning there was more than one!  Adam still had at least another tsela' remaining!  Thus I think it's safe to say that the tsela' was decidedly NOT a "penis bone"!  If the tsela' were a penis bone, then man today would still have one because one of at least two (or more) was taken!  

Using Mr. Zevit's analysis of the word "tsela'"of  which he says in each case it "refers to something off-center", I can't help but note that in defining this "off-centeredness" he also recognized that the word also simply refers to "the side" of something.  In each of the instances of tsela' elsewhere in scripture, the object of the "side" is understood.  In the case of the ark in Exodus, for example, it was the rings on the "side" of the ark. Tsela' is not the rings themselves, rather, tsela' is where the rings are located.  In a human it is completely understood where one is referring when he says "let me touch your side" the location is the area of the rib cage. Indeed, the ribs actually form the sides of a person so it is not unreasonable to conclude that the phrase "one of the tsela'" in Genesis 2 is understood completely the same as "one of the ribs forming the side".  In Job 18:12 it reads: "His strength is starved, and calamity is ready at his tsela'." 

Mr. Zevit, serious question.  Is calamity at Job's penis?

And since Genesis 2:21 clearly states that one of these things was taken, it seems further evidence that these were "side things" or perhaps simply "rib" as was the translation chosen centuries ago.  Thus it seems clear that "rib" is a perfectly valid translation of tsela' in Genesis 2 seeing as how we have more than one rib, and the ribs make up our "sides".  

Anyway, is all this discussion and picking apart Genesis 2:21-22 really important? The simple point is that woman was made from man, for man, to be his companion.  Scripture quickly moves on from this scene and Eve is described as "bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh. This one is called ‘woman,’ because she was taken out of man." (2:23, ISR) 

"For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." (2:24, ISR)

It seems we have much more to draw from and discuss about this creation story of the intended relationship between man and woman than how tsela' is to be understood. The world has lost much understanding of the man-woman relationship created in Genesis 2 and perhaps more study should be dedicated there instead of arguing about supposed missing penis bones.    

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