Queries & Comments
Bones to Pick
BAR Damages Her Faith
Re: Ziony Zevit’s “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” (BAR 41:05)
I write to express my disappointment with your magazine. I wish to cancel my subscription.
Many of the articles published in BAR do not accurately reflect what the Bible teaches. Come on now, Eve being created from Adam’s penis bone, rather than his rib? That is plainly not a Bible teaching. I wonder, then, what other articles BAR publishes are filled with speculation, rather than Biblical truth. I do not need and will not read articles that damage my faith or attempt to cause me to doubt what I know is the truth from the Bible.
Never Purchased a Tabloid Magazine
How does Ziony Zevit’s article have anything remotely to do with Biblical archaeology?
I have never purchased a tabloid magazine in my entire life—and I have no intention of ever doing so. I certainly didn’t realize that was what I was doing when I subscribed to BAR.
I am a longtime BAR subscriber and anticipate the arrival of each issue. As a pastor, I find that the learned articles and resulting discussion have added insight to my study and teaching of the Bible and given me much personal pleasure, even if often challenging my views.
But the article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or his Baculum?” was so outlandish that I am compelled to comment. Ziony Zevit’s attempt to prove that the Hebrew term tsela‘ could not mean the traditionally accepted “rib” is totally unconvincing. Surely if the root idea is something “on the side of,” then suggesting a hypothetical penis bone is clearly getting side-tracked. It only gets worse when he supposes that if the Lord used the man’s rib to create the woman, then it must logically result that all males henceforth would have one less rib! In his conclusion, he agrees with folklorist Alan Dundes that the author of the Genesis 2 account wrote on the origin of “a seam of light tissue on the underside of his penis.” Downright laughable and unworthy of comment.
As Jesus scathingly said, “You blind guides! You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24). Or as my wife cogently observed, surely the article was a belated April Fools’ Day joke!
Hershel, keep up the good work and do not cancel my subscription.
Northern Ontario, Canada
Traditional Meaning “Unacceptable”
The traditional translation to “rib” in Genesis 2:21–22 is not only difficult to accept, but simply unacceptable, for several reasons: (1) The Septuagint translated tsela‘ as pleurá in Greek, and Jerome as costa in the Latin Vulgate. Both terms rarely may mean “rib” and most frequently mean “side”—never baculum(!), as you can ascertain in any good Greek and Latin dictionary; and (2) in the Gospel of John, chapters 19 and 20, the same Greek pleurá (equivalent to Hebrew tsela‘) appears four times, referring to the side of Christ, not to his rib. For instance, in John 19:34, one of the soldiers thrust his lance into his side (pleurá), and immediately blood and water flowed out. The Greek Fathers saw in this scene the formation of the new Eve from the side of the new Adam!
Professor of Biblical Exegesis
Instituto Teológico de Santa Catarina (ITESC)
Baculum Is Not on Side
As the author acknowledges, the Hebrew word in question always refers to something off-center. There are no scriptural uses that refer to the front (where the penis is). How does the author justify moving from side to front?
Maybe not strict exegesis, but Matthew Henry in his commentary offers a better understanding: “The woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
Hermits of St. Mary of Carmel
Ribs Are Rich in Stem Cells
Logically, if I wanted to produce a living being to be a companion to Adam, the easiest way would be to use stem cells and generate a clone of that individual. One of the easiest sources of stem cells can be from bones with marrow. And while a baculum can contain some marrow, it is mostly hard cortical bone. A rib, on the 009 other hand, has a rich environment of bone marrow material—and thus, abundant stem cells. And one would not have to actually remove the source in total to do this, just the stem cells. So the rib could remain intact.
My personal conclusion is that Eve was made from stem cells in one of Adam’s ribs.
Transported to the Garden of Eden
I was so intrigued by BAR’s article by Ziony Zevit that I immediately bought his book, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? Regardless of the debate regarding whether Eve was formed from Adam’s rib or his baculum, I can honestly say that in almost 50 years of Bible reading and research, I have never read a book that opened my eyes so much in just one quantum jump.
Zevit transports one “literally” into the Garden of Eden, drawing out nuances from the original Hebrew that one would never expect from a simple reading in any standard English translation of the Old Testament. I almost felt myself there “in Eden” alongside Adam and Eve, understanding what God (YHWH) really said, what the serpent really said and what really happened. A totally extraordinary literary—and, dare I say, “religious”—experience.
Hong Kong, China
Let a Biblical Allegory Be
I found the article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?” by Ziony Zevit, both interesting and charming. However, informed by my medical background, I see a problem with the author’s proposed physical explanation of what is surely supposed to be an allegorical story. He proposes that God performed an actual operation on a particular man, Adam, and not on mankind in general, and backs up his thesis by describing the operative scar (i.e., the median raphé on the underside of the penis). Even if we accept the description of what happened to Adam, how does that explain why all of Adam’s male descendants also lack a baculum and also have the “scar” on their penis? For the absence of a baculum to carry down through all succeeding generations, God would have had to simultaneously alter the DNA in Adam’s germ cells. If he could do that (surely within the scope of divine power), why bother with the surgery on Adam himself? And, conversely, why bother with altering Adam’s descendants if the operation on Adam had already accomplished God’s purpose—making Eve?
The best approach is to let a beautiful Biblical allegory remain an allegory, to be commented on by rabbis rather than by scientists.
Professor of Medicine
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
New York, New York
Adam and Eve’s Belly Buttons
I realize the cover picture on the September/October BAR is just a copy of a 12th-century mosaic; however, it amuses me that the figures of Adam and Eve are shown with belly buttons.
San Tan Valley, Arizona
Awaits Visual Depiction
I’m looking forward to the ingenious artist who will visualize for the world the birth of Eve from Adam’s penis bone. This would merit a center fold in the next BAR, a singular revelation of the free-wheeling sexuality of the 21st century in the history of Western art.
Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies
We have received enormous response to Ziony Zevit’s article “Was Eve Made from Adam’s Rib—or His Baculum?”—far more than the selection printed above. According to Genesis 2:21, God took a tsela‘ from the man and fashioned it into a woman. Zevit has argued that the Hebrew word tsela‘ should be translated as “baculum” (penis bone)—rather than as “rib.”
As a result of BAR readers’ recent letters, we have asked two senior scholars each to expand on some of the general issues and address some of the readers’ objections in the next three issues of BAR. The first will be Mary Joan Leith, whose BAR review of Zevit’s book What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? (BAR 40:03), started it all. She chairs the Department of Religious Studies at Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts. Second will be prominent folklorist Dan Ben-Amos of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who, in a letter to the editor published in BAR (BAR 41:01), called our attention to support for Zevit’s argument in folklore and anthropology studies.
A number of readers submitting letters on Zevit’s article objected to the possibility of the Genesis story involving an intimate sexual part. But another view is that the translation of tsela‘ as “rib” does not necessarily add to the richness of the Genesis story, and new depths of meaning may be 063 found in the story when one considers a different translation of this word.—Ed.
The Horror of ISIS Destruction
I think BAR is not paying enough, or any, attention to the decimations, depredations and desecrations of ISIS. There should be a leading article about this horrific tragedy. However interesting, this beautiful magazine is focusing on debates over Temple artifacts unearthed in peaceful places. BAR is fiddling while Palmyra burns.
I wish we had some suggestions as to how to prevent this horror.—Ed.
Get Over It
It never ceases to amaze me at the dogmatic, stubborn and narrow-mindedness of people who read something in BAR that they don’t like and then cancel their subscriptions. They need to get over themselves; there are other thoughts, ideas and opinions besides their own.
How Canaanites Worshiped
In “How Canaanites Worshiped” by Itzick Shai (BAR 41:05), we refer to “a large courtyard of approximately 52 square feet.” It should instead be 52 feet by 52 feet square.
The label “Tell excavations” that appears on the photograph of Antiochia Hippos (Sussita) on p. 42 of Michael Eisenberg’s article, “Pan at Hippos—Face of Greek God Unearthed” (BAR 41:06), should be corrected to “Hippos” or “City excavations.” Hippos is a Classical period site and part of Sussita National Park. Although it has some strata accumulation in certain points, it is not an artificial mound—or tell.
Bones to Pick