Where did Eve really come from?


It is well known that Eve was made out of one of the ribs of Adam. Or so the conventional wisdom goes as is found in the Bible in the book of Genesis 2:21. But a scholar has come up with an alternative theory that is pretty interesting.

He says that Eve was actually created out of Adam’s penis bone.

Christians have reacted with fury after a religious academic suggested Eve was not made from Adam’s rib, but was instead formed using his penis.

The theory, put forward by revered biblical professor Ziony Zevit, suggests God made Eve from Adam’s baculum, or penis bone.

Professor Zevit said this explains why man has no baculum, unlike most mammals, and why men don’t have an uneven number of ribs compared to women.

To support his theory, Professor Zevit from the American Jewish University in Maryland said the Hebrew word ‘tsela’, taken from the Old Testament, does not translate as ‘rib’ and instead ‘refers to limbs sticking out sideways from an upright human body.’

Zevit’s is of course a minority view.

Many (likely almost all) scholars reject Zevit’s theory out of hand and point to everything from major linguist issues (like the fact cognates of tsela exist in almost every Semitic language and mean rib in all of them) to the fact that similar creation-from-rib stories also appear in other ancient religions, like the one in Sumer.

Along with humans, other boneless penis mammals reportedly include horses, rhinos, rabbits and spider monkeys.

In addition to his 2013 book What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?, Zevit, along with biologist Scott Gilbert of Swarthmore College, had published this speculation originally in a letter to the American Journal of Medical Genetics back in 2001. You can see the letter here (subscription only). Here is more information on the baculum.

Christians are not happy about this.

A review of Professor Zevit’s book was recently published in The Biblical Archaeological Review magazine.

Reader Sue Glaze from Oakland, Maryland, said: ‘I write to express my disappointment with your magazine. I wish to cancel my subscription.

‘Come on now, Eve being created from Adam’s penis bone, rather than his rib?

‘That is plainly not a Bible teaching. I do not need and will not read articles that damage my faith or attempts to cause me to doubt what I know is the truth from the Bible.’

Even if this theory is wrong, I am not sure why Christians are getting so upset about it. After all, scholarly re-interpretations of ancient religious texts are not uncommon and this particular facet is a mere detail, hardly essential to the basic doctrines associated with the Garden of Eden story.

Comments

  1. says

    Huh. I’ve heard this hypothesis passed around as a joke among geneticists/anatomists, and I initially took Gilbert and Zevit’s 2001 paper to be tongue-in-cheek. (After all, it contains lines like “This is not an insignificant bone”.) The joke is amusing because, if you were to take the Eve-as-Adam’s-rib story as truth, but also apply phylogenetic comparative methods like evolutionary biologists do, this is the exact conclusion you’d have to come to – in almost other primates, including all our closest relatives like chimps, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans, males have penis bones.

  2. says

    I do not need and will not read articles that damage my faith or attempts to cause me to doubt what I know is the truth from the Bible.

    That’s a rock solid faith right there that can’t stand up to reading something that might disagree with it.

    But as to ribs, I always found it weird that if Adam’s rib was removed, then all his assigned male descendants would also be lacking a rib. Perhaps they could have avoided a lot of babies suffering through the centuries by circumcising Adam as well, then nobody would ever be born with a foreskin again. (It’s also strange that the Abrahamic religions never seem to question why their god makes babies with foreskins that have to be immediately and painfully removed.)

    And speaking of the missing rib thing, I started watching the British science fiction show Primeval but shut it off immediately when a “scientist” determined the sex of a skeleton by counting its ribs. No. I will not be a party to this.

  3. busterggi says

    Don’t suppose the believers could entertain the idea that Adam & Eve are only mythical characters and didn’t really exist?

  4. janiceintoronto says

    “Reader Sue Glaze from Oakland, Maryland, said: ‘I write to express my disappointment with your magazine. I wish to cancel my subscription.”

    Truly, she has a bone to pick.

  5. says

    Except that there are TWO versions of the creation in Genesis, the first in chapter 1 and the second in chapter 2. In the first story, Adam and Eve are created at exactly the same time:

    And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. — Genesis 1:25-26

    The implication here that A) God is plural, and B) God is both male and female at the same time. But, of course, it is convenient for the Talibangelical Bible-thumpers to ignore the “clear, holy and never-changing word of God” when they want to.

  6. markr1957 says

    What happened to Lilith, Adam’s first wife, who was created at the same time as him? Oh, that’s right she rebelled and YHWH had her removed and replaced with Eve.

  7. Bruce says

    Mano, the only religious men who won’t hate this story are those who expect never to be with a woman. To most religious men, this symbolically means that hugging a woman is hugging a penis, which is an abomination unto the lord, etc, etc.
    If this were true, then there would be no safely religious way to remain a proper patriarch. Male dominance is at risk. Run for the hills in panic, everyone!
    Of course, priests should like this story, because they weren’t going to touch any of those human females anyway. Wait, why is everyone looking at the priests and the altar boys?

  8. Reginald Selkirk says

    ‘Come on now, Eve being created from Adam’s penis bone, rather than his rib?

    Because the latter makes so-o-o-o-o-o much more sense.
    I am reminded of the scene in Bill Maher’s Religulous where Maher tells the story of Jonah and the Whale, and the fundamentalist Christian he is speaking with corrects him; it is a big fish, not a whale.

  9. Holms says

    Even if this theory is wrong, I am not sure why Christians are getting so upset about it.

    I suspect it is plain indignation at a new development that makes their religion look ridiculous. Chances are though, these indignant people aren’t aware that catholicism in particular has had some immensely barmy theories in the past, such as Saturn’s rings being formed from Jesus’ foreskin.

    And of course, there is the fact that the religion is ridiculous already, replete with talking snakes, invisible friends and all the rest of the drivel.

  10. says

    So… God is able to create a universe full of matter (and dark matter/energy) on a whim, but the strain of making 100-150lb of fresh matter for eve was just too much to bear so he used adam’s cock-bone. Which probably means he violated his own conservation of mass laws unless adam had one humongous cock-bone. Why does god make stones so heavy he can’t lift them? Is he fucking stupid?

    Makes as much sense as anything else in religion, really.

  11. Die Anyway says

    Whut? You mean there’s no bone in a boner? I’m not sure I’m believin’ that. I can feel that sucker in there.

  12. Pierce R. Butler says

    So now, per Zevit, any man who lacks penile stiffness can blame all women for it.

    And God gets off scot-free – again…

  13. Lofty says

    And the authors of the book purported to be by their deity, God, said, “let there be semen” and there was.

  14. StevoR says

    Where does Eve really come from? It really depends which Eve you’re talking about doesn’t it?

    Eve Jihan Jeffers-Cooper the rapper and actor comes from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania..

    Eve Torres Gracie the dancer, actor and former professional wrestler was born in Boston, Massachusetts but grew up in Denver, Colorado, and has “a Latina background.”

    Eve Cone comes from an ancient magma chamber and is now one of the most photographed volcanic cinder cones in British Columbia Canada.

    ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eve_(disambiguation) & subsequent links. )

    Oh, right, the biblical Eve? She came form ancient Hebrew mythology. Rather powerful mythology as I believe it convinced generations of physicians that men had one less rib than women – until somebody finally thought to check and count them. (Unless that’s another urban legend I’ve been taken in by?)

    Penis bones are something we don’t have although I guess that’s the “explanation”for that for a certain value of explanation. A real scientific evolutionary explanation for that would, of course, be better.

    As building material goes I guess one sort of bone contains similar DNA as another although you’d probably be better using a larger amount thus a larger bone maybe -or does that make no difference? I guess if you have one bloke called Adam as and create a clone using DNA from bone (marrow?) then somehow lose the Y chromosome in the process then you’d get a female clone, maybe? After all isn’t ‘female’the default human setting -and also wouldn’t any interbreeding between the clones end up with a very limited genetic pool of descendants that’d probably soon be unviable as well as breaking all the incest laws? Possible I guess but seems a complex roundabout and silly way of making another human a feat is generally done through another arguably usually more pleasurable and certainly much more natural technique!

    Or since God can do magic and create by power of voice why not just say .. oh yeah in one account God(s) did as #7. Gregory in Seattle has already noted.

  15. StevoR says

    @11. Holms :

    Chances are though, these indignant people aren’t aware that catholicism in particular has had some immensely barmy theories in the past, such as Saturn’s rings being formed from Jesus’ foreskin.

    So whose foreskins created the admittedly fainter darker and less well known rings of Jupiter, Neptune and Uranus then?

    Its not only Saturn that has rings they .. er don’t .. seem to know! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ring_system_(astronomy)
    (Not to mention the faintest rings of all those around Chariklo!)

  16. John Morales says

    OP:

    Even if this theory is wrong, I am not sure why Christians are getting so upset about it.

    For one thing, they’re relying on the Genesis story of Eve’s creation, which quite clearly refers to a rib.

    After all, scholarly re-interpretations of ancient religious texts are not uncommon and this particular facet is a mere detail, hardly essential to the basic doctrines associated with the Garden of Eden story.

    It’s not a re-interpretation, it’s a rewrite changing the meaning.

  17. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    I believe it convinced generations of physicians that men had one less rib than women – until somebody finally thought to check and count them. (Unless that’s another urban legend I’ve been taken in by?)

    Perhaps ask yourself upon what basis you hold that belief.

    (Does it really sound likely to you?)

  18. Reginald Selkirk says

    StevoR #16: Rather powerful mythology as I believe it convinced generations of physicians that men had one less rib than women – until somebody finally thought to check and count them. (Unless that’s another urban legend I’ve been taken in by?)

    Vesalius on the authority of the authorities

    It is commonly believed that men lack a rib on one side, and that men have one rib fewer than women. This is plainly absurd, even if Moses did say in the second chapter of Genesis that Eve was created by God out of Adam’s rib. Granted that perhaps Adam’s bones, had someone articulated them into a skeleton, might have lacked a rib on one side, it does not necessarily follow on that account that all men are lacking a rib as well. Aristotle attributed only eight ribs to humans, and was ready to allow that certain members of the race of the Turduli were born with only seven ribs on each side, provided he established this on the actual testimony of some suitable authority. But as in the latter instance Aristotle was willing to support his opinion only with the testimony of others, it is also not unlikely that in the former instance he ascribed eight ribs to man on hearsay evidence, and in this manner wrongly handed down to us something he had not seen. For if we discover that he was suppositious so many times concerning the fabric of man, what judgement shall we make about the rest of his research into animals? (Bk. I Chapter 19)

    That is from De humani corporis fabrica libri septem by Andrea Vesalius, published 1543.

  19. says

    It is commonly believed that men lack a rib on one side, and that men have one rib fewer than women.

    Be fun to start spreading the word that any man who has bilateral ribs is probably satanic. Then they’ll all be freaking out if they ever got chest Xrays.

  20. Mano Singham says

    Reginald Selkirk @#21,

    Thanks for that very enlightening quote.

    By the most extraordinary coincidence, I was in the university medical museum library yesterday in the room where they keep the rare books and was looking at one of the very earliest editions of this very book. It is a monumental book, beautifully written and illustrated and is kept under lock and key and can only be handled with permission and then with gloves. It is all in Latin of course so I could not understand what it said but it was truly beautiful to look at.

  21. says

    Marcus @12

    So… God is able to create a universe full of matter (and dark matter/energy) on a whim, but the strain of making 100-150lb of fresh matter for eve was just too much to bear so he used adam’s cock-bone. Which probably means he violated his own conservation of mass laws unless adam had one humongous cock-bone. Why does god make stones so heavy he can’t lift them? Is he fucking stupid?

    Considering that he made didn’t make Adam an asexual reproducer and yet Eve was an “oops!” afterthought, then it’s pretty safe to answer yes to that last question.

  22. grumpyoldfart says

    I had to look up ‘baculum’ in the dictionary.

    I like the bit in the bible before Eve was made. The bit where god was trying to design a wife (help-meet/companion/helper) for Adam and created the animals for that purpose. He presented Adam with all the birds and animals, one at a time, but poor old Adam didn’t find any of them attractive enough to be his companion. It was only then that god had the bright idea of creating another human to live with Adam. (Our Yahweh; not the sharpest tool in the shed is he?)

    Genesis 2:18-20
    https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis%202:18-20&version=NIV

  23. lorn says

    ‘That is plainly not a Bible teaching. I do not need and will not read articles that damage my faith or attempts to cause me to doubt what I know is the truth from the Bible.’

    I guess he doesn’t want to hear about the historical interpretation where the term “knowledge of good and evil” is really the knowledge of how to obtain sexual gratification between people without risk of pregnancy; where “snake” is a reference to a penis, and “apple” is a reference to the glans of a penis. It puts ‘tasting of th apple’ in a completely different light.

    No, I suspect he wouldn’t want to hear about that version.

  24. rq says

    Apparently there’s a legend that Eve was Adam’s third wife. 1) Lilith; 2) [unnamed]*; 3) Eve.
    So it took god a while to figure out that whole rib thing, being omniscient and all…

    * To my current knowledge.

  25. CJO, egregious by any standard says

    That book, What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden, is awesome by the way. The single best book of Biblical commentary I’ve read, and I’ve read more than a few. And no, Morales, it’s not as clear that he’s wrong as all that, but it’s because his thesis is indeed a radical reinterpretation of Genesis 2, not some isolated arbitrary provocation based on trolling Christians about Adam’s penis. Which you might imagine, taking that particular bit in isolation. In short, the thesis asserts that the narrative is an Iron Age etiology, frankly unconcerned with all the later moral preoccupations that have colored modern interpretation. It’s more than worth a read; I can’t do it justice here.

  26. StevoR says

    @ ^ rq : Hmm.. that’s a new one for me lets see :

    http://ofepicproportions.blogspot.com.au/2008/06/adams-three-wives.html

    Whoah! WTF!

    The first Adam was a hermaphrodite, an androgynous giant, simultaneously male and female. Equipped with four arms, four legs, two heads, two sets of sexual organs, and two bodies joined back to back. But this arrangement made conversation awkward and locomotion next to impossible. So Yahweh decided to separate Adam into two beings. One male, one female. Adam and Lilith. … (snip) …

    A great section on what Lilith did wrong showing her as really quite a hero follows and is well worth reading and musing on in this context.

    After Lilith’s history though we get this :

    It was then that Yahweh decided to create a second wife for Adam. This wife was made from Adam’s own body. Yahweh pulled a rib from Adam’s chest and formed it into a woman from the ground up; bones, muscle, sinew, blood, mucus, organs, skin, eyes, cartilage, hair, etc… all right in front of Adam. Now, having witnessing this process Adam was so terrified that he refused to go near his new wife, much less name her. Yahweh then saw the error made in creating the wife in front of Adam and did what He could for the woman and destroyed her, though there are those who claimed that she, like Lilith, was permitted to leave the garden though what became of her is a matter of speculation.

    Well, that’s sounds fair and reasonable and nice doesn’t it!?

    Jewish folklore apparently with sources mentioned at the end of the link.

    Thanks for that question and tidbit of info – some new things learnt from that today!

    @20. John Morales : “Perhaps ask yourself upon what basis you hold that belief.
    (Does it really sound likely to you?)

    Vaguely recall reading it somewhere and no.

    @21. Reginald Selkirk :Thanks for that.

  27. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    @20. John Morales : “Perhaps ask yourself upon what basis you hold that belief.
    (Does it really sound likely to you?)

    Vaguely recall reading it somewhere and no.

    As I thought.

    Perhaps ask yourself how many other of your beliefs are similarly rigorous.

    (Did you do so, you might spout off less)

  28. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : yet it turns out that I was right. At least according to Andrea Vesalius as #21. Reginald Selkirk informed us immediately afterwards.

  29. John Morales says

    StevoR:

    …yet it turns out that I was right. At least according to Andrea Vesalius as #21.

    Reginald quotes a 16th physician claiming that the belief is plainly absurd, and from that you take that your belief that physicians back then actually held the belief one such called absurd is justified?!

    Your acumen is remarkable.

  30. StevoR says

    @ ^ John Morales : Okay, I did say ‘physicians in #16. Should’ve just said ”people” instead still it was something that many back then thought as Reginald Selkirk confirmed.

    Not that this really matters. Happy New Year!

  31. Holms says

    So… if you change the wording of your statement such that it is a different statement making a different claim, then it is no longer wrong. Nice.

  32. Owlmirror says

    I disagree with Zevit on this point, and concur with the (current) consensus, that the grammar of the passage (which refers to “one of his [tsa’alot]”) precludes the sense of it being the baculum; that is, it is in a distinctly plural form, in the original Hebrew.

    Zevit apparently has a response to this point in BAR, but I don’t have access to read it.

    Another objection that I thought of, but haven’t seen elsewhere, is this: Where are the priests who wrote Genesis 2 supposed to have gotten the idea that the baculum exists in non-human mammals? All of the skeletons of animals that they would be familiar with from making sacrifices would not have it — as the Mental Floss link above says, all “ungulates” (or rather, perissodactyls and artiodactyls) lack the baculum. This includes the kosher animals they would have been most familiar with, but also the non-kosher pig, camel, and horse.

    Given that priests are supposed to keep themselves pure and separate, and avoid the corpses of unclean animals like dogs and bears (that do have the baculum), how are they supposed to do the skeletal analysis and comparison to come to the conclusion that human males had one once, but no longer do?

    It’s more odd when you think about it deeper — “ungulates”, as it says, lack the baculum, yet females of these various species obviously exist. Was God supposed to have removed the baculum from the males of all of those species to create these females as well? But if that is so, female dogs and bears exist even thought the males still have the baculum. So why does God need to remove bacula from some animals but not others in order to create the females of those species?

    I realize that it’s religious myth, and therefore doesn’t have to make sense, but still.

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