Which “Bone” Was Eve Made From?

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by Neil Godfrey

The creation and Adam and Eve narratives are often said to be nice moral tales that convey spiritual truths. Being myth does not disqualify them from containing meaningful messages for modern readers.

So at wedding ceremonies and in Sunday school classes bible-believers are regaled with the “beautiful story” of the God practising a bit of psychic surgery as his hand penetrates Adam’s side to pull out a rib which he used to create Eve. And since this story is not something that has been uncovered in modern times among cuneiform tablets alongside myths of sea-monsters and sky-gods, but is one we have been as familiar with as our soft pillows and teddy bear toys since childhood, we call it a “beautiful metaphor” of the marriage relationship.

And I suspect many theologians would prefer to keep it that way. Meaningful myth or symbol is sophisticated. Literal images of God taking the penis bone from Adam and using it to create Eve, thus explaining both marriage and the reason males of humans alone (almost) lack this bit of anatomy would probably go a long way to discrediting not only a “beautiful and meaningful story”, but opening up a few more people’s minds to the irrelevance of the Bible in an enlightened age.

I’m probably the last to know this little tidbit of trivia, but thanks to chance I recently discovered in a bookshop The Uncensored Bible: The Bawdy and Naughty Bits of the Good Book by John Kaltner, Stephen L. McKenzie and Joel Kilpatrick. John Shelby Spong calls it “a terrific book!”; Jonathan Kirsch, “smart, savvy, scholarly, and funny, all at once”; and Jonathan Reed, “Based on the best contemporary scholarship of the Bible — but funny as hell!” How could I resist it?

Which “Bone” Was Eve Made From?

So what’s wrong with the rib meaning the rib?

First, the Hebrew word used for rib is tsela (צְלָעֹת), but this word never means ‘rib’ anywhere else in the Bible

It usually means ‘side’. In architecture, it is used of a side-room or cell, or of rafters or ceiling beams. “The common idea in all these different meanings seems to be that of a tangent or branch extending out from a central structure or body. Given this basic sense, Adam’s tsela would seem to refer to a “limb” or “appendage” — something that jutted out from his body.”

Second, the image of a rib does not fit with the etiological agenda of the larger story. This is a narrative chock full of origin-myths — tales explaining how things began: where humans came from, why snakes crawl, why people wear clothes, why women have labor pains, why marriage. But removing a rib from Adam and using it to create Eve explains nothing like this. Men don’t have one less rib than women.

Third, the story is full of allusions to human sexuality (being naked and unashamed; recognizing they are naked; covering their genitals), but the rib detail does not relate to any of the sexual differences between men and women. It stands out as something of an anomaly for this reason, too.

Fourth, the rib story does not leave us with being able to make very much of what is meant by God “closing up” the flesh afterwards. Genesis 2:21:

And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof

“Again, considering the etiological (explanatory) nature of the story, this statement seems intended to explain the existence of some suture- or scar-like mark on the torsos of human males that is not found on females. But there is no such mark on males – at least not near their ribs.” (p.5)

Hebrew Bible scholar, Ziony Zevit, suggests that the Hebrew tsela might really refer to the baculum. From that Wikipedia article:

In another, non scientific, context, it has been speculated that Adam’s “rib” mentioned in the Eden narrative of Creation really refers to the baculum. The Hebrew term translated as “rib” (tsela`) can also mean “side”, “chamber”, as well as any strut-like supporting structure, e.g. a beam or a tree trunk. The existence of the baculum is unlikely to escape the notice of pastoralisthunter-gatherer cultures . . . . , but there is no specific term for it – nor for the penis itself – in Biblical Hebrew.

The benefit of this explanation is that it matches the etiological nature of the Genesis story. We have an explanation for why humans, unlike just about all other male animals, lack a penis bone. It was removed by God in order to make Eve from it.

And the Genesis account says God “built” Eve. “The image seems to be that of piecing together bones and other body parts to create Eve rather than forming her out of clay, as in the creation of the man and the animals.” (p.8)

Further, the penis bone is taken from the generative organ, and thus, unlike the rib, suits the idea of the production of a new being.

If God removed the penis bone from Adam then we also see an explanation for God “closing over” the flesh afterwards. This detail explains the “surgery scar” or raphe, the seam joining the two parts of the organ.

Zevit also thinks that the “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” is another clue.

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (Gen. 2:23)

There is no single word for penis in biblical Hebrew. Various euphemisms are used instead. Tsela may be one of these; bone another (the bone would have been observed in other animals and its absence in human males noted); and flesh yet another. Elsewhere the Bible uses “flesh” to refer to the penis: Ezekiel 44:7, 9 speaks of “uncircumcised in flesh”; Exodus 28:42, of undergarments required to cover the naked “flesh” of priests; Leviticus 15:2-3 refers to “the running issue” of “flesh”. Ezekiel 16:26 and 23:20 are famous for describing the penises (“flesh”) of Egyptians as very large, as large as those of asses and horses.

So, the advantages of translating tsela as baculum instead of as rib are:

  • it conforms to the basic meaning of the word (“side”)
  • it is based on obvious differences between men and women
  • and between human males and those of other species

Zevit’s interpretation therefore fits both the sexual content and the etiological nature of the story perfectly. Moreover, it explains the “place closed up with flesh,” which other interpretations ignore. And it affords a fuller and more practical sense to the reference to the woman as “bone of my bones, flesh of my flesh.

Whether you find Zevit’s proposal convincing or merely provocative, it is hard to deny its interpretive advantages . . . . His explanation is not bizarre, outrageous, or unreasonable. To the contrary, it solves  long-standing problems with the text and its interpretations and fits the etiological context. (pp.10-11)

But will Sunday Schools dare to teach something so “reasonable”?

Penis bone (Os penis) of a dog, arrow shows th...
Image via Wikipedia


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37 thoughts on “Which “Bone” Was Eve Made From?”

  1. The Hebrew word for rib is actually the penis bone (baculum). And, this would stand to reason that Adam now does not have a penis,as it was ripped from him so that he could give birth to Eve, and has been giving birth ever since! If Adam needed help in the garden and with the animals, then why would God create a weaker person to do the job????? Adam was not as strong as Eve, nor was he as beautiful. (Males in ALL species, including humans, are the prettier ones!!!!!)

    1. Wow! Makes of all species are prettier than females? Hahaha! Me thinks you must be blind and clearly bend to the man. Take a closer look!
      This whole article is hilarious especially when people actually take the Adam and Eve story is actually a literal interpretion. Ba ha ha! The greatest scholarship know that it’s a Jewish story of the beginning and definitely written by men to keep women back as they over and over… even today!
      This type of looking at it will keep women back and we will continue to live in chaos with the toxic patriarch ruling over. Barf, sick, gross!

  2. And, this would stand to reason that Adam now does not have a penis


    The bone is in the penis. It is not the entire penis. The English term “boner” is not meant literally.

    Males in ALL species, including humans, are the prettier ones!!!!!

    Stop projecting your personal preferences. Not everybody is a gay man or a straight woman.

  3. Look: I’ve looked this up to death and even talked to language teachers and an expert in Hebrew. Eve was created from one of Adams ribs. God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep, extracted one of ribs and used it to create Eve. I know, it sound stupid but understand this: surgeons remove ribs and use that bone to reconstruct sensitive areas like the skull… and you know what, the rib parts removed regenerate and create a replacement. This is a fact: human ribs are the only bone that can regenerate itself if surgically removed– so call the bible stupid if you want; but you can’t say they observed that because you can’t yank the bone out it has to surgically removed. Rib in Hebrew does about side, but later another word is use which renders the first to mean rib: so I don’t think this should be overlooked, but you probably will.

    1. Thank you. Most interesting. So do you think God chose to remove a rib from Adam because he had programmed its regeneration (to fool nonbelievers) and to serve as the raw material for Eve’s skull? What were the other parts of Eve made from?

  4. I think “penis bone” is far too sophisticated for the times. To me, “bone” is clearly phallic – I don’t know about the deep sleep part of the story, but it seems clear to me Eve was Adam’s actual daughter conceived in the normal way with Adam’s first wife (perhaps a la Lot and his daughters). I think the whole lesson of this story is incest is a no-no.

  5. Eve was neither formed using a rib nor the “penis bone” think guys………………. Adam was first made with everything. Genesis 1:27 says, “So Elohim created man in His image, in the image if Elohim created He him; male and female created He him. This proves that Adam was made both male and female because he was made with a womb. So this is what was taken out of him when he was put in a deep sleep hence, Eve was called “womb-man” over time the “b” was removed from the word wom-b and there was no need to say wom-man so the other “m” was removed, hence the word “woman” was formed, maybe for easier spelling or just to lead the world astray, who knows ? But doesn’t this make more sense ?

      1. Consider that never has the removal of any bone or part from any human being ever been replicated in the offspring. If they remove a rib or penis or any other part of my body, this missing part will NOT be missing in my offspring (though I might have problems producing offspring if left without the part in question here). The loss of a part is not passed along to the offspring. That’s an irrational idea, if you are in fact looking for an explanation rather than just extending some sort of fanticised concept or mythology. Also, as the gal above said, the rib bones & breast bone have marrow with stem cell capablilities. It seems more plausible to me that in fact God did surgically remove a rib and take advantage of the stem-cell-like properties to regenrate another being who became eve. The whole thing reads like a description of a modern-day operation, with anethesia of some kind involved (hence the deep sleep), and the stem cells somehow activated into the reproduction of a new being. THAT makes sense to me. No one in ancient times had knowledge regarding operations & surgery, but they sure did an intriguing job of describing it in the Genesis story.

  6. So, if there’s no bone in a human penis (that is, after God Himself took it out of Adam) how will anyone know what this bone was supposed to look like, seeing that all men are “missing” this one bone found in animals. How will any wise-ass know that there was even supposed to be such a bone inside a human male? According to Genesis Adam searched amongst the animals to find a mate. Clearly all the male animals would be having some kind of penis with a “firmer” look because of a bone present in their penisses and therefore be the perfect sexual match for a female animal. Adam should have been able to work out that his “dangling”, less firm penis would never match a female animal, unless he is aroused by the them and the fact that he “could not find a mate” amongst them tells me that he neither saw a “perfect match”, nor had any desire after or arousal because of these female animals and he most probably didn’t have the bone you suckers believe he had. By the way, since when is scarring tissue congenital (the so-called scar on men’s scrotum)? I didn’t see any duplicate scars from my husband and I on either of my children. If you want to debate something, debate it according to intelligence and not according to idiotic presumptions, please!

  7. As an intersexed person, engaged to another intersexed person, and knowing 211 other intersexed persons world wide, I stand to say that it was the VAGINA that Eve was created from.

    “WHY?” you ask?

    Because since even in nature there are hermaphrodites, and besides, how logical is it to create a human fully INCAPABLE of reproducing and ONLY THEN as an AFTERTHOUGHT think, “OOPS! I GOOFED! I better make this thing able to reproduce!”, there is only one place a “hole” in the flesh would be, and that would be where a VAGINA would have been.

    Just as some flowers are self pollinating and others are not, humanity MAY have begun fully capable of unlimited self propagation as well.

    I personally [as a matter of personal faith] believe that Yahweh is in fact neither male nor female, but if gender inclusive, a hermaphroditic being, which, when you think about it “Yahweh our father is ‘one'” that in and of its self fully supports this on its own, as well as many scriptures delineate Hir nature showing the FEMININE side where there is emotions of love, compassion, motherly tenderness and the likes.

    You may disagree, but you can’t disprove me either.

    1. To call “love, compassion and motherly [sic] tenderness” FEMININE seems a bit much for a(n) LGBTI[SM] person.
      Instead of Adam and Steve, perhaps there were Madam and Eve, with their little child Mabel. You can’t disprove it.

    2. Great answer! I had someone tell me I was going to hell when I said God was not a gender. Dah! The Bible was written by men and like today, they will do anything to keep females below them.
      Funny, because most men don’t even come close to women.
      Look how men and the women that bend to them attack the feminist movement. They will do anything and lie to keep women down and serve them in every way. I think the majority of men are shallow and clearly selfish.
      Ex. The entire Republican Party. 🤮

  8. Why do you spell tsela with a tav at the end? It makes your knowledge of Hebrew rather suspect. Besides, arguing from silence is no argument at all. It’s simply your interpretation (or imagination). The only thing thing that’s unenlightened is not the Bible but your rather alarming ignorance of correct hebrew and correct exegesis.

    1. I am very sure my knowledge of Hebrew IS rather suspect. I’m glad you have spotted that before advising anyone to use my posts as a reference. Even more embarrassing some kind souls regularly alert me to spelling and grammatical errors in my use of the English language, too, for which I am always grateful. I have no recollection now how the tav came to be in there now but it appears someone at some point copied mindlessly from a line in a concordance entry: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/6763.htm

      1. Huh. The concordance is wrong. The singular term צֵלָע (transliterated as “tsela”) can be seen by scrolling down to where it says Brown-Driver-Briggs; the term צְלָעֹת in the concordance header is actually the plural, and is properly transliterated “tsla’ot”.

  9. You obviously used Strong’s concordance for the Hebrew, which for unknown reasons gives the plural tz’lauot instead of the singular tzeila, but how you are getting from rib/side/sidechamber to “limb” is beyond me. In every other verse the meaning is or can be construed to be side (made with boards of cedar can also be read as made with sides of cedar) and, occasionally, corner (place where sides meet) or side-chamber, so suddenly making it “rib” or, in your case, “limb” is immediately suspect. “Side” should always be the first go-to translation.

    The Talmud is more exciting, it describes the originally created Adam as a hermaphrodite with both male and female halves joined at the back, both a singular and plural creature (created he him, in the image; created he them, male and female). Interestingly, the word “image” in this verse is a potentially related word. B’tzalmo (in his image) and b’tzelem (in the image) are related to tzeil / tzeilel (shadow). A shadow is the first image of themselves (or a thing) that people would have known, and a shadow is off to the side, and one side of a thing is in shadow when light hits it.

    Since Jews have long defined this portion of Genesis as actually having happened, but not in the literal sense we’d understand it ie on another plane of existence prior to the Fall: after which we were clothed in “skins” ie enfleshed, it would make no sense to Jews to look for physical evidence of scars for what was a non-corporeal event. But for Christians who rejected the Oral teachings and were not conversant in Hebrew, it makes perfect sense. However, this portion of the Bible was not written by Christians, so it seems a bit odd to take their interpretation of it as authoritative. Yet so many Atheists DO take it so, because they are POST-CHRISTIANS, (and anti-Christians) not really Atheists in any true sense: they still think like Christians, just bitter, angry, self-hating ones. If you aspire to Atheism, one would think you’d be trying to broaden your worldview beyond the Christocentric one.

    One really has to KNOW the Bible to truly critique it, and the great wide world of (serious, not Evangelical) Biblical Scholarship has already done an excellent job of analyzing and critiquing the texts, in the original languages, for the last 200 years. Perhaps you ought to start there, and when you’re done you can branch out into Hinduism were you will find Prajapati (the Creator, King of Kings) creating by saying “Bhuh” (Become! / Be!), a male and female divine couple guarding the Tree of Life in a garden (and he set him in the garden to work it and keep/guard it), the Flood and, most germane to this topic, you will find Adam as Perusha, the first man (human) who comes into being and finds himself distressed at being alone (it is not good for the man to be alone) and so divides himself in two to produce a mate for himself. The Shatapatha Brahmana is the Vedic text (c 700 BCE) for this story, around the same time as Genesis was composed (900 to 600 BCE). This suggests that both versions are drawing from a common earlier source or sources, and thus that an original hermaphrodite who is split in two is the correct interpretation, as it is common to both stories.

    1. The Talmud is more exciting, it describes the originally created Adam as a hermaphrodite with both male and female halves joined at the back, both a singular and plural creature

      Interesting. That’s straight out of Symposion.

  10. Eve is the life of Adam.
    His mind.
    Which wandered off as minds tend to do.
    It went where it should not go.
    To the tree (and men are trees) of knowing good and evil.
    Before that he knew only good.
    His mind went to the place our minds are not supposed to go.
    Because sin does begin in the mind, aka in the heart.
    So mind, heart, life = Eve.
    And when his heart wandered and sinned so did he go after and sinned physically.
    As physically as this story can be interpreted in a pre historical pre flood plane of existence, aka world.
    Snake whispering in your ear. A snake is very similar to a tongue.
    Which is the weapon used to get into your mind.
    Flattering words can lead you to lose your head.
    And make errors in judgement, trust in man instead of in God.
    Because man can paint you a pretty picture with a thousand words.
    I once heard it in a song.

  11. It reads that God took one of Adams Tsela (plural). So there should be more than one left after God took the one.
    Should this not rule the penis idea out and also chamber and womb? Ribs are still a good option because there are more than one.

    1. The tsela is said here to be not the penis itself but the bone found in the penis of some other mammals — the baculum. So one bone was missing from Adam’s body if compared to the comparable skeletons of certain other male animals.

  12. For those who believe this nonsense that Eve was created from a former penis “bone”, please tell all of us out here what “bone” in women is the one shaped like the penis!

    Bruce Edminster

  13. “God” made Adam and Eve as one .
    “And God said: let us make man in “our” image”,Meaning the Father,Son and Holy Ghost. Read the rest of the verse. Gen. 1:26.

    Genesis 2:7. Then the “LORD GOD!” made Adam and then He made Eve from a side chamber or the female reproductive organs
    that were in Adam . Gen. 1 :26

    God “created”… the “LORD GOD” formed. (Jesus). See Colossians
    1:12-19. Jesus The Son. Made every thing. Simple and beautiful

  14. The trinity God is a mystery.

    Gal 3:28. (Neither male nor female)

    Matthew chapter 19 ESP verses 11-12. (Some were born …….

    2nd Tim. 2:15. Study to show thyself approved unto God…a workman that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

    (Seek, and you shall find.) King James may have been bi-sexual. The bible named for him is a masterpiece .

    David’s relationship with Jonathan is interesting. 2nd Samuel 1:26
    Maybe bi-sexual.

    David was not perfect in mans eye but he believed God, and God blessed him. 2nd Samuel 5: 10
    The story of David is remarkable. God made an everlasting covenant with him. 2 Samuel 7:16. David believed God.

    So few people truly seek to know what the Bible says. All some know is what (somebody said )

  15. I’m amazed that educated people think that because Adam’s “rib” was removed that men would have one less rib! If God went into Adam’s genetic code and removed a rib then men would have one fewer rib. It’s like this: I’m an amputee (because my leg was very ill) but my children will not be born missing their leg just because I had surgery! If I had a genetic defect and were missing my leg from that then it’s possible that my kids would miss their leg too but just because I had surgery (like Adam did) that has no effect on my genes therefore no effect on my kids.
    I think it’s very interesting that the Hebrew word could actually mean Adam’s penis. I see no problem with Sunday School teaching this concept as long as it’s handled with appropriate speech and conduct. The penis is not a dirty part of male anatomy and having to explain to kids what “seed” is and what “eunuchs” are should not cause any embarrassment on anyones’ part. If the teacher is matter of fact and not silly the pupils will hopefully learn from examples. This subject, like all subjects needs to be handed intelligently and with wisdom and sincerity. Thanks for the information. Please understand that just because Adam essentially had surgery on a body part none of his offspring would share that missing part. You can’t use Adam’s penis bone removal for explaining why men today don’t have a penis bone (unlike many animals who do have a penis “bone”). The blood flow in an erect penis makes even the human penis feel as if it contains bone. God Bless. ✞

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