Genesis 2 mentions how Adam, the first man (and first human) was created from of the dust of the ground – though the context of sex and gender is kept somewhat ambiguous in the book of the Hebrew Bible. According to tradition, Eve was then created from his one of his ribs. However Ziony Zevit, a professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at the American Jewish University in California, has given an odd twist to this tale by claiming that the ancient Hebrew Bible has been wrongly interpreted. According to him, the error in translation in this case refers to the rib, which should have been baculum or the penis ‘bone’.
Now of course beyond Latin Vulgate which entails the late fourth-century Latin translation of the Bible, one should refer to the early Hebrew used in the Old Testament. Now Zevit has put forth his hypothesis that pertains to the confusion around the Hebrew word ‘tsela‘, which denotes the bone taken from Adam to create Eve. The scholar has gone on to describe how this particular word is mentioned around 40 times in the Hebrew Bible. He wrote (in his 2013 book “What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden?”) –
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, a side-chamber, or a branch of a mountain. In each of these instances, it refers to something off-center, lateral to a main structure. [In human anatomy, it relates to] limbs lateral to the vertical axis of an erect human body: hands, feet, or, in the case of males, the penis.
Simply put, according to Zevit, tsela might have related to the penis. But the error in translation occurred in the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible that denoted the specific word as rib. Now from a Biblical perspective, this would surely explain why men do not have bones inside their sexual appendage, while still having the same number of ribs as women (as opposed to an uneven number).
However, beyond some allegorical logic, there is the entire science of proper linguistics to consider. Suffice it to say, such a ‘penis-oriented’ interpretation was not received on a high note by various quarters – with some long-time readers of Biblical Archaeology even threatening to cancel their subscriptions. And other than just reactionary measures, the debate surrounding this seemingly weird deduction has opened up more hypotheses concerning the origin of Eve (and thus life) from a rib.
For example, according to journalist Elon Gilad, the narrative tactic of ribs being used for generating life is not actually limited to Adam and the Biblical scope. In fact, it predates the Hebrew Bible, like in the Sumerian mythology of Enki and Nihursag. Moreover, the word tsela is also used to refer to ribs in post-Bible Hebrew usage, and also has cognates that pertain to rib in other Semitic languages.