James David Audlin
From The Gospel of John Restored and Translated, Volume I, as published by Editores Volcán Barú. Copyright © 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 by James David Audlin.
All worldwide rights reserved.
Reprinted here by permission of the publisher, Editores Volcán Barú.
In Genesis 2:21 God takes a צְלָעֹת from the unnamed and hermaphroditic first human, splitting it into male and female. Only in Genesis 2 is this word, tselah, traditionally translated as “rib”, and I say incorrectly so; this passage’s author(s) surely knew perfectly well that male and female have the same number of ribs. As noted on pages 925f. herein, Scott F. Gordon and Ziony Zevit (American Journal of Medical Ethics, Vol. 101, July 2001) suggest that the צְלָעֹת (tselah) in Genesis 2:21 is mistranslated as “rib”, and that it means there the baculum, the penis bone present in the male of every other mammal species except the wooly monkey and spider monkey (which would have been unknown to ancient Israelites), and that Genesis may also mean to explain the raphé, the “scarline” along the lower side of the penis and scrotum, as from when God “closed over” the wound in Genesis 2:21. This might additionally help us understand the sexual overtones in the entire passage, into which “rib” does not fit. And indeed these ancient writers were farmers and hunters, and would have been well familiar with the bacula of cattle, sheep, and game animals, and inevitably wondered why among the species they knew the human was the only mammal lacking the baculum.
There are possible problems with this hypothesis, including most obviously that the Hebrew says אַחַת֙ מִצַּלְעֹתָ֔יו, usually rendered as “one of his ribs”, which would make no sense if the reading is “one of its bacula”, since the First Human would have had only the one baculum. The critical word, אַחַת֙, can be slippery in meaning – it often means “one”, but it can also mean “only” (“took only its baculum” or “took its only baculum”) or “altogether” (“took altogether its baculum”). Interestingly, the Targum and Peshitta have “took one from his side”; the direct object is not named. Another question is how and why “rib” was chosen as a substitute for “baculum”. I suspect this was partly because ribs are curved (צְלָעֹת comes from an ancient root, אָכַף, meaning “to curve”), and perhaps even to “explain” why women have breasts on their ribcages.
Possible issues aside, I agree with Gordon’s and Zevit’s proposal, but I do not think they go far enough.
In Genesis 2:21 the word צְלָעֹת (tselah) is usually translated as “rib”, but never elsewhere. As noted, its root means “to curve” and, while ribs too are curved, the baculum in this mythic first undivided human would have curved around the penis as it does in other male mammals, an open tubular receptacle enclosing the penis, as if the penis were within its own vagina.
There are several alternatives offered in the Talmud for what body part is fashioned into Eve. Relevant to this hypothesis is the one in Bereshith Rabbah 18:2, Rabbi Joshua of Siknin’s third-century midrash that Elohim created Eve אלא ממקום שהוא צנוע באדם אפי’ בשעה שאדם עומד ערום אותו המקום מכוסה (“from the concealed part in the person, for even when it [the person] stands naked that part is covered”).
Note that in this midrash I renderצנוע as “concealed”; it is usually translated “modest”, but that is imposing a later prudery on the text; its rootטמן means “to hide/conceal”: if one stands naked, then by definition nothing is modestly hidden. And when a person stands naked, neither the ribs nor the thigh nor any other traditional candidate for the tselah is covered, except only the penis: it hides in the foreskin if it is uncircumcised, and in both the foreskin and the baculum if this is the First Human yet unseparated into male and female.
Note also that the wordצנוע is related to צִנָּ֖ה (“shield” or “protective covering”) and צִנּוֹרִ (“gutter” or “tube”), both of which could well apply to the baculum. Also, I translate באדם as “in the person”, not “in a man”, as is traditional: אדם (adam) means “the human being” or ”humanity”, and here refers to the not-yet-divided First Human; being the first and only one of its kind, this being needed no name, and “Adam” only became a name when later there was another human. Finally,אותו , traditionally translated “he” here, is actually an untranslatable accusative marker in Hebrew, providing a direct object when a verb requires one, but it is inspecific: it can suggest “him” or “them” in English, but just as easily “her” or “it” or even “you” (singular or plural); in this case, “it” is correct because it refers to a hermaphrodite, the First Human.
The meanings tselah carries elsewhere in the Tanakh include “leaf”, which may help us understand why Adam and Eve cover themselves with leaves in Genesis 3:7; the word there (עָלֶה, aleh), is related to צְלָעֹת (tselah): they may be trying to hide their pubes with new bacula. Tselah also can occasionally mean “carrying beam”, which again may suggest the baculum carrying the penis. Now and then it is used to refer to something that protrudes from the side, and in later times it became associated with side-chapels in temples; something that protrudes from the side of the male human body would be the penis, especially erect. The word also sometimes has the meaning of “chamber”, and the baculum is in species that have it an enclosing chamber for the penis. Finally, the author surely meant this word צְלָעֹת (tselah) to invoke the near-homonym צֶ֫לֶם (tselem, “image”) found in Genesis 1:26-27, where the first human is made male-and-female-as-one in the image (צֶ֫לֶם) of Elohim.
This midrash not only can help clarify the first part of Adam’s exclamation in Genesis 2:23, “This is at last bone of my bone…”, but also the second part, “…flesh of my flesh”, since בָּשָׂר (“flesh”) is frequently in the Tanakh a euphemism for “penis” or “foreskin”. This may be to say that, just as Adam was created in the image of Elohim, Eve was created from that very same image, from the penis-baculum. The story further tells us that Eve and Adam are literally one flesh: both are part of the First Human. Hence, spouses, together, especially in those sacred moments when at orgasm they are out of their “little I” (atman) and into the Great I AM (Brahman), are the very image of Elohim. As the Qur’an says, “Be blankets for each other. We complete each other.
This story, if I am correctly midrashing it, may point to a subsequently lost ancient Israelite rationale for circumcision, requiring a man’s foreskin be cut off as a substitution/representation for the baculum, as a sign of being part of the covenant.
The phallus-like serpent tells Eve (Genesis 3:5) that eating the fruit of the tree in the center of the garden would make them “like Elohim” or “like gods” (depending on how it is rendered); in Genesis 3:22 Elohim complains that by eating the fruit the man “has become like one of us”, i.e., like the masculine aspect of Elohim, and presumably Eve has become like the feminine aspect of Elohim – and that the couple know they are like the two halves of Elohim’s united nature! – but we their human descendants did not have the “knowledge of good and evil” of our divided nature until Jesus not only explained it but demonstrated it by becoming one with Mary.
If my midrash is correct, then in terms of this myth when a couple makes love, the penis is once again restored to its natural place inside its baculum, and thus is restored the image of Elohim, God conceived of as male-and-female-as-one (the noun is feminine, but in this name it takes a male plural suffix). This would help explain why the Talmud places so much emphasis on the married state. In John 20:16, as restored herein from several early Greek and Aramaic manuscripts, Mary Magdalene runs to Jesus to embrace him and to be one with him – they are naked of course (Jesus’s funeral wrappings are in the tomb, and Mary will have performed a ritual called קריעה [keriah], the tearing apart and away of one’s clothing to vent one’s grief), and they are in a garden – clearly the author’s intention was to imply the Garden of Eden and the restoration of unity of male and female in Elohim’s image – so I wonder if at least by implication they make love, such that penis and baculum are reunited. [Ed.: The resurrection scene is discussed over hundreds of pages in the complete work from which this passage is extracted.]