Document Type

Journal Article

Date of this Version


Publication Source

Biblical Archaeology Review





Start Page


Last Page



For centuries, the paradise described in Genesis 2-3 has been a formative myth in Judeo-Christian culture. The creation of the woman from Adam's rib (Genesis 2:21-23) both projected and validated women's inferior and secondary role in Western society. Therefore, the new interpretation of the Hebrew word tsela, shifting its meaning from rib to baculum (penal bone), which Alan Dundes and Ziony Zevit have proposed, is nothing short of revolutionary, shifting the mythic paradigm from an obscure derivation of woman from man, to her primary and equal role in procreative bonding.

With their insightful analyses, Zevit and Dundes challenge a fundamental tenet of Judeo-Christian culture, and a basic principle that has underscored social gender relations for generations. In recent public and academic discourse these relations have been subject to intense examination, generating changes in the family and in public spaces of modern society. What may appear only to be a pedantic philological hair-splitting argument is, in fact, a radical changes in the mythic model for relations between men and women. Dundes and Zevit still recognize that in paradise woman was created from man, but instead of the sexually neutral rib, their interpretation recasts this creation in concrete sexual terms that are the basis of human regeneration. Let me unpack this.

Copyright/Permission Statement

Originally published in Biblical Archaeology Review © 2016 Biblical Archaeology Society.



Date Posted: 19 February 2019