Sunday, January 17, 2010

Adam’s Family Jewels

“And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and He took the bone of Adam’s penis and made him a woman.”

Er, wait, wasn’t it from one of Adam’s ribs that Eve was created?

Not according to Ziony Zevit. A professor of Semitic languages at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles Zevit posits that the Hebrew word tsela (literally “side,” but traditionally translated as “rib”) employed in Genesis refers in fact to Adam’s member.

In court we swear to tell the truth with a hand placed on the Bible. But in the book itself, Jacob, nearing death in Egypt, asks Joseph to swear an oath not to bury him there by “put[ting] your hand under my thigh” (Gen. 47:29). Earlier in Genesis, Jacob wrestles with God, who touches “the hollow of his [Jacob’s] thigh” (32:25). “Thigh” happens to be a biblical euphemism for male genitalia; it’s from Jacob’s “thigh” or “loins” that his numerous offspring sprang. The practice of swearing an oath while touching one’s or someone else’s testicles was common in the ancient Near East (Abraham also orders a servant to do just that in Genesis 24:2). Its linguistic memory survives in our word “testify”—testis being the Latin both for “witness” and the male generative gland.

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