A Penis Bone in Genesis 2:21? Retrodiagnosis as a Methodological Problem in Scriptural StudiesPaleoJudaica posts on Professor Zevit's hypothesis about Adam's penis-bone are here and here.
Ziony Zevit is the Distinguished Professor in Bible and Northwest Semitic Languages in the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University. He has done widely respected work on the religion of ancient Israel. However, Zevit makes a claim that is difficult to accept or understand linguistically, exegetically, and medically. In so doing, he is engaging in “retrodiagnosis.” Typically, such approaches seek to diagnose a condition mentioned in the Bible in precise modern medical terms.
Zevit specifically asserts that the Hebrew word sela (צֵלָע) in Genesis 2:21 refers to a penis bone (os baculum), not a rib, in speaking of the creation of Eve. This essay will show that none of the arguments adduced by Zevit, including those drawn from Alan Dundes’ research on the practice known as couvade, will yield the results he asserts for Genesis 2:21.
By Hector Avalos
Professor of Religious Studies,
Iowa State University
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