NCBI ROFL: What did God do with Adam's penis bone?

By ncbi rofl | August 19, 2011 7:00 pm

Congenital human baculum deficiency: the generative bone of Genesis 2:21-23.

“Another genetic condition, extending to 100% of human males, is the congenital lack of a baculum. Whereas most mammals (including common species such as dogs and mice) and most other primates (excepting spider monkeys) have a penile bone, human males lack this bone and must rely on fluid hydraulics to maintain erections. This is not an insignificant bone. The baculum of a large dog can be 10 cm long x 1.3 cm wide x 1 cm thick… Human bacula have been reported, usually in association with other congenital diseases or penile abnormalities.

One of the creation stories in Genesis may be an explanatory myth wherein the Bible attempts to find a cause for why human males lack this particular bone. Our opinion is that Adam did not lose a rib in the creation of Eve. Any ancient Israelite (or for that matter, any American child) would be expected to know that there is an equal (and even) number of ribs in both men and women. Moreover, ribs lack any intrinsic generative capacity. We think it is far more probable that it was Adam’s baculum that was removed in order to make Eve. That would explain why human males, of all the primates and most other mammals, did not have one. The Hebrew noun translated as “rib,” tzela (tzade, lamed, ayin), can indeed mean a costal rib. It can also mean the rib of a hill (2 Samuel 16:13), the side chambers (enclosing the temple like ribs, as in 1 Kings 6:5,6), or the supporting columns of trees, like cedars or firs, or the planks in buildings and doors (1 Kings 6:15,16). So the word could be used to indicate a structural support beam. Interestingly, Biblical Hebrew, unlike later rabbinic Hebrew, had no technical term for the penis and referred to it through many circumlocutions. When rendered into Greek, sometime in the second century BCE, the translators used the word pleura, which means “side,” and would connote a body rib (as the medical term pleura still does). This translation, enshrined in the Septuagint, the Greek Bible of the early church, fixed the meaning for most of western civilization, even though the Hebrew was not so specific.

In addition, Genesis 2:21 contains another etiological detail: “The Lord God closed up the flesh.” This detail would explain the peculiar visible sign on the penis and scrotum of human males—the raphé . In the human penis and scrotum, the edges of the urogenital folds come together over the urogenital sinus (urethral groove) to form a seam, the raphé. If this seam does not form, hypospadias of the glans, penis, and scrotum can result. The origin of this seam on the external genitalia was “explained” by the story of the closing of Adam’s flesh. Again, the wound associated with the generation of Eve is connected to Adam’s penis and not his rib.

A rib has no particular potency nor is it associated mythologically or symbolically with any human generative act. Needless to say, the penis has always been associated with generation, in practice, in mythology, and in the popular imagination. Therefore, the literal, metaphorical, and euphemistic use of the word tzela make the baculum a good candidate for the singular bone taken from Adam to generate Eve.”

Image: flickr/ oddsock

Related content:
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: References to the paraphilias and sexual crimes in the Bible.
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: Whale ménage à trois: now with 1,000-kg testes!
Discoblog: NCBI ROFL: The circumcision of Jesus Christ.

  • Jinchi

    any American child would be expected to know that there is an equal (and even) number of ribs in both men and women.

    You’d think so. But I remember an argument years ago between my sister and her boyfriend. She thought it was absurd to take the Bible literally. His response, “Then why do men have one less rib than women?”, floored me for it’s idiocy.

    Google shows us that he wasn’t alone.

    That gets 2,350,000 results

    • Mike The Tiger

       Google? You use Google as a reference point?  That floors me!

      • SpacemanSpiff

        Google isn’t a source, its a search engine to FIND sources. Are you seriously saying google isn’t a tool to find information?

  • TRJ

    If I loose an arm in an accident, and later have a child, he/she will still be born with two arms. The same with Adam and his children. If he was a real person, the removing of a bone from him to make Eve, would have been a physical change effecting only him, and not his progeny. He would live the rest of his life missing that bone, but all his chidren would be born with it. After all, when God wrestled with Jacob, God touched Jacob’s leg and made him lame. But Jacob is the father of the Jewish people, and all Jews today are not born lame. Just as Jacob was made lame, but not his descendents, Adam would have lost a bone, but not his descendents.

    • Mike The Tiger

       TRJ, Great answer!  Just because some people make stupid statements doesn’t make the Bible any less accurate.  The Bible does not say that men have one less rib because of God’s use of Adam’s rib bone to create Eve.

      • Ina

        Accurate in what?  Bible says something much more fantastic: person was created from the bone. After this statement who  is going to discuss the number of rips in humans seriously?

  • Felix Rocha

    Read in my website in my response to Richard Dawkins in three parts a full description of the origin of the male human raphe.
    Felix Rocha

  • QHC

    It is not a case for Lamarckian inheritance. It’s a reevaluation of a religious story.

  • Bee

    Why did Adam have a penis bone if there was no Eva in the first place?

    • Bryan Richards

      because god is allknowing and was planning ahead would be the theist answer. ugh, i can’t believe people still protect the bible as true and accurate.

  • colluvial

    Regardless of what the authors of the Bible might have imagined was the source of Eve, why use this particular literary device? Is there some significance to the idea that women were created from a defunct piece of male anatomy?

  • Brian

    TRJ – It was a metaphoric explanation vs. a literal explanation of the physical traits observed. The constellation Orion isn’t actually a hunter, similarly, the “explanations” in scripture are ancient musings in “how we got here and what is man?” Genetics? Seriously? Why the bible, unlike any other oral or written ancient collection of wisdom, stories, or otherwise, must be absolute and literal to maintain any relevance, value, or meaning is amazing to me. The beauty of scripture is the mystery and metaphor.

    • Boudicca Gladiatrix

      You truly are an idiot. Overall cause that stupid book was modified so many times and it has been taken several things from it and thrown myths that people even believe that there is inside that piece of book.
      Theres no mystery in the bible, its fantasy. Just like Jesus there were many like him in his time and all were just a bunch of scammers.

  • NB

    This is cute. I think their theory does explain the mythology, but it’s still an interesting question: why human males have no penis bone? After all, so many wish they did 😉

  • Jockaira

    “Biblical Hebrew, unlike later rabbinic Hebrew, had no technical term for the penis and referred to it through many circumlocutions.”

    Undoubtedly, this puts the penis into the same category as “G-d”, another concept for which the ancient Jews had no exact linguistic reference or label. Could this be a tacit acknowledgment that the ancient Jews were penis worshippers and equated the penis with their god, or maybe that God is really a dick?

    If you don’t want questions like this, then you shouldn’t be asking “What did God do with Adam’s penis bone?”

    To paraphrase an early 20th Century poet on the subject of baculae: “Adam Had ’em”

  • Sequoia Edwards

    @ colluvial: I have long thought that women do not really have penis envy but that men may well envy women for being able to give birth and that it is the foundation of this story. I also think that there is evidence that the origin of blood sacrifice may be rooted in men’s attempts to possess what they thought of as women’s “blood power.”

  • Bertus!

    This is a device frequently employed in the Hebrew Bible. For instance: reference the passage where Ruth climbed into Boas’s bed and curled up by his feet – obviously feet there is a reference to the same thing. And passages in Ezechiel (if memory serves me correctly) where the angels are said to cover their “feet” with their wings for modesty’s sake.

  • Marga

    I heard this /exact theory/ from anthropologist Vincent Sarich when he was teaching at Berkeley in the late 1980’s. It seems to me that you probably borrowed it from him.

  • Malc

    TRJ: Adam was halfway swallowing the forbidden fruit when god spoke, and so the thing stuck in his throat. So now all males have this thing called “Adam’s Apple”.

    So, supposedly the bible is correct, all males should be lacking a rib bone.

  • Me

    How about everyone take a breath for a moment? Stop trying. Maybe start listening.

  • localgirl

    Well that certainly makes more sense than a rib. And it’s quite a beautiful way to look at it. When man and woman join, He is reconnecting in the closest possible way to the thing he sacrificed.

  • peter Veitch

    Great story, gives new meaning to “argumentum ad baculum” . Still , seriously who apart from indoctrinated fundamentalist crazies take the Adam and eve myth as fact?

  • Bryan Richards

    if god took it out then why does it still show up in some humans?

  • Jetnor Martika

    ,” removed ribs usually regenerate within 2-3 months of sectional surgery, as in the surgical procedure rib thoracoplasty.”

  • Nurvi

    Females existed prior to males. What is the theist explanation for male nipples?


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NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl


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