Why is it that Biblical translators choose to translate the Hebrew word צֵלָע (tsela) as "rib" when referring to the formation of Eve from Adam in Genesis 2:22? Never is this word translated as rib in any other scriptures except here. Some scholars believe that Adam was created both male and female as denoted in Genesis 1:27 and that God literally removed the female part of Adam from his abdominal chamber (צֵלָע, tsela) so why don't translators translate this word as "chamber"?
Hebrew ṣelāʽ (thus the correct transliteration) is a clear cognate of Akkadian ṣēlu and Arabic ḍilʽ and ḍilaʽ, all of which primarily mean “rib”, but are also metaphorically used to mean “side”. They are very widely attested in Akkadian and Arabic and leave no doubt as to their meaning. It is a basic Semitic noun for a body part. From a linguistic point of view, the most straightforward translation is the most literal one, in this case “rib”.
By the way, Semitic studies have advanced a lot since the time of Gesenius 1833. Arabic shows that ḍilaʽ “rib” is not the same root as ẓalaʽa “to limp”. It just so happens that in Hebrew Semitic ẓ and ḍ coalesce as ṣ.
The reason for translating this word as "rib" in this passage most likely has to do with Genesis 2:23 in which Adam states "This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh" (NET).
While you are correct that this word is often translated as chamber, according to the NAS Exhaustive Concordance, the NASB most often translates צֵלָע (tsela) as side or in some cases, side chamber.
Since there is only one e type of bone in the side of the human body, it is only natural for translators to conclude that Eve, being bone of bone was made from Adams only bone in his side - the rib.
Furthermore, this bone motif has a very important tie-in to Eve being described as Adam's עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (Ezer Kenegdo). You see, the צֵלָע (tsela; rib) is cognate with צָלַע (tsala`) which means to limp. Both originate from the primitave root "to curve" (like a rib)
Likewise, עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ (Ezer Kenegdo; where עֵזֶר [ezer] means helper and כְּנֶגְדּֽוֹ [Kenegdo] means "one who stands against or in opposition to") evokes the imagery of Adam leaning on Eve in his time of weakness in much the same way that one leans on a crutch which stands in opposition to the one it supports.
This is further bolstered by the fact that עֶצֶם (etsem) originates from עָצַם (`atsam) which means mighty or strong (like a bone).
Therefore, translating this as "rib" does not gloss over womankind being a major part of Adam, but instead acklowledges the strength of womankind. The sheer fact that Eve is made from Adam's side and not his heel indicates that Eve is Adam's equal, so there is very little bias displayed in translating צֵלָע (tsela) as rib.
I would point out that the Hebrew text lends itself to the translation "rib." The text in Genesis 2:21 literally reads, "And he [the Lord God] took one ['aḥat] from his side [miṭṭela'] and he closed the flesh after them [taḥtennah]." The "one" would suggest a part of the side, and the "after them" (with a feminine plural suffix) would suggest that the one was originally among many others. The rib cage lends itself to this kind of language, and so the translation "rib" seems quite defensible.
For those who are trying to say that ṭela' means rib, I would point out that in no other place in the First Testament can you find it translated in that way. In every other context the word refers to the whole side of a bilaterally symmetrical object. If the word was ṭela' by itself, the most appropriate translation would be "side."
This doesn't, however, rule out a different translation. If the "one" here is in fact referring to a whole side, then God would be taking one side and leaving the other behind. The only difficulty with this translation would be to reconcile the feminine plural suffix at the end of the prepositional phrase (which suggests that more than one of this "thing" was left behind).
Yes, it is justified (aside from translation) by SCIENCE!
It definitely means "rib". I did some digging around and - surprise - the rib is the only bone in the body that can regenerate fully without a bone graft.
Although all bones can repair themselves, ribs can regenerate themselves.2 Ribs are commonly removed during surgeries that require bone grafts in other parts of the body. The rib is removed from the periosteum (a tissue surrounding the bone) much like a banana would be removed from its peel while keeping most of the peel intact. The periosteum must remain, as it contains osteoblasts which build the new rib bone.
Also, ribs contain bone marrow, platelets, red and white blood, and stem cells, and can also create new tissues and organs.
The rib, in particular, represents an anatomic type of long bone with a wide, spongious component rich in hematopoietic bone marrow, containing multipotent, pluripotent, and unipotent stem cells 3. Totipotent so far have not been identified in bone marrow. As with the making of new life from Adam’s rib, new tissues and organs are now being made in both experimental and clinical work by using hematopoietic bone marrow from cell cultures.
Given this creation of new tissues and organs via hematopoietic bone marrow, the question arises about the implication of these observations for science. Carefully reading Genesis 2 , one is impressed by the fact that man and woman originated via two different modalities: Man ‘‘from the dust of the ground, [God] breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul’’ (Genesis 2:7); Woman ‘‘from the rib taken from [from] man [Adam]’’ while he was sleeping (Genesis 2:21–22).
As you read the sources I hope you are all mind-blown as I am.
Adam didn't lose a rib forever. It grew back!
I used this article as a starting point for the answers I gave and researched.
God made Adam male and female, as attested twice, so Eve is not the first woman but something else female that helps them. I suggest that Eve is the paraclete that Jesus aims to replace -- as a "new" or "another" paraclete John (14:15-27). What other helper or comforter might Jesus have been refering to, other than Eve? The etympological origin of Paraclete is "called to one's side".
Bearing in mind psychological theories positing the existence of an intra-psychic other, in Freud (his "acoustic cap" based on our mother), Bakhtin (super addressee), Lacan ("(m)Other"), Derrida ("ear of the other" likewise feminised), Mead (generalised other), Adam Smith (impartial spectator), and perhaps Boehme (mother), Bowie (Girl with the Mousey hair), I suggest that Eve is not the first woman (which would contradict the Bible) but rather a "helper," as clearly stated in the text, that is made from a side of all of us (male and female).
We are also told in Revelations that there is a large "whore" that accompanies humans. What is this whore? This may be what can happen to Eve if she is left in a state of sin, not replaced with Jesus. Being very large, "side" seems far more appropriate than "rib," imho a gross mistranslation which conceals the urgency of the situation.
protected by James Shewey Apr 21 '17 at 18:56
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