In reading the account of woman’s creation in KJV, NIV, ESV, etc. she is mentioned as being formed out of Adam’s ribs, however the direct Hebrew translation is not ribs but “Angular Organ(s)”.  Also, the Hebrew word “adm” is used when referring to “human, person, or man” and “Adam”. So my questions are 1) Why translate to rib when the original text does not specify a rib? and 2) Why is “adm” equally and interchangeably used for Human and Adam? 3) Although I don’t think it really matters whether woman was created from a rib or any other body part, the interchangeable exchange between human and Adam is quite significant…isn’t it? For example:  ADM = HUMAN, AISH = MAN, and ASHE = WOMAN – God created ADM in the image of him; ADM named all the creatures; there was no suitable helper for ADM; God caused a deep sleep to ADM, etc.  Thank you for your time.


This is a good question.  The answer is a little bit complex.  There are two issues at play here.  One is the question of the actual meaning of the Hebrew words, and the other is the question of how best to translate these words.

First of all, about the word sometimes translated as “rib.”  The Hebrew word is sela. It means, literally, “side” rather than “rib.”  In Genesis 2:21 it is often translated as rib. This may be as much a matter of preserving the traditional interpretation as it is a translation of the word.  On the other hand, the word “side” is a bit vague, and it is not impossible that the original intent of the use of the word sela may indeed have been to imply a literal rib.  We cannot settle this question absolutely.  Nevertheless, the most unbiased and literal translation of the word would be that Eve was formed out of the side of (rather than rib of) Adam.  I did some research and found that the great majority of translations have “rib” not “side.”  One exception is the somewhat obscure New English Translation which uses side.  An even more obscure translation, the Jubilee Bible has the rather awkward, “one of his sides.”  This reveals another reason that ribs is the most common translation of sela.  Because the Hebrew has “one of” in Genesis 2:21, it is really hard to translate this as side.  Either we do not include the word “one of” or we turn “side” into “rib.”  The most literal of all the translations is so awkward that no other translation uses the phrase “one of his sides.”  Either way, translation aside, I am not sure that there is a vast difference in meaning between the two, but scholars and theologians have tended to believe that, whether we translate it as ribs or not, the connotation of the passage is that Eve came from Adam’s side.  The idea is that Eve came from the side of Adam–emphasizing their equality before God.  This is a beautiful metaphor in my opinion.

As for the translation of adam, this has traditionally been used as the name of the first man, even though it could be translated as “man” or “human”.  The reason is that the word is clearly used as what we would call a name in Genesis.  Genesis 4:1 is an example where it is very clear Adam is a name, not a description.  I see some deep theological meaning here (as do you).  Adam was literally the first man, but, metaphorically, he is also all men/humans.  His fate is the fate of all accountable adults.  Like Adam, the first man, we were all born innocent, but we all lost our innocence due to our sin, and we all have lost our natural place with God in Paradise.  So, to me, Adam is a person, but in a sense he is humanity as well.  Adam is a person and Adam is “man.”  In Romans 5:12-19 and 1 Cor 15:45-49 Adam is used as an archetype.  In these passages, Adam is both an individual person and a type.  The use of adam as the name of the first person is of great symbolic significance.  So, my response is that Adam both means mankind and it is the name of the first of mankind.

John Oakes

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