Adam’s Rib

From the fall of 2009.  It’s amazing the things we forget we’ve heard and read.  I don’t have very much of a recollection of this, but I’m glad I wrote about it.

Poet Emily Warn read at The New School last night, and she shared something I’ve never heard said before about the account of creation in Genesis.

As everyone knows, it’s impossible to translate ancient or even contemporary texts between two languages exactly. There are idioms and feelings that, as the saying goes, become inevitably lost in translation. Warn said that one of the ancient Hebrew words that has no known analog in English is the word for that which God took from Adam to fashion Eve. It was rendered long ago as “rib” but, according to Warn, no one really knows what it means. Warn, raised in an Orthodox Jewish family after the age of 6, said it’s more like a fleshing over of Adam’s own incompleteness.

Wikipedia says that the word translated as rib could also be rendered as “beam” or “side” or “chamber” and that recent feminist interpretations have favored the idea of Eve being made from Adam’s side, suggesting her equal bearing (literally, by, even if out of, his side). I think that squares nicely with understanding the creation of Eve, within the context of the narrative, as a fleshing over of Adam’s incompleteness. Sure, you still have to deal with a God who didn’t choose to create them together (?), but there is, nonetheless, something very poignant here. Perhaps from the chamber of Adam’s emptiness?

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