I expect you’re well aware of this: [Prof. X.] has argued that Hebrew “tzela” in Gen. 2:21-22 (usually translated as Adam’s “rib”) might better be translated as “limb” or “appendage.” He adduces various architectural uses of this term throughout the Tanakh (e.g. in 1 Kgs 6) as well as some comparative Semitic philology in support. The limb in Gen 2, he says, is Adam’s penis, and etiologically this explains the human male’s congenital lack of a baculum, or penis bone, which is otherwise common in mammalian species (including those the Israelites would have known). He argues that the usual reading, where tzela = “rib”, is strange since the rib has never been associated with any procreative elements. A few other elements are also suggestive: basar as “flesh” can also mean penis, and the place where God closes up Adam’s flesh might plausibly refer to an anatomical feature known as the perineal raphe, which is a suture-like seam on the bottom of the scrotum. I was wondering if you had any opinion on this proposal.

I do know this tzela idea, but frankly it just doesn’t seem all that likely to me. To begin with, the usual euphemism for penis in Semitic languages is “hand.” Wouldn’t that have communicated the idea more directly? Many people have said that tzela here is intentionally vague — that is, not “rib” so much as “side.” But it also might be that the fact that we have so many ribs made it plausible that Adam originally had one more but was forced to give it up forever in order to acquire the perfect mate. (This wouldn’t have worked nearly as well if what he surrendered to God was his baculum and was subsequently rewarded with Eve—that would be more like the O. Henry story of the two Christmas gifts.)