Baculum is a technical term for the penis bone. It is often illustrated with some impressive looking bone, such as the one below.
Whereas baculum is present in most placental mammals, human males manage without — the human penis is haemodynamic, meaning an erection is achieved by blood pressure alone. This peculiar phenomenon interested evolutionary scientists for many years, no big surprise here. However, as of late, and for entirely different reasons, theologians, too, got into the discussion.
It started in 2001 with the publication of a letter entitled Gilbert and Zevit. 2001. Congenital human baculum deficiency: The generative bone of Genesis 2:21-23. and published — surprise! — in the American Journal of Medical Genetics. The authors of the letter are Scott F. Gilbert and Ziony Zevit, a Distinguished Professor of Biblical Literature and Northwest Semitic Languages at American Jewish University in Bel-Air, California.
The central premise of the letter is that God used Adam’s baculum, rather than his rib, to create Eve in the Garden of Eden.
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.
But of course, Adam (and all his descendant human males) don’t have an uneven number of ribs compared to women. Baculum, on the other hand, is suspiciously missing! Besides, Professor Zevit asserts that the Hebrew word ‘tsela’ in the Old Testament was incorrectly translated as ‘rib’. The word ‘refers to limbs sticking out sideways from an upright human body.’
Well, it is a big question why American Journal of Medical Genetics published the letter, I’d say. Meanwhile, Professor Zevit published a book What really happened in the Garden of Eden? where, among many other interesting things about everyday life in the Garden of Eden, the story of Adam waking up to Eve without os penis (baculum) is prominently featured.
The Biblical Archaeological Review Magazine reviewed the book, all right, much to collective dismay of its many readers. Some of the readers expressed their outright dismay and disappointment with the magazine for publishing such “smut” and wished to cancel their subscription immediately.
As recently as yesterday, Haaretz reviewed the book as well. Elon Gilad titled his review Why God Didn’t Use Adam’s Penis Bone to Make Eve, arguing that the “rib theory of Creation prevails: Ancient linguistics provide no support for the theory that Eve was fashioned of man’s mysteriously absent penis bone.”
As important for Judeo-Christian theologians this bickering might be, there is still a question for those who pray other gods or don’t pray at all. Why do humans lack a baculum? Richard Dawkins, for instance, has hypothesized that sexual selection may be responsible.
“It is not implausible that, with natural selection refining their diagnostic skills, females could glean all sorts of clues about a male’s health, and robustness of his ability to cope with stress, from the tone and bearing of his penis.” (The Selfish Gene, 30th Anniversary Edition.)
Suzanne Harvey in How Did Man Lose His Penis Bone? agrees:
“Sexual selection works on the premise of ‘honest signals’. Put simply, females need to select high quality males to ensure the best genes for their offspring, and a penis that works predominantly through haemodynamics takes a lot of energy to produce. Therefore this is an honest signal of the most healthy males in the same way that the healthiest stags grow the largest antlers. In the end, for all the dissection, microscopic analyses and experiments with cadavers, Adam may have given up his penis bone for Eve after all.