4 Mind-Blowing Theories About Famous Lines in the Bible
For thousands of years, a huge chunk of mankind has huddled over the pages of the Bible, wondering what it all meant. Are those four creepy horsemen supposed to be an allegory? Was the part that mentioned the unicorn really a translation error as people claim, or is something more sinister going on?
Can unicorn sparkle-rays melt steel?
And then there are the people who looked at the more confusing and unclear stories featured in the Good Book and decided that the best thing to do for religion and society was to douse those stories with a whole earthen vessel's worth of crazy. That's how we got things like ...
Adam's Rib Was Actually a Penis Bone
In the very first book of the Bible, God does a favor to the very first man, Adam, after Adam complains that if he is ever in a television ad there will be no one to condescendingly fix his tie before he leaves the house. God concurs that a human update is needed and puts Adam to sleep with some sweet Garden of Eden anesthesia. He then grabs a rib from Adam's body, fashions it into a woman named Eve, and closes up his chest-parts. Luckily, Adam and Eve were the only humans on Earth at that point, because your future wife being formed from a gaping wound in your chest would make for some weird "how we met" stories at parties.
"And then Adam was like, 'God, I want a fluffy pet cat,' and he wasn't using his
medial cuneiform bone anyway, so ..."
But because nothing in this world is ever straightforward, others have claimed that it wasn't really a rib that God used to create Eve. It was a bone from Adam's dick.
The Crazy Theory
Next time you're observing a flaccid human penis flopping around during a naked dance-off, spare a thought as to why that penis is so flexible. No, really -- sit down and think about those unboned ligaments flopping back and forth like an American flag in a strong wind. Done? All right.
Just a bit more.
The majority of male mammals possess a baculum, or penis bone, and that includes all of our closest primate relatives. Why human males lack an enboned penis and have to rely on boner-fluid-hydraulics instead is something of a mystery ... unless you read Genesis, that is. According to a paper recently published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics, perhaps it's because our menfolk lost their literal boners in the Garden of Eden.
According to the paper, the Hebrew word tzela, translated in the Genesis story as "rib," can also be read as "supporting structure." The paper's authors argue that since men and women have the same number of ribs, and ribs are not associated with "generative acts," a penis-themed translation makes far more sense. What the authors don't explain is what this means for the small number of non-human primate species that also don't have penis bones, such as the spider monkey. If man's lack of a skeleton-penis is proof that our species got special attention from God in the Garden of Eden, does that mean these boneless-crotched monkeys should be given full human rights as well? I think we all know that the answer is yes.
The Bible's Oldest Book Features a Goddamn Dinosaur
The book of Job is generally agreed to be the oldest book in the Bible: parts of it have been dated back to before the 6th century B.C. It's the story of a guy who has a really bad day, and it features these verses, in which God tells Job about a giant creature called a Behemoth:
Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron.
Over the years, mainstream Christian scholars have claimed that God is describing a river crocodile or hippopotamus, but come on, guys: neither of those things has a "tail like a cedar." Others say it's an imaginary creature, but that's not really satisfactory either, because you'd think the creator of the universe would be more imaginative and give the thing antlers and wings made of horses or something.
The Crazy Theory
It's a dinosaur.
A grass-eating monster with a tail "like a cedar" fits the description of a sauropod like a lawyer fits into the mouth of a T. rex. It just leaves us with the question of why the thing pops up in a book that's only a couple of thousand years old. Fossil records, after all, show that by that point sauropods had been dead for approximately a fuckton of years. Of course, if you're a Young Earth creationist, that problem is a feature not a bug, because it proves that the author of Job knew about dinosaurs and was probably riding around on one as he wrote the book.
Personally, I don't think the Behemoth-as-dino story requires a belief in Young Earth creationism. After all, we're talking about God here. There's no reason he couldn't have zapped Job back in time like the angel in It's a Wonderful Life to show him an apatosaurus or two. Or maybe God just time-traveled a copy of Jurassic Park back to show the guy. That would have been pretty impressive too.
And if God had shown him one of the sequels, the rest of the Bible would have been devoted to why Satan isn't that bad.
The "Mark of Cain" Refers to ... Oh, Dear
If you have ever attended a Sunday school or listened to any lyrics by metal bands, you probably know that in the book of Genesis Cain kills his brother Abel. Since Cain and Abel are the sons of Adam and Eve, the first two people who ever lived, this makes Cain the inventor of murder.
It's not recorded whether Cain shouted, "First!" afterward.
God isn't happy about the whole slaying-family-members thing, and he curses Cain to wander the Earth. Cain complains that this punishment is too harsh, because anyone who finds a murderer wandering around like that will kill him, like, so much. So God assures Cain that he'll put a mark on his body warning that anyone who harms him will be avenged seven times over. In other words, in the course of a single day humanity gets not only our first murder but also our first liberal activist judge.
Over the years Cain's story has intrigued Bible readers by virtue of the details it leaves out. What is the mark? How is the sevenfold vengeance arranged? Why does Cain get such a sweet deal when other murderers in the Bible don't? Where do black people come from? Wait, that last question isn't really a normal thing to ask in relation to this subject. Is it?
The Crazy Theory
At some point in 18th-century America, someone sat down and pondered the questions "What did Cain's mark actually look like?" and "How can I justify my hatred of non-white races?" On a piece of drool-soaked paper, that person then sketched out a theory: dark-skinned people are descended from Cain, and their skin color is the "mark" that God describes.
Even though this was never the official position of America's major churches, and even though the word used for "mark" in the Bible has nothing to do with skin color because for god's sake, people, the "black people are descendants of Cain" thing gained some traction among early Mormonism (the Mormon church has since renounced the idea). And, unsurprisingly, none of the white people using the mark of Cain as an excuse for discrimination ever seem to have followed up on its positive implications: if Cain's mark is a sign of protection from God, isn't it, like, super mega forbidden to do anything bad to someone carrying it?
Luckily, the idea of a divine melanin curse has been out of favor for a long time now, but its effects linger on like an awkward house guest: in 2011, a newspaper columnist got into trouble when he claimed America's economy had been given the "mark of Cain" under ... uh, Obama's presidency. So remember: next time you're writing a nationally syndicated column that makes a biblical allusion to economic policy, be sure to do your historical race-related research first. If you've already handed in your nationally syndicated column that makes a biblical allusion to economic policy for the day, try to start on this habit tomorrow.
Biblical Giants Used to Populate the United States
We're back in Genesis again, right before the part where God decides to flood the whole Earth and save that one guy on a boat. The author is laying out God's reasons for wanting to rid the Earth of mankind, his saddest and most embarrassing creation. Rather than simply inserting some screenshots from Reddit to make the point, the Genesis author instead brings up some weird creatures called "nephilim":
The Nephilim were in the earth in those days, and also after that, when the sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them: the same were the mighty men that were of old, the men of renown.
Another verse in the Bible describes these nephilim as being rather large, but other than that, they disappear from its pages like a sidekick character who tested badly with audiences. Since then, many Christian and Jewish scholars have defined the nephilim as simply a type of human: the mysteriously named "sons of God" who fathered them were either people from a particularly righteous tribe or rich aristocrats.
"Yeah, we're just calling ourselves gods now."
The Crazy Theory
In the early 20th century, a wave of weird discoveries swept across the U.S. It seemed like every farmer and his dog was digging up a giant human skeleton:
"Stop imitating it, Archibald."
"Fuck you, Thad."
Stories of giant bones had been popping up in America since the mid-1800s, but the Giant Skeleton Craze really took off in 1911, when miners in Nevada discovered a cave full of the mummified remains of these "giants." And then in Wisconsin in 1912, two brothers discovered a bunch of skeletons that were 10 feet tall and reportedly possessed double rows of teeth just in case being 10 feet tall wasn't metal enough.
Clearly, these giant skeletons were the remains of nephilim, because fuck all that "they're the sons of aristocrats" shit: nephilim must have been literal giants that resulted from interbreeding between "sons of God" (angels) and "daughters of men" (human women). And the theory lives on: a hundred years later, you can still find "nephilim skeleton" pictures all over the Internet, usually featured on sites that have a lot of animated GIFs and the word "truth" in the title.
I hope the "daughter of man" who gave birth to this guy at least managed to get a cesarean.
Pictures like that one are obviously faked, but where did all the reports of giant bones come from in the first place? The misunderstanding might have arisen due to skeleton disarticulation: when skeletons are buried without all their bone-parts connected, the gaps make them look taller to the untrained eye. The archaeological discoveries in Nevada were also near a site that was excavating the bones of mammoths and other megafauna, and people might have mixed up some of these giant bones with the normal, puny human ones.
Whatever the case, others learned that they could milk tourist money out of nephilomania, and soon Americans everywhere were announcing discoveries of "giants" and erecting giant skeletons to display for a fee. It's not recorded whether anyone assembled a skeleton containing a crude baculum made from a mammoth tusk, but I like to believe it's true.
For more from C. Coville, check out 5 Beloved Icons That Need a Gritty Reboot. And then check out If Every Kids' Show Got a Gritty Live-Action Reboot.
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