[Milton-L] Adam's left side

Horace Jeffery Hodges jefferyhodges at yahoo.com
Thu Mar 4 20:51:32 EST 2010

"Jeffery, in any case, seems to be right . . ."

That would be Jeffrey Shoulson (just to be clear).

Jeffery Hodges

From: "Schwartz, Louis" <lschwart at richmond.edu>
To: John Milton Discussion List <milton-l at lists.richmond.edu>
Sent: Thu, March 4, 2010 2:54:54 PM
Subject: RE: [Milton-L] Adam's left side

This is interesting.  For what it’s worth, as I was poking around in some of the commentaries I found that while the Hebrew of Genesis suggests a “side” with no necessary reference to either a rib or a particular side, the Targum Yonatan (an Aramaic paraphrase that has some authority in Rabbinic discussions) does make it a rib, specifies that it’s the 13th rib, and that it came out of the right side!  
What this means, I don’t know.  Jeffery, in any case, seem to be right that the question of “which side” seems not to have been an urgent one for the Rabbis.  At least that’s what a very cursory look suggests.  They seem to have cared a lot more about what it means that God “built up” or “fashioned” her than exactly which side provided the raw material…..
Louis Schwartz
Associate Professor of English
English Department
University of Richmond
28 Westhampton Way
Richmond, VA  23173
(804) 289-8315
lschwart at richmond.edu
From:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu [mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Jeffrey Shoulson
Sent: Thursday, March 04, 2010 3:06 PM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] Adam's left side
I looked around a little, Jim, and as far as I can tell, the rabbis do not take up the question of which side the rib came from.  In Kabbalistic literature (much later, of course), there is some discussion of the Left and the Right as representative of different and complementary properties of the divine, embodied in male and female, but again, the Zohar doesn't seem to link this idea to the rib.
Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Ph. D.
Associate Professor of English and Judaic Studies
University of Miami
PO Box 248145
Coral Gables, FL 33124-4632
(o) 305-284-5596
(f) 305-284-5635
jshoulson at miami.edu

On Mar 4, 2010, at 2:59 PM, James Rovira wrote:

Anyone aware of any Jewish Midrash on this point?

Jim R
On Thu, Mar 4, 2010 at 2:56 PM, Jeffrey Shoulson <jshoulson at mail.as.miami.edu> wrote:
I'm not sure this is directly responsive to the question, Margie, but I have two comments.
First, the term tsela, what most texts translate as "rib," can also mean "side" in the Bible.  Now that, of course, doesn't say which side.
Second, there is an Islamic tradition about the rib being taken from the left side.  The earliest version of this tradition, so far as I know, appears in The Tales of the Prophets of al-Kisa'i, which probably dates from the 11th or 12th century.  It's a collection of popular tales (as opposed to the more learned Qur'anic commentaries), so it's likely it incorporates traditions that had a much older provenance.  In any event, these Tales do report that God created Eve from a crooked rib out of Adam's left side, with the clear implication of her faulty, sin-prone nature.
Neither of these takes you directly to Milton's lines, "Who stooping opened my left side, and took/ From thence a rib..."  But it may be that the same popular legends that gave rise to the Muslim version may have also been circulating in Christian folklore.
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