There are a number of questions and contentions about Genesis 1–2 from skeptics and Christians alike. Many of them deal with the creation Eve. Some of the main problems (which ultimately stem from misunderstanding, adding to, or ignoring the text) will be examined and rebutted below.
Did God Make Eve from Adam’s Rib or His Side?
Question: The primary meaning of tsela means side, therefore, isn’t rib an incorrect translation?
Answer: The Hebrew word tsela can mean side, rib, board, or plank. When it is not used as a part of the body, it is used to mean the sides of the tabernacle/temple (Exodus 26:20; Ezekiel 41:6–11) or the boards comprising the walls of the side rooms (Exodus 26:26–27) or the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle/temple (1 Kings 6:16), the sides of ark of the covenant where the poles would be inserted (Exodus 25:14) or the ribs/planking of a ship. But Daniel 7:5 uses the Aramaic equivalent when it mentions three ribs in the mouth of a bear and translating the Aramaic ala as “side” here would make no sense (i.e., the bear didn’t have three “sides” in its mouth). It is obvious from these usages, as well as the anatomical ones (in Genesis and Daniel), that it usually means rib or side (or the components of a side or wall). However, context dictates what the word is intended to mean, and in Genesis 2, it clearly means “rib.” Notice the clear wording in the text “took one of his ribs” (tsela) (Genesis 2:21). Moses would not have said “took one of his sides”—this makes no sense.1 Also, the phraseology used in Genesis 2:21–22, “closed up its place with flesh,” clearly shows an intrusive surgery (into the side) which required an extraction; specifically, a rib was removed, and then a repair of the flesh was performed after the divine surgery. Subsequently, from that rib, the creation of the woman (Eve) takes place.
One other consideration is that of the perfection of mankind, and indeed all of creation, before the fall. The one bone in the human body that can regenerate on its own is the rib, as long as the periosteum (a tissue surrounding the bone) is not removed. Why would God take an entire side from Adam, when a single rib would do? That is much more logical and less intrusive, and we serve a God of order and logic.
An excellent article on this subject is available here.
Scripture does not specify from which side of the body God took Adam’s rib to fashion Eve. Jewish tradition (Targum of Jonathan) states that it was the right side. This accords with the Mideastern belief and biblical precept that the right side is the side of prominence (compare to Exodus 15:6, 12; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3, 10:12). Later Christian writers have hypothesized that the rib was taken from Adam’s left side, as it is near the heart, symbolizing unity of the two in flesh and heart. This was popularized by Milton in Paradise Lost. Scripture does not say, so we cannot be dogmatic. But the oldest Jewish writings and commentaries have this object taken from Adam as being the rib, which was used by God to create Eve. But it is not the opinions of men which sway us, but the Word of God, which logically implies that a single part of one side, specifically a rib, was taken out of Adam and miraculously formed by God into Eve.