The Image of God: A Study of an Ancient Sensibility
Harvard Divinity School
In presenting her
list of ten sensibilities, Vanessa Ochs is doing what Jewish intellectuals have
done for centuries--interpreting biblical and rabbinic concepts through ideals
and values that capture the ethical imagination of her own time and place.
Each of these concepts has a wide range of meanings and applications in the
broader Jewish tradition. Considering that full range both provides a context
for understanding Vanessa's particular choices and may open up possibilities
for Jewish thinking that are currently latent. I will focus here on one of the
ten--the motif that humans are in the image (tzelem) of God. First, I
will discuss the meanings of this image in biblical and classical rabbinic
sources. Then, I will turn to a similar but probably less familiar motif--the
idea that humans are created in the image of the cosmos ('olam), which opens
up another set of possibilities for thinking about the significance of human
The idea that
humans are in the image of the deity is at the same time anthropological and
theological. There is some correspondence or association between the human and
the divine (each is a metaphor of the other), but the specifics of that association
are not fixed. We cannot answer the question, "What does it mean in
Jewish tradition for humans to be in the image of God?" The phrase,
rather, opens up a particular terrain for reflection and debate, being a
discursive space of immense significance that can be filled in all sorts of
ways, often with strong rhetorical purposes. It also can carry a
political charge--in a cultural context where a king claims to have a distinct
connection to the divine, this claim presents a challenge to that authority,
asserting that all people are in the image of the deity.
are salient in describing how specific persons or groups have developed the
biblical assertion that humans are in the image of God. First, since the key
verses turn on the word 'adam, does an exegete treat the verse as
applicable to all humans, to specific humans (such as men, Jews, or rabbis), or
specifically to the first human named Adam? Passages that focus upon Adam, for
example, often emphasize that humans lack godly features, that Adam
originally had divine qualities that have since been lost to the rest of
A second question is, what aspects of 'adam constitute the image of
God? What parts of the self are upheld as divine? A given interpreter may
highlight immaterial elements such as the soul or mind, or material ones such
as the body or a specific part of it. In The Fathers According to Rabbi
Nathan, for example, one passage focuses on the penis, citing Genesis 1:27
to argue that Adam was among a number of figures who were born circumcised ('Abot
R. Nat. A, ch. 2).
Third, especially when the verse is understood as referring to human beings,
what does the writer or speaker want people to do, given that they are created
in the divine image?
In some cases, the
point is quite general, as in the rabbinic maxim that humans are
"beloved" because of being in the divine image ('Abot 3:14).
However, strong homiletic or pedagogical roles are common, even or especially
in the biblical text itself. The scriptural grounding of the motif is in
Genesis 1:26-28 and 9:5-7. Neither passage specifies exactly what part of
humans constitutes the divine image, but both cite the motif to uphold
particular practices. The first appears in the account of the sixth day of
creation: "And God created man ('adam) in His image, in the image
of God He created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and
God said to them, 'Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and
rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that
creep on the earth'" (Gen. 1:26-27; following the JPS translation).
Being in the image of God legitimates dominion over the creatures of the earth,
even if the text never states exactly how humans reflect God.
In the second
case, the issue at stake is quite different: "But for your own life blood
I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast; of man, too,
will I require a reckoning for every human life, of every man ('adam)
for that of his fellow man! Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his
blood be shed; for in His image did God make man. Be fertile, then, and
increase; abound on the earth and increase on it" (Gen. 9:5-7; following
the JPS translation). Again, the text does not show concern with what aspects
of humans constitute the "image" but rather addresses practical
implications. In this case, the claim supports the prohibition of manslaughter
and the relevant legal retribution. Several cases of rabbinic exegesis build
on these points. For example, one passage strengthens the emphasis on killing
by linking Genesis 9:6 with the Decalogue prohibition on murder (Mekhilta of
Rabbi Ishmael, Ba-Hodesh 8). In another, one sage cites Genesis 9:6
to argue that bloodshed diminishes the likeness of God, while others emphasize
the end of the verse that calls for procreation to say that reproduction is a
central responsibility of those who are created in the image of God (t.
Yebamot 8:7; b. Yabamot 63b).
interpretation of Genesis 9:6--found in R. Nathan, Version B as well as
the midrashic collection Leviticus Rabbah--centers on the body and
calls for its care. In R. Nathan B the exegetical context is a teaching
attributed to the first century R. Yose, "Let all your actions be for the sake
The commentators assert that one should do so "like Hillel" and
present two stories to illustrate and justify this point:
When Hillel would leave to go some place, they would say
to him, Where are you going?
Hillel focuses here upon the body
as an entity that excretes and that gets dirty. In other contexts, excretion
is characterized as beastly and a reason to be humble before God, yet this set
of teachings predicate the animal features of humans as being similar to the
divine rather than in contrast.
The comparison has a distinct pedagogical purpose: a person should care for
the body, and toilets as well as baths are central to this care.
This point is made in a manner that also makes a political statement,
juxtaposing a statue of a king with the human body, and implicitly the king
himself with God. Upholding the human body over the statue also asserts that
God is greater and more important than a human ruler (even or especially if the
ruler claims divine status or favor for himself).
I am going to fulfill a commandment.
Which commandment, Hillel?
I am going to the toilet.
Is that a commandment?
Hillel said to them, Yes, so that one would not degrade
Where are you going Hillel?
I am going to fulfill a commandment.
Which commandment, Hillel?
I am going to the bath house.
Is that a commandment?
He said to them, Yes, to clean the body.
Know for yourself that this is so. If it is the case
that, for statues standing in the palaces of kings, the government gives an
allowance every year to the one appointed to polish and shine them, and not
only that, but he is raised up among the important people in the kingdom--then
for us, who are created in the image and likeness, as it is written, "For
in the image of God He made the human" (Gen 9:6), how much the more! ('Abot
R. Nat. B, ch. 30).
I will now turn to a
similar motif in late ancient sources: humans are not only in the image of
God, but in the image of the world or cosmos ('olam). Here rabbinic
thought is quite far from modern or post-modern sensibilities, but it has
significant affinities with the many cultures in history, located in regions
now known as Europe, South Asia, and China, in which homologies between the
body and the cosmos have been situated amidst of broad webs of correlations
between the human, the social order, and the world. The specific ways of
framing these relations have varied tremendously, and they have been employed
for or implicit in many practices, including but not only sacrifice, diet,
medicine, divination, law, legitimating political and social order, music,
historiography, broad explanation of change and transformation, and even
restoring lost hair.
In classical rabbinic thought, microcosmic imagery appears sporadically and
outside of such practical contexts. It is best understood as a way of
celebrating the embodied human in detail, and like the motif of being in the
divine image, there is a homiletic purpose. In the case that follows, which is
the most elaborate account of the human body as a microcosm, the ultimate goal
is to support the claim that sustaining a person's life is weighed equally with
sustaining all of creation: each part of every person correlates with a
distinct part of the created world.
context is a numerical list, "With ten utterances the world was
The commentators presume that this detail must have pedagogical significance:
What need do those who enter the world have for this?
To teach you that anyone who carries out one commandment, anyone who observes
one Sabbath, and everyone who sustains one life, Scripture accounts it to him
as if he sustained the entire world ('olam), which was created with ten
utterances ('Abot R. Nat. A,
The phrase "Scripture accounts
it to him as if." often appears in rabbinic sources convey that an
apparently small act will generate large consequences. Here, one good act is
said to bring the same reward as if one preserved the entire world, and of the
three acts listed, the key one for the larger sequence is sustaining one life.
The next passages turn to the question of transgression--a negative act
destroying the world--and center on the figure of Cain. These two
discussions, positive and negative, culminate in the statement: "Thus you
learn that one person ('adam) is weighed in correspondence to the entire
work of creation."
How do the commentators
justify this point midrashically? They draw upon two verses in Genesis:
Rabbi Nehemiah says, From where do we derive that one
person ('adam) is weighed in correspondence to the entire work of
creation? For it is said, "This is the book of the generations (toladot)
of Adam ('adam). On the day that God created Adam, in the likeness of
God He made him" (Gen 5:1). And there it says, "These are the
generations (toladot) of the heavens and the earth when they were
created, on the day that the Lord God made earth and heavens." (Gen 2:4).
Just as in the other case there was creation and making, so too here there is
creation and making ('Abot R. Nat. A, ch. 31).
The exegesis centers on the words
"create" (b.r.'.) and "make" ('.s.h.). Both
terms appear in describing the creation of Adam and the creation of the world,
and the midrashic claim is that this similarity indicates that both are equal
in the divine accounting. The ensuing discussion, though, shifts attention to
the word "generations" (toladot), which also is used in
relation to both the world and Adam, to state that Adam saw all of the
generations that would come upon the earth.
The final passage in
the unit presents the homologies between the human body and the cosmos. The
term 'adam is ambiguous here, for it can refer to humans in general (as
in the first teaching) or Adam (as in the second). Because of the focus on
cosmogony and anthropogony in the literary unit as a whole, I see the text as
concerning "Adam," but here with the qualities of the first human
representing those of all people. The opening is a parable that puns on the
words for "form" (y.tz.r.)
and "draw" (tz.y.r.):
A parable: to what can this matter be compared? To one
who takes some wood and wants to draw many forms, but does not have room to
draw--he is frustrated. But one who draws on the earth can go ahead and
spread them out. Yet, the Holy One, blessed be He, may His great name be
blessed for ever and ever, in His wisdom and understanding created the entire
world, all of it, and created the heavens and the earth, the beings on high and
the those below, and He formed in Adam everything that He created in his world
('Abot R. Nat. A, ch. 31).
Then, we find a long list
specifying this formation, each time asserting the close relation between
humans/Adam ('adam) and the world or cosmos ('olam):
He created bushes in the world and He created bushes in
Adam: this is Adam's hair.
This list is very difficult to pin
down in terms of both its relation to other notions of correlation and
homology, and its pedagogical or rhetorical force. I will start with the
features of the list itself, then examine resonances in other rabbinic sources,
and finally consider similar materials in other cultural contexts.
He created evil animals in the world and He created evil
animals in Adam: this is Adam's vermin.
He created channels in the world and he created channels
in Adam: these are Adam's ears.
He created wind in the world and He created wind in
Adam: this is Adam's nose.
Sun in the world and sun in Adam: this is Adam's
Filthy water in the world and filthy water in Adam: this
is Adam's nasal mucus.
Salty water in the world and salty water in Adam: this
is Adam's urine.
Rivers in the world and rivers in Adam: these are
Walls in the world and walls in Adam: these are Adam's
Doors in the world and doors in Adam: these are Adam's
Firmaments in the world and firmaments in Adam: this is
Sweet water in the world and sweet water in Adam: this
is Adam's saliva.
Stars in the world and stars in Adam: these are Adam's
Towers in the world and towers in Adam: this is Adam's
Masts in the world and masts in Adam: these are Adam's
Pegs in the world and pegs in Adam: these are Adam's
A king in the world and a king in Adam: his head.
Clusters in the world and clusters in Adam: these are
Advisers in the world and advisers in Adam: his kidneys.
Smells in the world and smells in Adam: this is Adam's
Mills in the world and mills in Adam: this is Adam's
Cisterns in the world and cisterns in Adam: this is
Living water in the world and living water in Adam: this
is Adam's blood.
Trees in the world and trees in Adam: these are Adam's
Hills in the world and hills in Adam: these are Adam's
Pestles and mortars in the world and pestles and mortars
in Adam: these are Adam's knees.
Horses in the world and horses in Adam: these are Adam's
The Angel of Death in the world and the Angel of Death in
Adam: these are Adam's heels.
Mountains and valleys in the world and mountains and
valleys in Adam: when he stands he resembles a mountain, and when he falls he
resembles a valley.
Thus you learn that all that the Holy One, blessed be He
created in His world, he created in Adam ('Abot R. Nat. A, ch. 31).
The general structure
appears to move from the upper part of the body to the lower--starting with
hair and ending with heels--but this order is not strictly followed.
The list is quite long. There is a large proportion of items focused on the
head (ears, nose, forehead, lips, teeth, tongue, cheeks, neck, head, perhaps
hair) and a strong attention to fluids (mucus, urine, tears, saliva, blood).
This body, though, is not fully elaborated, and the list omits a number of
items that figure prominently in other rabbinic discussions. The human
portrayed here is not gendered, having no penis, scrotum, or semen, and no
vagina, uterus, or menstrual blood.
Only a couple of internal organs are named (kidneys, stomach, and spleen), and
it is particularly striking that there is no mention of the heart.
Perhaps the most prominent bodily function is eating (lips, teeth, tongue,
saliva, and stomach), though there is also no reference to excrement despite
the attention to several liquid excretions. If we turn to the depiction of the
"world," then perhaps most prominent are natural elements and forces,
including several kinds of water (filthy, salty, sweet, living water, and also
rivers). We also see certain social positions (a king and advisers),
instruments in labor and production (mills, cistern, pestles and mortars,
horses, pegs, and masts), and human ways of defining space (doors, walls,
In large part, the
passage can be seen as collecting themes that appear in the Bible and rabbinic
literature. Some items are straight forwardly exegetical, as the associations
of tower/neck and clusters/breasts are from lists of the body in the Song of
Songs 4:4 and 7:8.
Other images are developed elsewhere in rabbinic material with more complex
exegetical bases. Perhaps the most prominent of these is the link between the
kidneys and advice or counsel, which appears in R. Nathan as well as
The image of the tongue being surrounded by walls appears amidst a discussion
of malicious speech in one Babylonian passage. Also, in
both Palestinian and Babylonian sources, a midrash upon Eccles. 12:2--which
calls upon the reader to appreciate youth "before the sun, light, stars,
and moon grow dark"--presents correspondences that include the sun and
the brightness of the face, light and the forehead (those two are combined in
sun/forehead of R. Nathan), the stars and the cheeks, and also the moon
and the nose (this fourth one is not in R. Nathan). The exegesis of
Eccles. 12 continues with numerous other comments about body parts, most of
which are different than in R. Nathan, though an association between the
stomach and milling is close to the correlation of mills/spleen above.
list in R. Nathan has a number of similarities to sources of cultures
that, in different ways and different times, may have been contiguous with
rabbis. The correspondence of heel/death may be associated with the Hellenic
figure of Achilles.
At a larger thematic level, the list of Adam as a microcosm of the world is
developed in Christian sources, and perhaps most relevant is the Slavonic 2
Enoch, which states that God made Adam out of seven elements: flesh from
earth, blood from dew and sun, eyes from the sea, bones from stone, reason from
angels and clouds, veins and hair from grass, and spirit from God's spirit and
While there is a superficial resemblance to the passage in R. Nathan,
few of the items are similar: blood/dew(=water), hair/grass. Perhaps more
importantly, the relation between body and cosmos differs. The Christian
accounts of the microcosmic Adam present Adam as being made from the earthly
elements, while the rabbinic account presents juxtaposition without
directionality or transformation--neither is the first human made from the
elements of the earth, nor is the earth created from a human body. While most
"Indo-European" accounts set out some form of directionality, two key
examples do not--the Zoroastrian Greater Bundahisn and the
Pseudo-Hippocratic Peri Hebdomadōn--and there is similarity
between the rabbinic list and these accounts regarding as many as four items--hair/plants, blood/water, sun/eye, and breath/wind.
What is the point of
all this? The elaborate cataloguing of body parts reveals a strong sense of
the human body being imbedded in and mirroring the world, from the hair to the
heels, from the saliva to the urine. This list strengthens the aspects of
rabbinic culture that exalt the entire body, including its most lowly or animal
elements. While linking the body with the cosmos is not as strong a claim as
saying that it is in God's image, the sheer length and repetition that
characterizes this list makes the overall impact quite significant. I see this
passage, then, as among the strands of rabbinic culture that celebrate the body
as such, and this celebration reinforces both a concern for others
(particularly the prohibition against murder) and a care for oneself. Such a
discursive framing of corporeality counters or balances others--both within
rabbinic culture and in surrounding ones--that invoke the body as a reason for
lowliness or humility.
Let us return,
after the trip into the ancient world, to Vanessa Ochs's contemporary
formulation. When she says that tzelem Elokim means dignity, she is one
of countless Jewish thinkers who draw upon this powerful image and specify it
in ways that speak to her audience. She understands dignity to be intertwined
with respect, freedom, education, appearances, and support for others. Like
many ancient writers, she never states exactly what parts of humans constitute
the image of the divine, but she highlights both bodily and intellectual
features (appearances, education). In focusing upon respect and support for
others, her theological claim has ethical implications. At the same time,
there are ways that one could draw upon other aspects of traditional sources to
reinforce and strengthen her vision. Her concern with freedom, for example,
might be expanded and radicalized through dialogue with the ancient political
implications of the Genesis motif that all humans, not just those in political
power, are the image of God. More broadly, given that her essay has a
recurring theme of medical ethics and practices, the ancient embrace of the
body as divine, the upholding of its care as a sacred act, and the configuring
of the body as a microcosm of the entire cosmos, could provide inspiration and
symbolic resources for people engaged in the healing of today's bodies. While
I have focused on only one of the ten sensibilities, this exercise would well be
done for any of them. When considered from the perspective of Jewish tradition
in its breadth and diversity, qualities such as distinguishing, repentance or
turning, honoring, and others do not have univocal or fixed meanings, but
rather exist within a broad set of resonances, scriptural associations, and
debates that have spanned the course of centuries.
this essay also appears in a longer study: Jonathan Schofer, "The Beastly
Body in Rabbinic Self-Formation." In Seeking Selves in Ancient
Religion, edited by D. Brakke, M. Satlow, and S. Weitzman (under
consideration). Parts were published in an earlier response to Vanessa Ochs'
work as J. Schofer, "In the Image of God," Sh'ma 34 (2003):5.
These themes have received extensive scholarly examination. See especially the
recent essay with extensive references by Alon Goshen Gottstein, who emphasizes
the bodily connotations of "image" and "likeness" in
rabbinic sources: "The Body as Image of God in Rabbinic Literature,"
Harvard Theological Review 87/2 (1994): 171-195; also Ephraim Urbach, The
Sages: Their Concepts and Beliefs, trans. Israel Abrahams (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 1979), 217.
Samuel E. Loewenstamm argues, with reference to Ancient Near Eastern materials,
that this significance was present in ancient Israel. See "Man as Image
and Son of God" (Hebrew), Tarbiz 21/1 (1957):1-2.
See Goshen Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God," 183-186; I thank
Elaine Pagels for her comments on an earlier version of this section.
See Solomon Schechter, Aboth de Rabbi Nathan, Edited from Manuscripts with
an Introduction, Notes, and Appendices (Hebrew) (New York: Jewish
Theological Seminary of America, 1997), 12; also Urbach, Sages, 230,
788 n.50; Goshen Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God," 175.
Citing Gen. 9:6; see also 'Abot R. Nat. A, ch. 39; Schechter, R.
See the analysis in Michael Fishbane, Biblical Interpretation in Ancient
Israel (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1985), 318-321; Mekilta de-Rabbi
Ishmael, Ba-Hodesh 8; H. S. Horovitz and I. A. Rabin, eds., Mechilta
d'Rabbi Ishmael (Jerusalem: Shalem Books, 1997), 233; t. Yebam.
8:7; b. Yabam. 63b; and Daniel Boyarin, Carnal Israel (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993), 134-136; Goshen Gottstein, "The
Body as Image of God," 190-192.
See 'Abot R. Nat. B, ch. 30; 'Abot R. Nat. A, ch. 17;
Schechter, R. Nathan, 65-66; Fathers 2:12.
See Schechter, R. Nathan, 66; also Lev. Rab. 34:3 Mordecai
Margulies, Midrash Wayyikra Rabbah (New York: Jewish Theological
Seminary, 1993), 775-777.
Note that this way of comparing the body with the divine is similar to, but not
the same as, prayers that thank God for the proper function of orifices; on
the latter, see the discussion in Boyarin, Carnal Israel, 34-35.
On the character and importance of bath houses for Jews in Late Antiquity, see
Yaron Eliav, "Did the Jews at First Abstain from Using the Roman Bath
House?" (Hebrew) Cathedra 7 (1995): 3-35; he discusses the
parallel to this story in Lev. Rab. 34:3 on 30-31; "The Roman Bath
as a Jewish Institution: Another Look at the Encounter Between Judiasm and the
Greco-Roman Culture," Journal for the Study of Judaism, 31/4
(2000): 416-454. Urbach cites the version of this story in Leviticus Rabbah,
juxtaposing it with Philo's anthropology in Sages, 226-227, and Nissan
Rubin cites the same version to argue that, "In the Tannaitic generations
before the destruction of the Temple, we do not hear of any opposition between
the body and the soul;" Nissan Rubin, "The Sages Conception of the
Body and Soul." In Essays in the Social Scientific Study of Judaism
and Jewish Society, edited by S. Fishbane and J. Lightstone (Concordia:
1990), 56. See also Goshen Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God,"
The literature on these topics is tremendous. Works that I have found
particularly helpful are See Bruce Lincoln, Myth, Cosmos, and Society:
Indo-European Themes of Creation and Destruction (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1986), 1-40; Aihe Wang, Cosmology and Political Culture
in Early China (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2000); John
Henderson, The Development and Decline of Chinese Cosmology (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1984), 1-58; David Gordon White, The Alchemical
Body (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1996), esp. 184-262.
Another example of microcosmic thinking appears in the late extracanonical
tractate Derek Eretz Zuta, in
which the eye appears as having elements corresponding to the ocean, the world,
Jerusalem, and a vision of the future Temple. The passage is, "Abba Isi
ben Yohanan in the name of Samuel the Small says: This world is similar to the
eyeball of a human ('adam). The white that is in it is the ocean that
surrounds the entire world. The black [i.e., the iris] that is in it, this is
the world. The pupil that is in the black, this is Jerusalem. The image that
is in the pupil, this is the Temple that will be built quickly, in our days,
and in the days of all Israel, Amen;" Der. Er. Zut. 9:13; Higger, Derekh Eretz,
150-151; also Preuss, Talmudic Medicine, 68 and Urbach, Sages,
See 'Abot R. Nat. A, ch. 31; 'Abot R. Nat. B, ch. 39; Schechter, R. Nathan, 90; 'Abot 5:1. This
statement is likely derived from the observation that the phrase "and God
said" appears nine times in Genesis One and once in Genesis Two.
On this question, see Kister, Studies, 42 and 'Abot R. Nat. A,
ch. 32; Schechter, R. Nathan, 92-93.
See Schechter, R. Nathan, 90; contrast 'Abot 5:1
I discuss "Scripture accounts it to him as if." in Making of a
Sage, Chapter Three. The discussion of negative acts is probably a
development of material in m. Sanh. 4:5; see also 'Abot R. Nat. A,
ch. 3; Schechter, R. Nathan, 17; Kister, Studies, 138. The
rhetorical move of comparing a person to the cosmos as a way of upholding
individual lives and contemning killing is similar to citing biblical verses
stating that humans are in the image of God to support the prohibition against
murder (see my discussion above).
See Schechter, R. Nathan, 91.
This motif appears in Genesis Rabbah to Gen 5:1, and the later midrashic
collection Exodus Rabbah includes the specification that the future
generations emerge from Adam's body; see Gen. Rab. 24:2
(Theodor-Albeck, Bereschit Rabba, 230-231); Exod. Rab. 40:3; Goshen Gottstein, "The Body as Image of God," 192-193).
See Schechter, R. Nathan, 91. In the Oxford manuscript of R. Nathan
A, the unit is attributed to R. Yose ha-Gelili, and Schechter includes this
in his text. The opening here is: "R. Yose Ha-Gelili says, Everything
that the Holy One, blessed by He created in the Earth He created in Adam"
(Schechter, R. Nathan, 91 n.8). Somewhat similar puns appear in the Mekilta
of R. Ishmael, Beshallah 8 (Horovitz-Rabin, Mechilta d'Rabbi
This is following Goldin's interpretation in R. Nathan, 127,
204nn.15,16. Another is "He created destructive insects in the world and
He created destructive insects in Adam: these are Adam's intestinal
worms." See also Schechter, R. Nathan, 92 n.12; Marcus Jastrow, A
Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic
Literature (New York: The Judaica Press, 1992), 1343-1344.
Goldin translates "breath" for "nose" in R. Nathan,
127 and 204 n.17.
Goldin reverses this item and the next one; see R. Nathan, 127 and 204
nn. 19,20; also Schechter's comments in R. Nathan, 92 n.16
The text in R. Nathan A literally says, "cheeks in the world and
cheeks in Adam: these are Adam's cheeks." I follow Goldin, R. Nathan,
127 and 204 n.24; also see Schechter's comments in A31,92n.21 and Lev. Rab.
18:1 (Margulies, Wayyikra Rabbah, 391).
Schechter suggests substituting "heart," which would reinforce an
order from top to bottom (R. Nathan, Appendix A, 147). The heart is
associated with a king in 'Abot R. Nat. B, ch. 13; Schechter, R.
Nathan, 30; I discuss this passage as well as the understandings of the
heart in rabbinic literature more broadly in Chapter Two of The Making of a
Preuss interprets this line to indicate that "one considered the
deep-lying type of navel to be the most common one;" Talmudic Medicine,
See Schechter, R. Nathan, 91-92.
There are significant difficulties in sorting out the order of the items among
the manuscript variants. Schechter suggests an order from above to below and
presents a reconstruction in R. Nathan, Appendix A, 147.
This omission contrasts with the passages discussed in Boyarin, Carnal
Israel, esp. 197-225; Satlow, "Jewish Constructions of
Nakeness;" and Fonrobert, Menstrual Purity, esp. 40-67, 103-127.
However, as noted above, Schechter suggests that it should be present instead
The connection between "living waters" and blood may be based on the
statement in Jer. 2:13 and 17:13 that God is the source of "living
waters" (linking this image with God being the source of human life).
See Preuss, Talmudic Medicine, 102-108; See 'Abot R. Nat. A, ch.
31, 33; Schechter, R. Nathan, 91-92 n.27; 94; Goldin, R. Nathan,
131; and Gen. Rab. 61:1; Theodor-Albeck, Bereshit Rabba, 657-658
including their listing of sources. In biblical literature, the heart and the
kidneys are often paired. See Jer 11:20; also Jer 17:10; Jer 20:12; Ps
7:10. Note also b. Ber. 61a-b and F. C. Porter's comments in "The Yeçer
Hara: A Study in the Jewish Doctrine of Sin." In Biblical and
Semitic Studies: Yale Historical and Critical Contributions to Biblical
Science. Yale Bicentennial Publications (New York: Charles Scribner's
Sons, 1901), 101-102.
See b. Arakin 15b.
I am summarizing Lev. Rab. 18:1 (Margulies, Vayyikra Rabbah, 389-393);
there are small differences in Eccles. Rab. 12:2 and b. S\abb. 151b.
Goldin suggests this in R. Nathan, 204 n.30.
See 2 Enoch 30:8; James Charlesworth, ed., The Old Testament
Pseudepigrapha, Vol. 1 (New York: Doubleday, 1983), 150; J. M. Evans,
"Microcosmic Adam," Medium Aevum 35 (1966):38-42.
On Indo-European creation imagery and the issue of directionality, I draw upon
the work of Lincoln, who argues that there are nine central homologies in
Indo-European cosmogonies: flesh/earth, bone/stone, hair/plants, blood/water,
eyes/sun, mind/moon, brain/cloud, head/heaven, breath/wind. Of these, four are
present in the rabbinic account, if we allow the nose to be the breath and the
forehead to be the eyes: hair/bushes, forehead/sun, blood/water, and
nose/wind. There are also clear differences, such as the rabbinic link of
bones with trees rather than stone. Also, few of the non-core items in the
various cosmogonies fit as well. See Lincoln, Myth, Cosmos, and Society,
1-40; also Alex Wayman, "The Human Body as Microcosm in India, Greek Cosmology, and Sixteenth Century Europe," History of Religions 22/2
(1982):172-190; and M. L. West, "The Cosmology of 'Hippocrates', De
Hebdomadibus," The Classical Quarterly 21/65 (1971):365-388.
Urbach discusses the possible significance of the Greater Bundahisn in
rabbinic thought, but in treating the issue of microcosmic imagery, he focuses
on Philo's study of plants; see Sages, 230, 233.