This is part four in the series “When Jesus Gave Birth.” You can find the introduction to the series here and the second and third parts here and here.
How can the piercing of Jesus side and the flow of blood and water (John 19:34) have anything to do with the creation of Eve (Genesis 2:21-22)? Didn’t God use one of Adam’s rib to form Eve? There’s no mention of a rib in John 19. Is there?
The verbal and circumstantial parallels between the piercing of Christ side (John 19:34) and the creation of Eve (Genesis 2:21-22) boils down to these:
1. Death as sleep. The piercing and flow follow the death of Jesus. Genesis tells us that prior to taking Adam’s side to form the woman he caused Adam to go into a deep sleep (tardema). Deep sleep is commonly used of a night’s sleep as in Job 14:13; 33:15 and Proverbs 19:15. But here in Genesis 2:21-22 it is the same special work of God as when Abraham slept before the covenant with God (Genesis 15:12). Since Jesus rises again, His death is likewise comparable to sleep. Jesus makes the comparison between sleep and death explicit in John 11:11 before the resurrection of Lazarus.
2. Opened side. While “rib” is a good rendering of what God took from Adam in Genesis 2 it is unnecessarily restrictive. The Hebrew may refer to a rib but it more broadly means side. Besides it use in Genesis 2, it is used in the Old Testament for the sides of objects, buildings and hills. Side was also in the minds of the Greek LXX translators when they rendered the Hebrew as pleura. The substance God uses to form the woman is found in the man’s side. John 19:34 and Genesis 2 also share the unique fact that plerua is in both instances is singular when it normally occurs in the plural. It is the side (pleura singular) of Christ where John locates the piercing. Just as God takes from Adam’s side (pluera singular) so the solider pierces Christ’s.
3. The Substance. In Genesis God takes a part of Adam to fashion a helper just like him. In a similar fashion, what flows from Jesus side is a representations of his two natures. The blood stands for his flesh or humanity while the water His spirit and divinity. You can somewhat see this in the standard views on the flow of blood and water reviewed in the second part to this series. But I would also like to turn you attention to this post where I quote a work that delves a little more deeply into this issue.
These verbal and circumstantial parallels are by no means definitive. With just a few similarities it’s clear how Brown and Stibbe could have dismissed it. While the church fathers may have believed in such a connection this in no way proves that John intended it.
But strengthening the connection are the multiple themes in the gospel which point to it. The greatest support for the connection may not necessarily be the ‘textual’ similarities in 19:34 but rather how it corresponds so neatly with John’s message and themes. Volume, as we have already seen, is not the only way to judge an allusion.
We’ll begin to look at how this allusion fits John’s message in our next post.