During the past week I’ve been doing a bit of reflective “navel gazing” on the subject of, well, navel gazing. Hardly novel this pondering of the navel, especially for one who spent six years with our nation’s naval forces. Seriously, one might be somewhat surprised, if not stunned, to learn that the human navel, perhaps better known to most as the “belly button,” has been the cause of tremendous theological debate for centuries. Specifically, the question that has led to such scholarly reflection is: Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons?
Did Adam and Even Have Belly Buttons?
I know, I know. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? It is almost as bad as the theologians of the Middle Ages arguing over how many angels could dance on the head of a pin. And, yes, they did debate that point (pun intended). Although such debates sound frivolous at best, nevertheless there is some merit to several of these questions. The great belly button debate, in particular, is very much worthy of our attention and further reflection, as it raises some very serious questions that challenge a few of the very foundations of our faith. I assure you, it is far from frivolous. Indeed, how a person responds to this question — “Did God create Adam and Eve with navels (belly buttons)?” — will have tremendous bearing on one’s conclusions as to the nature of God Himself and this marvelous universe He has created for us to enjoy.
Before we get into the particulars of this debate, it behooves us to take note of the purpose of this mark on the human anatomy. The umbilicus (aka: belly button or navel) is the indention (often called an “innie”) or protrusion (an “outie”) that eventually forms as the result of the removal of the umbilical cord from a newborn child. As a fetus develops within the mother’s womb, it is suspended in amniotic fluid and connected to the mother via a life-line known as the umbilical cord. This is a flexible tube that carries oxygen and nutrients to the growing fetus from the mother, and carries waste products away from the baby so that the mother’s body might eliminate them. At birth, when the baby now assumes these functions for itself, the tube is removed. Our belly buttons mark the spot where one was previously attached to one’s mother, and is a visible testimony to the fact that one was a product of a natural birth. This is information with which we are all very familiar. The above is not a new revelation for anyone. However, before stating the nature of the debate before us, it was essential to restate the obvious.
Consider carefully the following — Were Adam and Eve the products of natural childbirth? Were either of them conceived in the normal way? Were either of them carried for nine months in the womb of a woman, being nurtured during that time through an umbilical cord? Now, for the question — Did either Adam or Eve have belly buttons?! Well, how were they both created?
This will help answer the question. “Then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (soul)” (Gen. 2:7). Woman had not even been created at this point in time, so it is obvious that Adam did not come from the womb of one. “For man does not originate from woman” (1 Cor. 11:8). This being true, then how could Adam have had an umbilicus?! The even greater question, of course, is this: would not the presence of an umbilicus be a visible testimony to a falsehood?! Such a physical mark would be a visible sign that Adam came through natural childbirth from a woman, when in fact he did NOT. Thus, if God had chosen to place such a distinguishing mark on Adam, it would have been a false witness, a testimony to a LIE. The apostle Paul wrote, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that He raised Christ from the dead” (1 Cor. 15:14-15). If testimony is made about something that did not occur, then that is “false witness.” If testimony is made that Adam and Eve experienced a natural childbirth (evidenced by the presence of an umbilicus), and this couple did NOT originate via natural means, but rather supernatural means, then the testimony of the umbilicus is “false testimony,” and the one proclaiming such (in this case God) would be a liar.
The same problem exists for Eve. “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh at that place. And the Lord God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. And the man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man'” (Gen. 2:21-23). Eve also did not experience a natural birth, but rather a supernatural creation! Thus, for her to have been given an umbilicus would likewise be a false testimony. It would, by its presence upon her body, declare she was formed by natural generation, rather than by supernatural creation, and would forever be a visible statement of contradiction to the reality of her creation by the Creator.
Lest one think this is all rather frivolous and trivial, and that nobody really ever gave this matter much serious thought, and that Al Maxey is getting desperate for topics for his Reflections articles, it should be noted that the question as to whether Adam and Eve ever possessed such a distinguishing mark has not only generated debate in the religious world for centuries, but has even reached into our own United States Congress! In 1944, a subcommittee of the United States House of Representatives Military Committee (chaired by Congressman Durham of the state of North Carolina) refused to authorize a little 30-page booklet titled “Races of Man,” that was to be handed out to our soldiers, sailors and airmen fighting in World War II, because this little booklet had a drawing that depicted Adam and Eve with belly buttons! The members of this subcommittee ruled that showing Adam and Eve with belly buttons “would be misleading to gullible American soldiers.”
Some of the world’s great artists also wrestled with this problem, as did the Roman Catholic Church. In 1646, Sir Thomas Browne, a doctor and philosopher from Norwich, published a work titled “Pseudodoxia Epidemica” in which he sought to expose some of the “vulgar errors” then present in society. He devoted an entire chapter to “Pictures of Adam and Eve with Navels.” He points out that even such notables as Raphael and Michelangelo were guilty of such “vulgar errors.” He declared that to paint Adam and Eve with belly buttons would be to suggest that “the Creator affected superfluities, or ordained parts without use or office.” The Catholic Church, as a rule, seemed to be against artists depicting Adam and Eve with navels in their paintings, so this posed quite a problem for a number of these artists who didn’t want to antagonize the church. A good many of them, therefore, chose to take the “safe path” and simply painted the couple with strategically placed foliage, long hair, or forearms blocking the abdomen. And yet Michelangelo dared to paint Adam with a navel, and to place it right there on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, for which he was accused of heresy by some theologians of his day.
At the other end of the theological spectrum, there were some who maintained that God did create Adam and Eve with navels, although there was considerable debate as to exactly when this mark was placed upon them. This is known as The Omphalos Argument, and it is sub-divided into three basic theories: Pre-, Post-, and Mid-Umbilicism. The word Omphalos is a Greek word meaning “knob,” and was the word they typically employed to describe the navel. The Greeks had placed a “holy stone” in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi on the slope of Mt. Parnassus (near the Gulf of Corinth), and they called this rounded stone the Omphalos (the navel), since they believed this site marked the exact center of the universe, just as the navel is supposed to mark the center of the human body.
The man who is most often credited with being the primary promoter of this theory was the British naturalist and experimental zoologist, Philip Henry Gosse (1810-1888). He was a strict biblical fundamentalist, but also an avid student of nature and a huge fan of Charles Darwin. Needless to say, he had some difficulty reconciling the two. How does one make the vast testimony of nature (the geological and biological evidence) compatible with the testimony of Scripture (which he took very, very literally)? He formulated what has come to be known as The Omphalos Argument in which he advocated the view that God created the universe, including man (Adam and Eve), with the appearance of prior history. In other words, God created trees with rings already inside the trunks that testified to years of growth, including dry and wet climate periods, all of which never actually happened. Adam and Eve were given navels to present the appearance of natural childbirth, even though such never happened. This was all advocated in 1857 in his book: “Omphalos: An Attempt to Untie the Geological Knot.”
Thus, the earth, and the entire universe, only had the appearance of an advanced age. In actuality, he declared, it was only a few thousand years old (following a very literal interpretation of the “days” of creation — see my study of this in Reflections #56: The “Days” of Creation — Literal or Figurative?). In essence, Gosse theorized, and many young earth creationists have taken the same view today, God created the illusion of advanced age for the purpose of making a very young earth and universe appear to be billions of years old. It was all a fabrication. Yes, the universe does indeed appear to be of ancient age, and the testimony of nature seems to uphold this, but it was simply created by God to look that way. Brethren, I completely reject this theory, as it portrays our God as the Grand Deceiver of mankind. And for what purpose? Why would He create the appearance of natural generation by giving Adam and Eve an umbilicus? Why would He lead mankind to think the universe was billions of years old (creating the illusion that this was so), when in fact it was just the opposite? Why did God fabricate fossil remains of non-existent creatures and place them into rocks simply to leave the impression of advanced geological age? Why the great deception? It is totally out of character with the revealed nature of our God.
David Wise, in a work titled “The Omphalos Argument,” made the following observation: “Of course, the Omphalos argument fell into disrepute with everybody almost immediately. Many just laughed at it, but others were deeply offended by the idea of God being a lying and deceitful prankster who had written an enormous and superfluous lie in the rocks. But even worse for many believers was the thought that the events of the Bible, most importantly the Resurrection, might have also never happened, and so their faith might be based solely on a Divine Hoax.” David Wise then says: “So why bring it up again? Because it is still being used.” That’s right! “The Omphalos Argument” has never gone away, and there are those in the religious world today still employing it, to their eternal shame! In fact, in a very well-known textbook often used by young earth creationists (“Scientific Creationism” by Henry M. Morris), the author comes right out and declares that the universe was created with the appearance of advanced age, but the reality is that it is quite young. Yes, this nonsense is still being promoted today, and gullible disciples are still embracing it, never bothering to seriously contemplate what such a theory is declaring about their God.
It was Philip Henry Gosse himself, ironically, who carried this theory to its logical and ultimate conclusion, suggesting that if God could create the illusion, or appearance, of historical reality, then what would prevent Him from having created the entire universe last week with the appearance of age and history, and with the inhabitants of this world having had all of their memories of past experiences implanted? If indeed God can, and did, create such a universe just a few thousand years ago, He could just as easily have done the same last week … or yesterday … or five minutes ago! And who would be the wiser?! Again, although few would deny God certainly could have done such a thing had He so desired (He is all powerful, after all), the far greater question is: Would He have done such a thing? And if so, WHY?! To what purpose?! The whole theory, in the opinion of most scholars, collapses under the weight of its own absurdities.
Nevertheless, as previously noted, there are disciples of Christ who genuinely believe that Adam and Eve did possess navels, although there is some disagreement as to exactly when these were placed upon their bodies, and why. The three primary theories regarding this are as follows:
Pre-Umbilicism — This is the view that has already been presented above; the view that Adam and Eve were given navels at the moment of their creation by God. Some of these theorists get pretty bizarre in their speculations. Since man is created in the image of God (I would refer the reader to Reflections #51 — Imago Dei: Created in the Image of God), and since they regard this to in some way refer to physical characteristics, they actually suggest Adam and Eve were in some manner connected to the Creator with a cosmic umbilical cord. They also suggest that since Adam and Eve had a navel, and since they are “in the image of God,” that God Himself must have a navel, which leads to some absolutely heretical conjectures. They perceive our God, prior to the creation of the universe, as being some giant fetus floating out there in nothingness, attached to some massive placenta-like blob. The “point of severing” (an important term for them) was when this blob exploded (the “Big Bang”) and cut God loose. At some point He awoke, complete with a navel, to realize He was God, and then set out to create a universe out of the remnants of the mass that exploded. This is all so incredibly absurd that one wonders how a person could advocate it with a straight face!
Mid-Umbilicism — This particular view suggests that Adam’s navel was created when the Lord God took the rib from him and created the woman Eve. God chose to pull the rib from the center of Adam’s blank abdomen, thus forming a puncture wound. Therefore, the navel on Adam, unlike all future navels, was not a visible sign that he had come from a woman, but actually a visible sign that woman had come from him. Eve, according to these Mid-Umbilicists, never did have a navel, as there was no need for her to have one. There are even more bizarre theories connected with this — for example, a few who embrace this theory believe the woman to have been an inferior creation, one not even blessed with the hope of everlasting life. They were created solely for service to man, and when they die and return to dust, they are just blown away with the wind. This is referred to as the “Great Dusting Away.” Only man was created in the image of God, and only man was destined to immortality. Woman was just his temporary slave.
Post-Umbilicism — This last theory places the umbilicus on both Adam and Eve after their sin, and at the point of being driven from the garden. When Cain was later driven out because he had murdered his brother, we are told God “set a mark on him” (Gen. 4:15). The Mormons, of course, used to believe this mark was that God turned his skin black. After much protest lodged against them, the President of this church conveniently had a new revelation and reversed this racist position. Anyway, the Mid-Umbilicists similarly assume that a distinguishing mark was placed on Adam and Eve when they were driven from the garden (although Scripture never mentions any such mark being placed on them), and that this mark was the belly button. This “scar” in their midsection would forever be a reminder to this couple, and to all mankind, that they had, by their sin, been “severed from” their God, just as a baby is severed from its mother when the umbilical cord is cut, with the navel being a constant visible reminder of that previous connection now forever severed.
Although there are indeed a few people who embrace these views, they are not too vocal about their beliefs (as one can well imagine — these views being extremely bizarre). These theorists rank right up there with those in the “Flat Earth Society,” and other such unenlightened groups. It is my firm conviction that to suggest God created Adam and Eve with navels is to suggest He is the creator of a grand deception, and I simply am unwilling to make such an assertion about my God. The Scriptures inform us that the created universe declares the glory and majesty of our God; it is a powerful witness to who and what He is. But, if the testimony of most every aspect of our universe is a LIE, then what does that say about the One who created it?! An atheist in England wrote the following to a Christian who was advocating the “Appearance of History/Age” theory, “Would you really have us believe in an alleged divine being that behaves that way?!” This person has a very good point. Do we really want to proclaim such a God to unbelievers?! If He has intentionally deceived us in some areas, then why not in others?!
It is my conviction He has not deceived us at all. Did Adam and Eve have a navel? NO, they did not! I can say this confidently not because I have special knowledge of the nature of Adam and Eve, but because I have special knowledge of the One who created Adam and Eve. The inspired Scriptures have revealed our Creator to us, and He is not a God who sets out to create a deception, an illusion, an appearance which is completely contrary to the truth. One could never trust such a God.
The absence of navels on this first human couple would be a powerful, long-lasting witness to the creation itself, and to the power of our Creator God. Dr. Gary Parker, quoting from a study by Ken Ham, phrased it this way, and I would completely agree with this analysis: “Lack of a belly-button on Adam and Eve would be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the pre-Flood world, as the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren would come up and say, ‘Why don’t you have a belly-button?’ And they could then recount again and again, to generation after generation, how God had created them special by completed supernatural acts” (Creation Magazine, June, 1996). The absence of a navel would testify to Truth, and our God would be glorified; the presence of a navel would testify to a Lie, and our God’s glory would thereby be diminished.