Garden of Eden

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The Garden of Eden as depicted in the first or left panel of Bosch's The Garden of Earthly Delights Triptych. The panel includes many imagined and exotic African animals.[1]

The Garden of Eden (Hebrew גַּן עֵדֶן, Gan ʿEdhen) is the Biblical "garden of God", described most notably in the Book of Genesis chapters 2 and 3, and but also in the book of Ezekiel.[2] The "garden of God" (not, however, the name Eden), is mentioned in Genesis 14, and the trees of the garden are mentioned in Ezekiel 31. The Book of Zechariah and the Book of Psalms also refer to trees and water in relation to the Temple without explicitly mentioning Eden.[3]

Traditionally, the favoured derivation of the name "Eden" was from the Akkadian edinnu, derived from a Sumerian word meaning "plain" or "steppe". Eden is now believed to be more closely related to an Aramaic root word meaning "fruitful, well-watered."[2]

The Story of Eden echoes the Mesopotamian myth of a king, as a primordial man, who is placed in a divine garden to guard the tree of life.[4] In the Hebrew Bible, Adam and Eve are depicted as walking around the Garden of Eden naked due to their innocence.[5][6]Eden and its rivers may signify the real Jerusalem, the Temple of Solomon, or the Promised Land. It may also represent the divine garden on Zion, and the mountain of God, which was also Jerusalem. The imagery of the Garden, with its serpent and cherubs, has been compared to the images of the Solomonic Temple with its copper serpent, the nehushtan, and guardian cherubs.[7]

Biblical narratives[edit]

"Expulsion from Paradise", marble bas-relief by Lorenzo Maitani on the Orvieto Cathedral, Italy
The Expulsion illustrated in the English Caedmon manuscript, c. AD 1000

Eden in Genesis[edit]

The second part of the Genesis creation narrative, in Genesis 2:4–3:24, opens with God creating the first human, whom he places in a garden "in the east, in Eden". God tasks the man to tend the garden, but forbids him to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. God then forms a woman from a rib of the man to be a companion to the man. The first man and woman break God's command and eat the fruit of the forbidden tree, and God expels them from the garden to prevent them from eating of a second tree, the tree of life, and living forever. God then placed cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth on the east side of the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the tree of life.

Genesis 2:10–14 lists four rivers in association with the garden of Eden: Pishon, Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates. It also refers to the land of Cush, which is often incorrectly translated as Ethiopia, but in this case thought to be to Cossaea, a Greek name for the Kassite. These are lands north of Elam, immediately to the east of ancient Babylon, which, unlike Ethiopia, does lie within the region being described.[8] In Antiquities of the Jews by the first-century Jewish historian Josephus, he identifies the Pishon as what "the Greeks called Ganges," and the Geon as the Nile.[9]

Eden in Ezekiel[edit]

In Ezekiel 28:12–19 the prophet Ezekiel (the "son of man") sets down God's word against the king of Tyre: the king was the "seal of perfection", adorned with precious stones from the day of his creation, placed by God in the garden of Eden on the holy mountain as a guardian cherub. But the king sinned through wickedness and violence, and so he was driven out of the garden and thrown to the earth, where now he is consumed by God's fire: "All the nations who knew you are appalled at you, you have come to a horrible end and will be no more."

The Eden in Ezekiel appears to be located in Lebanon.Stordalen 2000, p. 164 "[I]t appears that the Lebanon is an alternative placement in Phoenician myth (as in Ez 28,13, III.48) of the Garden of Eden",[10] and there are connections between paradise, the garden of Eden and the forests of Lebanon (possibly used symbolically) within prophetic writings.[11] Edward Lipinski and Peter Kyle McCarter have suggested that the Garden of the gods (Sumerian paradise), the oldest Sumerian version of the Garden of Eden, relates to a mountain sanctuary in the Lebanon and Anti-Lebanon ranges.[12]

Proposed locations[edit]

Map showing the Tigris and Euphrates rivers

Iran (Tabriz)[edit]

David M. Rohl (British Egyptologist and former director of the Institute for the Study of Interdisciplinary Sciences) posits a location for the legendary Garden of Eden in Iranian Azerbaijan, in the vicinity of Tabriz upon which the Genesis tradition was based. According to Rohl, the Garden of Eden was then located in a long valley to the north of Sahand volcano, near Tabriz. He cites several geographical similarities and toponyms which he believes match the biblical description. These similarities include the nearby headwaters of the four rivers of Edin, the Tigris (Heb. Hiddekel, Akk. Idiqlat), Euphrates (Heb. Perath, Akk. Purattu), Gaihun-Aras (Heb., Gihon), and Uizun (Heb. Pishon)[13]

Parallel concepts[edit]

Spanish-Arabic world map from 1109 AD with Eden in east (at top)

Religious views[edit]

"The Garden of Eden" by Thomas Cole (c.1828)

Jewish eschatology[edit]

In the Talmud and the Jewish Kabbalah,[16] the scholars agree that there are two types of spiritual places called "Garden in Eden". The first is rather terrestrial, of abundant fertility and luxuriant vegetation, known as the "lower Gan Eden". The second is envisioned as being celestial, the habitation of righteous, Jewish and non-Jewish, immortal souls, known as the "higher Gan Eden". The Rabbanim differentiate between Gan and Eden. Adam is said to have dwelt only in the Gan, whereas Eden is said never to be witnessed by any mortal eye.[16]

According to Jewish eschatology,[17][18] the higher Gan Eden is called the "Garden of Righteousness". It has been created since the beginning of the world, and will appear gloriously at the end of time. The righteous dwelling there will enjoy the sight of the heavenly chayot carrying the throne of God. Each of the righteous will walk with God, who will lead them in a dance. Its Jewish and non-Jewish inhabitants are "clothed with garments of light and eternal life, and eat of the tree of life" (Enoch 58,3) near to God and His anointed ones.[18] This Jewish rabbinical concept of a higher Gan Eden is opposed by the Hebrew terms gehinnom[19] and sheol, figurative names for the place of spiritual purification for the wicked dead in Judaism, a place envisioned as being at the greatest possible distance from heaven.[20]

In modern Jewish eschatology, it is believed that history will complete itself and the ultimate destination will be when all mankind returns to the Garden of Eden.[21]

Islamic view[edit]

The Garden of Eden is spoken about prominently in the Quran and the tafsir. This includes surah Sad, which features 21 verses on the subject, surah Baqarah, sura al-A'raf, and sura al-Hijr. The narrative mainly surround the expulsion of iblis from the garden and his subsequent tempting of Adam and Eve. After iblis refuses to follow Gods' command to bow down to Adam, Allah transforms him into Satan as a punishment. Unlike the Biblical account, the Quran mentions only one tree in Eden, the tree of immortality, which Allah specifically forbade to Adam and Eve. Satan, disguised as a serpent, repeatedly told Adam to eat from the tree, and eventually both Adam and eve did so, thus disobeying Allah.[22] These stories are also featured in the Islamic hadith collections, including al-Tabari.[23]

Latter-day Saints[edit]

"The Garden of Eden" by Lucas Cranach der Ältere, a 16th-century German depiction of Eden.

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons or Latter-day Saints) believe that the Garden of Eden was located in present-day Jackson County, Missouri.[24]


Garden of Eden motifs most frequently portrayed in illuminated manuscripts and paintings are the "Sleep of Adam" ("Creation of Eve"), the "Temptation of Eve" by the Serpent, the "Fall of Man" where Adam takes the fruit, and the "Expulsion". The idyll of "Naming Day in Eden" was less often depicted. Much of Milton's Paradise Lost occurs in the Garden of Eden. Michelangelo depicted a scene at the Garden of Eden in the Sistine Chapel ceiling. In the Divine Comedy, Dante places the Garden at the top of Mt. Purgatory. For many medieval writers, the image of the Garden of Eden also creates a location for human love and sexuality, often associated with the classic and medieval trope of the locus amoenus.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gibson, Walter S. Hieronymus Bosch. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1973. p. 26. ISBN 0-500-20134-X
  2. ^ a b Cohen 2011, pp. 228–229
  3. ^ Luttikhuizen 1999, p. 37
  4. ^ Davidson 1973, p. 33.
  5. ^ Miller 3-in-1: Blue Like Jazz, Through Painted Deserts, Searching for God, Donald Miller – 2007
  6. ^ From Adam to Noah –The Numbers Game, Leonard Timmons – 2012
  7. ^ Stordalen 2000, p. 307–310.
  8. ^ Speiser, 1994.
  9. ^ Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews. Book I, Chapter 1, Section 3.
  10. ^ Brown 2001, p. 138
  11. ^ Swarup 2006, p. 185
  12. ^ Smith 2009, p. 61
  13. ^ Cline, Eric H. (2007). From Eden to Exile: Unraveling Mysteries of the Bible. National Geographic. p. 10. ISBN 978-1-4262-0084-7.
  14. ^ Mathews 1996, pp. 96.
  15. ^ Cohen 2011, pp. 229.
  16. ^ a b Gan Eden – JewishEncyclopedia; 02-22-2010.
  17. ^ Olam Ha-Ba – The Afterlife -; 02-22-2010.
  18. ^ a b Eshatology – JewishEncyclopedia; 02-22-2010.
  19. ^ "Gehinnom is the Hebrew name; Gehenna is Yiddish." Gehinnom – Judaism 101 websourced 02-10-2010.
  20. ^ "Gan Eden and Gehinnom". Retrieved 2011-06-30. 
  21. ^ "End of Days". End of Days. Aish. Retrieved 1 May 2012. 
  22. ^ the Quran, an encyclopedia, p. 11, Oliver Leaman, 2006
  23. ^ Mecca and Eden: ritual, relics, and territory in Islam. p. 16, Brannon Wheeler, 2006
  24. ^ Bruce A. Van Orden, “I Have a Question: What do we know about the location of the Garden of Eden?”, Ensign, January 1994, pp. 54–55.
  25. ^ Curtius 1953, p. 200,n.31


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