Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

Eden, Garden of, in the Bible, first home to humankind. In it were the trees of life and of the knowledge of good and evil. Having eaten the forbidden fruit of the latter tree, Adam and Eve were banished from the garden and God's presence. Eden, often called Paradise, is symbolic of eschatological fertility and bounty. It is also mentioned in the Qur'an.
Not to be confused with Eden Gardens.

The Garden of Eden (Hebrew "pleasure" גַּן עֵדֶן Arabic: جنات عدن,) is described in the Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. This garden forms part of the creation myth and theodicy of the Abrahamic religions. The creation story in Genesis relates the geographical location of both Eden and the garden to four rivers (Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, Euphrates), and three regions (Havilah, Assyria, and Cush [often translated as Ethiopia]).

Eden's location remains the subject of controversy and speculation among some Christians. There are hypotheses that locate Eden at the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates, in Iraq (Mesopotamia), Africa, and the Persian Gulf, among others though some Christians see it as metaphorical. Some Christians even believe that Eden existed on North America before the separation of the continents.


The origin of the term "Eden", which in Hebrew means "delight", may lie with the Akkadian word edinu, which itself derives from the Sumerian term E.DIN. The Sumerian term means steppe, plain, desert or wilderness, so the connection between the words may be coincidental. This word is known to have been used by the Sumerians to refer to the arid lands west of the Euphrates. Alan Millard has put forward a case for the name deriving from the Semitic stem dn, meaning "abundant, lush".

The story from source texts


In the Garden of Eden story of the Biblical book of Genesis God molds Adam from the dust of the Earth, then forms Eve from Adam's "side" (rib in the King James Version), and places them both in the garden, eastward in Eden. "Male and female he created them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, ... " (Genesis 5:2) It may be allegorical, in as much as "Adam" may be a general term, like "Man" and refers to the whole of humankind.

God charges Adam to tend the garden in which they live, and specifically commands Adam not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is quizzed by the serpent why she avoids eating off this tree. In the dialogue between the two, Eve elaborates on the commandment not to eat of its fruit. She says that even if she touches the tree she will die. The serpent responds that she will not die, rather she would become like a god, knowing good and evil and persuades Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil then Adam eats from it too. Then they become aware. God finds them, confronts them, and judges them for disobeying; it is also widely believed that the snake was the devil in disguise.

It is at this point that 'God expels them from Eden', to keep Adam and Eve from partaking of the Tree of Life. The story says that God placed cherubim with an omnidirectional "flaming sword" to guard against any future entrance into the garden.

In the account, the garden is planted "eastward, in Eden," and accordingly "Eden" properly denotes the larger territory which contains the garden, rather than being the name of the garden itself: it is, thus, the garden located in Eden. The Talmud also states (Brachos 34b) that the Garden is distinct from Eden.

Book of Jubilees

The Book of Jubilees, canonical in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, relates a tradition that the angels did not place Adam in the garden until his 40th day, and his wife Eve on the 80th day. Later on (4:23-27), it states that they also conducted Enoch into the garden of Eden when he was translated from the Earth at age 365, where he records the evil deeds of mankind for all time — adding further that the garden is one of four holy places that the Lord has on Earth, the other three being Mount Sinai, Mount Zion, and the 'Mount of the East' (usually assumed by scholars to mean Mount Ararat).


The Book of Genesis is the primary source of Scriptural speculation with regards to geography, but still contains little information on the garden itself. It was home to both the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, as well as an abundance of other vegetation that could feed Adam and Eve.

Suspected locations

There have been a number of claims as to the actual geographic location of the Garden of Eden, though many of these have little or no connection to the text of Genesis. Most put the Garden somewhere in the Middle East.

Southern Mesopotamia and The Persian Gulf

The garden region according to Genesis 2 was close to a sizable body of water (the mandate to rule fish of the sea), supported a variety of grasses, herbs, shrubs, and fruit trees, had a variety of animals, was in a region generally dry (no rain had fallen), experienced seasonal flooding, enjoyed warm climate with cool evenings or mornings, and was dusty with thorns but suitable for flocks. On its east, Nod was conducive to livestock and yielded ores of iron, copper, and tin or zinc. The cities and proper names linked with Eden in various Biblical narratives signify locations in Syria, Assyria, and Babylonia (except Sheba in southern Arabia). Eden being east of Canaan points to Assyria or Babylonia. The etymology of the Hebrew "eden" (20 instances in the Old Testament) indicates that Eden may signify either a place (steppe or fertile plain) or pleasure, or both. Concerning the rivers in Genesis 2, Pishon wound through Havilah ("land of sand"), which points to northern Arabia east of Edom and Moab, based on Scriptural evidence beyond Genesis. Havilah's natural resources agree with Arabia in general. The second river Gihon wound around Cush, a namesake of various centers in Arabia, Babylonia and Assyria, again indicating an Arabian-Mesopotamian context. The Kerhkha and Karun rivers from Kassite country in the Zagros mountains are possibilities. The remaining rivers are the well-recognized Tigris and Euphrates. These considerations point to Babylonia for the garden location. From other details, the garden might have been located in the land of the Ubaidians, a pre-Sumerian culture, near the ancient city of Ur. The garden could have existed above or below the present datum, given seaward extension of the Tigris-Euphrates delta and submerged shorelines from past variations in sea level.

Satellite photos reveal two dry riverbeds flowing toward the Persian Gulf near where the Tigris and Euphrates in Mesopotamia also terminate. This would account for four easterly flowing rivers. Archaeologist Juris Zarins claimed that the Garden of Eden was situated at the head of the Persian Gulf, where the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers run into the sea at , from his research on this area using information from many different sources, including Landsat images from space. In this theory, the Bible’s Gihon River would correspond with the Al-Qurnah in Iraq, and the Pishon River would correspond to the Wadi Al-Batin river system (also now called the Kuwait River) that 2,500-3000 years ago drained the now dry, but once quite fertile central part of the Arabian Peninsula from the Hijaz mountains 600 miles to the South West.

Sumer and Dilmun (Bahrain)

Some of the historians working from within the cultural horizons of southernmost Sumer, where the earliest surviving non-Biblical source of the legend lies, point to the quite genuine Bronze Age entrepôt of the island theorized by some to be Dilmun (now Bahrain) in the Persian Gulf, described as 'the place where the sun rises' and 'the Land of the Living'. The setting of the Babylonian creation myth, Enûma Elish, has clear parallels with the Genesis narratives. After its actual decline, beginning about 1500 BC, Dilmun developed such a reputation as a long-lost garden of exotic perfections that it may have influenced the story of the Garden of Eden. Some interpreters have tried to establish an Edenic garden at the trading-center of Dilmun.

There is also a Sumerian story about a mountainous kingdom accessible from Sumer by river called Aratta. Recent excavations of the Jiroft civilization in the southeast highlands of Iran have led prominent Iranian archaeologists to suggest that Jiroft was Aratta, although this location is not connected with Sumer by river.


Another possibility was proposed by archaeologist David Rohl, based on archaeological evidence, putting the garden in north-western Iran. According to him, the Garden was located in a vast plain referred to in ancient Sumerian texts as Edin (lit. "Plain", or "Steppe") east of the Sahand Mountain, near Tabriz. He cites several geological similarities with Biblical descriptions, and multiple linguistic parallels as evidence. In the Sumerian texts, an emissary is sent north through "Seven Gates", also known as Mountain passes in ancient texts. Hebrew lore includes references to Seven layers of Heaven, the 7th being the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. Just beyond the seventh gate, or pass, was the kingdom of Aratta. The region today is bound by a large mountain range to the North, East and South, and marshlands to the west. The eastern mountain region has a pass leading in and out of the Edin region. This fits with the Biblical geography of Eden containing marshlands to the west, and the Land of Nod to the east, outside the Garden. Geographically speaking, it would form a "wall" around the Garden, conforming to the definition of the Persian word pairidaeza (paradise) and the Hebrew word gan (garden), both of which mean a "walled garden or park". Additionally, this location would be bound by the four biblical rivers to the West, Southwest, East and Southeast.

Taurus Mountains/Anatolia

The text asserts that the Garden was planted in the eastern part of the region known as Eden, and that in Eden, the river divided into four branches: Hiddekel (also known as Tigris), Euphrates, Pishon and Gihon. While the identity of the first two is commonly accepted, the latter two rivers have been the subject of much debate. If the Garden of Eden had been near the sources of the Tigris and the Euphrates, then it might be located in eastern Anatolia, specifically the Armenian Highland in eastern Turkey.

Michael Sanders, director of expeditions for the Mysteries of the Bible Research Foundation, in Irvine, California, says that the Garden of Eden is in eastern Turkey, because the Tigris and Euphrates take their source in the mountains there. Sanders identifies the 4 rivers of Eden as the Murat River, the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the north fork of the Euphrates. In support of this, Sanders cites a satellite image showing that "a river rises out of Eden and divides into four". This is centred at approximately

In Assyrian records, there is mention of a "Beth Eden" (House of Eden), a small Aramaean state, located on the bend of the Euphrates River just south of Carchemish, in the vicinity of Urfa and Harran (Turkey) at approximately . Excavations in Göbekli Tepe and other sites in the Beth Eden area have yielded evidence of a sophisticated pre-agricultural semi-nomadic society that lived there up to about 8,000 BC, and then transitioned to a sedentary lifestyle based on agriculture in the Neolithic Revolution.


Several religious traditions identify the location of the garden of Eden with the city of Jerusalem. Varied Biblical and circumstantial evidence has been cited that to suggest that this is the case.

In Jerusalem, there is a water spring called Gihon. This is said to be a part of an underground river (though this claim has been disputed), which would link this spring to the Gihon River of Eden.

Eden is also tied with Jerusalem by the prophet Ezekiel. In Ezekiel 28:13-14, he recorded, "You were in Eden, the garden of God;" ... "You were on the holy mount of God." In most Jewish and Christian traditions, "the holy mount of God" is Mt. Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem (see , e.g.). Furthermore, Ezekiel records a vision of a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem with a river flowing from under its threshold (47:1-12) towards the Dead Sea, bringing life to that which is dead. Because of its supernatural nature, this river has been associated with the "river of life in Eden (the river which watered and flowed from Eden). Revelation 21:1-22:5 in Christian scripture records a similar vision of a "river of life" and "trees of life" that heal in a new Jerusalem, just as there was a river of life and tree of life in Eden.

Finally, Jewish and Christian tradition see symbolism within the Temple, which once stood in Jerusalem and can only be rebuilt in Jerusalem, which connects it to Eden; the menorah as the tree of life, for example.


Some Kabbalists teach that there is a passage in Hebron to the Garden of Eden.


Other literalists point out that the world of Eden's time was destroyed during Noah's Flood and it is therefore impossible to place the Garden anywhere in post-flood geography. There is also an attempt to tie this with the mysterious sunken land of "Atlantis" mentioned by Plato.


Another location that has been mentioned is Sundaland in the South China Sea. In this theory, the current Tigris and Euphrates rivers would not be the ones referred to in the story, but rather later rivers named after two earlier ones, just as colonists often name features of their new land after similar features in their homeland. This idea also resolves the apparent problem in the theory that the rivers had a common source, which the current rivers lack.


Some people believe that Garden of Eden was somewhere in Northeast Africa. Evidence given in support of this includes the facts that the oldest human remains have been found in Africa, and that the Gihon is usually thought to be a name for the Nile.

Mòinteach Bharbhais (Scotland)

According to some strands of Scottish Gaelic tradition the Garden was located in Mòinteach Bharbhais (Barvas Moor) on the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. Climate change has since altered the topography and prevailing weather considerably.

Jackson County, Missouri

For members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons or Latter Day Saints), the Garden of Eden is believed to have been located in present-day Jackson County, Missouri. Independence, Missouri was revealed to be the "center place" of Zion and the original dwelling place of Adam and Eve in the Garden which God planted "eastward in Eden". According to Joseph Smith, Jr., Adam and Eve traveled 85 miles north to the valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman after they had transgressed and were driven from the Garden. (Adam-ondi-Ahman is sometimes mistakenly associated with the location of the garden itself). As for its location in the western hemisphere, some Latter-day Saints have presumed the continents were not yet separate before the Great Flood and that this approach would be consistent with the configuration of the super-continent Pangaea. While geologists consider that the continents had separated by the Cretaceous period, some Latter-day Saints and other Christians have pointed to the account in Genesis which states that the earth was "divided" in the days of Peleg.

In the footnotes of the Pearl of Great Price that are published by the Church, it is claimed that there were lands and rivers that were given names later attached to other lands and rivers as in the Book of Genesis. The geographic descriptions of Eden in the Bible would therefore refer to entirely different lands and rivers than those carrying the same names today, whose names were transposed after the biblical flood to local lands and rivers in the Near East. By one account Joseph Smith taught that Noah built the ark near modern-day South Carolina. Thus, it is argued, the offspring of Noah populated the eastern hemisphere.

Eden as paradise

"Paradise" (Hebrew פרדס PaRDeS) used as a synonym for the Garden of Eden shares a number of characteristics with words for 'walled orchard garden' or 'enclosed hunting park' in an ancient Persian language. This word "paradise" occurs three times in the Old Testament, but always in contexts other than a connection with Eden: in the Song of Solomon iv. 13: "Thy plants are an orchard of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard"; Ecclesiastes 2. 5: "I made me gardens and orchards, and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits"; and in Nehemiah ii. 8: "And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's orchard, that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me." In the Song of Solomon, it is clearly "garden;" in the second and third examples "park." In the post-Exilic apocalyptic literature and in the Talmud, "paradise" gains its associations with the Garden of Eden and its heavenly prototype. In the Pauline Christian New Testament, there is an association of "paradise" with the realm of the blessed (as opposed to the realm of the cursed) among those who have already died, with literary Hellenistic influences observed by numerous scholars. The Greek Garden of the Hesperides was somewhat similar to the Christian concept of the Garden of Eden, and by the 16th century a larger intellectual association was made in the Cranach painting (see illustration). In this painting, only the action that takes place there identifies the setting as distinct from the Garden of the Hesperides, with its golden fruit.

Alan Millard has hypothesized that the Garden of Eden does not represent a 'geographical' place, but rather represents 'cultural memory' of "simpler times", when man lived off God's bounty (as "primitive" hunters and gatherers still do) as opposed to toiling at agriculture (being "civilized"). Of course there is much dispute between Judeo-Christian and secular scholars as to the plausibility of this idea - the refuting claim being that cultivation and agricultural work were present both before and after the "Garden Life".

The Second Book of Enoch, of late but uncertain date, states that both Paradise and Hell are accommodated in the third sphere of heaven, Shehaqim, with Hell being located simply " on the northern side:" see Seventh Heaven.

Eden as a Kingdom

The structure and order defined by God in the Garden of Eden is also believed to have been the early structure for the Kingdom of God. Immediately following the creation of Man, God commands them to "fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground" (). The obvious references to domination are important to the Christian view of Man's relation to nature and Man's role in the Kingdom of God.

Later, in Chapter 3, the "Fall of Man" is followed by the pronouncement of a curse. This curse contains references to the enmity between the Kingdom and its subjects—as had been described in 1:28—that would affect the kingdom unto the present day: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers."

Eden in art

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 Michelangelo Buonarroti 022.jpg at the Garden of Eden in the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Also, in the film Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Captain Spock has a painting hanging in his room he calls "Expulsion from Paradise", depicting Adam and Eve being expelled from Eden. He explains to a fellow member of the crew that it is a personal reminder that all things must end.

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