The Description in Genesis. According to Gen. ii. 8, Eden was the country where God "planted a garden," in which he placed the man "whom he had formed." It is therefore called the garden of God (Ezek. xxviii. 13, xxxi. 8, 9) or the garden of Yahweh (Isa. xi. 3), and is the very symbol of peace, for in it all animals which God had created lived on terms of friendship (Gen. ii. 19 sqq.) and the two human beings enjoyed uninterrupted communion with God (ii. 16, 22, iii. 8 sqq.). The garden was luxuriously furnished with vegetation (ii. 9), of which the fig tree (iii. 7), the "tree of life," and the "tree of knowledge of good and evil" find special mention. It was man's duty to dress and keep the garden (ii. 15); here he named the animals (ii. 20), and here the woman was fashioned out of his "rib" (or "side," ii. 21, 22). Upon the pair, living in this felicity, was put but one prohibition,--that they should not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (ii. 17). Through the serpent's guile the woman was led to disobey this command (iii. 1-5) and the man yielded to her temptation and also ate of the fruit (iii. 6). Deprived by this act of their first innocence, they made for themselves aprons of fig leaves, and hid themselves from God (iii. 7, 8). Thereupon God cursed the serpent, but promised future victory for the human race,--the so-called protevangelium (iii. 15). But man was punished by being driven from the garden, that he might not eat of the tree of life and so live forever (iii. 22). At the east of the garden God placed the cherubim and a flaming sword, turning every way by its own motion, to keep the road to the tree of life (iii. 24).
Other Similar Stories. Stories of an early period of innocence and happiness in the history of the human race are found among other peoples than the Hebrews. In India and Persia stories with marked superficial resemblances to the Genesis narrative have been found. When the Assyrian and Babylonian literature first began to be accessible many hoped that it would afford still closer parallels, as it ultimately did to the creation and flood narratives of Genesis. This hope was quickened by the discovery of a small cylinder seal, now in the British Museum, upon which were cut the figures of a male and female on opposite sides of a tree, with hands stretched toward it, while behind the female is an upright snake. But closer examination makes it doubtful whether this has any relationship to the Biblical temptation. The figures are clothed, and the male figure is certainly intended to represent a god, as it is provided with horns, and the female is quite probably intended to represent a goddess. What the serpent may mean is doubtful, though Jensen suggests it may represent a guardian. The meaning of the scene is likely to remain doubtful until the discovery of some written explanation of it in Babylonian mythology. The Babylonian legend of Adapa has been compared with the Biblical story, but the resemblance is not close. Adapa is the son of the god Ea, from whom he had received wisdom but not everlasting life. Adapa, who is a sort of half divine being, lives at Eridu as a local wise man, and priest of Ea's temple, to which it is his care to supply bread and water. While fishing one day in the Persian Gulf his boat was overturned by the south wind, whose wings Adapa at once broke in anger, so that for seven days it was not able to blow. Summoned before the god Anu to answer for this misdeed, Adapa was warned by Ea that Anu would offer him water of death and bread of death, both of which he must decline. Anu, however, relented and offered him bread of life and water of life, which Adapa declined and so missed his chance of eternal life.
Attempts to Locate Eden. The writer of the story of Eden evidently intended to convey a definite and exact idea of its location. He has described and named its rivers, and told what lands lay contiguous to them, and has even given the characteristics of these lands. But, explicit as he is, the identification of his details is so difficult that no consensus of opinion has been reached, nor does any seem to be in prospect. It would be almost safe to say that the views of the location of Eden are as numerous as the scholars who have investigated the problem. The earlier attempts at a solution may be passed by, as not conforming to geographical conditions as recent investigations have made them known; and the more or less eccentric views which would find the Biblical Paradise in Atlantis, Lemuria, or the North Pole, need only be mentioned. The suggestions which have found most approval in modern times are the following: (1) Eden was in the Far East. This view identifies the Pison with the Indus or Ganges, and Gihon with the Nile. The theory has several different forms, and in most of them can be regarded only as holding that Eden was in Utopia, the Land of the Golden Nowhere, for by no possibility can the Nile and the Indus or Ganges ever have been derived from one head. Some of the adherents of this view look upon the Genesis accounts as based upon ignorance of geographical facts or as wholly ideal. Delitzsch and Dillmann may be cited as the chief names in support of this hypothesis. The former says: "The inspiration of the Biblical writers did not, in matters of natural knowledge, raise them above the level of their age; it need, therefore, cause no surprise if the Biblical representation of Paradise bears marks of the imperfect geographical knowledge of the ancients." (2) Eden was near Eridu in southern Babylonia. This view based partly on the investigations of Eduard Glaser has been propounded and supported with ingenuity and learning by Fritz Hommel. He identifies the rivers Pison, Gihon, and Hiddekel with three wadies in northern Arabia, named respectively the Wady Dawasir, the Wady Rumma and the Wady Sirhan. But these are dry valleys and not rivers, and the identification is in other respects not easily reconciled with the Genesis statements. (3) Eden was in northern Babylonia near the city of Babylon. This location was first suggested by Friedrich Delitzsch in 1881. According to him Eden was the whole plain of Babylonia, and Paradise was located where the Tigris and Euphrates most nearly approach each other. The river Pison is the great canal Pallakopas, running west and south of the Euphrates (Assyrian pisanu = river bed) and the Gihon with the canal Shatt al-Nil, which runs east from the Euphrates from Babylon and rejoins it near Ur. On the whole this theory seems best to meet the conditions laid down in Genesis, but its acceptance among scholars has not been general. (4) Quite recently the view advocated by Gunkel that the original Eden was in heaven and the rivers are represented by the Milky Way and its four arms has found support among certain scholars. Upon this theory the earthly Eden is but a reflection and so may have been located in several places by different peoples, as for example in Babylonia, or Arabia. See ADAM, II.
ROBERT W. ROGERS.
Bibliography: The literature up to 1892 is in O. Zöckler, Biblische and kirchenhistorische Studien, v. 3 sqq., Munich, 1893, and in most of the commentaries on Genesis. Consult: Friedrich Delitzsch, Wo lag das Paradies? Leipsic, 1881 (a book of wide reputation); F. Spiegel, Eranische Alterthumskunde, i. 473 sqq., 522 sqq., ib. 1871; W. Baudissin, Studien zur semitischen Religionsgeschichte, ii. 189-190, ib. 1878; E. Glaser, Skizze der Geschichte . . . Arabiens, ii. 323 sqq., 341 sqq., Berlin, 1890; P. Jensen, Kosmologie, Strasburg, 1890; idem, in Keilinschriftliche Bibliothek, vi. 1, Berlin, 1900; C. H. Toy, in JBL, x (1891), 1-19; É. Nestle, Marginalien and Materialen, pp. 4-6, Tübingen, 1893; A. H. Sayce, "Higher Criticism" and the Monuments, pp. 95 sqq., London, 1894; A. Dillmann on Genesis in Kurzgefasstes exegetisches Handbuch, Leipsic, 1892, Eng. transl., 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1897; F. Hommel, Ancient Hebrew Tradition, London, 1897; H. Gunkel, on Genesis in Handkommentar zum Alten Testament, Göttingen, 1901; E. C. Worcester, Genesis in the Light of Modern Knowledge, pp. 148-256, New York, 1901; Schrader, KAT, pp. 520-530; DB, i. 643644; EB, iii. 3569-3583; JE, v. 36-39.