The garden of eden is mythical

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #21

But the most important thing is that Genesis is not about mythological timeless truths. They are about historical events that took place in time.

They assert that the universe has a Beginning that created time and space. This is the basis of science and theology, not mythology. The Bible knew about the Beginning long before science and philosophy and it came from Gen 1 and John 1.

The Garden of Eden was not an identifiable place and does draw some characteristics from the ANE science, but these events are not mythological or timeless and independent of history, because they took place in time and space. It is experiential, based on human experience, not magic or theory.


Hi Roger, we’re certainly in agreement that the truths communicated in the garden narrative are not mythological. But I’m confused as to how the garden of Eden could simultaneously be “not an identifiable place” and yet the site of historic events that “took place in time and space.” Would you mind clarifying for me?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #23

We know that many things have happened that we know not when or hoe. Who invented the first wheel and where and when did he or she do it? Just because we don’t know who did it does not mean that it did not happen.

Since the Fall is a spiritual event, it is much less obvious that the invention of the wheel. That is why symbolism is used to indicate what happened spiritually and psychologically during this event and why.

(David Heddle) #24

Well, I’m guessing I’m in my familiar place in the BioLogos minority, but I believe there was an actual garden. From there my speculation runs wild. I do not think the entire earth was a paradise–we know, for example, there was already sin present. And besides, if the whole earth was a paradise, what was so special about the garden? So I view the garden as a supernaturally maintained enclave. God prevented nature’s red-tooth and claw from invading its boundaries, but outside the lioness stalked. I also speculate that Adam and Eve were not expelled because they would have lived forever** (against God’s wishes) if they ate from the tree of life–because that puts power in the tree that was outside the control of God–a major theological no-no. So continuing to speculate, I view the tree of life as sacramental and what was lost with the fall was the privilege of partaking in that sacrament.

But really, I readily admit I’m just making this stuff up as I go along in an attempt to line up all my ducks.

** I don’t think Adam and Eve would have lived forever, even if there had not been a fall. More speculation.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #25

The eastern horizon cosmology gives a reason as to why man had to subdue the earth in Genesis 1:28, because the wilderness was seen as liminal space between humanity and the horizon, so was inhabited by supernatural foes.

(Laura) #26

Interesting speculation – I as well don’t see why the garden couldn’t have been an actual, physical place. What do you make of Genesis 3:22 where God says, “He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”? I don’t see it as the tree having power outside of God’s control – simply that God chose this way of dealing with the situation rather than getting rid of the tree.

Though to be honest, that makes me think of the Tower of Babel, where God says, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” I always found that an odd statement, as if God was somehow threatened by humanity. I guess I’ve come to see it more as God’s concern for the functioning of the world as a whole, and perhaps that’s all that’s going on in Genesis too.

(David Heddle) #27

Fair enough. If God did vest the power of eternal physical life in the tree, and for some reason he simply didn’t want to destroy it ** or remove it or remove its power, then the plain reading of the expulsion makes sense. But when I think of our New Testament sacraments, I recall that I have often heard similar language, especially about communion, that in the sacrament one finds life.

Well… like the old saying goes–it’s not the stuff I don’t understand in scripture that keeps me awake, it’s the the stuff I do understand.

** Presumably the tree is in a heavenly green house, since it reappears, as I am sure you know, in Revelation 22:1-2.

EDIT: @Elle I forgot to mention I share your puzzlement, if that’s not too strong of a word, over the story of the Tower of Babel.


I don’t believe in an actual Adam and Eve either.
To me they just figuratively represent prminitive human beings, who also represent all of us, who faced with God’s command distrust and disobey.

My lack of belief in them does not stop me in believing the words of Jesus were faithfully recorded and finding in Him my salvation and purpose in life, and belief that He is the beginning and the end of all things.

(Jay Johnson) #29

There are so many opinions and speculations running wild that I think all of us are in the minority at one point or another. I agree in general, but not in all the particulars. (Surprise! haha). The idea of the whole earth, or even the garden itself, as a “paradise” is one of the many things read into the story over the centuries. Perhaps Milton is to blame.

Regarding the “specialness” of the garden, I am persuaded by Greg Beale’s argument that Eden, the garden (two different things!), and the “outside world” represent Israel’s temple – outer court, the Holy Place (garden), and the Holy of Holies (Eden). I would sum it up for discussion, but I unfortunately have to run right now. Maybe tomorrow?

Here is the article, EDEN, THE TEMPLE, AND THE CHURCH’S MISSION IN THE NEW CREATION, which was delivered as Beale’s presidential address to the ETS in 2004.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #30

Is it not possible that the opposite is true however?

However I see that Block also criticises the cosmic temple view, I think the view that the cosmoswas modeled off of the temple to be more coherent than the opposite in light of Isaiah 66:1

(RiderOnTheClouds) #31

I actually do

(Randy) #32

@Reggie_O_Donoghue, I’m interested. How and for what reasons–theological, scientific? Thanks.

(RiderOnTheClouds) #33

Kenneth Kitchen states that the inhabitants of the Near East were more likely to mythologise history than historicise myth.

(Randy) #34

Hm yes, but that’s a generalization, isn’t it?. Does that apply to the stories of Enkidu, Mut, Marduk, Gilgamesh? Or is it more like Lamoureux’ 4 motifs of De Novo Creation, Lost Idyllic Age, Great Flood, and Tribal Formation (with a founding male)?

I’m still learning. C S Lewis said that a myth is a story that once you heard, you realized you already knew. Myth can be a transcultural understanding of these things too, I’d imagine–and God was accommodating to the science of the age.

I don’t know. I have a lot to learn. I’m not being dogmatic! (I originally pasted some cartoons but realized they may have a copyright on them)

(Jay Johnson) #35

Interesting article. Life has intervened, so I’ll have to return tomorrow for a fuller reply. Sorry. In the meantime, could you elaborate on this objection a little?

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #36

That is a bad definition of Biblical truth, which is truth because it corresponds to experience and logic, not feeling and tradition.

(Phil) #37

Roger, I agree that we cannot let emotions and subjective feeling determine what we hold as truth, but I think Randy’s quote of Lewis is different, in that there are foundational truths we are reminded of through story, and the story deepens our understanding of those truths and concepts. That is in part why Jesus taught through parable, and why we read stories to our children rather than lecture them about behavior. What in more meaningful: telling a child to avoid false exaggerations of peril, or telling them to “don’t cry wolf?”
How that relates to early Genesis is more complex, but regardless of whether literal-historical or metaphorical-symbolic, I think the meaning it carries for us is held in the story or “myth” that is told.

(Randy) #38

You are right. I was meaning that God was using myth to communicate his truth, not that he used the emotion of myth as truth because one felt it must be true. There’s another Thread about myth which I think explained it better than I could, and I don’t understand adequately yet.
I have just been thinking about those who are more mature in the Christian faith who have struggled with science and faith more than we have, they’re on this discourse. This would include you. I actually think your history would be very interesting, and if you ever get the time, I would really like to hear it.
For example, how did you first come to Faith? When did you first encounter different scientific explanations of creation, and how did you appropriate them? What did you find was most helpful in coming to your decision?

(Robin) #39

I read some of the lengthy article you cited. What is this “mythical in-between space” and the concern about “fundamentalist” views here? If no one can specifically say where it might have been, then no one can say. And that is about it.

I think that, behind all of this is the question as to whether we had ancestors who lived in some sort of place where they screwed up royally and set the human race on a bad course — from which we needed rescuing and were/are unable to rescue ourselves.

I like all the speculation, but when you say “the Garden of Eden is mythical” – what does this say about the concept of the Fall of humankind? humanity’s need for redemption? for forgiveness of sin? the concept of original sin, etc???

Some of the issues here may be geographical — i.e., can we locate the place? why or why not? — but the rest is theological. And for that, you will get a variety of answers…some of which may work and others not.

(Robin) #40

Reggie…could you provide a specific reference for this from Kitchen?? I have his On the Reliabilitty of the Old Testament…and I know that I have read another of his works from the library. With re to the first, he certainly would not say “mythologized history” of the Exodus…and certainly appears to believe the Flood accounts from ANE reflect some unusually vast flood more deadly than others had been (so so Hallo, Kramer, and some others)…he comments on the location of the four rivers connected with the Eden story, and certainly does comparisons of Genesis 1 —11 with other ANE accounts…And he does take a swipe at minimalist writers with re the later Exodus accounts.

I would just like to know the book, plus page (s) on which Kitchen makes the statement you say he did – or which you paraphrase here. Thanks.