The garden of eden is mythical

(Don Huebner) #41

Finding the solution to the Garden of Eden requires being able to answer a number of questions which naturally arise from the text. My experience in examining the problem for a good part of a decade shows that you better be knowledgeable in a variety of scholarly areas, such as historical geography, mythology, historical linguistics, textual analysis, and ANE archaeology if you want to tackle the problem.

A sample of the key questions includes:
(1) What is the purpose of the geographical description in Gen. 2:10-2:14 and what is the reason for including it?
(2) When were these verses written and by whom?
(3) Why are there 4 rivers?
(4) Why doesn’t the author simply list the rivers and omit the locational details?
(5) What does a detailed textual analysis of the verses reveal about their nature?
(6) What was the state of geographical knowledge when the text was composed?
(7) Does ancient cartographical finds exist to illuminate the text?
(8) Do other ancient manuscripts or biblical versions exist which can help?
(9) Can historical linguistics provide information on the identification of the Gihon and Pishon rivers?
(10) Can cross cultural studies of mythology and history prove fruitful?

As interesting as Van Eyck’s paper is, it does not solve the Garden problem. He actually avoids the vast majority of the questions above, and barely mentions the Gihon and Pishon rivers. It turns out the framework of the solution was actually worked out by the late David Neiman of Boston University almost a half century ago and published in the proceedings of an obscure conference. He answers many of the above questions, and my studies have shown that it can be readily extended to answer the rest. As such, it has a high probability of being the correct answer.

In short, the Garden of Eden location description is used to identify the garden and its divine resident Yahweh as the source of all earthly water, and thus life. It’s actual location is not of importance. In the Bible, Ezekiel places it on a mountain top, given the cosmic importance of such locations. The Ugaritic literature also places it on a mountain top, and identifies it as the source of 4 rivers. The biblical text clearly divides the rivers into two groups - the first being a pair of larger saltwater bodies and the second being important freshwater bodies whose sources were known. In the Septuagint, Gihon is given as Geon. Adding an O in front for ‘the’ gives us Greek ‘Ogeon’ - which is a linguistic primitive form of Okeanos or Oceanus. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are/were considered sister rivers, and the Gihon and Pishon (in their Greek versions) are both mythological brothers - emphasizing the universal nature of the 4 rivers. It is worth noting the oldest map in the world from Babylon shows both Okeanos and the Euphrates.

As a further historical note, when the Portuguese began the age of exploration and went around the southern tip of Africa in the 1400s, they named the body of water there the Ethiopian Ocean - a name right out of the early Iron Age and our Garden of Eden geographical description. Cheers.

(Robin) #42

Rather interesting. The Pishon and Gihon might also just be those dried-up (nowadays anyway) riverbeds found in the area via LANDSAT photos a couple decades back…But interesting comments here, for sure.

(Don Huebner) #43

According to Neiman, the Gihon is the river ocean encircling the single circular continent. As indicated, the Greek Okeanos is readily derived from it. The Pishon is another oceanic type water body - that given by the Persian Gulf, the Arabian Sea, and the Red Sea which almost encircle the Arabian Peninsula. The name is derived from the snake-like shape and is derivable from the Greek ‘Python’. Python and Okeanos have the same mother, the earth goddess Gaia. Both are viewed as serpents in Greek mythology. The dry waterways and wadis listed as river candidates do not have names which can be derived or shown to be related to Gihon and Pishon. They also flow in the wrong direction. Stordalen, in his doctoral dissertation, comes close to this identification but considers the Gihon to be fed from the encircling Okeanos.

(Robin) #44

Thanks. Will have to look further into that. Either idea – yours or the LANDSAT photos – could be “it.”

Still waiting for the Kitchen reference from that other blogger here. Not sure in what context Kitchen would have said what he is said to have said. Kitchen is not YEC by any means, but also not a minimalist as, I would presume, the remarks attributed to him by other blogger would suggest he is.

Thanks again for your addition to the discussion though…interesting…

(Randy) #45

@bluebird, greetings. I think I found the reference–obliquely. It’s quoted in Kathryn Applegate’s post on Adam and Eve being real

[6] This quote appears in Tim Keller’s oft-cited BioLogos paper, “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople.” The original can be found in K.A. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament, 2003, 425.

(Robin) #46

Thanks…I did just peruse that particular page number. It makes a comparison of the various Mesopotamian flood accounts with the Genesis version. The remark in question did not leap out at me but I do have to get to work…

Thanks again

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #47

@Randy and @jjpm Phil,

May be I have made the mistake of confusing the Garden of Eden with the story of the Fall. For me the reality of the Garden is a no brainer. It is not a “real” place, but that should bother only bother those who think that the Bible is the Word of God, which it is not.

On the other hand the Story of the Fall has real power to explain the reality, origin, and power of sin, which cannot be explained easily. The sad thing is we spend far more time discussing the ANE origins of the story than we do discussing the spiritual meaning of the Fall.

(Robin) #48

Well, I do thank you for the reference, Randy…

I did revisit Ms Applegate’s article and the quote is " The ancient near east did not historicize myth (i.e., read it as imaginary ‘history’). In fact, exactly the reverse is true-- there was, rather, a trend to ‘mythologize’ history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms…"

And the citation is as you gave it. I do have the 2003 edition of On the Reliabilty of the Old Testament. The problem is that there is a typo somewhere here. I do not find that quote on page 425.

The previous page starts with a chart of “primeval protohistories” – comparisons (very general) of the Sumerian King List, Atrahasis Epic, Eridu Genesis, and Genesis 1–11.Under the section “Creation Narratives” on p 424, the author begins his refutation of any direct relationship between the Genesis account and Enuma Elish.

This spills over onto page 425 and into a section called “C. The Flood: Literary Context” — followed by a cataloguing of the differences between the Mediterranean accounts and the Genesis version, allowing only for the fact (as he sees it) that “an epochally important flood in far antiquity” did occur.

So, OK…I will accept that the quote from Kitchen found in this article is somewhere in Kitchen’s book. In the mid to late 300s pages he describes his belief in the historicity of the biblical patriarchs and so forth.

The quote no doubt is there. The other blogger (somewhere above) paraphrased it and so I wanted to know the source. I think we will leave it at that…

(Randy) #49

Thanks for looking it up. I still don’t know much about its applicability, especially to horrendous myths like Enkidu. However, I don’t know much about the ANE myths, and Kitchen does.

(Robin) #50

Yes, thanks. And since we do not know the context of the quote from Kitchen, it is also hard to discern applicability. I think that some scholars, such as (it seems) Kitchen see the biblical narrative as arguing against the narratives of their era – i.e., the biblical narrative is monotheistic, the other narratives are not; the biblical narrative says humanity was judged for its sins, the other narratives say we were too noisy and bothersome; and so on…but since we are out of ideas and not, for the moment, willing to take the time to do an in-depth search of Kitchen’s book – we cannot go forth with regard to this quote or what it might be saying.

Appreciate the response.

(Randy) #51

Yes, thanks. I’m going to copy to @Kathryn_Applegate–Dr Applegate, we don’t find the exact reference for Dr Kitchen’s quote. Do you think his context was more to say that Biblical myth tended to mythologize history more, or was he applying this to all of ANE peoples? I don’t personally see how that applies to Marduk and their origins myths, especially with enslavement of people, dividing of his mother half, etc. Maybe you have more insight. Thanks.

(Robin) #52

Thanks for the effort…for all I know, it is on page 245 or 452 or 415 or some slight change like that one…

(Randy) #53

OK, sorry–I misunderstood :). @Kathryn_Applegate please disregard. Maybe you can still comment on the insight.


(Kathryn Applegate) #54

Hi @Randy and @bluebird, I was able to find the quote in question using Google Books. It is on p262 in that version. I hadn’t seen this before as I was only quoting Keller, who quoted Kitchen and applied it to Genesis. It appears that the original context is a lengthy discussion as to which Sea was crossed in the Exodus from Egypt. I can’t comment on Marduk and other ANE figures, but it does seem he is referring to ANE peoples in general and not just the biblical writers.

(Robin) #55

Thanks Kathryn. I enjoyed your opinion piece by the way.

And I did find the quote in question on page 262 – The quote comes within a paragraph discussing the meanings of tjuf and suph, citing a “careful study by Ward” which shows that the Hebrew word (Latter) was not borrowed from the Egyptian — but it could be the other way around, judging by the consonants. . Thus “both words … for reeds/marshes and their plants were in use in parallel by the thirteenth century. The suggested meaning ‘end’ is superfluous and irrelevant. The more so, as (contrary to Batto and other biblicists) the ancient Near East did NOT historicize myth (i.e., read it as imaginary ‘history’). In fact, exactly the reverse is true – there was, rather, a tendency to ’ mythologize’ history, to celebrate actual historical events and people in mythological terms.”

And so on…rather like all the George-Washington-chopping-down-the-cherry-tree stories one heard as a child. This quote is in a chapter called “Lotus Eating and Moving on — Exodus and Covenant.” And he is discussing “The Sea, Yam Suph” in this case…

This is out of place for a “Garden of Eden is mythical” assertion since, I suppose, one could wonder if he might say this was a “mythologizing” of an historical event, not the other way around.

Thanks for the reference.

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