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  • : frank beswick
  • : The blog of Frank Beswick. It deals with my interests in religious, philosophical spiritual matters and horticulture/self-reliance
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October 12 2011 4 12 /10 /October /2011 16:47

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The Bible says that God planted a garden in Eden, Eden being a region near the borders of Iran and modern Turkey. It gives some geographical details of the rough location, but these are irrelevant. Eden as we have it in the Bible is a mythical place, an orignal homeland or humanity where the first parents enjoyed bliss until they sinned.

 

The aim of the story is to put the responsibility for sin squarely oh human's shoulders. God made the world good, says the story, and humans made a mess of it by disobedience. It is important to demolish one false claim. Nowhere does the Bible say that Eve should take most of the blame. She is tempted, but Adam falls for it and they are both blamed. The result of the disobedience is loss of the garden and the subsequent burdens of life that fall on humans because of the problem.

 

But let us look in more detail at the garden. It was said to be full of trees good to eat, and at the centre was the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Many people have imagined it as an apple tree, but nowhere is the world apple mentioned. Most likely the tree that the Bible writer had ain mind was a terebrinth. This was sacred to the pagan goddess Astarte/ ashteroth, whose fertility rites took place under sacred terebrinth trees. The Bible writer is suggesting that Adam and Eve went to worship Astarte in the hope of gaining fertility, and in doing so abandoned the true God. The result was that the fertile garden was lost and never recovered. The moral message is that the true God is the source of fertility sp do not worship false deities, whose cultus can only bring harm.

 

It is important to realize that the bible was addressing the problems of the time at which it was written, and so it addressed the problems of idol worship in Israel, which was rife at the time. The writer was expressing a key prophetic idea that to worship false gods is the way to ruin.

 

Many people ahve seen the snake as Satan, the devil, yet the story of Adam and Eve was written in about 900 b.c, before the concept of the Devil entered Judaism. The serpent is a symbol of pagan wisdom, which was opposed to the wisdom of the one true God. Thus the moral message is that if you abandon the wisdom that comes from God, you will err.

 

Over the centuries many have tried to find the Garden of Eden, but to no avail. In mediaeval times, when Geography was limited and under-informed, there was much speculation about Eden's whereabouts. One monk in the seventeenth century sought it in Sri Lanka, which he thought was the most beautiful place on earth. Rohm has examined the Bible text and pinned down what he thinks is a valley in Iran, which is now desert, as the site of the garden. Yet none of this matters too much. Even if there is an original site that the Bible writer had in mind, Eden as we know it is mythical. It represents a world that we have lost.

 

There have been attempts to recreate the life of Eden. Thor Heyerdahl wrote the book Fatu Hiva  about his attempts to go back to nature on a Pacific Island, by dispensing with clothes and living off what he could forage, but his efforts failed. He realized that we can never go back to a state of primal innocence. He could not go back because he was carrying his modern mind and language with him.

 

Eden is to some extent a dream that guides us not to the past but to the future. The ecological movement aspires to return to a world before pollution, for which Eden is a model. A world in which humans live in harmony with nature rather than exploiting it is a dream that has haunted and inspired them for centuries. We cannot return to a state of primal innocence and harmony, that has long gone, but many people are driven by the image of Eden as an inspiration for the creation of a better environment.

 

 

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