Week of Ovtober 4, 1999
Where was the Garden of Eden?
By SR. LOUISE ZDUNICH, NDC
Where do they think the garden of Eden was?
Although my response will not give you a definite answer, I will try to indicate what scholars who have studied this say about the location of this garden, as well as its meaning.
The term is used 13 times in the Hebrew Scriptures, sometimes seeming to refer to a specific place and, other times, it is a symbol of fertility as in Ezekiel when God promises to restore to the exiles their land which has become desolate and barren but will become fertile.
In general, it is depicted as a place of beauty and abundance, sometimes referred to as God's own garden, as if it were primarily a dwelling place of God, rather than simply a place of human habitation.
Genesis 2:8 says: "God planted a garden in Eden in the East" and verse 14 mentions two names, the Euphrates and Tigris. Therefore, it could have been in the fertile plain in Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf region, present-day Iraq.
However, verses 11-12 complicate the matter. They mention two names of rivers which are unknown to us: Pishon and Gihon. Sometimes, the Pishon is placed in India or Arabia while Gihon is identified as the Nile.
In 1962, a scholar named W.F. Albright argued that Eden was in the far West and these two rivers were the Blue and White Nile.
The connection of the name Gihon with the spring in Jerusalem is already made in the account of Solomon's anointing. It could even form a bridge between the motifs of the mountain dwelling and the life-giving springs associated with the Garden of God.
This would be important when Jerusalem was being promoted as the dwelling place of God in David's time and especially during Solomon's reign.
Therefore, identification of these rivers is not definitive. They could have been names of springs or names with no geographical location but rather suitable rhyming words for the narrative.
They may not depict an interconnected system but rather famous waterways which in the writer's cosmology are fed from the source that rises in the dwelling place of God.