Question: Do any other religious traditions view the Garden of Eden as "local"?


Question: Do any other religious traditions view the Garden of Eden as "local"?

The Garden of Eden or the primordial paradise of the race is often seen as the "center of the world"

The early Saints' view of a Garden of Eden "local" to them has its parallels in other religious traditions.

The Garden of Eden or the primordial paradise of the race is often seen as the "center of the world," or the cosmic point around which all creation turns (sometimes called an axis mundi or umbilicum mundi—the "navel" of the world).

Martin Luther warned that "we ask in vain today where and what that garden was" (155). Suarez said that knowledge of the earthly paradise was necessary to understand "all that the scriptures tell us of the condition of humanity before sin"

One student of the subject stated that during the 16th and 17th centuries the "location" of paradise was more important that any other question regarding it.[1]:155 And various religions have placed the Garden of Eden was in their part of the world.

Bishop Pierre-Daniel Huet (1691) a member of the French Academy, wrote of the wide variety of speculation and opinion on this subject

[The earthly paradise] has been located in the third heaven, in the fourth, in the heaven of the moon, on the moon itself, on a mountain close to the heaven of the moon, in the middle region of the air, outside the earth, on the earth, under the earth, and in a hidden place far removed from human knowledge. It has been placed under the Arctic pole.... Some have located it... either on the banks of the Ganges or on the island of Ceylon, and have even derived the name 'India' from the word 'Eden.'... Others have located it in the Americas, others in Africa below the equator, others in the equinoctial East, others on the mountain of the moon, from which they believed the Nile to flow. Most have located it in Asia: some in Greater Armenia, others in Mesopotamia or Assyria or Persia or Babylonia or Arabia or Syria or Palestine. There have even been those who wished to honor our Europe and, in a move that strays into complete irrelevance, have located it in Hedin, a town in Artois, their reason being the similarity between the words 'Hedin' and 'Eden'"[1]:162, citing Huet.

The Bible itself seems to place the Garden of Eden at the center of the world:

10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads.

11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold;

12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone.

13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia.

14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates. (Genesis 2:10-14)

The named rivers represent four of the great rivers of the known world, yet this description does not match any modern known configuration. It may be better to view these verses as a symbolic expression of Eden at "the center" of all that was known.

There is also a Jewish tradition that the Garden of Eden was in Jerusalem. There is a spring of water there known as the Gihon, one of the unidentified rivers of Paradise. Ezekiel 28:13 says “You were in Eden, the garden of God,” and then parallels that in the next verse with “you were on the holy mountain of God,” generally understood as the temple mount. There is important symbolism here. If a Jewish tradition can assign the location of the Garden to its traditional headquarters—Jerusalem—it is not surprising to have a Mormon tradition assigning the location of the Garden to Jackson County, Missouri, which for a time was its church headquarters and which according to prophecy will be again some time in the future.

Notes

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jean Delumeau, History of Paradise. The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition (New York: Continuum, 1995)