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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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PARADISE. A Persian word for ‘park’ or ‘garden’ (see Orchard), used in later Jewish and Christian thought to represent the abode of the blessed dead.

1. In the OT. While the word pardçs occurs only 3 times in the OT ( Song of Solomon 4:12 , Ecclesiastes 2:5 , Nehemiah 2:3 ), and then with no reference to the Garden of Eden , it is unquestionable that Eden serves as the basis for the later conception. The transition from the usage of Genesis to one less literal is to be seen in Ezekiel 31:1-18 , which is doubtless modified to a considerable degree by Babylonian conceptions. These, undoubtedly, are also to be seen in the Genesis picture of Eden. The significance of Ezekiel’s conception is that it shows the anticipation of the apocalyptic conception of Eth. Enoch (chs. 23 28) and other apocalypses both Jewish and Christian.

2. In Jewish apocalyptic literature and in the NT. In the apocalypses there are elaborate descriptions (particularly Eth. Enoch, Apoc. [Note: Apocalypse, Apocalyptic.] Bar 4:1-37 , and 2Es 8:52 ) of Paradise as the opposite of Gehenna . In the Rabbinical conception of the universe, Paradise is the abode of the blessed dead. There is the tree of life, and there also the righteous feast. Gehenna and Paradise are, according to the Rabbis, close together, being separated only by a handbreadth. This view, however, is difficult to harmonize with other conceptions, and the adjustment is probably to be made by the other view of a twofold Paradise, one in Sheol and the other in Heaven. Such a view would harmonize with the conception that the righteous would rise from the nether Paradise to the heavenly. The word is never used by Jesus or St. Paul except in Luke 23:43 and 2 Corinthians 12:4 . From some points of view it would be more natural to make these two passages refer to the two Paradises respectively, but a final conclusion is prevented by lack of evidence. The reference of Paul ( 2 Corinthians 12:4 ) is undoubtedly to the upper Paradise that is, the third heaven. Here again, however, it is not safe to derive dogma from what may be a merely conventional expression.

3. In Christian theology the term is commonly used as identical with ‘ heaven ,’ although in some cases it is distinguished as the ‘temporary abode of the saints, either in some place on earth or above the earth. It has been particularly developed in connexion with the speculation as to the intermediate state as the place where the righteous live between their death and the Parousia. Lack of data, however, makes it impossible to reach certainty in the matter, and the most modern theology maintains an attitude of reverent agnosticism regarding the state of the dead, and uses the term ‘Paradise’ as a symbol rather than with precise definition.

Shailer Mathews.

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These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Used by Permission.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Paradise'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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