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Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
1. Etymology.-The word is most probably of Persian origin, and passed into Greek through Xenophon, and into Hebrew during the period of Persian influence. The LXX_ translators adopted the word as the translation of the Hebrew name for the Garden of Eden. Hence the term ‘Paradise’ is associated with the various lines of development connected with the conception of the primal Golden Age and the Garden of Delights. For a fuller discussion of the etymology see the art._ ‘Paradise’ in HDB_, and EBi_, also Oxf. Heb. Lex. s.v.
2. History of the conception.-A full discussion of the growth of the conception does not fall within the scope of this article. For this the reader is referred to the artt._ mentioned above, and to the list of literature there appended. It is necessary here to notice the main lines of development, in order to understand the place which the conception of Paradise has in the Apostolic Age.
(a) Primitive conceptions.-Paradise, or the Garden of Eden, belongs to one important group of motifs which comparative religion shows to be present in nearly all primitive religions, the group of ideas associated with a Golden Age, a time of supernatural fertility and prosperity, lost in the past and to be restored in the future. This with other groups of fundamental motifs existed in primitive Hebrew religion, possibly in a form derived from Babylonian religion, but was taken up and used by the prophets as the form into which their visions of the coming Kingdom of God were cast.
(b) Later spiritualization.-In the development of later Judaism, the conceptions of Paradise and the Tree of Life became spiritualized, and they were used as symbols of spiritual felicity and moral excellence, especially in Alexandrian Judaism.
(c) Mystic realism.-In Palestinian Judaism, Rabbinical theology developed these symbols along the line of a naive realism. The term ‘paradise,’ apart from a few passages in which it means ‘garden’ or ‘park,’ as in late Hebrew, always has the technical sense of mystic theology or speculation, including trance and other ecstatic experiences. On the other hand, the Hebrew phrase ‘Garden of Eden’ is kept to describe the earthly or the heavenly place of bliss commonly denoted by the name ‘Paradise.’ The Rabbis developed a transcendental doctrine of Paradise, holding that it was one of the seven things (sometimes six), created before the world (Ber. Rabba, 20). There was also some doubt as to whether the earthly and the heavenly Paradise were to be identified or not.
(d) Special apocalyptic development.-In the Jewish apocalyptic literature Paradise, by a combination of elements from (a) and (c), came to be conceived of as one of the abodes of the righteous after death. It was in the third heaven (see art._ Heaven), where God’s throne was situated. The references are not always consistent, as there was no clear-cut consistent scheme of the future life in Jewish eschatology. The principal references for our period occur in the Apocalypse of Moses, more correctly known as the Books of Adam and Eve, in 4 Ezra , 2 Baruch; there is also one reference in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (‘Levi,’ xviii. 10).
The most important passages in the Books of Adam and Eve and the parallel Apocalypse of Moses are: Ad. et Ev. xxv. 3: ‘the Paradise of righteousness,’ where God is seen sitting encompassed by angels; xxviii. 4: ‘the paradise of “vision” and of God’s command’; xlii. 5: ‘Christ, descending on earth shall lead thy father Adam to Paradise to the tree of mercy’ (this passage is an interpolation from the Christian apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus); Apoc. Mos. xxxvii. 5: ‘Lift him up into Paradise unto the third Heaven, and leave him there until that fearful day of my reckoning,’ etc.; here Paradise in the third heaven is contrasted with Paradise on earth where Adam’s body is lying (xxxviii. 5; so also xl. 2). While there is apparently some confusion of thought, the central idea is that, in the Resurrection, Adam will be restored to Paradise, and that meanwhile his spirit (apparently) is in the heavenly Paradise, in the third heaven. Hence the conception of Paradise as an intermediate abode appears here.
There are several important passages in 4 Ezra, especially 4 Ezra 3:6, Paradise created before the world; 4:8, Paradise in heaven; 7:36, the Paradise of delight manifested in the last day over against Gehenna (so also 7:123). In 8:52, ‘for you is opened Paradise, planted the Tree of life, the future Age prepared,’ the conception of Paradise is parallel with that of Revelation 2:7; Revelation 22:2. The reader may be referred to G. H. Box, The Ezra Apocalypse, London, 1912, p. 195 f.
There are several important passages in 2 Enoch: viii and ix., where Paradise is described as in the third heaven, the place where God rests, with all kinds of sensuous delights, and reserved for the eternal abode of the righteous; lxv. 8, 10, at the completion of the Age, the righteous are collected and Paradise becomes their eternal dwelling-place; cf. also xlii. 3 and 2 Bar. li. 11, lix. 8.
(e) NT.-Thus we find the background of the conceptions which appear in the three passages in which the word occurs in the NT-
(1) In Luke 23:43, as in the Books of Adam and Eve, Paradise is conceived of as a place of intermediate abode, though whether in heaven or in Sheol is not clear.
(2) In 2 Corinthians 12:4 we have a combination of the Rabbinical conception of Paradise as denoting mystic contemplation and the trance-state, with the conception of Paradise as in the third heaven and the abode of God.
(3) In Revelation 2:7 as in 4 Ezra Paradise is presented as a reward in the future age for the righteous.
The probable reason for the scanty reference to Paradise in the NT has been pointed out in the art._ Heaven. The movement of thought was clearly away from the sensuous and material side of Jewish eschatological expectation, even though in the later development of thought in the Church there was a return to this element, and a corresponding loss of the vitality and freshness characteristic of Pauline and Johannine eschatology. This return, however, lies beyond our period, and begins to be seen in the references of Irenaneus and Tertullian.
Literature.-See under art._ Heaven.
S. H. Hooke.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Paradise'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​p/paradise.html. 1906-1918.