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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
1. Origin and Meaning:
A word probably of Persian origin meaning a royal park. See GARDEN . The word occurs in the Hebrew Scriptures but 3 times: Song of Solomon 4:13 , where it is translated "an orchard"; Nehemiah 2:8 , where it is translated "a forest" (the Revised Version margin "park"); Ecclesiastes 2:5 , where it is in the plural number (the King James Version "orchards," the Revised Version (British and American) "parks"). But it was early introduced into the Greek language, being made specially familiar by Xenophon upon his return from the expedition of Cyrus the Younger to Babylonia (see Anab . i. 2, section 7; 4, section 9; Cyrop . i. 3, section 14). In Septuagint the word is of frequent use in translating other terms of kindred significance. The Garden of Eden became "the paradise of pleasure or luxury" (Genesis 2:15; Genesis 3:23; Joel 2:3 ). The valley of the Jordan became 'the paradise of God' (Genesis 13:10 ). In Ezekiel 31:8 , Ezekiel 31:9 , according to Septuagint, there is no tree in the 'paradise of God' equal to that which in the prophet's vision symbolizes the glory of Assyria. The figures in the first 9 verses of this chapter may well have been suggested by what the prophet had himself seen of parks in the Persian empire.
2. Use in Jewish Literatare:
In the apocryphal and pseudepigraphical literature the word is extensively used in a spiritual and symbolia sense, signalizing the place of happiness to be inherited by the righteous in contrast to Gehenna, the place of punishment to which the wicked were to be assigned. In the later Jewish literature "Sheol" is represented as a place where preliminary rewards and punishments are bestowed previous to the final judgment (see APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE; ESCHATOLOGY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT; and compare 2 Esdras 2:19; 8:52). But the representations in this literature are often vague and conflicting, some holding that there were 4 divisions in Sheol, one for those who were marryred for righteousness' sake, one for sinners who on earth had paid the penalty for their sins, one for the just who had not suffered martyrdom, and one for sinners who had not been punished on earth (En 102:15). But among the Alexandrian Jews the view prevailed that the separation of the righteous from the wicked took place immediately after death (see The Wisdom of Song of Solomon 3:14; 4:10; 5:5,17; Josephus, Ant. ,
3. Used by Christ:
Christ uses the word but once (Luke 23:43 ), when He said to the penitent thief, "Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (see &ABRAHAM'S BOSOM (compare HADES )). This was no time to choose words with dialectical precision. The consolation needed by the penitent thief suffering from thirst and agony and shame was such as was symbolized by the popular conception of paradise, which, as held by the Essenes, consisted of "habitations beyond the ocean, in a region that is neither oppressed with storms of rain, or snow, or with intense heat, but that this place is such as is refreshed by the gentle breathin of a west wind, that is perpetually blowing from the ocean" (Josephus, BJ , II, viii, 11). See ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT .
4. Other Forms and Uses:
Nowhere in His public teaching did Christ use the word "Paradise." He does indeed, when speaking in parables, employ the figure of the marriage supper, and of new wine, and elsewhere of Abraham's bosom, and of houses not made by hands, eternal in the heavens; but all these references are in striking contrast to the prevailing sensuous representations of the times (see 2 Esdras 2:19; 8:52), and such as have been introduced into Mohammedan literature. Likewise Paul (2 Corinthians 12:4 ) speaks of having been "caught up into Paradise" where he "heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter." See ESCHATOLOGY OF THE NEW TESTAMENT . But in 2 Corinthians 12:2 this is referred to more vaguely as "the third heaven." In Revelation 2:7 it is said to the members of the church at Ephesus who should overcome, "I (will) give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God," where the Eden of Genesis 2:8 is made the symbol of the abode of the righteous, more fully described without the words in the last chapter of the book. The reticence of the sacred writers respecting this subject is in striking contrast to the profuseness and crudity both of rabbinical writers before Christ and of apocryphal writers and Christian commentators at a later time. "Where the true Gospels are most reticent, the mythical are most exuberant" (Perowne). This is especially noticeable in the Gospel of Nicodemus, the Acta Philippi , the writings of Tertullian (De Idol . c. 13; De Anim . c. 55; Tertullian's treatise De Paradiso is lost), Clement of Alexandria (Frag. 51), and John of Damascus ( De Orthod. Fid ., ii, 11). In modern literature the conception of Paradise is effectually sublimated and spiritualized in Faber's familiar hymn:
I greatly long to see
The special place my dearest Lord
Is destining for me;
Where loyal hearts and true
Stand ever in the light,
All rapture thro' and thro',
In God's most holy sight."
The articles in the great Dicts., especially Herzog,
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Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Paradise'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​isb/​p/paradise.html. 1915.