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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Paradise (3)

There have been at least four notable attempts in very recent times to discover this long-sought locality; two of them by American, and two by German authors. Their theories have been put forth with the greatest assurance, and in most cases supported by a vast array of learning; but they all seem to. have failed to satisfy the judgment of the literary world, or to add anything substantial towards a reasonable solution of the question.

1. The view of Friederich Delitzsch, the eminent Assyriologist, son of the well-known commentator, has. already been given under the art. EDJEN. Brilliant as are, the researches of his work, its conclusions have been rejected by the most careful and competent critics. See Haldev,in the Revue Critique, 1881, page 457 sq.; Noldecke, in the Zeitschr. d. deutsch. mogenland. Gesellschhaft, 1882, page 174; Lenormant, in Les. Origine de l'Histoire, volume 2. We cite (from The Nation, N.Y., March 15, 1883) some of the geographical objections:

"Why, if the stream of Eden be the middle Euphrates, is it left unnamed in the narrative, though it is certain that the Hebrews were perfectly familiar both with the middle and the upper course of that river?... If the lower Tigris be meant by the Hiddekel, why is this river described as flowing in front of Assyria, which lay above the central Mesopotamian lowland asserted to be Eden? How should a writer, familiar with the whole course of the Tigris, deem its lower part a branch of the Euphrates?... Why is Havilah, if the Arabian border-land so well known to the Hebrews be meant, so fully described by its products? Who tells us that the gold, the bdellium, and the shoham of Babylonia were also characteristic of the adjoining Havilah?"

2. A modern traveller, Reverend J.P. Newman, D.D., had previously indicated a somewhat similar position to the above (A Thousand Miles on Horseback, N.Y. 1875, page 69), namely, at the confluence of the Euphrates and the Tigris; and he was confident that ancient tablets would yet be exhumed fully establishing this location. But the inscriptions recovered by Smith, Rassam, and others in that vicinity do not confirm the theory, and it has thus been brushed aside with the multitude of other conjectures that preceded it.

3. A more startling conclusion is announced by Reverend William F. Warren, D.D., LL.D., president of the Boston University, "that the cradle of the human race, the Eden of primitive tradition, was situated at the North pole, in a country submerged at the time of the deluge," (Paradise Found, Boston, 1885, 8vo). This is the outcome of his researches in early traditions, noticed under our art. (See COSMOLOGY).

The author brings to the support of this view an amazing amount of reading and investigation, which we have not space to criticise in detail. To such as are prepared to accept the mythologies of antiquity as having a historical basis, and to place the Biblical account on a level of authority with them, and at the same time to extend the origin of the human race to a date contemporary with the thermal sera of geology, this book, which is written in a fascinating style, and illustrated with a copious reference to the literature of the subject, will prove at least an ingenious and plausible, if not a conclusive, argument; but for those who maintain the literal accuracy of the history in Genesis, and the substantial agreement of the topographical conditions there given with the present conditions of the earth's surface, it cannot appear other than a most preposterous and chimerical hypothesis. The great objection which we see in it is the setting aside as an unintelligible narrative the only professed and historic description which we possess of the Garden of Eden, and then resorting to the vague and conflicting testimony of-paganism, combined with the scanty and problematical indications of cosmological science, for an identification that is at last claimed as decisive and final. If the Biblical passage (Genesis 2:10-14), with its explicit items, fails to point out the true spot, we may as well give up the attempt as hopeless. To us that account seems sufficiently clear and consistent; and we believe that explorations in the region thus designated will vindicate the accuracy of the Scripture language beyond any reasonable doubt. It is a question of exegesis and geography, not of mythological comparison.

4. The last formal production in this line is an attempt to show that Paradise was situated about sixty-five miles south-east of Damascus, in a shallow alluvial basin, amid the wild basaltic crags of the desolate volcanic region known as the Hauraz (Die Auflosung der Paradies-frage, by Moritz Engel, Leipsic, 1885, 8vo). An elaborate effort is made to identify the names and circumstances; but the agreement is most fanciful and indistinct. Eden is the present Ruhbe, an Arabic term for a rich patch of soil; the four rivers are the wadies which pour down the surrounding slopes in the rainy season; while the most violent processes of rationalism are resorted to for the purpose of disposing,of the associated names and features of the narrative: e.g. the cherubim are volcanoes of the Hauran; Cain is only a more specific title for Adam; Cain's sons and Lamech's wives are mountain-peaks adjacent, etc. It would seem as if the ne plus ultra of absurdity has now been reached in the vagaries on this subject, and it is time to return to sober examination of the given data, if any success is to be achieved in the-exposition.

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Paradise (3)'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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Paradise (2)