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The 1901 Jewish Encyclopedia
The word "paradise" is probably of Persian origin. It occurs but three times in the Old Testament, namely, in Song of Solomon 4:13, Ecclesiastes 2:5, and Nehemiah 2:8. In the first of these passages it means "garden"; in the second and third, "park." In the apocalypses and in the Talmud the word is used of the Garden of Eden and its heavenly prototype (comp. references in Weber's "JÃ¼dische Theologie," 2d ed., 1897, pp. 344 et seq.). From this usage it came to denote, as in the New Testament, the abode of the blessed (comp. Luke 23:43; 2 Corinthians 12:4; Revelation 2:7).
Description in Genesis.
In the Old Testament, however, one has to do with the earthly Garden of Eden, of which there are two representations: one in Genesis 2, , and the other in Ezekiel 28:13-17. According to the first of these passages Yhwh planted a garden "eastward in Eden," in which were the tree of life and the tree of knowledge; and He gave it to Adam to keep. There "went out" from this garden a river which was divided and became "four heads." The names of these were Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel (Tigris), and Euphrates. Adam and Eve were permitted to eat of all the trees of the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In this garden were created and placed all sorts of animals; but none of these proved a suitable companion for man. Accordingly a woman was created. Adam and Eve then lived in the garden without clothing.
The most subtle of the creatures in the garden was the serpent. He questioned the woman concerning the trees of which she and Adam might eat, and was told that they were prohibited from eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and that death would result from such an act. The serpent declared that, so far from this being the case, if Adam and Eve were to eat of it they would become like gods. Eve was tempted and ate; then she persuaded Adam to eat. The result of this act was that the primitive pair realized their nakedness and began to make clothing. It was declared that the ground would bring forth to man thorns and thistles, that he should with difficulty wrest from it his sustenance, and that woman should bring forth children in pain. The pair were then expelled from Eden, lest they should eat of the tree of life. To prevent their return cherubim were placed at the entrance of the garden. It is probable that this account intended to locate the garden in Mesopotamia. The mention of the Tigris and Euphrates indicate this, though the allusion to the lands of Havilah and Cush, around which the Pison and the Gihon flowed, is not so clear.
Ezekiel's Conception of Eden.
Ezekiel's allusion to Eden occurs in a highly rhetorical passage in which he arraigns the King of Tyre. This king, he declares, was in the garden of God, clothed with many kinds of precious stones. According to the Masoretic text this king was the cherub, but the Septuagint reads more correctly "stood with the cherub." This garden was in "the mountain of God," where the king moved in the midst of the stones of fire. To form a complete picture of Ezekiel's conception of paradise one should add the reference to the cedar as the supreme tree of Eden (Ezekiel 31), and his description of the Temple at Jerusalem as a holy mountain from which flowed a river (ib. ). It is evident that Ezekiel had in mind a picture of Eden kindred in many ways to the account in Genesis, but which also differed in many points (see See comp. Paradise, Critical View).
Ezekiel's conception of Eden is not unlike that of the heavenly paradise in Enoch - The happy destination of the righteous is pictured in this work (which dates from 200 to 170 B.C.) as a great mountain in the midst of the earth from under which streams of water flow. At the center of its sacred enclosure a palm-tree grows. Similar views find expression in other apocalypses (comp. Apoc. Baruch,; II Esd. 8:52; Revelation 2:7, 22:2 et seq.). These passages form the transition from the earlier ideas of paradise as man's primitive home to the Talmudic and New Testament conceptions of paradise as the final abode of the blessed.
âIn Rabbinical Literature:
The word is used metaphorically for the veil surrounding the mystic philosophy (á¸¤ag. 14b), but not as a synonym for the Garden of Eden or paradise to identify a blissful heavenly abode for the righteous after death. The popular conception of paradise is expressedby the term "Gan 'Eden," in contradistinction to "Gehinnom" = "hell." Jewish authorities are almost unanimous in maintaining that there is a terrestrial as well as a celestial Gan 'Eden; that the Garden of Eden in Genesis is a model in miniature of the higher Gan 'Eden called paradise (EDEN, GARDEN OF). Paradise is occasionally referred to as "'Olam ha-Ba" (= "the world to come"); but generally this term is used for the post-millennial time, after the Messianic and resurrection periods. Sometimes the terms "Gan 'Eden" and "'Olam ha-Ba" are erroneously interchanged. Gan 'Eden is recognized by Naá¸¥manides as "'Olam ha-Neshamot" (= "the world of the souls"), which the departed souls of the righteous enter immediately after death (see Sem. 1:5b; Tem. 16a).
The Midrash Agada gives, with cabalistic coloring and vivid imagination, a detailed description of paradise. Dimensions of the chambers, etc., are furnished; and the particulars contained are graphically stated in various forms of legendary narratives. These accounts are supposed to have been communicated by the very few individuals who, it is claimed, visited paradise while alive. The Haggadah credits nine mortals with entrance to heaven while alive: Enoch, Eliezer, Abraham's servant, Serah, the daughter of Asher (Soá¹ah 13a), Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh (1 Chronicles 4:18), Hiram, King of Tyre, Elijah, Messiah, Ebed-melech the Ethiopian (Jeremiah 38:12), and Jabez b. Judah ha-Nasi (probably an error; should be Jabez the Judahite, mentioned ib. 4:10). Others substitute Joshua b. Levi for Hiram, King of Tyre (Derek Ereáº Zuá¹a , end; Yalá¸³., Gen. 42). Joshua thus became the hero of nearly all the paradise legends. He often met Elijah before the gates of paradise (Sanh. 98a; see "'En Ya'aá¸³ob" ad loc.); and he obtained permission from the angel of death to visit paradise before his death and to inspect his assigned place. He reported the result of his investigation to Rabban Gamaliel ("Seder ha-Dorot," ed. Warsaw, 1893, 2:191). Probably the original accounts are in the Zohar, which contains all the elements in fragmentary documents (Zohar, Bereshit, 38a-39b, 41a, and Leka 81a, b). One of these accounts is credited to Enoch. Midrash Konen is probably the first compilation and elaboration of these fragments; it reads as follows:
"The Gan 'Eden at the east measures 800,000 years (at ten miles per day or 3,650 miles per year). There are five chambers for various classes of the righteous. The first is built of cedar, with a ceiling of transparent crystal. This is the habitation of non-Jews who become true and devoted converts to Judaism. They are headed by Obadiah the prophet and Oná¸³elos the proselyte, who teach them the Law. The second is built of cedar, with a ceiling of fine silver. This is the habitation of the penitents, headed by Manasseh, King of Israel, who teaches them the Law.
Description in Midrash Konen.
"The third chamber is built of silver and gold, ornamented with pearls. It is very spacious, and contains the best of heaven and of earth, with spices, fragrance, and sweet odors. In the center of this chamber stands the Tree of Life, 500 years high. Under its shadow rest Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the tribes, those of the Egyptian exodus and those who died in the wilderness, headed by Moses and Aaron. There also are David and Solomon, crowned, and Chileab (2 Samuel 3:3; Shab. 55b), as if living, attending on his father, David. Every generation of Israel is represented except that of Absalom and his confederates. Moses teaches them the Law, and Aaron gives instruction to the priests. The Tree of Life is like a ladder on which the souls of the righteous may ascend and descend. In a conclave above are seated the Patriarchs, the Ten Martyrs, and those who sacrificed their lives for the cause of His Sacred Name. These souls descend daily to the Gan 'Eden, to join their families and tribes, where they lounge on soft cathedras studded with jewels. Everyone, according to his excellence, is received in audience to praise and thank the Ever-living God; and all enjoy the brilliant light of the Shekinah. The flaming sword, changing from intense heat to icy cold and from ice to glowing coals, guards the entrance against living mortals. The size of the sword is ten years. The souls on entering paradise are bathed in the 248 rivulets of balsam and attar.
"The fourth chamber is made of olive-wood and is inhabited by those who have suffered for the sake of their religion. Olives typify bitterness in taste and brilliancy in light [olive-oil], symbolizing persecution and its reward.
"The fifth chamber is built of precious stones, gold, and silver, surrounded by myrrh and aloes. In front of the chamber runs the River Gihon, on whose banks are planted shrubs affording perfume and aromatic incense. There are couches of gold and silver and fine drapery. This chamber is inhabited by the Messiah of David, Elijah, and the Messiah of Ephraim. In the center are a canopy made of the cedars of Lebanon, in the style of the Tabernacle, with posts and vessels of silver; and a settee of Lebanon wood with pillars of silver and a seat of gold, the covering thereof of purple. Within rests the Messiah, son of David, 'a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief' (Isaiah 53:3), suffering, and waiting to release Israel from the Exile. Elijah comforts and encourages him to be patient. Every Monday and Thursday, and Sabbath and on holy days the Patriarchs, Moses, Aaron, and others, call on the Messiah and condole with him, in the hope of the fast-approaching end"
In other versions the sections of paradise are increased to seven. Another midrash, apparently composed of fragments of ancient versions, describes the three fire-walls of different colors around paradise, and places the section of the pious among the heathen nations outside the outer wall. This description is remarkable for the diminutive dimensions which it gives, e.g., 600 ells between the walls, and 120 ells' space between the entrances; also for the fact that it antedates paradise to the creation of heaven and earth by just 1,361 years, 3 hours, and 2 minutes. This paradise has a tall music pillar which plays beautiful songs automatically. There are seven sections for the pious souls, and a separate division of seven sections for the souls of pious women, headed, in the order named, by Bithiah, the daughter of Pharaoh, a proselyte; Jochebed, wife of Amram; Miriam; Huldah the prophetess; Abigail; (sixth and seventh sections, the highest) the Matriarchs ("Gan 'Eden," second recension in Jellinek, c. 3:131-140). In another version the sections are seven, but the grades of the souls number twelve, as follows: "those (1) who feared God, (2) who were charitable, (3) who buried the dead, (4) who visited the sick, (5) who dealt honestly, (6) who lent to the poor, (7) who cared for the orphans, (8) who were peacemakers, (9) who instructed the poor, (10) who were martyrs, (11) who learned the Law, (12) David, Solomon, and other righteous kings, such as Josiah and Hezekiah" (Jellinek, c. 5:41-48).
Joshua b. Levi's Description of Paradise.
The following midrashic narrative is attributed to R. Joshua b. Levi, though the style of the midrash appears to be much later, perhaps of the ninth century: "Paradise has two diamond gates, and there are 600,000 attending angels with shining faces. Immediately on the arrival of the righteous, they divest him of his shroud and clothe him witheight garments made of clouds of honor. They put a double crown of fine gold and jewels on his head, and place eight myrtles in his hand. The angels salute him, saying, 'Go eat thy bread with joy,' and lead him along valleys of water in which grow 800 species of roses and myrtles. Each of the righteous has a canopy as is befitting his excellence. Connected with each canopy are four rivulets of milk, wine, balsam, and honey. Over each canopy grows a golden vine studded with thirty pearls, each glittering like Venus. Under the canopy is a table of onyx set with diamonds and pearls. Sixty angels guard every righteous one and ask him to partake of the honey as compensation for his study of the Law, which is likened to honey (Psalms 19:10), and to drink the wine, which has been preserved in its grapes ever since the six days of Creation, the Law being likened to spiced wine (Song of Solomon 8:2). The most uncomely of the righteous becomes as beautiful as Joseph and as R. Johanan. Exiguous silver pomegranates reflect the sun, which is always shining; for 'the path of the just is as the shining light' (Proverbs 4:18). There are three stages through which the newcomer has to pass: (1) the section of the children, which he enters as at child; (2) the section of the young; and (3) the section of the old. In each section he enjoys himself as befits his state and age" (Yalá¸³., Gen. 20; comp. "Seder Gan 'Eden," in Jellinek, c. 3:52-53).
Banquet for the Righteous in Paradise.
Regarding the feast that is prepared for the righteous in paradise, the Leviathan and "the wine preserved in its grapes since the six days of Creation" are the main courses to be served at the banquet (B. B. 75a). The order of the banquet follows: "The Almighty invites the righteous into paradise. King David requests God to join the company. The angel Gabriel brings two thrones, one for God and one for David, as the Scriptures say, 'his throne as the sun before me' (Psalms 89:36). They feast and drink three goblets of wine. The toast (grace before meals) is offered, to Abraham, 'the father of the world,' but he declines because he had a son (Ishmael) who antagonized God. Isaac, in turn, declines because one of his descendants (an Edomite) destroyed the Holy Temple. Jacob declines because he married two sisters (against the Law). Moses declines because he did not cross the Jordan into Palestine. Joshua declines because he left no issue. Finally, King David accepts the toast, saying: 'I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord' (Psalms 116:13). After grace the Law is produced, and God, through the interpreter, Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel (Ezra 3:2), reveals the secrets and reasons of the commandments. David preaches from the Haggadah, and the righteous say: 'Let His great Name be hallowed forevermore in paradise!' The wicked in Gehinnom, on hearing the doxology, take courage and answer 'Amen!' Whereupon the Almighty orders the attending angels to open the gates of paradise and to permit the wicked to enter, as the Scriptures say, 'Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth  may enter in' (Isaiah 26:2), the word 'emunim' being interpreted 'who observe to answer "Amen"' [; plural, ]" (Tanna debe-Eliyahu Zuá¹a ).
There are a nether Gehinnom and an upper one, over against the nether and the upper Gan 'Eden. Curiously enough, hell and paradise join each other. R. Johanan claims that a partition of only a hand-breadth, or four inches wide, separates them. The Rabbis say the width is but two fingers (= inches; Midr. á¸²ohelet; Yalá¸³., 976). R. Akiba said: "Every man born has two places reserved for him: one in paradise, and one in Gehinnom. If he be righteous he gets his own place and that of his wicked neighbor in paradise; if he be wicked he gets his own place and that of his righteous neighbor in Gehinnom" (Hag. 16a; see "Sefer á¸¤asidim," Â§Â§ 609, 610). The question "Who may be a candidate for either Gehinnom or paradise?" is solved by the majority rule. If the majority of the acts of the individual are meritorious, he enters paradise; if wicked, he goes to Gehinnom; and if they are equal, God mercifully removes one wicked act and places it in the scale of good deeds. R. Jose b. á¸¤anina quotes, "Who is a God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity" ( = "lifts a sin"; Mic. 7:18; Yer. Peah. 1:1, end).
The Talmud deduces the immortality of the soul from the Scriptures. "The spirit shall return to God who gave it" (Ecclesiastes 12:7); the body of the righteous "shall enter into peace" (Isaiah 57:2); and the soul "shall be bound in the bundle of life with the Lord" (1 Samuel 25:29), which is under God's "throne of honor" (Shab. 152b). The haggadic dimensions of paradise and names of the attendants, as well as the materials and articles described, have their cabalistic value and symbolic meaning. The feasting and enjoyment are spiritual, for which figures of speech were invented. Rab distinctly says: "In paradise there is no eating, no drinking, no cohabitation, no business, no envy, no hatred or ambition; but the righteous sit with crowned heads and enjoy the luster of the Shekinah, as it is written: 'They saw God and did eat and drink'" (Exodus 24:11âthe sight of God being considered the equivalent of food and drink; Ber. 18a).
In the Middle Ages, however, most of the people and many rabbis failed to grasp the spiritual meaning of paradise, and accepted all haggadic references in a literal sense. Maimonides was probably the first authority to strike a blow at this literalness, by asserting in unmistakable terms the fallacy of such a belief. "To believe so," he says, "is to be a schoolboy who expects nuts and sweetmeats as compensation for his studies. Celestial pleasures can be neither measured nor comprehended by a mortal being, any more than the blind can distinguish colors or the deaf appreciate music." Maimonides maintains that the Gan 'Eden is terrestrial, and will be discovered at the millennium (Maimonides, Commentary on Sanh. ). This view evoked considerable opposition from the contemporary French rabbis; but the Spanish rabbis, especially Naá¸¥manides, defended Maimonides except as regards his theory of punishment after death. SeeEschatology; IMMORTALITY OF THE SOUL; JUDGMENT, DIVINE; RESURRECTION.
- Naá¸¥manides, Sefer Sha'ar ha-Gemul;
- Aldabi, Shebile 'Emunah,;
- Albo, Ha-'Iá¸³á¸³arim, article IV., -;
- Aramar, 'Aá¸³edat,;
- Delacrut, áºel ha-'Olam,;
- Berechiah, Ma'abar Yaboá¸³, article III., -;
- MÃ«ir ben Gabai, 'Abodat ha-á¸²odesh, 'Abodah, ,;
- Moses Romi, Sefer Sha'are Gan 'Eden, Venice, 1589;
- Weber, JÃ¼dische Theologie, Â§ 74, Leipsic, 1897;
- Bousset, Die Religion des Judenthums, p. 270, Berlin, 1903.
The paradise narrative of Genesis 2- is a part of the J stratum of the Pentateuch; but it has long been recognized that it is not all from one hand. Dillmann regarded 2:10-14 as supplementary (comp. his Commentary on Genesis); and the view is now generally accepted. Budde ("Urgeschichte," pp. 46 et seq.) showed that 2:9b and 3:22b, relating to the tree of life, are also later additions, a view which Toy rightly confirms ("Jour. Bib. Lit." 10:1 et seq.). In the original story but one tree appeared.
Babylonian Elements of Narrative.
As already noted, this garden seems to be placed by the writer in Babylonia, and presumably the Hebrew writer's knowledge of it came from Babylonian sources. Although no such narrative has yet been found in Babylonian sources, all the elements of it appear in Babylonian literature in one form or another. From Eridu, where there was a sacred garden containing a palm (comp. Barton, "Semitic Origins," p. 197), comes the Adapa legend (comp. Schrader, "K. B." 6:92 et seq., and "Assyrian and Babylonian Literature," Aldine ed., pp. 314 et seq.), in which it appears that there are a food and a water of life, of which, if a man partake, he may become like the godsâa thought also prominent in the story of Genesis. In the Gilgamesh epic there is a story of a wild man, Eabani, who lived with animals and had intercourse with them, and who through intercourse with a woman was enticed to leave them and cling to her. One of the enticements which she held out to him was that he would become like a god. Jastrow ("Adam and Eve in Babylonian Literature," in "Am. Jour. Semit. Lang." 15:193 et seq.) claims that the parallelism of this to the Biblical story has been obscured by changes of the Biblical text, and that originally in Genesis also man consorted with the animals, which were created before woman, that the fruit by which he was tempted was intercourse with her, and that originally Genesis 2:24 read "a man shall leave  the animals and cleave unto his wife." All this, as Barton has shown (c. pp. 93 et seq.), is in thorough harmony with primitive Semitic belief as to the origin of civilization, and is probably true.
The cherubim as the guardians of gates are identical with the lion and bull deities that performed similar offices in Babylonia and Assyria. The sacred tree also is an emblem which appears often on the Assyrian monuments. Frequently cherubim of a different character are represented as fertilizing it, thus showing it to be a palm-tree. On an old Babylonian cylinder a man and a woman are pictured sitting on either side of such a tree on which clusters of dates are seen hanging, and behind the woman a serpent stands on tail to whisper in her ear (see illustration in Jew. Encyc. 1:175, s. ADAM (2); and for representations of cherubim comp. ib. 4:15). The flaming sword associated with the cherubim is probably the "exalted lightning," which Tiglathpileser (Colossians 6:15) mentions as an implement of punishment.
Divergent Views Respecting the Rivers.
The serpent as the author of evil has also a parallel in the dragon Tiamat in the Babylonian story of the Creation, though the two really belong to different spheres. The name "Eden" is found also in the Babylonian "edennu" = "field" or "plain." There can, therefore, be little doubt that the account came to the Hebrews from Babylonia; but scholars differ as to the location of the rivers Pison and Gihon. Delitzsch ("Wo Lag das Paradies?" 1881) identified these with two canals, of which one is not known, but the other, Gihon, was near Babylon. Cush, in this view, is the Kassite country east of the Persian Gulf. Haupt (in "Ueber Land und Meer," 1894-95, No. 15) regards the Hebrew writer's knowledge of geography as so defective that he identified the Pison with the Red Sea, which was supposed to flow as a river about Arabia (Havilah), and the Gihon with the Nile, which was supposed to flow through unknown countries until it appeared in Cush (Nubia). Hommel ("AufsÃ¤tze und Abhandlungen," pp. 326-340) identifies all the rivers except the Euphrates with Wadi Dawasir, Wadi al-Rumma, and Wadi á¹¢irá¸¥an in Arabia. Gunkel ("Genesis," in Nowack's "Kommentar," p. 33) regards the rivers as heavenly rivers, suggested by the Milky Way, to which the Tigris and Euphrates corresponded upon earth, and thinks paradise was situated at the north pole.
Barton has shown (c. pp. 93 et seq., especially p. 96, note) that in the Semitic conception paradise was one of those fertile oases that are found in Arabia and North Africa (comp. W. R. Smith, "Rel. of Sem." 2d ed., pp. 102, et seq.), and that in Babylonia it became a garden because of changed economic conditions. Indefiniteness is, therefore, to be expected in its Babylonian locationâsuch indefiniteness as is incident to mythology.
Ezekiel's Picture of Eden.
In Ezekiel's picture of Eden the outline of the primitive oasis is still further modified. In this the shrine is on a mountain, and the sacred tree is no longer a palm, but a cedar. In the Gilgamesh epic (Tablet V.) there is a parallel to Ezekiel's picture in the description of the beautiful shrine of Humbaba, god of Elam, in the midst of a forest of cedars. Recent discovery confirms the existence of a sacred cedar forest in Elam (comp. Scheil in De Morgan's "DÃ©lÃ©gation en Perse," 2:58,59,63,69). Out of this sacred mountain a sacred river ran; and here divine voices were heard (comp. Jensen in Schrader, "K. B." 6:437,441,573). It is this picture which has indirectly influenced Ezekiel. Probably because of Tyrian influence in building Solomon's Temple, and the consequent impress of Tyrian ideas on Israel, the representation of paradise came to Ezekiel from Tyre (comp. Bevan in "Jour. of Theological Studies," 4:500 et seq.); and Ezekiel speaks of this mountain as though it were identicalwith the hill of the temple in Tyre. Its cedars are for him cedars of Lebanon. The precious stones of Ezekiel's paradise were probably, as Bevan suggests, a reference to the two pillars of the temple at Tyre which shone brightly at night (Herodotus, 2:44), and to the stones of the high priest's breastplate worn by the Tyrian king. The spring of the primitive oasis has here become a mountain stream, as in Babylonia it became rivers, because the paradise tradition has here come by way of a mountainous country.
Evolution of the Ideal Jerusalem.
These traditions of a primitive paradise from which man had been expelled for transgression made it natural that the goal of national prosperity, or of human life, should be represented as a regaining of these primitive conditions. It was this that led Ezekiel (Ezekiel 47) to portray the ideal Jerusalem in colors taken from the traditions of paradise as they were known to him. A trace of this appears also in Zechariah 14:8 and Joel 4:18. This method is taken up in greater detail in Enoch and in the apocalypses cited above, where the pictures of paradise are modified to suit each writer's fancy. As time went on and Jerusalem was more and more idealized, elements from the city were introduced into the picture of paradise and blended with the elements taken from the garden and the oasis. Thus in Revelation 22:2 et seq. paradise is a city, down the street of which a river, rising under the throne of God, flows; and on either side of the river the tree of life grows, bearing a fruit every month (comp. Barton, c. p. 96, note). EDEN, GARDEN OF.
- Friedrich Delitzsch, Wo Lag das Paradies? Leipsic, 1881;
- Toy, Analysis of Genesis and in Jour. Bib. Lit. 1891, 10:1 et seq.;
- Haupt, Wo Lag das Paradies? in Ueber Land und Meer, No. 15, Stuttgart, 1894-95;
- Jastrow, Adam and Eve in Babylonian Literature, in Am. Jour. Semit. Lang. 1899, 15:191 et seq.;
- Barton, A Sketch of Semitic Origins, pp. 92-98, New York, 1902;
- Bevan, The King of Tyre in Ezekiel in Journal of Theological Studies. 1903, 4:500 et seq.;
- Zimmern, in Schrader, K. A. T. 3d ed., 1902, pp. 527 et seq.
âIn Arabic Literature:
Paradise is usually called in Arabic "jannah" = "garden," the Persian word "firdaus," which has given the word "paradise" to European languages, being applied to one part only of the celestial abode. "There are one hundred steps in paradise; the distance between every two steps is as that between the heavens and the earth; and Firdaus is the highest, and from it flow the rivers of the paradises; and God's throne is above Firdaus" ("Mishkat al-Maá¹£abiá¸¥," 23:13,1). In the Koran there are eight different designations for paradise, which, according to most Moslem theologians, indicate eight different heavens or degrees of bliss, although probably no such exact use of the names was intended by Mohammed. Eight different degrees in paradise are, however, referred to; and the prophet himself was carried through a succession of heavens on the occasion of his miraculous night journey.
There is also a difference of opinion as to whether the paradise of the future world is identical with the Eden from which Adam and Eve were ejected, some claiming that paradise has not yet been created. The orthodox, however, believe that the two are the same. The story of Idris or Enoch, who entered heaven without dying, illustrates the latter theory. In spite of the opposition of the angel of death and of Ridwan the gatekeeper, Enoch scaled the wall of paradise by the aid of the tree Tuba, which God directed to bend a branch toward Enoch and draw him in (G. Weil, "Biblical Legends of the Mussulmans", p. 52).
Description of the Mohammedan Paradise.
The paradise of the Mohammedans is full of material delights built up by a rich and often childish fancy, chiefly on a Jewish and a Christian foundation. In sura 76:12-22 paradise is described as follows: "And their reward for their patience shall be paradise and silk. Reclining therein upon couches, they shall see neither sun nor piercing cold; and close down upon them shall be its shadows; and lowered over them its fruits to cull; and they shall be served with vessels of silver and with goblets that are as flagonsâflagons of silver which they shall mete out! and they shall drink therein a cup tempered with zinzabil [Baiá¸awi: "ginger," with which Arabs flavor their water and like which the contents of this fountain are supposed to taste], a spring therein named Silsabil! and there shall go round about them eternal boys; when thou seest them thou wilt think them scattered pearls; and when thou seest them thou shalt see pleasure and a great estate! On them shall be garments of green embroidered satin and brocade; and they shall be adorned with bracelets of silver; and their lord shall give them to drink pure drink! Verily this is a reward for you and your efforts are thanked" (Palmer's translation, Oxford, 1880).
Flowing Water a Principal Feature.
As is natural for a people living in an arid country, one of the principal features of the Arabian paradise is the flowing water. The River Kauá¹£ar is described as having water whiter than milk and sweeter than honey; its bed is of saffron, and its banks of musk. From it flow streams to all parts of the garden. Other chief features are the black-eyed virgins (houris) promised to the faithful. Every believer will have a tent formed of a hollow pearl of immense size, in the corners of which will be his wives. All bodily imperfections will be removed, and every man will enter paradise at the age of thirty; e., his age will be changed to that if he be older or younger, and he will retain this age. Every possible wish will be immediately gratified. If one wishes to ride he will have a ruby horse with wings; if he desires children he will have them grown up at once; if he wishes to farm, whatever he plants will grow with incredible rapidity. There is a river of life also in paradise. After the Day of Judgment, when the faithful have passed over the narrow bridge across hell into heaven, God will ask them if there be any who had but a particle of good in them who have fallen into hell. After any such have been rescued, He, out of His great mercy, will take out of the burning fire those who in all their lives have not performed one good deed, and will throw them into the river of life, where, although they have been burned to coals, they will return to life ("Mishkat").
Much has been said in criticism of the materialism of the Mohammedan paradise. In connection with this a remark in the "Mishkat" is of interest, to the effect that all the joys of paradise are as nothing compared with the delight of beholding God's face.
- Baiá¸awi, Commentary on the Koran;
- Ersch and Gruber. Encyc. s. Paradise;
- Hughes, Dictionary of Islam;
- Al-Tabrizi, Mishkat al-Maá¹£abiá¸¥, Calcutta, 1810;
- G. Weil, Biblical Legends of the Mussulmans, New York, 1846.
These files are public domain.
Singer, Isidore, Ph.D, Projector and Managing Editor. Entry for 'Paradise'. 1901 The Jewish Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tje/p/paradise.html. 1901.