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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature

Paradise

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Par´adise, the term which by long and extensive use has been employed to designate the Garden of Eden, the first dwelling-place of human beings. The word was used by Xenophon and Plutarch to signify an extensive plot of ground, enclosed with a strong fence or wall, abounding in trees, shrubs, plants, and garden culture, and in which choice animals were kept in different ways of restraint or freedom, according as they were ferocious or peaceable; thus answering very closely to our English word park, with the addition of gardens, a menagerie, and an aviary.

From its original meaning the term came by degrees to be employed as a metaphor for the abstract idea of exquisite delight, and then was transferred still higher to denote the happiness of the righteous in the future state. The origin of this application must be assigned to the Jews of the middle period between the Old and the New Testament. The Talmudical writings contain frequent references to Paradise as the immortal heaven, to which the spirits of the just are admitted immediately upon the liberation from the body.

Hence we see that it was in the acceptation of the current Jewish phraseology that the expression was used by our Lord and the apostles: 'Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise;' 'He was caught up into Paradise:' 'The tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God' (; ; ).

Eden is the most ancient and venerable name in geography, the name of the first district of the earth's surface of which human beings could have any knowledge.

All that we know of it goes to show that Eden was a tract of country; and that in the most eligible part of it was the Paradise, the garden of all delights, in which the Creator was pleased to place his new and pre-eminent creature, with the inferior beings for his sustenance and solace.

Upon the question of the exact geographical position of Eden, dissertations innumerable have been written. Many authors have given descriptive lists of them, with arguments for and against each. But we more than doubt the possibility of finding any locality that will answer to all the conditions of the problem. That Phrat is the Euphrates, and Hiddekel the Tigris, is agreed, with scarcely an exception; but in determining the two other rivers, great diversity of opinion exists; and, to our apprehension, satisfaction is and must remain unattainable, from the impossibility of making the evidence to cohere in all its parts. It has been remarked that this difficulty might have been expected, and is obviously probable, from the geological changes that may have taken place, and especially in connection with the deluge. This remark would not be applicable, to the extent that is necessary for the argument, except upon the supposition before mentioned, that the earlier parts of the book of Genesis consist of primeval documents, even antediluvian, and that this is one of them. There is reason to think that since the deluge the face of the country cannot have undergone any change approaching to what the hypothesis of a postdiluvian composition would require. But we think it highly probable that the principal of the immediate causes of the deluge, the 'breaking up of the fountains of the great deep,' was a subsidence of a large part or parts of the land between the inhabited tract (which we humbly venture to place in E. long. from Greenwich, 30° to 90°, and N. lat. 25° to 40°) and the sea which lay to the south; or an elevation of the bed of that sea. Either of these occurrences, produced by volcanic causes, or both of them conjointly or successively, would be adequate to the production of the awful deluge, and the return of the waters would be effected by an elevation of some part of the district which had been submerged; and that part could scarcely fail to be charged with animal remains. Now the recent geological researches of Dr. Falconer and Capt. Cautley have brought to light bones, more or less mineralized, of the giraffe in the Sewalik range of hills, which seems to be a branch of the Himalaya, westward of the river Jumna. But the giraffe is not an animal that can live in a mountainous region, or even on the skirts of such a region; its subsistence and its safety require 'an open country and broad plains to roam over.' The present position, therefore, of these fossil remains, lodged in ravines and vales among the peaks, at vast elevations, leads to the supposition of a late elevation of extensive plains.

Thus we seem to have a middle course pointed out between the two extremes; the one, that by the deluge, the ocean and the land were made to exchange places for permanency; the other, that very little alteration was produced in the configuration of the earth's surface. Indeed, such alteration might not be considerable in places very distant from the focus of elevation; but near that central district it could not but be very great. An alteration of level, five hundred times less than that effected by the upthrow of the Himalayas, would change the beds of many rivers, and quite obliterate others.

From all we can learn, then, of the Garden of Eden, it appears to have been a tract of country, the finest imaginable, lying probably between the 33rd and the 37th degree of N. latitude, of such moderate elevation, and so adjusted, with respect to mountain ranges and water sheds and forests, as to preserve the most agreeable and salubrious conditions of temperature and all atmospheric changes. Its surface must therefore have been constantly diversified by hill and plain. From its hill-sides, between the croppings out of their strata, springs trickled out, whose streamlets, joining in their courses, formed at the bottom small rivers, which again receiving other streams (which had in the same way flowed down from the higher grounds), became, in the bottom of every valley, a more considerable river. These valleys inosculated, as must consequently their contained streams; wider valleys or larger plains appeared; the river of each united itself with that of its next neighbor; others contributed their waters as the augmenting stream proceeded; and finally it departed from the land of Eden, to continue its course to some sea, or to lose its waters by the evaporation of the atmosphere or the absorption of the sandy desert. In the finest part of this land of Eden, the Creator had formed an enclosure, probably by rocks and forests and rivers, and had filled it with every product of nature conducive to use and happiness. Due moisture, of both the ground and the air, was preserved by the streamlets from the nearest hills, and the rivulets from the more distant; and such streamlets and rivulets, collected according to the levels of the surrounding country ('it proceeded from Eden') flowed off afterwards in four larger streams, each of which thus became the source of a great river. With regard to its locality, after the explication we have given it may seem the most suitable to look for the site of Paradise on the south of Armenia. From this opinion few, we think, will dissent.

 

 

 

 


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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Paradise'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/kbe/p/paradise.html.

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