Basis for eden?

What was the basis for the christian concept of eden?
Are there other religions with a mythical place that all life sprung from?

The basis for the Christian concept of Eden was the Hebrew concept of Eden, from the Hebrew bible.

Nahum Sarna, in Commentaries on Genesis, says:

A bit of word history: The Greek version of the Bible translated the Hebrew word “garden” (gan) as paradeisos, meaning an enclosed park or pleasure ground. This passed into the Latin and thus to other European languages. The Hebrew word 'eden was interpreted to mean “pleasure”, so “paradise” took on a religious connotation as the place of reward of the righteous after death. There is no such meaning for 'eden in the original language of the Hebrew bible. “Eden” clearly designates some wide geographic region in which the garden is located. It is suggested that the name comes from Sumerian edinu meaning “plains”, but there is an Aramaic-Akkadian bilingual inscription that implies the word means “luxuriance.”

Many (most?) early mythologies usually do contain a story about a Golden Age, usually destroyed by the gods for some whim other. It’s usually not human beings who populate this Golden Age, but some godlike precursors of human beings. Check out any good Greek mythology on the creation of the world.

Here is a theory of the Origin of Eden. It is not proven or (yet) completely accepted, but I have not encountered any conclusive arguments against it.

I think you’re confusing, or maybe conflating, several meanings of the word “origin.”

The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers surely flooded many times and this history would be an intrisic part of local lore, but the story of Noah and a world-girdling flood is a fable that is not connected to any real event in history.

Similarly, the account of Eden in Genesis is a borrowed and embellished fable written to make a point. There is no way to know what was in the writer’s mind as he sat down, whether it was a real historic area or the local oasis down the road, but once started the rest of the story was deliberate fiction, whose purpose was to convey a specific message.

Dex is correct that this is a common, almost universal, device. And writers did and do draw from life, from history,and from lore. In a constricted world, there will certainly be identifable ties between words and geography. But it cannot be seriously argued that Eden is a summation of 10,000 years of agricultural history. A writer’s brain is the only “origin” for Eden.

No. but a memory (grown rosy and golden with time, as many memories do) of that place of bounty and plenty where our ancestors used to live could easily give rise to the story that the author embellished for his central point.
And finding a place that appears to support the physical description of Eden (in direction from Israel, rivers present, and, apparently, names) provides interest in a number of ways.

The Aztec-Mexica tradition is that their people came from the center of the earth to the surface through seven caves. The first place of surface settlement was the mystical Aztlán. From there they set out until seeing a heavenly sign telling them to set down again, namely an eagle perched on a cactus while devouring a serpent. Some anthropologists place Aztlán geographically either on the Pacific coast of Nayarit, in the San Francisco Bay area, the Hopewell region of Mississippi, or in the Colorado area, among others

I believe other Uto-Aztecan groups have similar mythologies, such as the Navajo Whirling Mountain.

The term Aztlán has recently been co-opted by political and social action groups to refer to the area of Mexico taken by the United States as war spoils, and more fuzzily to the continent that will some day be reconquered by La Raza.

Don’t be so sure there, Exapno. It’s being argued these days that the world-flood of Noah (as also told variously in the epic of Gilgamesh, the Greek myth of Deucalion, etc.) actually evolved from the massive flooding that eventually became the Black Sea. This flood came from the waters of the Mediterranean Sea breaking through the walls of the Bosporus, thus flooding thousands of square miles of previous plainland. Robert Ballard, of Titanic-finding fame, is doing some remarkable research at the bottom of the Black Sea to lend empirical evidence to such a theory.

Please be careful, **Exapno. ** I didn’t say that. I quoted Nahum Sarna, who said that the notion of a primal Garden is NOT common, although there are a few suggestive parallels, and cited one from Sumerian literature.

What IS fairly common is the notion of a Golden Age that existed in the past. However, this Golden Age is typically NOT set in a garden, but is the population of the world. The Hebrew Genesis story is unique (or nearly so) in setting the Golden Age in a garden spot, very localized, with only two inhabitants and not a broader population.

Loco, does the Aztec mythos indicate that life in the center of the earth was a paradise, a Golden Age – peaceful, no war or hunger or disease, etc?

I find these connections extremely suspect. In virtually all cases, people argue backwards from the account in the Bible to search for some historic event that has correspondences and then proclaim that the event was the cause. Never is there evidence of the arrow pointing the other way. Nobody has - or ever will - be able to show that the memory of this flooding postulated in the Ryan and Pitman book existed even in folklore for however many thousands of years required, nor has anybody ever shown - nor can they - that this was in fact the event being specifically in the head of the author.

Nor is any of it necessary. There is no doubt that the author of these events was a member of contemporary society with access to the knowledge and lore of that society. There is no doubt that any number of floods of whatever magnitude could have sparked the Noah story or its predecessors.

Just as it is true that a memory - or the rumor of such - of a better earlier age could create a story of an Eden. (It is this commonality of a Golden Age I find important, not the location in a garden.) The fact that such stories cross many cultures casts doubt on a physical eden in a specific location, however, unless you place credence in Jungian racial memories. Given the talk even in this century of a mythical “Good Old Days” when we are currently richer, more comfortable, healthier, and freer than any people ever in history makes me suspect that human beings are congenitally a bunch of whiners and complainers rather than descendents of a paradise.

The bottom line with these theories of remembered events is that Genesis is not history in any sense we understand the word today. And there is absolutely no need to interpret it as actual history to understand the sense and meaning of what it was trying to convey.

Please look up the history of explanations for the “Star of Bethlehem” to see to what extent people can contort history. Every occurrence of a bright object in the sky, some of them postulated and not in the astronomical records, over a period of some 20 years B.C.E. and even C.E. has been advanced as the triggering event. The fact that none of these under any circumstances can be proven to be true actually increases the number of theories rather than diminishes them. It is a game, a hobby, an intellectual challenge or conceit, an obsession, or a mania. But it is not history or science. So too all attempts to give physicality to fables.

Which, of course, explains why no one has ever found the site of Troy.

In the Mexica tradition the ancestors lived somewhat normally in Chicomoztoc (the Seven Caves). The Codices contain Conquest-era descriptions such as the narrative of Tezozomoc, a chieftain of the Valley of Mexico. Apparently, the Mexicas kept detailed glyphic records of the migration which were destroyed or lost during the Conquest, but they were quickly reconstructed based on oral tradition. In any case, there are several versions or lines for the same events reported in the Codices. As Fray Benardino translated from one Mexica script, “It is not advisable for everybody to know the black ink and the colors.”

Tezozomoc’s descriptions are generally bland, as the tradition focuses on the exodus–which began as commanded by the war god Huitzilopochtli–out of Aztlán as a nondescript starting point.
A detailed paper by Susan Spitler posits:

Also, while the command by Huitzilopochtli is considered to be a historical event, the sighting of the Eagle and the Serpent is considered to be a miracle.

There’s a fairly complete description of the Mexica migration (in Spanish) here

JFTR, there seems to be some evidence that “Eden” as a geographic area that would be familiar to readers of Genesis, the area where the Garden was said to have been planted, was the Al Hajara area in SW Iraq and adjacent Saudi Arabia – now a region of arid plains (edinu, as noted above), but the 2nd millennium BC a moister and more fertile area.

No, the analogy would be to why no one has yet found a large wooden horse.

You may want to look at the Mesopotamian creation stories that feed the Bible: Adapa, Atrahasis, and Enuma elish, and even Gilgamesh.
The metaphorical meaning of Eden is most likely that of childlike bliss, and the eating of the Tree of Knowledge is a agricultural myth explaining growth and conscience.

You may want to look at the Mesopotamian creation stories that feed the Bible: Adapa, Atrahasis, and Enuma elish, and even Gilgamesh.
The metaphorical meaning of Eden is most likely that of childlike bliss, and the eating of the Tree of Knowledge is a agricultural myth explaining growth and conscience.

A search of almost ANY mythology in the world will show a creation myth similar to the Bible’s.

Why? No one claims that they have discovered the stump of an unidentifiable tree beneath the waves of the Persian Gulf that seems to have chemical properties to aid in discerning Good and Evil and another stump with chemicals to grant everlasting life.

The only claim is that when the writer(s) of the early chapters of Genesis wrote the story, it seems possible that they used traditions that had come down of a place of plenty in the distant past, with landmarks passed down to make the story come alive, and that it is possible that that location has now been identified.

Similarly, the Iliad came down as a story that was generally considered a complete fabrication (partly because it was described as occurring in a location where no one had ever seen a city or ruin). Schliemann (while failing to correctly identify the probable level of the town that existed at the time of the story), demonstrated that the story had a physical basis in a genuine city.

Neither I nor Dr. Zarins have claimed that the Eden story is based on real events. Zarins speculates on a tale that encapsulates the hunter-gatherer/agrarian shift. He would need to produce more information for me to buy into his extended theory. However, the claims for a physical location carry a bit more plausibility. To claim that it not proven is certainly true. To claim that it cannot be possible seems to indicate that no ancient peoples could have ever incorporated genuine history or geography in their stories. I see no reason to believe that. (The Lemba people of Southern Africa have a rather odd collection of tales that links them to the Jewish people of the Mediterranean. While associating the “10 lost tribes” with the Lemba is rather absurd, genetic testing led to a series of investigations that indicated that the Lemba may, indeed, be a remnant of Jewish traders who migrated from (what is now) Yemen to Africa.

I would never claim that any story should be just accepted as history, but I think that dismissing the historical (or geographic) components of all legends and myths is unwarranted. It seems to indicate a mindset that claims “those people could not possibly have used any facts in the creation of their stories.”

Since I have said several times that the writers involved undoubtedly knew local history and lore, I cannot understand why you deny that I did exactly that.

Let me try it from a different angle.

The stories in Genesis as well as in many other parts of the Old and New Testaments are fables designed for religious instruction and teaching.

They did not happen. There was not an Adam and Eve. There was not an Eden from which they were expelled. There was not a Noah. He did not take animals into an ark.

This does not affect the stories’ status or value as teaching devices except for a very small minority of inerrants

There is no way to know what was in the minds of the various people who wrote these stories.

Not does it matter. Whether they used precise historical records, stole from earlier myths, or invented every detail, they wrote what they wanted to write to make the point they did.

Historical correspondences to the teaching stories are interesting but irrelevant.

There certainly were peoples living in the historic times and areas, even those that are mentioned later in the Old Testament, but archaeologists have found few solid facts to attest to the status of individuals mentioned. This does not negate in any way anyone’s belief or the value or status of the stories involved.

Similarly, there is no archaeological or historic evidence for the specific events listed in the Gospels, but this is irrelevant to the teaching purpose of the parables and of Jesus, whether he is a real individual, a composite figure, or a literary device.

The same is true for Homer or the various people whose stories were compiled under that name. There were no such people as Helen, Achilles, and Hector. They did not do the feats associated with their names. The gods did not interfere with and meddle in these feats. The fact that there was a historical place such as Troy is an interesting but irrelevant fact that says nothing about the lessons and values that Homer intended to impart.

That there could be - and sometimes is - a historic basis for legends and myths is something I postulated over and over again. Trying to attach a specific time, place, individual, or event to legends and myths is at best a futile exercise that misunderstands the very purpose of legends and myths. You can speculate about the location of Eden or the route of Odysseus for any number of reasons or none at all, and you may by doing so contribute to archaeological knowledge. But you will never know what was in the storytellers’ minds except the stories that they told.

Perhaps, because each of your posts is presented as a denial of what I have posted, leading me to believe that you are attacking any possible connection? For example, you have never backed off from this statement

even though I have never claimed that the events in the Garden of Eden were historical. It is, however, interesting to explore the possibility that there was a real location (with its own mythology) which contributed to the mythology embodied in Genesis. Your point appeared to be that we simply cannot know the origins of any stories and that it was ridiculous to look for associations between history and geography and myth. I submit that that is too absolute a claim.

Thomas Malory is the only “source” of the particular story Le Morte D’Arthur. That does not prevent us from looking to the French tale from which he borrowed or Geoffrey of Monmouth or any number of other predecessors to see where he borrowed ideas. Homer (or whoever or however many he/they may have been) is the only “source” for the Iliad, but it provides a glimpse into the past to discover that there was a real city, genuinely destroyed in war, at about the time when he placed the war.

If you are simply objecting to the word “origin” on the grounds that you believe someone may take that to mean that the story has historical origins, I’ll retract that word. It remains interesting that we can identify, without warping the texts a location that seems to meet the description of Eden’s location.

Oh, good grief.

Some selected quotes from that article:

I can read these as arguing for my point of view, that the writers took the vague and half-remembered lore around them of a lost Golden Age and used that as the core for a fable.

I don’t know if Zarins’ location theory is accepted by the biblical scholarly community. I don’t think it is and you have presented no evidence that it has been. I think his idea that Eden is the story of the hunter-gatherers is ludicrous, however. It reinforces my view that if you argue backwards to find correspondences you can find them anywhere.

Since I never at any time claimed that it was “ridiculous to look for associations between history and geography and myth” I’m not even going to bother to refute that. It is fascinating to do so, and it’s very possible that I have read more in the field of biblical and ancient near eastern archaeology than you have.

But since you have retracted the use of the word “origin” in a historical sense, I will end this argument here. My original point was that we could speak only of correspondences and not origins for fable. I think it is an important distinction to remember.