Was Eden a real place?

This sort of goes along with my other thread that asked several biblical questions. This time the question is…was (or could) Eden have been a real, actual place?

I was watching a show on the History Channel that brought up the fact that the creation story has origins far older than those in the Old Testament. Additionally, recent satellite imagery seems to indicate that, indeed, 4 rivers (like in the bible) did meet in what is now the Persian Gulf approximately 6000-7000 year ago. According to the show, at the time the Persian Gulf was above sea level and basically a fertile valley fed by the 4 rivers (Tigris and Euphrates, and too ‘fossil rivers’ the Pison and Gihon).

I was wondering…how plausible is it that the story actually has some basis in fact? The creation tale that is in the bible was supposedly taken from a much earlier tale from the Mesopotamian region. That seems pretty well grounded in archaeological fact based on writings found in the region. However…the Mesopotamian story would have had to have been passed down from several thousand years earlier by I assume word of mouth. Is this plausible?

As a bonus, the show was also making a case for the biblical flood story (and earlier stories, again from Mesopotamia), as well as Greek tales of Atlantis having it’s root basis in the actual floods of both this region and/or the Black Sea region. However, again, you’d have to have stories handed down from essentially neolithic peoples by word of mouth. How plausible is this? We’ll really never know, as any evidence has long since been buried in hundreds of feet of water and sediment. But I think it’s still an interesting point to debate (if there was a real answer this would be in GQ).


I didn’t see the show you’re referencing, but I think it’s pretty well documented that the events described in Genesis are derived from older, Mesopotamian traditions. The flood story, for example, appears in the Epic of Gilgamesh, which purports to describe events of 5,000 years ago (and was committed to writing at least 2,700 years ago). When cultures don’t have writing, they are much better at conveying oral history over long periods.

Well, it’s not like they have a choice. Except for the W-Tuu’buu people, of course, who passed on their myths through interpretative dance.
If anything, an oral tradition guarantees that details will be lost to time, while writing more firmly records facts about events as they occur.

I thought the Persian Gulf was last above water farther back then 5,000 B.C., more like 12,000 B.C., but I can’t find a cite. I could believe an oral history being passed down from the former date to when the Mesopotamians started writing things down, but the latter seems less likely, as its hard to believe a culture could remain intact over the necessary ~8,000 years.

Well, the show I was watching claimed it flooded during end of the glacier period 8000 years ago. This Wiki article though seems to support your 12,000 year time period:

I agree that an oral tradition going back to 12,000 years is even more implausible than one going back 8000 years (though I suppose we are really talking about something like 6000-8000 or 3000-4000 from the perspective of possible Mesopotamian cultures). I’m not even sure if the same people speaking the same lauguage have continuously occupied that land (especially after the flooding), going from hunting and gathering to early agriculture. At a guess multiple peoples speaking various languages migrated into the region during that period…making an oral tradition from pre-agricultural/pre-literate societies even less likely i’m thinking.


Eden is probably a dim cultural memory of the hunter-gatherer stage of human culture, without all that backbreaking farm labor – of course, nostalgia obscures the reality of an uncertain food supply.

Do cultural memories last that long? Would Mesopotamian proto-civilizations really have tales and memories that stretch back that far?


Perhaps, especially since they were at all times aware of less civilized neighbors, therefore that such a state of existence was possible.

Geographical locations that have been identified with the Garden of Eden.

Did you check out this wikipedia article? :wink:

In the case of Bryan’s theory, I wouldn’t think it would have to be an actual memory. Not everyone went Agrarian at once, so the original creators of the story may have simply had contact with people still living a more Hunter-Gatherer type lifestyle and figured that they used to live similarly. Asimov floats a similar theory in his Guide to the Bible that the story of Cain and Abel was supposed to be about warfare between early Agrarian and Pastoral people, as innocent farmer Abel is favored by God and treacherous nomadic sheep herder Cain gets jealous and kills him.

Alternatively both stories could’ve been made up whole cloth by some board farmers, no real way to know. But its kind of fun to think that we might retain some cultural memory of events that happened 8,000 years ago, even if their unrecognizably vague at this point.

I wish I had a cite for this, but TTBOMK Eden was not a reference to a mythical paradise, even though it became the type specimen for the concept “mythical paradise.” Rather, it was the at-the-time fertile and gardenlike area of southwestern Iraq, roughly An Najaf and Muthanna provinces, which have been slowly encroached on by desertification for 5000 years but parts of which were still relatively arable up until the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, which destroyed the irrigation system holding the desert somewhat at bay. The Biblical “A garden eastward, in Eden” would be akin to someone from the Boswash megalopolis saying, “a nice estate down south, in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Yes, I believe it was a real place, somewhere in the Middle East, maybe even a little further east. I do believe that Adam, Eve & the Nakhash (Serpent) were real beings, the first two actual humans, the latter perhaps even a non-Adamic human.
However, this is, so far, outside of archaeological veried history.

I don’t know where or when it all happened, but it makes sense to me that it happened, though not in the traditionally interpreted way. I won’t argue against God using evolution even to bring about physical Adamic humanity, nor will I argue there were no physical humans before Adam. But it makes sense that at one point at time, there weren’t humans who had a child-parent relationship with the Creator, then suddenly there were, and they spread to dominate & assimilate any & all other humans who may have existed.

Err…right, to answer the original question, I’m trying to think of the longest period we have evidence for an oral tradition preserving a story of an actual event before being written down. I seem to remember that the stories of the Trojan war were passed down some 400 years before they reached Homer, and then the Iliad itself was only transmitted by oral tradition for a few centuries after that

On a similar note, does Valhalla exist?

You can also add will be. Many think that the new earth God will create (Is 65:17, 66:22, 2 Peter 3:13, Rev 21:1) will be the restored Eden or at least a copy of it.

Except the writers of the Biblical tale obviously didn’t think of Eden as somewhere that was accessible to them, as the story has it being guarded by angels with flaming swords or somesuch. I don’t think this would be the case if they knew of it as an actual place just over the next hill.

ETA: I think that if Eden was a real place, it’s much more likely that the people who wrote the stories we’re now familiar couldn’t actually go there, either because it had been inundated as in xtisme’s theory or simply because they had long since forgotten where it was and only had some vague cultural memory of coming from a place to the W that had 4 rivers.

Actually, maybe I’m wrong. Does God put angels around Eden as a whole, just the Garden, or just the trees. Sunday school was a long time ago…

Eden, obviously, is in Independence, Missouri.

Even more interesting is the story of Jubal and Tubal Cain.

:confused: “Non-Adamic human”? I am familiar with that concept only in connection with Christian Identity, with whose doctrines I am sure you have not the least sympathy.