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CHAPTER THREE

GAN EDEN 
PARADISE

Παράδεισος

 

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Paradise - A Park

Paradise is but an Anglicized form of the Greek word παράδεισος, which is identical with the Sanscrit paradesa, Persian pardes, and appears also in the Hebrew pardes, פִּרדֵּס, and the Arabic firdarus. In all these languages it has essentially the same meaning, a park.

 

It does not occur in the Old Testament, in the English version, but is used in the Septuagint. to translate the Hebrew Gan, גָּן, a garden (Ge 2:8 sq.), and thence found its way into the New Testament. It figuratively represents to the dwelling of the righteous, in allusion to the Garden of Eden (2Co 12:4; Re 2:7).
It has thus come into familiar use to denote both the garden and the heaven.

 

I. Literal Application of the Name — Of this word (παράδεισος) the earliest instance that we have is in the Cyropaedia and other writings of Xenophon, nearly 400 years before Christ. 

 

It means a wide, open park, enclosed against injury, yet with its natural beauty unspoiled, with stately forest-trees, many of them bearing fruit, watered by clear streams, on whose banks roved large herds of antelopes or sheep — this was the scenery which connected itself in the mind of the Greek traveler with the word: παράδεισος,

 

We find it also used by Plutarch, who lived in the 1st and 2d century of AD. It was by these authors evidently employed 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 the English word park, with the addition of gardens, a menagerie, and an aviary.

 

The circumstance which has given this term its extensive and popular use is its having been taken by the Greek translators of the Pentateuch, in the 3d century B.C., and, following them, in the ancient Syriac version, and by Jerome in the Latin Vulgate, as the translation of the garden ( גָּן,,  gan)  which the benignant providence of the Creator prepared for the abode of innocent and happy man. The translators also use it, not only in the twelve places of Ge 2; Ge 3, but in eight others, and two in which the feminine form (גִּנָּה) occurs; whereas, in other instances of those two words, they employ κῆπος (Kypos) , the usual Greek word for a garden or an enclosure of fruit-trees. But there are three places in which the Hebrew text itself has the very word, giving it the form pardes. These are, "the keeper of the king's forest, that he may give me timber" (Ne 2:8); orchards (Ec 2:5);  "an orchard of pomegranates" (Song of Solomon, 4:13).

 

Through the writings of Xenophon, and through the general admixture of Orientalisms in the later Greek after the conquests of Alexander of Macedonia, the Garden of Eden became 'The Paradise of Delight'  παράδεισος τῆς τρυφῆς   (Ge 2:15,23; Joe 2:3). They used the same word whenever there was any allusion, however remote, to the garden of Eden

 

Josephus calls the gardens of Solomon, in the plural number, "Paradises" (Ant. 8:7, 3). Berosus (B.C. cent. 4), quoted by Josephus (c. Apion, 1:20), says that the lofty garden-platforms erected at Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar were called the Suspended Paradise.

 

Hanging Gardens of Babylon


The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, and is called suspended Paradise.

According to Rosenmüller  (Bibl. Alterthumsk. vol. i, pt. i, p. 174):


"It corresponds to the Greek pardesa, a word appropriated to the pleasure-gardens and parks with wild animals around the palace of the Persian monarchs. The origin of the word, however, is to be sought with neither the Greeks nor the Hebrews, but in the languages of Eastern Asia. We find it in Sanskrit 'paradesha',  'foreign land',  a region of surpassing beauty; and the Armenian pardes, a park or garden adjoining the house, planted with trees for use and ornament."

 

The name was originally applied to "the Garden of Eden" (Ge 2:8; Ge 4:16,; comp. 2:8), from the name of the region in which it lay; an Eastern country, the first dwelling-place of Adam and Eve. It was watered by a river which passed out from the garden, in four arms or branches (Hebr. רָאשַׁים, heads, i.e. streams).

 

In the Chaldee Targums, "the Garden of Eden" is put as the exposition of heavenly blessedness (Ps 90:17).

 

The Talmudical writings, cited by the elder Buxtorf (Lex. Chald. et Talm. p. 1802) and John James Wetstein (N.T. Gr. 1:819), contain frequent references to Paradise as the immortal heaven, to which the spirits of the just are admitted immediately upon their liberation from the body. As I have discussed earlier, this would imply the active principle of Karma in action without any judgement. As far as we know only two people in the history of the Biblical period attained it.  Even that is questioned by some.

 

The book. Zohar speaks of an earthly and a heavenly Paradise, of which the latter excels the former "as much as darkness does light" (Schottgen, Hor. Hebr. 1:1096).

 

 

1. Allegorical Interpretation:
To the idealistic school of Alexandria,
of which Philo the Jew is the representative, paradise was nothing more than a symbol and an allegory.

Philo (De Mundi Opif. §. 54).
"Spiritual perfection (ἀρετή) was the only paradise.

The trees that grew in it were the thoughts of the spiritual man.
The fruits which they bore were life and knowledge and immortality.
The four rivers flowing from one source are the four virtues of the later Platonists, ." The virtues of prudence, temperance, courage, and justice;
while the main stream, of which they are branches is the generic virtue, goodness, which goeth forth from Eden, the wisdom of God."

2. A Real Paradise of Garden on the Earth.
 The rabbinical schools of Palestine presented a phase of thought the very opposite of that of the Alexandrian writer. They had their descriptions, definite and detailed, a complete topography.

Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 7 By John McClintock, James Strong

 

It is all on Earth or inside

 

Paradise, the garden of Eden, existed still, and they discussed the question of its locality. The answers were not always consistent with each other.

l  It was far off in the distant East, farther than the foot of man had trod.

l   It was a region of the world of the dead, of Sheol, in the heart of the earth. Gehenna was on one side, with its flames and torments. Paradise on the other, the intermediate home of the blessed. (Comp. Wetstein, Grotius, and Schottgen, In Luc. 23.)

 

 

The patriarchs were there, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, ready to receive their faithful descendants into their bosoms (Joseph. De Macc. c. 13). The highest place of honor at the feast of the blessed souls was Abraham's bosom.

 

Alternatively:

Paradise was neither on the earth nor within it, but above it, in the third heaven, or in some higher orb.  .

Or
There are two paradises, the upper and the lower — one in heaven, for those who had attained the heights of holiness —
 one in earth, for those who had lived but decently

(Schottgen, Hor. Heb. in Apoc. 2:7),
 

 

The heavenly paradise was sixty times as large as the whole lower earth (Eisenmenger, Entdecktes Judenth. 2:297). Each had seven palaces, and in each palace were its appropriate dwellers (ibid. p. 302). As the righteous dead entered paradise, angels stripped them of their grave clothes, arrayed them in new robes of glory, and placed on their heads diadems of gold and pearls (ibid. p. 310). There was no night there. Its pavement was of precious stones. Plants of healing power and wondrous fragrance grew on the banks of its streams (ibid. p. 313).

From this lower paradise the souls of the dead rose on sabbaths and on feast-days to the higher (ibid. p. 318), where every day there was the presence of Jehovah: holding council with his saints (ibid. p. 320). (Comp. also Schottgen, Hor. Heb. in Luc. 23.)


 

 

 

 

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