I was trying to make a joke online about being stationed “East of Eden,” based on the idea that Eden is somewhere near Iraq. I did a double check to find an article about Eden being in Iraq, and ran across this little article from Answers in Genesis.
Frankly, it offended my sensibilities. The folks at Answers in Genesis may be proud of their biblically minded powers of scientific reasoning, but it seems like the buck stops when it comes to basic literary analysis. I mean, really – Moses tells us that a river came out of Eden (which happens to be east from wherever he’s writing), and splits into four headwaters. Two of the four rivers have recognizable names. A third is said to run through a known region. But Mark Looy assures us that these must be memorial names, like “New England” or “New York,” which are named after the orginal sites, but shouldn’t be confused one for the other.
In other words, Moses is a liar. East is nowhere in particular; Tigris isn’t Tigris; Euphrates isn’t Euphrates, and Ethiopia might as well be the Amazon basin, for all we’re able to clearly identify it. “It was destroyed by the global Flood, and so its actual location under piles of sediment can never be known.” Eden is nowhere in particular, like Atlantis. ” For that matter, the original Garden could have been on the other side of the world!”
So saith the scientist. He has a head for theories and logical conclusions from irrefutable evidence, but no eye for plain-dealing accounts. Moses clearly expects us to treat Eden like a real place, and not an imaginary one, like Mount Olympus. In fact, part of the whole reason for sites like Answers in Genesis is to defend the position that places like Eden, and Adam and Eve, and the flood were real places, real people and real events. But how does Moses actually communicate that Eden was real place, and not a theological Utopia? By linking it to known geography. How do I know that Washington, D.C. is a real place? Because it’s just south of Maryland, unlike Oz, which is on the other side of the Deadly Desert.
If the place names in Genesis 2 aren’t really connected to the places they’re associated with now, then there’s no real assurance from Scripture that Eden was a place with an actual location. That removes from us the need to find it, which may be what Mark Looy wants, but it also removes from us the need to assume a real flood, or to look for answers in Genesis to any factual questions at all.
Anyway, I was riled. So I went looking. Surely somebody’s done a better job than this. Is the Pishon the Ganges, which would Make all of India the land of Havilah, “where there is gold.” Is Gihon the Nile? Keep in mind that part of what Moses is arguing for is that the Garden of Eden formed a square, just like the Holy of Holies. To pull it off, somehow we’ve got to have one river that branches into four (quite the opposite from the normal way of rivers. And these rivers have to have sharp corners, so that they can all come out from one location and manage to come back together at another. Worse, two of the rivers are already identified, and they go parallel to each other. The third one has to cut through a land over 1,000 miles away, on the other side of the Red sea. In other words, it’s going to be easier all around to argue for a mythical Eden, since the real one is too impossible to exist.
Then I found this site. I’m not so sure I buy the eschatology at the end, but geology looks legit, and I can’t argue with the literary analysis. Plus, this picture is awesome: