Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Was There a Garden of Eden?

[The AMAIC would agree with much of this, but not e.g. the dating]

Most people are aware that legends of a global deluge are
found in the ancient traditions of nearly all cultures on earth.
Less well-known is that stories remarkably similar to Genesis'
account of the Garden of Eden are also widespread. The Greek
myths of Pandora, Epimetheus & Prometheus, and the Golden
Fleece all contain basic elements of the Genesis account--plus
mysterious additional details that are not found in the Biblical
story, but are later reflected in rabbinical and church traditions.

Upon one of the oldest of all formal human records, a cylinder
seal from the ancient Sumerian civilization, is found an image of
a naked or sparsely-clothed man and woman standing on either
side of a tree, around which is entwined a serpent. To explain
this ancient artifact away, the skeptics assert that the Jews must
have taken the idea from the Babylonians. But then, where did
the ancient Chinese memories of the pre-flood world originate?

In fact, when ancient mythology in general is examined, most
of the tales of the promordial "gods" are from the period of the
pre-Deluge epoch of each cultural tradition.

It is to be expected that survivors of an age-ending cataclysm
would recall the recently-destroyed civilization as a much better
world than the post-cataclysm condition of ruin. Yet the Bible is
rather unique in taking the opposite view: The pre-flood world
was evil and decadent and deserved to be destroyed, Genesis
says [Gen 6:1-22]. Hence, it is ironic that Genesis would then
preserve the notion of a pre-Flood Paradise in spite of its view
that the old world was almost totally corrupt and wicked. Is it
possible there really was a Garden of Eden?

Until recently, there were few scientific tools which could shed light on this question
or the related issue of the historicity of Adam and Eve, the first couple always included
in the ancient myths of Paradise. Then, in the late 1980's, Dr. Rebecca Cann and a team
of paleo-geneticists observed that all human beings carry around genetic markers inherited
from our ancient ancestors that might provide clues to when and where we originated. So
Cann took genetic samples from all over the world to reconstruct our genetic family tree.

The results shook the foundations of science. Cann's team discovered that all females
carry a particular genetic marker that must have come from a single woman who was the
sole ancestor of all women now living. Moreover, they found that the time-frame for the
"genetic Eve" to have lived was relatively recent: Between 180,000 and 22,000 years ago.

Paleontologists had previously toyed with estimates as far back as 4,000,000 years for
our common ancestor. So even the 180,000-year age was far too recent for some of them.
But even more disturbing was how the 22,000-year estimate was derived. Cann's team
had argued that, if only two individuals were involved, then the couple must have lived in
even more recent times; the 180,000-year estimate assumed an initial group of thousands
of people among whom the "genetic Eve" had distributed her genes by having sex with a
large number of men However, if only a single couple had started the process, the date of
the pair could have been only about 22,000 years ago.

What upset many scientists was that this time-frame was uncomfortably close to the
chronologies of Genesis and other ancient traditons. They had good reason to be worried.
Other studies began to confirm this recent date. It was found, moreover, that roughly
23,000 years ago mankind had been located somewhere between Egypt and Mesopotamia
--in other words, in the region of Israel, at the time of the emergeance of modern genes.

Studies of domesticated animals were showing similar results, as were various human
migration studies. Again and again, the era around 25,000 years ago was found to be the
starting point for human civilization. Ironically, a book had been written back in the
1980's, before all the new genetic discoveries, which had noted the peculiar fact that all
the first evidences of human inventiveness and true artistic expression emerged rather
suddenly about 25,000 years ago; the title: The Creative Explosion.
The pieces were coming together rapidly in the late 1990's. By 1996, evidence showed
that the world's males had likewise descended from a single "genetic Adam" whose date
was uncertain, but compatible with the 22,000-year age. Further confirmation came in
1997 that all males derive from a single "Adam" and that mankind had not come together
from multiple simultaneous parallel populations developing in different areas, but from a
single population--and apparently a single couple--in one specific area: Near Israel.

According to both Islamic and Jewish tradition, the Garden of Eden was located in the
viciinity of Jerusalem. Although the Greeks spoke of Atlantis as a kind of Paradise, it
was not their Garden of Eden, which they had located in the land of "Cohchis" where the
Grove of fruit trees was guarded by a Dragon or winged serpent-god. Cholchis was to be
found by sailing south and east of Greece, but its exact location was uncertain.

The Nazis searched for Paradise in Tibet because they believed Helena Blavatsky's
claim that she had seen an ancient book in India which said survivors of the Deluge had
landed atop mountains north of India around 9,549 BC. The Nazis assumed these were
the Himalayas, but they could just as easily have been the mountains of eastern Turkey.
The Nazis forgot that the myths of India come from a people who had migrated into the
Indus valley from the north after the Mohenjo-Daro civilization collapsed c. 1,500 BC.
But Blavatsky wrote about survivors of the Deluge, not of the original Paradise.

Much confusion exists between the paradise-like Atlantis and the original Paradise of
the Garden of the first couple. Francis Bacon, the famous occultist said to have edited the
King James Bible, was writing a book when he died called The New Atlantis, in which he
argued for America being the remnant of Atlantis and a pre-flood Paradise.

In the Middle East there is no uncertainty. The Garden was located in the region of
Jerusalem. Genesis implies that Abraham and Lot had seen it during their travels:

"And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan, that it was well-
watered everywhere, before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, even as
THE GARDEN OF THE LORD, like the land of Egypt, as you come to Zoar."
[Gen. 13:10]

Notice how casually the comparison to the Garden is inserted along with an ordinary
geographic reference to a place in Egypt, apparently the area near the Nile Delta from
which Abraham and Lot had recently come. The obvious implication of the passage is
that Abraham and Lot had also recently passed through "the Garden of the Lord" along
their journeys. And it was seemingly prior to their going into Egypt because Egypt is
mentioned after the Garden. Of course, the scribes knew that Abraham had passed by
the mountains of Moriah around Jerusalem before going on to Egypt. Abraham knew of
these mountains because he was able to recognize them from afar off when he later would
bring Isaac there.

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