June 11, 2014

The Garden of Eden

(Note: I apologize in advance for not having all my cross-references for this post.)

Genesis 1-3 give details about the place where the first true humans lived. Should we take this story as mere poetry rather than literal? Or does science and archeology confirm the Bible’s account? I believe that there is a strong case to be made for the Bible being literal history, and here is why. First, though, temporarily throw out any preconceived notions of what the Bible is talking about or the time period to which it refers, because science has taught us that the earth is old and humanity has a much longer history than was previously believed.

My theory has been that pre-humans lived in East Africa before Adam and Eve’s time. These were human-like animals with greater intelligence than any other animals, though still not up to human levels. The Out-of-Africa model I believe is partly correct. Though there were other pre-human migrations out of Africa, only one migration resulted in true human civilization, around 75,000 years ago (100-65 Ka). This migration ended with only one individual surviving and moving all the way to a place later called Eden. The pre-human individual somehow became Adam. (It is probable that this pre-human died and was revived and given a human spirit and so became the first true human.) With careful analysis of the Bible, Eden can be identified as somewhere near the Persian Gulf, I believe.

So, given this theory, let’s list some points about the data uncovered related to the first humans who lived in the Near East (this is one interpretation of the data):
  1. The most-recent migration out of Africa of the ancestor(s) of all modern humans occurred roughly 100-70 Ka 
  2. Some very early individual(s) settled near the Persian Gulf [~100-75 Ka][1] 
  3. During this time, the sea level was lower and the Persian Gulf would not have existed 
  4. There would have been four rivers in this area, possibly coming together as one river: the Tigris, Euphrates, Wadi Baton (going into Arabia), and Karun (going into Iran) 
  5. This area would have been an ideal, well-watered “oasis”,[1] with fresh river water and springs 
  6. The Fertile Crescent, in this area, could have supported many fruit trees, nut trees, and other edible plants—even year-round
  7. Later, the Persian Gulf flooded 
  8.  A very large flood could extend from the Persian Gulf up to the base of the mountain range that includes Mt. Ararat in Turkey.

Now, here’s what the Bible says in comparison:
  1. The first human was somehow moved to Eden (Gen. 2:8), which was near the Persian Gulf 
  2. The river in the Garden of Eden split into four rivers: the Tigris, Euphrates, Pishon (going throughout Arabia), Gihon (going toward Iraq/Iran) (Gen. 2:10-14)
  3. Eden was a well-watered location (Gen. 13:10; 2:10), better than surrounding places (Gen. 4:12, 16; 3:17-19, 24)
  4. Eden had both “fruit” trees and edible plants (Gen. 1:29; 2:8-9, 16) 
  5. Later, the populated areas in and around Eden were flooded (Gen. 7), though there’s no way of knowing just how big an area became occupied by humans 
  6. A large, universal flood (i.e., all true humans died other than eight people) flooded the area up to the “mountains of Ararat” (Gen. 8:4).

As you can see nothing here is contradictory. In fact, the degree of agreement is striking. Could Moses have guessed about this or created an accidental parallel with true human history going back to 75 Ka? Not likely.

[1] Consider that Genesis accurately describes the rivers “going out” from Eden (not to be confused with “flowing out” from Eden). From the perspective of someone following the river going through Eden, it parted into four rivers, two of which are easily identified as Tigris and Euphrates. The one called “Pishon” is described as going through “Havilah,” where there was gold and precious stones. Havilah is elsewhere associated with Arabia in the Bible (cf. 1Sam. 15:7; Gen. 25:18). It is well known that Arabia has had gold and other precious stones. There is an ancient, dry riverbed that runs through much of Arabia, the Wadi Batin. The one called the “Gihon” went into the land of “Cush,” which is elsewhere associated with Iraq (cf. Gen. 10:8-10) and Iran, some believe. This may well be the Karun river (or the Karheh river) that joined up with Tigris and Euphrates. People of Moses’ time, living well after the Ice Age, would not have known about these other two rivers joining with the Tigris and Euphrates. It would be unlikely that they would even know about the Wadi Batin river to begin with. Yet, the Bible accurately describes these four rivers, and it notes that they once joined into a single river.

[2] Genesis describes this place as a fruitful paradise, where the first Man lived. Though the concept of pre-humans versus humans seems artificial, no one really knows for sure exactly when fully-modern man arose. Many of the major attributes of modern man, however, seem to have begun around the time of the Out-of-Africa event, roughly 100 Ka. This includes wearing of clothing (~70-200 Ka), religion (50-300 Ka), complex language (~100 Ka), domestication (15-140 Ka), and understanding of music and art (~30-60 Ka, or earlier). That this area now under the Persian Gulf would have been a paradise around the time that a branch of early Homo sapiens (our ancestors) migrated from Africa and formed settlements near it is pretty well established, however. Around 75-100 Ka, a small group of Homo sapiens left Africa and migrated up to the Persian Gulf area and settlements eventually were formed to the east of this area. This would be what the Bible is saying was the start of humanity.

[3] Noah’s Flood was plausibly described, if it were a large but localized flood in the Near East. Because the Bible describes detailed geographical markers in the Near East that still exist, we can be relatively certain that Noah’s Flood was not a global flood, as is usually believed. A global flood would be much too destructive for these geographical markers to have survived, which is why global flood proponents suggest that the Tigris and Euphrates mentioned in Genesis 2 were very different rivers from the ones of today with the same names. (Another clue that it was a local flood is in Genesis 8:5-9. The “tops of the mountains” became visible, v.5, but the text later says that the “whole earth” was still covered in water, v.9, which means that “whole earth” is not to be taken as all-inclusive of every bit of land on the whole globe.) People of Moses’ day would not have typically known that a large flood was possible as described in Genesis. The flood described in Genesis is plausible because a super-storm near the gulf could push water into the plains near it, causing flooding all the way up to the base of the mountain range of which Mt. Ararat is a part. Again, a global flood ignores this plausibility factor and attributes it to mere coincidence. Too many coincidences just don’t float, pun intended.

Putting all this together, you see that the Bible may be describing something very profoundly accurate scientifically and historically, but nothing like described in most Sunday school classes. We should take the Bible literally and factually, not purely poetic and allegorical.

[1] http://www.livescience.com/10340-lost-civilization-existed-beneath-persian-gulf.html

2 comments:

  1. That is a good point about the flood. I never thought about that.

    Speaking of Genesis, here is a good blog entry about it:

    Evolution and Extreme Genesis Literalism

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  2. Here is an interesting blog by a guy who used to be an Atheist for 40 years:

    Atheism Analyzed

    When you look down the right hand side of the blog, you find his challenge to Evolutionists, and when you go down somewhat further, you can look up the word Evolution in the Labels section. This guy seems to have some interesting views about Evolution when you click on the Evolution label and check out the comments in the comments section.

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