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Where is the Garden of Eden?

Last weekend my two year old son and I watched the F1, and we raced model cars around the living room floor. One was real racing, the other was a model. Just because the model is more real to my son than what he's watching on TV doesn't mean it is.

In her final programme uncovering the Bible's buried secrets Francesca Stavrokopoulou claims to be able to overthrow the Bible by claiming that Adam was a gardening King in a Garden where he walked with God, and that garden was where Jerusalem is (a city whose temple was built after the pattern of Eden). She speaks of the strangeness and appeal of a God who could be known so intimately! She's an atheist - but she's not so far from the truth here...

In a persistent theme she wants to throw out sin and amplify her own innovative voice: 'my idea that Adam is a king'. Again the observation isn't so strange, nor innovative. To anyone reading the Bible seriously many of her discoveries are not so new! Sure they challenge some common perceptions, but no evangelical insists the fruit was an apple, for example. Many of her claims are wilder than the myths she seeks to debunk...

Stavrokopoulou announces that the events of Genesis 2-3 aren't from the beginning of time but from a mere 2500 years ago - dislocating them from the text in which we find them. She claims:
'I believe Eden is the ancient Jerusalem temple... everything points to the temple being the real Eden... and the exile from Jerusalem is the real expulsion from Eden...the failure of the kings is the real Adam, which lets the rest of us off the hook... '
Which is close except she's confusing shadows and models with reality. Toy cars with F1 racing.

Even if you don't join those dots G.K. Beale excellently shows in his The Temple and the Church's Mission that the progression flows through the Bible from Eden to the Tabernacle to the Temple and through to Jesus and the Heavenly Tabernacle and to a global garden in which man and God dwell together. (just read Genesis 2, then Exodus 25-31, John 1, Hebrews 8 and the Revelation 21-22 to do the work yourself). Eden is great but not the point.

I do agree however that you can make a good case geographically that Mt Eden where the Gihon flowed is Mt Moriah where Hezekiah blocked up that river - and where Abraham declared that The LORD will provide (he knew the Triune God), where Solomon built his temple and where the Son of God was crucified.... the King who is our head so that Adam's sin marks all his people, and Jesus' victory wins for all his people.

Curiously when you make the Temple the real Eden you ought to have to deal with the question of why the place was so intensely bloody. Stavrokopoulou's answer? No sin, no blood. And yet then how do we explain the evil and injustice and suffering and present absence of intimacy with God? Its fair enough to say that the Biblical story of Man commiting spiritual adultery (2 Cor 11:1-3) and causing death to reign over all creation (Romans 5) isn't palatable, but it has a lot of explanatory power for our world.

If our first Head didn't sin, we struggle to see the need for our second Head to come and be our High Priest and Sacrifice. We end up musing that it's a nice story for man and God to dwell together, but nothing more than the imagination of a child. Genesis is exquisite literature and we need to take it seriously, strip it of myths but not to rip it apart but to read it freshly.

Whilst there are many enjoyable aspects to this BBC series it does seem to be burying the real story of the Bible. The story in which, in Ray Ortlund's words: "The Lover of our souls won’t let the romance die, but is rekindling it forever." . The story of vague conspiracies, progress and shock discovery is deeply unmoving. By comparison the true story is, like our Christ, much more real and much more excellent, not a pursuit to return to Eden but to the new life of the new Eden.

Watch Bible's Buried Secrets on iPlayer


  1. superb. I've never heard that Moriah thing, but I've heard Mike say he thinks Eden//Jerusalem. Why exactly should one think that? (I'm interested)

    Personally, and this reflects my ignorance, the only time I've ever come across & lingered enough to think "hmm, interesting geographical eden reference" is what seem to be the only two references in all scripture to the Tigris. While studying Daniel, I thought it was significant that this seemed to be an Eden reference - ie, here we are geographically, but now it's exile. I interpreted this along the lines of God's the Eden narrative in Gen 3 talks about man being banished, but in a sense it was God who withdrew; since the fall, there isnt a location on earth where you could go back and find you couldnt get into it; God had withdrawn. It's a bit like the temple in Ezek 10, where God leaves. So the tragedy is like Samson, Israel continued to do the stuff, perform the rituals, but their hearts were so hard that they didnt even notice that the glory of God had departed! But in Jesus he returns to his temple. He returns to fill his cosmos. I think that's a crucial part of the safety of the garden (and the hope of the new creation in addressing the problem of pain) - not only that it was a safe space which God called them to extend into the wilderness, but much more importantly God walked with his people there. By the by, that's why I prefer to sing: "when Christ shall come with shouts of acclamation, and bring me home, what joy shall fill my heart." (double connotations better than "take" ie away from here) He will bring heaven home; as his people welcome him.

    Why does the chilling winter’s morn
    Smile, like a field beset with corn?
    Or smell like a meadow newly-shorn,
    Thus, on the sudden? Come and see
    The cause, why things thus fragrant be:
    ‘Tis He is born, whose quickening birth
    Gives life and luster, public mirth,
    To heaven, and the under-earth.
    We see him come, and know him ours,
    Who, with his sunshine and his showers,
    Turns all the patient ground to flowers.
    The darling of the world is come,
    And fit it is, we find a room
    To welcome him. The nobler part
    Of all the house here, is the heart.
    which we will give him and bequeath
    this holly and this ivy wreath

    Anyway that's where I'm coming from, admittedly those are systematic, doctrinal, apologetic, devotional considerations coming into conversation with the biblical theology of exile as I see it, but that's why I was intruiged and surprised to hear Mike suggest Jerusalem...keen to listen, especially as you're way more attentive to Genesis than I.

  2. We were talking about that line at team days - how about "when Christ shall come... we will be home, what joy shall fill our hearts"

    I think the argument for Eden/Jerusalem centres on the Gihon - which isn't an incredibly strong argument but it does mean Genesis 2-3 (Eden - which is a mountain since rivers flow from it), Genesis 14 (Melchizedek comes into the valley from Salem) Genesis 22 (Abraham & Isaac go up to Moriah) happen in the same place which is neat... and thus the Temple and crucixion are on the same hill as those earlier events, whilst the law came from a different mountain.

    It's not a geographical detail I'd die for - in any case the new Eden I'm after isn't Jerusalem but something substantially bigger!


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