In Genesis chapter 2: v. 4-17, the Bible describes how God created Adam and Eve and made a special place for them to live in called the Garden of Eden. This was the original Paradise, the Golden Age which has been forever lost. All kinds of trees grew in this garden; trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. The garden also contained two special trees: the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and the tree of life; the former of which caused troubles later on. God placed Adam in the garden to work it and take care of it.
The meaning of the name is uncertain. Some scholars link it to a Sumerian word meaning "plain", while others say it derives from the Hebrew word meaning "delight" or "pleasure". Or maybe it's a pun on both. I wouldn't put it past those wacky Hebrews.
The location of Eden is a matter of ongoing debate. Verse 8 says that God planted the garden "in the east", and verses 10-14 descirbes four rivers running through it. Two of the rivers are well-known: the Tigris and the Euphrates, which formed the borders of Mesopotamia in modern-day Iraq. The other two are more obscure: The Pishon, which "winds through the entire land of Havilah", (a land where there is gold, onyx and aromatic resins; possibly Arabia); and Gihon, which "winds through the entire land of Cush", (which I always thought was Ethiopia, making the Gihon equivalent to the Nile; but my study Bible says I'm wrong).
Most Biblical scholars place Eden in Mesopotamia, but there are some other possible candidates. Martin Luther said that Eden no longer exists because it would have been destroyed in the Deluge; but that it's location when it did exist would have been the Holy Land. This idea is actually supported by the fact that there is a spring in Jerusalem called Gihon ("gusher"), and that the prophet Ezekiel symbolicly links Jerusalem to Eden. Other possible locations include Eastern Turkey (where the headwaters of the Tigris and Euphrates are), the Persian Gulf (which covers a large area that would have been the delta of the two rivers around 6000 BC), north-western Iran (which has some resemblence to the geography described in Genesis), and Jackson County, Missouri, (according to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)
Game and Story Use
- Despite the intervening Deluge, in the Middle Ages it was believed that the Garden of Eden still existed somewhere in a remote corner of the earth. The PCs could be explorers trying to find it.
- If they do find it, will they also find the Tree of Life?
- And what about that cherubim?
- Other cultures have their own version of the Paradise on Earth. In some cases the Paradise might have been lost or destroyed, but in other tales, it still might still exist in an inaccessible place.
- Valinor, the elvenhome from J.R.R. Tolkien's Simarillion is a fictional example of this.
- In a famously bad episode of the Classic Star Trek, Captain Kirk encounters a group of Space Hippies who are searching for an Edenic planet.