Eden in Egypt – Part 1
The location of the Garden of Eden and the whereabouts of the Tower of Babel have perplexed theologians and historians alike for hundreds if not thousands of years. And so sparse is the information and so intractable is this conundrum, that many have chosen to consign the Book of Genesis to the realms of mythology and legend. In other words, none of it actually happened.
However, as we have seen from my previous articles on astrology within the Bible, it is entirely possible to find real science and real history where others have failed to see anything bar fantasy and fiction. The methodology for achieving this is not to get sidetracked by Western socio-religious constraints. Simply discard what we think we know, and start afresh with a blank sheet and an open mind. Pretend that the Torah has just been unearthed in Egypt, and we know nothing about it. So, reading afresh in this manner, what can we discover about the Garden of Eden and the Tower of Babel? Surprisingly, the answer to this, is 'a surprising amount'.
Eden in Egypt
Many authors have attempted to identify and locate the legendary Tower of Babel in Sumer, in modern Iraq. However, with all due respect to their tireless research efforts, a location in Mesopotamia for this legendary pyramid is not the only conclusion that we can draw from the meagre information that is available to us. And the obvious alternative location can be gleaned from some of the opening verses in the Book of Genesis, which say:
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four branches. Gen 2:10
Now there is only one river in this region that passes through a garden and then divides into four branches, and that is the Nile - which runs through the valley oasis of Egypt before branching out at the Delta. And while the Nile may only have two branches nowadays, it did have four in antiquity. However, readers might exclaim that the Torah specifically names the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, and so this cannot be so. But of course the Torah does not actually mention these famous rivers at all, it mentions the Chiddeqel and the Parath. But is the Chiddaqel the Tigris and the Parath the Eu prates? Some of the biblical references do not readily support that argument, and point more towards Egypt.
Besides, if we turn to Josephus Flavius' record of this Genesis account, we see that the actual names and locations of the rivers of Eden had been lost to us by this time. Josephus says of Eden:
Now the garden was watered by one river, which ran round about the whole earth, and was parted into four branches. (Antiquities 1:1:3)
The four branches mentioned here are then identified by Josephus as being the: Ganges, Euphrates, Tigris and the Nile. Now that is some garden! Clearly, by the time Josephus was writing his version of the Old Testament, the name and location of these rivers had been corrupted or lost. And yet Josephus was copying from a much older version of the Torah/Tanakh than the classical Old Testament in use today. Josephus was using the Torah that had been taken from the Temple of Jerusalem in AD 70, which dated from the time of the Babylonian exile. And yet even this early version of the Torah appears to have been confused as to where the four branches of the Eden river lay.
But if the names of the branches had been garbled by the 6th century BC, perhaps the description of the layout of this river may be a little more reliable - in brief, it was a long river running through a garden that eventually parted into four branches. So let us run with that idea and see where it takes us to. The possibility exists, therefore, that the Book of Genesis was referring to Egypt and to the Nile, and not to Mesopotamia at all. This is a suggestion that gives us some further interesting possibilities, but the prospect of finding a comprehensive explanation and a location for Eden and its integral Adam and Eve story seemed impossible, as the narrative and genealogies from this early part of the Bible initially seem too fragmented and confusing to provide a verifiable history. However, if Eden was in Egypt, and if Eden contained a famous garden and a famous first lady and first man then there may well be a good explanation for this story, and a comparable description of it in the historical record.