Messages in Myths: Eden A Poetic Rendition Of Reality
There are few people in the world today who have not at least heard of the tale of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the mysterious Garden of Eden. Their story is told in the first chapters of the book of Genesis, and is a foundational myth of at least three great world religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Countless lessons of morality, ethics, and religious teachings have been drawn from it, and it continues to be a great source of spiritual wisdom. Some read it as history – an explanation of why the world is the way it is. It explains the human condition of separation from nature, separation from God, and separation from each other. Others view it as a metaphor, a myth with a message.
Painting from Manafi al-Hayawan (The Useful Animals), depicting Adam and Eve, from Maragh in Mongolian Iran. (1294) (Public Domain)
Eden A Poetic Rendition of Reality
What if both interpretations are, in a very real sense, true? Could it be that it is a poetic rendition of something that really happened? Can one find in the Eden stories a transition of humankind from Paleolithic to Neolithic — from a hunter/gatherer culture to that of modern civilization? Memories of a mythical paradise are universal. The old days always seem to have been better than the present. The Eden story carries on this tradition. It harks back to the beginning when humans were one with nature. But in one sense, buried in the text might be an actual dimly remembered past of an epoch that goes back at least 200,000 years, maybe even longer, to the emergence of anatomically modern humans. In the Eden story, these first humans are given names – Adam and Eve.
Creation of Adam by Michaelangelo (1511) Sistine Chapel Rome (Public Domain)
The biblical text does not explain the way things were back then with words and phrases that would make a biologist happy. It just says: "God created it." The ancients did not understand the mechanics of spontaneous generation and evolution. On the other hand, modern man does not have it all figured out either. So, saying "God created it" is no stranger than studying theories involving Panspermia or the Many World's theory. Simply put, what the texts tell us is that for an unknown time we felt that we were one with the animals. We were one with nature.
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Jim Willis is author of nine books on religion and spirituality, he has been an ordained minister for over forty years while working part-time as a carpenter, the host of his own drive-time radio show, an arts council director and adjunct college professor in the fields of World Religions and Instrumental Music. He is author of Censoring God: The History of the Lost Books (and other Excluded Scriptures)
Top Image: Depiction of the original sin by Jan Brueghel de Oude and Peter Paul Rubens (1615) (Public Domain)
By: Jim Willis