Oil painting of the Garden of Eden

Several interesting theories have been put forward, but there is no consensus on the Garden of Eden’s true location.


The Garden of Eden is a well-recognized name in the religious world. Although it features prominently in the Bible, parallel examples are found in other religions, too. Due to its notoriety, the Garden of Eden has immense significance to many. The exact location of the ancient garden has long been sought after – humans have kept up the search for hundreds of years. So far, though, it has yet to be found. Although its whereabouts remain a mystery, many people have theorized about the location of the Biblical paradise. So, what do we know?

Biblical Clues

Map of Middle East showing Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

The two rivers flow through Iraq to the Persian Gulf.

The Garden of Eden is described in the opening chapters of Genesis, the very first book in the Bible. Within the story, there are several clues regarding its location. Most notably, the Garden of Eden contained a spring that split into four big rivers, each flowing out in different directions. One of these rivers was named the Euphrates. Naturally, then, scholars began scouring maps for an area where the modern day Euphrates river intersects with other major waterways.

The most obvious of these intersections is a wetland region in southern Iraq, near the ancient city of Babylon, where the Euphrates meets the Tigris river.  Some biblical scholars believe this must be where the Garden of Eden was. However, their theory clearly fails to account for the other two rivers in the story, the Pishon and the Gihon. Despite this omission, the Iraq theory remains one of the most popular out there.

Other Possibilities

However, there is by no means a consensus as to the Garden’s location. Several competing arguments have been put forward by those skeptical of the Iraq theory. The first suggests that we’ve been looking in the wrong place all this time – the Bible refers to one of the areas surrounding the Garden as “Ethiopia”. Though place names often change over time, this fact has led some to speculate that the Garden of Eden was actually somewhere in Africa.

Another theory uses geologic evidence to suggest that the Garden was actually somewhere near Jerusalem. In ancient times, a large aquifer was located under Israel — leading some to argue that the four rivers referenced in the Bible may have simply bubbled up from beneath the ground and flowed out from Garden that way. However, as with the Iraq theory, there is no definitive proof this was the case.

A valley the Mormon Church believes was inhabited by Adam and Eve

The Mormon Church teaches that Adam and Eve once lived in rural Missouri.

Religious Parallels

Unfortunately, the search for the Garden is complicated by differing accounts of what the place was like and what happened there. As mentioned in the introduction, versions of the Garden of Eden appear in many faiths. In Judaism, for example, the Garden is described as being divided into two separate spiritual places, the “lower Gan Eden” and the “higher Gan Eden”. The lower area is said to be similar to the biblical Garden: terrestrial, vibrant, and fertile, while the higher area is more celestial, and inhabited by immortal souls.

In the Islamic faith, as in Christianity, Adam and Eve inhabit the Garden of Eden. But accordingly to the Qur’an, Satan transforms into a serpent and proceeds to trick Adam and Eve into eating from the tree of immortality, and thus disobeying Allah.

The Mormon faith offers yet another version – it teaches that upon being expelled from the Garden of Eden itself, Adam and Eve went to live in a place called Adam-ondi-Ahman. According to LDS doctrine, this area is located somewhere in Missouri. However, there has been some debate as to its exact location within the state, and to this day it remains a point of contention.

Barriers to Discovery

No matter where the Garden of Eden was, chances of finding its location are relatively low. Since no hard evidence has been found, we cannot rule out the possibility that the A flood in the Middle EastGarden was simply an allegorical paradise.

If indeed it was an actual location on the map, chances are it’s long gone by now. The Biblical story holds that the great Flood experienced by Noah affected the entire world. While a global-scale flooding event seems improbable, smaller scale regional floods would still have the power to destroy something as fragile as the Garden.

In fact, there is some research to back this up. Geologic evidence suggests that severe flooding events may have taken place in the region thousands of years ago, the scale of which would have profoundly reshaped the landscape. If we assume the Garden was located somewhere in the Middle East, in all likelihood it was destroyed long ago.

Takeaways

In that sense, the Garden of Eden may be similar to Atlantis – a fabled place sought by many an explorer, but never actually found. After thousands of years of geologic change, wherever the Garden once stood would likely look very different today. Unfortunately, the ongoing search for its location appears futile. While the Iraq theory may be the most probable, there is no way to confirm it.

Focusing on the bigger picture, we see a fascinating characteristic of human nature: the yearning for discovery. We, as humans, go to great lengths to explore the unexplored, chart the uncharted, and find the unfound. Despite our best efforts, it’s become clear that discovering the true whereabouts of the Garden of Eden will take a miracle.

 

23 comments

  1. Pastor Pete says:

    Personally I’ve always seen the Garden of Eden story as an allegory for the appearance of consciousness rather than a physical place I believe it to be an allegory about the development of human consciousness

    1. Eric says:

      It is in heaven God called it up to heaven until Jesus Christ returns so no human can use it since Adam and Eve got kicked out

  2. Minister Carey says:

    I watched a historical documentary about New York or Manhattan, NY, which mentioned that the entire earth was at one time one land mass with rivers flowing through it. It showed where the continent of “Africa” fit like a puzzle with the continent of America (specifically South America). This makes the most sense to me as this is how ancient people were able to spread to the four corners of the earth without large ships. Now, my Bible (one of them) documents that: (1) biblical evidence, supportive academic references, and common sense show that the ancestral home of man (Adam), humanity’s common ancestor, was in Africa, the land associated with the beginnings of Eden in the Bible; (2) today readers must understand that in biblical times “Africa” included much of what European maps have come to call the “Middle East.” The name “Africa” is actually of Latin origin and was imposed on that great continent by European explores; (3) Gen. 2:10-14 clearly identifies the location of four key rivers. The first 2 rivers are the Pishon and the Gihon (both closely associated with the ancient land that Hebrews called Cush and the Greeks later called Ethiopia). The Hiddikal (Tigris) and the Euphrates are the second pair of rivers. (The latter two rivers originate in southeastern Turkey and flow through present-day Syria and Iraq. The Tigris and Euphrates run parallel through ancient Mesopotamia; this area is known as the Fertile Crescent; and (4) the ancient land of Canaan was but an extension of the African land mass. In biblical times African peoples frequently migrated from the continent proper through Canaan/Palestine to the east toward what was then included as Asia, namely the “Fertile Crescent,” or the Tigris and Euphrates rivers of ancient Mesopotamia. This fact helps to appreciate the term Afro-Asiatic as correctly identifying the mixed stock of people who populated the ancient Near East. I have a book (not a bible) somewhere in my stash which provides “evidence” that the Garden of Eden was in the Americas. Quite an interesting topic.

    1. Ana-Lilia says:

      Love your insight. What is the name of the book?

  3. Dane Millanta says:

    Pastor Pete.
    Thank you for your words.
    I indeed agree
    It is in my belief that it is an allegory for human consciousness.
    The search for the garden of eden suggests that as humans we search every where externally for the hope we will find the essence of God , when in reality we only need to focus within.

  4. Vicky Vaughan, Cleric & Mystic says:

    I’ve come to believe that our entire, beautiful Earth is the fabled Garden of Eden. There are tribes of people who love every bit of Her from the bitter cold to the deep, wet heat. Our assignment seems to be to bring Her shine back, to find balance and harmony, to return to our original Home, right here, right now.

  5. jack lAM says:

    i believe the garden of eden to be in your mine,heart,and sole.Amen!

  6. gregory Drobnis says:

    In the beginning, the way I think of it, God got bored in the infinite dark and the infinite space and the infinite quiet. Just imagine. So, he decided to turn the unending nothingness, all of it, into a pool table. A special one that was so slick, once a ball started to roll, it would roll forever. Just one ball is what He started with and then he made another and crashed them together. Scientists call this The Big Bang: The Beginning of Everything. These were special balls because when the first two hit together, a new ball appeared and rolled forever, also. Soon, the pool table, remember the table went on forever, was full of balls: an uncountable number and each time one ball hit another, a new ball was made. Now He had a game! Because God knows everything, he knew where every ball was and which ball was where and which balls would strike one another. He called the pool game The Universe. It, all the worlds and all the plants and all the animals, including man and every rock and river, came into being. The Earth, our home, came into being and hung in space and turned. The sun appeared and day and night began to happen.

    Because a game is not a game without rules, God invented the rules of the Universe: physics, astrophysics, chemistry, biology, geology. With these came gravity, radiation and every concept that we now call science. The game had begun and just ran itself. And it runs to this day with God knowing where each ball, of the billions and billions of ever increasing number of balls were, where they had been and where they would be, forever. There are more stars than grains of sand on every beach on our world. Suns with planets, galaxies by the millions, wonders beyond our ability to imagine are out there in space, infinite. And it all runs like a clock because the rules He made are unbreakable and immutable. And he sits back and pretends He does not know and watches with delight and surprise.

    We, as thinking, living beings, have learned a few of the rules and have seen a few of the Universe’s wonders and we wonder still. This is what makes up life: an ever changing miracle. Eve may have made a mistake with that apple from The Tree of Knowledge, but it is our responsibility to use its gift and to appreciate and protect this game that God created and to help Him not to be bored or alone ever again. gregory.

  7. caliwebman says:

    Well I must admit my guilt. Sometime around late February of 1991 while fighting hard with the US Army’s 1st Armored Division on the tip of the spear as we fought north towards Baghdad, it was at this moment our command drew the order for us to stand down and stop in our advance north. It was a cease fire. Pissed off and a bit disgruntled that our command would not allow for us to finish the job we found ourselves in southern Iraq, precisely where the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers met. Having had some esoteric knowledge about the area I quickly informed my warrior colleagues that we were standing in a location that was not far from or in fact smack dab in the middle of the Garden of Eden. Finding the area not even remotely pleasing to the eye we would piss in the rivers and begin our pull back into Saudi Arabia. Suffice to say, I pissed in the Garden of Eden.

    We would not return for another 10 years later in OIF

    1. Brother John says:

      Although you say you’re admitting your guilt, you and your “warrior colleagues” must be so proud your roles in the destruction of the Cradle of Civilization (not to mention pissing in the Garden of Eden), caliwebman. I suspect not so proud of the fact that your military hasn’t had a single “victory” since WWII. No victory. No honour. No glory.

      The only winners have been the contractors (including mercenaries), arms manufacturers and their shareholders. You and the other “warriors” are disposable, highly indoctrinated pawns in the business of war. You are also war criminals and will hopefully be brought to justice at some point in a world court.

      As you had to “pull back”, perhaps you didn’t get to see the results of your handiwork. Scroll down the link below and have a good look. With over 250,000 documented violent deaths and counting in Iraq alone, the majority of them innocent civilians, this bloodthirsty debacle is unChristian, unjustified and immoral.

      Note the children included in the pictures. Note also the results of chemical warfare in the form of white phosphorous (not to mention D/U munitions). The rest of the world is well aware of the horror you and your fellow warriors have been exporting around the globe and the day is quickly approaching when it will no longer be tolerated.

      I encourage everyone who either supports, or is ambivalent to, the current M/E (and elsewhere) wars to take some time to search “images” of war in Iraq, Libya, Yemen or Afghanistan and begin to loudly and publicly denounce them. Sadly, the mainstream churches and their members seem virtually silent about the on-going slaughter and destruction and, instead, are focusing on “issues” like sexual identity and whose God is the real one.

      http://mindprod.com/politics/iraqwarpix.html#IRAQWARPIX

  8. Robin Jorgensen says:

    Check out the information regarding the First and Second Edens presented in the Urantia Book. There are statements that can be tested with current scientific techniques and tools. The First was located on a westward pointing isthmus extending out from modern day Syria, having submerged around 38B.C., the Second, to the “east of Eden” was a backup site between the Tigris/Euphrates,utilized after the collapse of the First.
    The Ubook presents our complete history showing that much of what we believe is based on partial, misinterpreted, and/or fabricated snippets produced for the most part, before science, and for that matter before any reliable forms of history recording. The great fire at the library of Alexandria which apparently held all the accumulated documents of the various cultural histories up to that time is depicted as a profound tragedy leaving us with no real testable source of history.

  9. Denise says:

    The Garden of Eden is right where you are – you are given this planet to pick and choose where you wish to reside -how you treat that place and surrounding area is up to you. We limit ourselves to the area of our Eden by our minds – if we could only use more % of our mind our Eden would cover the entire planet.

  10. Dianne Wall says:

    I always believed after Adam and Eve were evicted God made Eden just as plain and drab to never be found again by mortal man.I think God had changed that beautiful oasis into a barren and desolate place so nobody could ever see what we really could of had…I think our version of Eden will be our reward after our time here

  11. Bob says:

    There is no god, there was no Garden of Eden.The concept of Eden was stolen from many other ancient origin myths and, now…here we are, over 2,000 years later and people are still buying into this religious nonsense.

    1. XaurreauX says:

      Kind of frightening, in a way,

  12. BARJONA says:

    Eden#1 where 1 river divided into 4 heads.
    Eden#2 where 4 rivers formed into 1 head.

    Eden#1 was in Africa. Lot referred to it as the “Garden of the Lord” in Geneses. After the so called “fall”, Adam felt forced to leave Eden#1 and venture over 1000 miles in search of the second garden (Eden#2) in Mesopotamia.

  13. Janie says:

    More then a physical place it was an atmosphere.

  14. David says:

    Really the garden of eden was in the middle east the flood from noha took it out and the flood changed the world

  15. David says:

    It would have been by Iraq and because of all the bombings and nuclear problems the.ground is so polluted it’s not even worth growing anything there anymore

  16. David says:

    Christianity is based on faith and acceptance. I believe at the begining of mankind there was a Garden of Eden. Now it is of little consequence. We know what happened and how the happenings led eventually to the arrival of Jesus Christ to fulfill his Father’s wishes. I have no desire to know where Eden was. My greatest desire is to live and make myself worthy of Christ’s sacrifice for me, and to eventually see his face in Heaven. Most likely Heaven is an amped up version of Eden, on steroids, without the evil serpent!

  17. Dane Millanta says:

    Rev. David
    “Behold the kingdom of God is at hand”

    Thank you for your last response, i agree hole heartedly with my body & sole.

  18. Rev. Donna says:

    Gaia is a beautiful garden & if all her people worked together to preserve & protect her, we would all live in a garden of Eden. We are blessed to be living on a beautiful blue jewel, in space, who offers us everything we need. Appreciation for what we have is key. Looking for something that may or may not have existed is not as important as taking care of what we have.

    1. Brother John says:

      Agreed Rev. Donna. See my reply to caliwebman above (currently in moderation). If you’re a member of a Christian church, I encourage you to stand and address the congregation with words similar to those you’ve just stated so well.

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