John R. (Jack) Levison (2018) Terrestrial Paradise in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve, Journal for the study of the Pseudepigrapha Vol 28.1 (2018): 25-44.
The Greek Life of Adam and Eve (Gk.LAE) spins Genesis 1–5 into a dramatic tale of sin and redemption, of earthly failure and heavenly hope (along with wild beasts and magical oil). In 43 brief chapters it is dense with more than three dozen references to παράδεισος, paradise, where, of course, the serpent, Satan’s mouthpiece, dupes Eve. God arrives on a chariot throne to judge Adam, Eve, and the serpent, expelling the primeval pair (with fragrances and seeds of paradise in hand).
Seth and Eve return in a failed effort to obtain oil of mercy to alleviate Adam’s pain. Adam’s body is consigned to paradise in the third heaven— a different, briefly mentioned paradise from the earthly locale where most of the drama transpires until the day of judgement. Paradise—actually paradises, plural—is central to the drama.
This article brings to light a distinctive ancient portrait of terrestrial paradise encircled by a wall with openings and a door, flourishing with deciduous trees and fragrant plants, centered around two trees—but not the trees of Eden—and skirted by regions along its outer edge. In short, paradise in the Greek Life of Adam and Eve is primarily a terrestrial παράδεισος, not a heavenly one.
Paradise in the Septuagint, Philo, and Josephus
The word παράδεισος is a Persian (rather, Median) loan word which came to be used generally of a garden or park (e.g. LXX Num. 24.6; 2 Chron. 33.20; Neh. 2.8; Isa. 1.30; Jer. 29.5 [LXX 36.5]; Eccl. 2.5; Sir. 24.30, 30.17, 27; Sus. 7, 36, 54). The conception of παράδεισος as an earthly garden suits the immediate foreground of Gk.LAE. Whether this narrative(s) is or is thought to be of Jewish or Christian provenance, it is beyond doubt that the substratum of the story is Genesis 1–5. In the Septuagint, παράδεισος occurs no fewer than 13 times in Genesis 2–3—more than one-third of all references in the Septuagint—whether the Hebrew is גַּן־בְעֵדֶן (Gen 2.8), גַן־עֵדֶן (Gen 2.15), or simply גָּן (Gen 2.16).
The fact that both the Septuagint and Gk.LAE refer to παράδεισος does not require that Gk.LAE depended exclusively upon the Septuagint, as opposed to the Hebrew, since παράδεισος is a word that frequently represents a garden of God in several other biblical texts.
Philo adopts the word παράδεισος to represent the primeval garden. Typically, he cites or paraphrases the Septuagint version of Genesis 2–3, then he proffers his own allegorical interpretation, prompted by the realization that talking snakes and trees of life hardly bear a relation to reality as he understands it. His first reference to παράδεισος is in On the Creation 153. He interprets the in even further depth in On Planting 36, but his concept of garden only includes trees or wood, whereas Gk.LAE has plants with seeds for food to grow.
While Philo’s garden is not exactly the same as that of Gk.LAE, both are firmly rooted in the soil of the earth.
Josephus, too, uses παράδεισος of gardens, including royal gardens (Ant. 7.347; 9.225; 10.46, 226 [see Apion 1.141]), a luxurious, well-watered garden fifty furlongs from Jerusalem where Solomon used to ride in his chariot (Ant. 8.186), courts full of gardens built by Hyrcanus (12.233), gardens near Jericho thick set with trees watered by a fountain said to be blessed by Elisha (War 4.467), and once-pleasant gardens cut down by war (6.6). Finally, Josephus adopts the word παράδεισος to represent the garden of Genesis 2–3: Φησὶ δὲ [Moses] τὸν θεὸν καὶ παράδεισον πρὸς τὴν ἀνατολὴν καταφυτεῦσαι παντοίῳ τεθηλότα φυτῷ. This reference is interesting, not only because, like Gk.LAE, the garden is a παράδεισος, but because Josephus says that in the garden sprouted a variety of plants. In Genesis 2–3, the primeval garden had trees in it; Josephus and the author(s) of GLAE adopt the more generic term for plants, φυτόν.
Gk.LAE has Adam leaving paradise by divine fiat with spices and seeds for his sustenance (Gk.LAE 29.5-6). God permitted Adam to take four spices from paradise: saffron (κρόκος), spikenard (νάρδος), calamus (κάλαμος), and cinnamon (κιννάμωμον).
This list is probably borrowed from Song of Songs:
Your channel is an orchard (παράδεισος) of pomegranates
with all choicest fruits,
henna with nard,
nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
with all trees of frankincense,
myrrh and aloes,
with all chief spices— (Song 4.13-14)
The only difference between Song of Songs and Gk.LAE is the reversal of the order of the first two spices.
The establishment of a terrestrial paradise in Gk.LAE, regardless of where on earth it is located, raises the question of whether this paradise is located at the site of the temple. J Dochhorn has suggested that Gk.LAE is dependent on Jubilees, in which Eden and the temple are identified with one another. A salient feature of Jubilees is the explicit identification of the garden of Eden with the holy of holies:
"And he [Noah] knew that the garden of Eden was the holy of holies and the dwelling of the LORD. And Mount Sinai (was) in the midst of the desert and Mount Zion (was) in the midst of the navel of the earth. The three of these were created as holy places, one facing the other" (Jub. 8.19).
This is a difficult passage: Mount Zion is the location of the temple, of course, but in Jubilees, Mount Zion is in the navel of the earth. How then can the three mountains, all holy places, face one another? Or how can the holy of holies, which is in the temple, face Mount Zion? Nonetheless, these three mountains are set in juxtaposition to one another: Eden (the dwelling of the LORD), Mount Sinai (in the desert), and Mount Zion (in the navel of the earth). This juxtaposition may explain a fascinating narrative detail in Gk.LAE 38.4 (which may be a later insertion): when God enters paradise after Adam’s death, everyone falls asleep, ‘apart from Seth alone because he happened to be facing the mountain of God—from that place in the direction of the body of Adam’. Seth presumably faced Mount Sinai or Mount Zion, one of the two mountains of God mentioned in Jubilees, for which reason he did not fall asleep.
The identification of paradise with the temple suits the book of Jubilees, but it does not, for several other reasons, determine the understanding of paradise in Gk.LAE. Levison concludes that paradise is not the temple or a sacred space like it.
Also, GLAE shows almost no interest in creation at all.
Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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