Paradise is a place or state of bliss and immortality. This concept has its roots in the description and conditions of the Garden of Eden in Genesis, but appears in other places in the Old Testament and the New Testament and in extra–Biblical writings, in all of which it has undergone considerable development. This article will discuss first the terminology and then the concept of paradise as related to the primeval age, the eschatological age, and the present age.
Terminology. The word paradise comes to us through the Greek παράδεισος, which in turn derives from the ancient Persian pairi–daēza, meaning an enclosure wall, the space enclosed, and finally a park. This Persian term was taken over by late Hebrew in the form of pardēs and is found in Neh 2.8; Eccl 2.5; and Sg 4.12. The Septuagint uses παράδεισος to translate both pardēs and the more classical Hebrew word for garden, gan, whether there be reference to a garden in the ordinary sense (e.g., Nm 24.6; Is 1.30; Jer 29.5) or to the Garden of eden (Gn 2.8–3.24 passim; Jl 2.3), which is elsewhere called the Garden of God (e.g., Gn 13.10; Is 51.3; Ez 28.13; 31.8–9) or simply Eden (e.g., Ez 31.9, 16, 18; Sir 40.27). In later Jewish writings and in the New Testament, Paradise takes on a special and at times intricate religious significance.
Paradise of Primeval Age. The Yahwist narrative of Gn 2.4b–3.24 states that after creation man was placed in a garden (gan ) where trees of all kinds grew (including the tree of life and the tree of knowledge), where there was copious water and a wide assortment of natural life. References to the Garden of Eden or the Garden of God are found in Gn 13.10; Is 51.3; Ez 31.8–9; 36.35; Jl2.3; and Sir 40.27, with slightly varying terminology being used. The enigmatic Ez 28.13–19 not only speaks of Eden, the Garden of God, but also gives a kind of parallel and variant tradition of the Fall; in this text there is reference to a richly clad royal figure, a mountain, a cherub, and a fall from pristine innocence through trafficking and haughtiness (to mention some obvious features that differentiate it from the Genesis account).
In Genesis one may note several discordant features within the account, e.g., the probable reference to a kind of artesian well in 2.6 stands in contrast with the river system in 2.10–14, from both of which the ground or earth (Heb. ’ădāmâ ) is watered (the ’ădāmâ being understood for the moment as outside the Garden). In 2.9 the reference to the Tree of Knowledge seems to be added to the verse, and 3.3 bears out the suggestion. In 3.22–23 only the man is spoken of as being driven out of the Garden, although the narrative has involved the woman very intimately. These examples point to various elements having been brought together from different sources with clever, but not perfect, literary skill.
From these and other disharmonies, it appears that there are various teachings in this account. One teaching is sin's influence on the earth's poverty (3.17–19), although one is free to suggest that the real cause is man's lack of industry and resourcefulness in his fallen condition. The Garden, too, is depicted as a place of blessedness and of closeness to God. One may note here, as in the case of Utnapishtim's dwelling in the gilgamesh epic, the idea of remoteness: "far away at the mouth of the rivers" [J. B. Pritchard, Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament 2 (2d, rev. ed. Princeton 1955) 95b]. Thus Gn 2.8 speaks of the Garden "out in the steppe" ("Eden" presupposing the Sumerian e d i n, via the Akkadian edinu, which means steppe), "off towards the East"—the terms that are both vague and somewhat mysterious. The Hebrew ’ēden (delight) is a clever and significant wordplay. The parallel use of terms in Is 51.3 brings out the same idea.
The possible location of Paradise has long intrigued men, especially those of fundamentalist outlook who have little knowledge of and concern for literary forms. Since two of the four rivers in 2.10–14 can be identified, the p erāt and the ḥiddeqel being the Euphrates and the Tigris respectively, while the other two remain difficult to identify, many have thought of some location near the headwaters of the above named rivers. It is, however, extremely doubtful that the Yahwist had scientific geography in mind. He more likely borrowed famous names out of the past, thus adding to the luster of the Garden— which was not the site where earliest man actually lived. The emphasis is on man's primitive state and his lost opportunity for immortality. The number four elicits a note of universality (cf. "four corners of the earth" in Is 11.12 and the "four winds" in Mt 24.31).
Paradise in the Eschatological Age. In the writings of the Old Testament Prophets man's future happiness— vaguely situated in the "latter times"—is often depicted in terms reminiscent of Paradise. The peace and ideal justice to be procured by the messianic king will be like those of Paradise in Is 11.6–11. The same image is found in Hos 2.20, where peace in the animal kingdom and cessation of war are depicted. References to Eden are found in descriptions of the Promised Land in Is 51.3 and Ez 36.35, while the promise of longevity reminiscent of the immortality proffered to man in Eden is found in Is 65.17–25.
According to the Apocrypha and some rabbinical writings, Paradise will be the place of reward and bliss following upon judgment (e.g., Enoch 61.1–13; Testament of Levi 18.10–14; Apocalypse of Baruch 4). In
these descriptions one finds the most varied ideas, e.g., Paradise is to be established in Jerusalem; the Tree of Life will flourish once more. The eschatological Paradise is often identified with the primeval Paradise. The Testament of Levi 18.10 tells how the high priest of the messianic age will open the gates of Paradise and remove the flaming sword mentioned in Gn 3.24. On the other hand, Paradise was described by some rabbis as close to gehenna or as associated with sheol, the latter term now being taken as one form of reference to future bliss [for many references, see R. H. Charles, The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament (Oxford 1913) 1:861 s.v. "Paradise"].
In the New Testament Paradise is described with more restraint, and only three times by name. Of these references only Rv 2.7 is of interest. In this text the conquerors are promised the fruit of the Tree of Life that is in the Paradise of God. This fruit, symbolizing a very real spiritual value, is already available. Such a notion is common to New Testament thought, where union with Christ anticipates eschatological benefits. Revelation ch. 22 is filled with imagery drawn from Genesis ch. 2 and 3, although Paradise is not specifically named.
Paradise in the Present Age. If one makes the identification of the primeval Paradise with that to come, one might presuppose that Paradise has never ceased to exist. Such a notion could be derived from Gn 3.23–24, understood in a crassly literal sense. On the other hand, as the doctrine on retribution after death developed, and a separate lot for the good and the wicked was postulated, speculation regarding entrance into Paradise quite normally increased. Some of the apocryphal writings state that after death and prior to resurrection the elect (and especially the Patriarchs) will be placed in Paradise (see Jubilees 4.23). The location of Paradise was likewise discussed. Some situated it, with Gn 2.8, in the East (e.g., Jubilees 8.16); others placed it in the North (Enoch 61.1–4; cf. 77.3; is 14.13); and still others placed it in the West (reported by Josephus as Essene doctrine in Bell. Jud. 2.155–158; 4 Esdras 14.9). Still others assumed, seemingly, that after the Fall of Man, Paradise was removed from the earth and taken up to heaven with God (Life of Adam and Eve 25.3; Apocalypse of Baruch 4.6; 4 Esdras 4.7–8) and is, more precisely, in the "third heaven" (Apocalypse of Moses 37.5; Slavonic Enoch 8.1).
In the New Testament in Lk 23.43 Our Lord refers to the then already existing temporary abode of the just after their death. The notion is linked to that of abraham's bosom, mentioned in Lk 16.23. In 2 Cor 12.2–4 Paradise is situated in the "third heaven" (an identification found in Slavonic Enoch 8.1), God's abode being the "seventh heaven." Underlying the "great chasm" of Lk 16.26 is the same notion of temporary beatitude, opposed in this instance to hades. With our present knowledge of the universe it is impossible to point toward Paradise, i.e., heaven, as a distinctive place, though it would seem preferable to conceive of it as a place distinct from the earth.
See Also: afterlife, 2.
Bibliography: c. cothenet, Dictionnaire de la Bible, suppl. ed. l. pirot, et al. (Paris 1928–) 6:1177–1220. Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Bible, tr. and adap. by l. hartman (New York 1963), from a. van den born, Bijbels Woordenboek 1720–25. p. hoffmann, Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche, ed. j. hofer and k. rahner, 10 v (2d, new ed. Freiburg 1957–65) 8:69–72. a. jepsen and f. hesse, Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 7 v. (ed ed. Tübingen 1957–65) 5:96–100. j. jeremias, g. kittel Theologisches Wöterbuch zum Neuen Testament (Stuttgart 1935–) 5:763–771. j. l. mckenzie, "The Literary Characteristics of Gn 2–3," Theological Studies 15 (1954) 541–572. h. renckens, Israel's Concept of the Beginning, tr. c. napier (New York 1964) 204–213. j. daniÉlou, From Shadows to Reality, tr. w. hibberd (Westminster, Md. 1960) 11–65. j. weisengoff, "Paradise and St. Luke 23:43," American Ecclesiastical Review 103 (1940) 163–167.
"Paradise." New Catholic Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. (August 15, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/paradise
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