The rivers of Eden describes the Eastern Mediterranean area as it was 5.3 myr ago. It points to Eden being located in the only place on earth that was flooded with a flood that matches the Biblical description of Noah's flood. How did that happen? How is that possible? Below, I show how the Bible does match that time frame. It is up to you to decide how this occurred.
Eden is not popular with our theologians anymore. To me, this is a problem in need of solution because I believe Christian theology requires Eden and the events there to be real historical events. Most modern Christians don't think Eden's geography is real. And they do so for good reason, today's geography makes Eden impossible. Eden is reserved for a special castigation and unbelief by our scholars. John Monday writes:
"Some have gone further and claimed the geographical allusion is to a fantasy. For Cassuto, 'The Garden of Eden according to the Torah was not situated in our world.' Skinner claimed: 'it is obvious that a real locality answering the description of Eden exists and has existed nowhere on the face of the earth...(T)he whole representation (is) outside the sphere of real geographic knowledge. In (Genesis 2) 10-14, in short, we have...a semi-mythical geography.' For Ryle, 'The account...is irreconcilable with scientific geography.' Radday believed that Eden is nowhere because of its deliberately tongue-in-cheek fantastic geography. McKenzie asserted that 'the geography of Eden is altogether unreal; it is a Never-never land.' Amit held the garden story to be literary utopiansim, that the Garden was 'never-known,' with no real location. Burns' similar view is that the rivers were the entryway into the numinous world. An unusual mixture of views was maintained by Wallace, who held that the inclusion of the Tigris and Euphrates indicated an 'earthly geographic situation,' but saw the Eden narrative as constructed from a garden dwelling-of-God motif (with rivers nourishing the earth) combined with a creation motif, both drawing richly from those motifs as found in Ancient Near East mythological literature." John C. Munday, Jr., "Eden's Geography Erodes Flood Geology,"Westminster Theological Journal, 58(1996), pp. 123-154,p.128-130
John Worrall, professor of the philosophy of science at the London School of Economics, said:
"There is an enormous difference between myths like the Garden of Eden -- so crazy even bishops don't believe it -- and those myths which, as yet, have no evidence to back them up. Camelot falls into this category." http://detnews.com/1998/accent/9808/20/08200043.htm Link no longer works but quote can be found on Newspapers.com
So, is the geography of Eden real? I hope to show that it was real, and that geography has changed, and the description of Eden no longer fits today. But it is going to stretch the comfort of many.
I remember as a teen hearing a preacher ask his audience of teens, how many wanted to know God's will? Nearly all the hands went up. Then he asked, How many of you are willing to do whatever it is he asks? Most hands went down and a few remained up. The preacher then said, "You are the ones who will find his will for your lives.?".
I think this story also goes for apologetics. Are we willing to go where the data says to go? I think most are not, some go part way and a few might be willing to go all the way. When I was a new christian and was just getting into the creation/evolution area, and sadly becoming a YEC, I knew YEC had problems but felt the theology required a true history from Genesis. I told my best friend of the time,, my roommate and eventual best man, that I was going to solve the CE issue. That was a brash brag on the part of a 19 year old. The flood was what intrigued me most because floods leave evidence of themselves. And there is zero evidence of a big flood in Mesopotamia and the YEC global flood wouldn't work for so many reasons. My search led me eventually to the infilling of the Mediterranean Sea. Such an infilling perfectly fits the description of the flood in the Bible, but few are willing to call it Noah's flood. Doing so raises questions about farming that far back? And questions about can a primitive hominid really be capable of speech and communion with God? I will address these questions at the bottom of this post. I found a solution that no one likes.
The question I have come to is "How on earth did Genesis 2:8-13 come to describe the geography of the eastern Mediterranean sea bottom, which at the time was dry land during the Messinian Salinity Crisis?" And that location for Eden lies in the only flood in geologic history that is local, and matches precisely the description provided by Genesis 7 and 8.
8 And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. 9 And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. 10 And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. 11 The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasseth the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold; 12 And the gold of that land is good: there is bdellium and the onyx stone. 13 And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasseth the whole land of Ethiopia. 14 And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goeth toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates." The Holy Bible: King James Version. (2009). (Electronic Edition of the 1900 Authorized Version., Ge 2:8–14). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc. (Note, all Bible quotations come from this source)
The first river is the river Pison and it is said to compass the land of Havilah. Genesis 25: says: And they dwelt from Havilah unto Shur, that is before Egypt, as thou goest toward Assyria.
This places Havilah in Arabia or the Sinai. In 2019 Matt and Ryan presented a paper on this question at an AAPG sponsored geological conference.
Yossi Mart and William B.F. Ryan Abstract
"The offshore extension of Afiq Canyon is a deep valley, buried under thick Plio-Quaternary sediments beneath the continental slope off the southern coastal plain of Israel. ... Additional valleys of similar dimensions and characteristics to the marine extension of Afiq Canyon occur elsewhere along the continental slope of the entire Levant, suggesting that several rivers of the fluvial system of the Levant, which drained northwestern Arabia to the Mediterranean Sea during the Oligo-Miocene, still prevailed in the Messinian. The Afiq Canyon and its offshore apron as well as equivalents such as the Nahr Menashe fluvial system off Lebanon, imply that the geography of the Levant during late Miocene differed from the present. The Levant Rift could not have been a continuous tectonic depression as it is in the present, but rather a sufficiently disconnected series of grabens that allowed large rivers to still flow in between. The presence of the Afiq apron of substantial volume and with a thickness approaching 200 m along its apex confirms active fluvial systems feeding their bedloads into the Mediterranean as recent as 5 million years ago." 1
This is the Pison river system and when the Mediterranean was a dry mostly arid land, this river flowed over the present continental shelf and ended up on the former Mediterranean sea bed.
The second river is easy to identify because the only river that encompasses the land of Cush/Ethiopia between the White and Blue Nile tributaries, is the Nile river. During the Messinian Salinity Crisis, the Nile river cut the biggest Grand Canyon that ever existed. It cut over 4000 m into the African granite during this period.
"During the MSC the Nile created an enormous canyon, measured at a depth of more than 4000m below sea level in the offshore area of the delta."2
The sands it transported into the Mediterranean are shown on the picture below. The sharp linear cutoff of the yellow Nile sands is due to where the seismic survey stopped:
The southernmost red arrow in the picture above marks where the Pison entered the Mediterranean Sea. That is crooked lines it points to is the Afiq canyon mentioned above. Below is a picture of Afiq canyon from another paper, it is an enlargement and a bit fuzzy but can be read.
We now have two of the Biblical rivers coming together on the floor of the dry Mediterranean basin.
The third river is the Tigris. It is called Hiddekel in Daniel 10:4
"as I was by the side of the great river, which is Hiddekel"
Since the other river is always referred to as the Euphrates, Daniel had to be in the Tigris.
The precise location of this river's entry into the system is not completely clear. It might have joined the Euphrates onshore. We know that because Arabia was then draining its water into the Mediterranean, the Tigris couldn't flow south because of topography. It was updip that direction at that time., So, the Tigris is boxed in by the Euphrates draining to the Mediterranean and the Pison draining to the Mediterranean. Logic dictate that this river entered the Mediterranean basin. The green sands, the Nahr Menache are from the Tigris. This is just north of the Lebanese/Syrian border where a big river entered into the dry Mediterranean sea at that time. Below is the surface slice from 3d seismic showing there is a big river channel entering the Med which I have marked on the picture. The channel is about 3 km wide which means it was a major river. The green sediment fan shown in the first picture has to be the Tigris, because it is closest to Turkey where that river is sourced. The Tigris river is sourced further east in Turkey.
The fourth river is the Euphrates, as it is named. It entered the Mediterranean through the province of Hatay, Turkey. The blue sands shown in the picture below are mostly from the Euphrates river, which even today gets about 62 miles from the Mediterranean coast at just this location. Today uplift along the coast turns the Euphrates away from its closest sea and heads it to the Persian Gulf.
Putting this all together, this is a schematic of what I think the preflood rivers looked like and how they related to each other. Let's start with what Scripture says:
“And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads” Gen 2:10
That description can be matched precisely so long as one treats the word translated as ‘heads’ as meaning “primary or chief or main”.Ro'sh can mean this. Under this word choice,it reads,
And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four main [rivers].
Doing that, and placing Eden in he midst of the main rivers,and making the area west of Eden into something that resembles the Okovango Delta of the Kalahari desert, or the Sudd or South Sudan, then one gets the following picture.
The area west of Eden in this scenario would look something like the Sudd swamp of southern Sudan. From Google maps, you can see channels going every which way::
Eden's geography can be quite real and quite historical. The question is, are you willing to go where the data of geology and the data of the Bible lead?
Now, I have shown that at one time, 5-6 myr ago, the rivers of Eden met on the bottom of the dry Mediterranean basin. I think that is where Eden was. The geography is real, but it isn't applicable to our time. Geography changes.
So, here is the question, How is it that the Bible mentions these 4 rivers which are impossible to be together today, but which were together 5 myr ago in a basin that experienced the most massive flood every known. That flood would have matched Noah's flood as described.
1. Noah's flood lasted a year. Geological cores from the flood layer show that the filling was extremely rapid--within an inch of sedimentation. Calculations show that it would have taken about a year to refill the Mediterranean 8.4 months to 2 years are recent estimates.
2.That flood would have covered many high mountains within the basin, but whose tops were below sea level. Noah's flood says the same thing. "Fifteen cubits upward did the waters prevail; and the mountains were covered" Gen 7:20
3. If you read the word 'eretz' as land rather than as planet earth, then Genesis 7:21 is absolutely true:
And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the land, and every man: 22 All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died.
4. Constant rain would occur because the flood waters filling the basin would push moist air up which would cool, condense to clouds and cause long periods of constant rain.
5. Furthermore, in Gen 6:11, God says he will destroy the 'eretz' (land). And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. This can't happen with a global flood; we still have land. It doesn't happen with a Mesopotamian flood--Mesopotamia is still there. But with a big local flood, like the infilling of the Mediterranean, that land has actually been destroyed. It no longer exists.
To top this off, this time period was when Hominids first appear on earth. This is the only time we could have had a primal pair of Adam and Eve. And this makes people nervous about having Adam be a small brained person. I have a series of posts here which discuss this and other issues.
If you are worried about a small brain being stupid, see my post discussing a normal modern human with a brain the size of an australopithecus.
If you don't think Adam could have lived that far back, consider the series When Did Adam Live. Since humanity's oldest genes are 5.3 myr of age, genealogically, this is the only time a primal pair of parents could have existed, see here. Religion goes way back, meaning religion is not a new thing. The curses given to Adam and Eve both involve their brains growing bigger, which implies strongly that Adam and Eve were early hominids. Why would God curse big-brained Neolithic farmers with what they already had?
Objection: Farming The choice of 'tiller' for the translation of what Cain did might be unfortunate. The word could be "served" the ground, or 'worked' the ground which would not have that connotation of farming. Strong's says: "AV translates as “serve” 227 times, “do” 15 times, “till” nine times, “servant” five times, “work” five times, “worshippers” five times, “service” four times, “dress” twice, “labour” twice, “ear” twice, "3 Early hominids used stick to dig up tubors. They were 'workers' of the ground, but not 'tillers' of the ground. Translators always think in terms of their scenario for the events they are translating. If they are wrong, well, they change what people think. I don't feel necessarily that this does mean tilling rather than working the ground.
What of Abel keeper of flocks? There are two ways of looking at this. The word keeper can be translated as 'companion', so Abel could be a 'companion of flocks'. Did he consider he owned them? Maybe. Did flock consider itself owned? Maybe not--like my cat does not consider himself owned. Many primitive people follow 'their' herds, but their herds are wild. But lets say he did have some captive animals. This might be no more different than the Neanderthals of the Southern Caucasus who clearly had sheep in a closed off box canyon and used them as a food source. The sheep were wild but couldn't escape.
Now, the word translated as sheep is tson and may mean sheep, goats or cattle. (it also could mean possessions). Now, herders get most of their calories from the flocks and herds they keep. That is why they keep them. But what are we to do when Neanderthals did the same thing in the Caucasus mountains where they obtained 85% of their calories from sheep!4
At another cave they obtained 60% from sheep and goats.
"Outside the Caucasus, high frequencies of mountain goat in Middle Palaeolithic contexts have been observed in Uzbekistan at Teshik-Tash (Capra sibirica: 1 80% NISP [Gromova 1949]) and Obi-Rakhmat (Capra sibirica: 47.4-66.7% [Wrinn n.d.]), at the Spanish sites of Gabasa 1 (Capra pyrenaica: 33.7-52.2% NISP per layer [Blasco Sancho 1995]) and Axlor (Capra ibex: 25.6% combined ungulate sample [Altuna 1989, 1992]), and at Hortus in southern France (Capra ibex: 75.4% NISP combined sample [de Lumley 1972])."5
It seems that Neanderthals had some system which had a similar effect calorically as herders, but they were unlikely herders. Maybe this is something like what Abel had.
Speech I do not believe that it was necessary for Adam to have the same ability in language that we have. There has always been a question in anthropology about whether language areas like Broca's area developed as speech improved or where they required first. If they were required first the question then becomes what caused them to grow, as useless things until suddenly, they got big enough for language. That seems backward. Broca's area should have evolved as a response to speech getting better.
I also don't think it is necessary for the vocal tract to be like ours in order to have a primitive language. Meer cats have vocalizations for aerial attacks by eagles or a terrestrial attack. They don't have our vocal tract but communicate these things very well. Early humans would have had a slower communication, but it still could have been communication.
When I was a young-earth creationist, I believed that the Bible was historically true and that grounded my faith. When I left it and had no historical anchor for early Genesis, I cursed the day I became a geoscientist. I envied the YEC's for the certitude they had and I didn't have certitude. Now that I have found a way to match the Bible historically from Genesis 1 through the Exodus, I have that certitude in Scripture again that I had so long ago. Certitude that they were correct is what powered the disciples. Without that certitude today, the church is weak and adrift.
Now, once again, is it blind chance or divine inspiration that the Bible describes a geography that actually existed 5.3 myr ago? Will you follow the evidence or not?
2.Angelos Mousouliotis et al, " Siliciclastic Deposits of the Messinian Nile Canyon, Herodotus Basin, Eastern Mediterranean", Geoscience Technology Workshop, Exploration and Development of Siliciclastic and Carbonate Reservoirs in the Eastern Mediterranean, Tel Aviv, Israel, February 26-27, 2019http://www.searchanddiscovery.com/abstracts/html/2019/telaviv-90341/abstracts/2019.TelAviv.12.html
3.Strong, J. (1995). Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. Woodside Bible Fellowship.
4.Daniel S. Adler, Guy Bar-Oz, Anna Belfer-Cohen, and Ofer Bar-Yosef, Ahead of the Game : Middle and Upper Palaeolithic Hunting Behaviors in the Southern Caucasus ,"" Current Anthropology Volume 47, Number 1, February 2006, p. 91
5.L.V. Golovanova, et al, ""Mezmaiskaya Cave: A Neanderthal Occupation in the Northern Caucasus,"" Current Anthropology, 40(1999):1:77-86, p. 85