Archeology and Genesis 3-4 -- By: Merrill F. Unger

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 110:437 (Jan 1953)
Article: Archeology and Genesis 3-4
Author: Merrill F. Unger


Archeology and Genesis 3-4

Merrill F. Unger

I. Primitive Traditions and the Fall

Biblical notices locate the garden of Eden, where the temptation and the fall occurred, somewhere in the Tigris-Euphrates country, evidently in the easternmost third of the Fertile Crescent. “And a river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted and became four heads. The name of the first is Pishon…and the third river is Hiddekel…and the fourth is the Euphrates” (Genesis 2:10–14). The Hiddekel is the ancient name of the Tigris (Babylonian Idigla, Diglat). The Pishon and the Gihon are presumably canals (called rivers in Babylonia) which connected the Tigris and the Euphrates as ancient river beds.

Although Friedrich Delitzsch1 located the site of Eden just north of Babylon where the Euphrates and Tigris come close together, and A. H. Sayce2 and others located it near Eridu anciently on the Persian Gulf, it is futile to try to determine the exact site now. Shifting river beds and the changing configuration of the country in the course of millenniums, due to accumulations of enormous deposits of river silt, render such a task virtually impossible. The important thing is that Genesis locates the beginning of human life in the very region which archeological research has demonstrated to be the cradle of civilization. Says W. F. Albright, “Archeological research has thus established beyond doubt that there is no focus of civilization in the earth that can begin to compete

in antiquity and activity with the basin of the Eastern Mediterranean and the region immediately to the east of it—Breasted’s Fertile Crescent.”3

1. The Myth of Adapa. This ancient legend, which has been commonly interpreted as the Babylonian parallel to the fall of man in Genesis 3, was discovered in four cuneiform fragments, three from King Ashurbanipal’s library in Nineveh (seventh century B.C.) and one from the archives of Egyptian kings Amenhotep III and IV at Amarna (first half of the fourteenth century B.C.). It is a story like the Epic of Gilgamesh of man’s failure to seize the opportunity of gaining eternal life.

Adapa was a man to whom the god Ea had given wisdom, but not eternal life. As the administrator of Ea’s temple at Eridu he was out on the Persian gulf fishing, when the south wind rising suddenly upset his boat and plunged him into the s...

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