The Garden of Eden as a Primordial Temple or Sacred Space for Humankind -- By: Daniel T. Lioy
Conspectus 10:1 (September 2010) p. 25
The Garden of Eden as a Primordial Temple or Sacred Space for Humankind
This journal article considers ways in which the Garden of Eden functioned as a primordial temple for humankind. An examination of the creation narrative points to Eden as the earliest-occurring sacred space. Because it is a prototype and archetype of future temples, Eden provides a conceptual framework for understanding and appreciating their purpose. Moreover, an analysis of the biblical data indicates that God intended Adam and Eve to serve as His sacerdotal vice-regents in the garden. Indeed, Eden is regarded as the starting point for fellowship between God and redeemed humanity.
Meredith Kline, in his discussion of Eden, refers to it as a ‘temple-garden’ (2006:48) and the archetypal ‘holy mountain of God’ (49; cf.
Conspectus 10:1 (September 2010) p. 26
Gen 2:8-3:24). This implies that the primordial sanctuary is representative of all future shrines and provides a conceptual framework for understanding and appreciating their purpose. Kline also speaks of Eden as the ‘vertical cosmic axis of the kingdom’ and the metaphysical link ‘extending from earth to heaven’. Later, in recounting the ‘dream episode’ Jacob experienced at Bethel (cf. 28:10-22), Kline pointed to the ‘stair-structure’ that the patriarch saw as representing the ‘cosmic-axis, the holy mountain focus, the Presence-place of the Lord of glory’ (375).
Succinctly put, a variety of terrestrial shrines in Scripture are regarded as sacred points of contact between the God of glory and His creation. Expressed in a different way, each of these sanctums is a physical localization of the axis mundi (or global nexus) that establishes a link ‘between heaven and earth’ (Waltke 2007:255; cf. Cohen 1981:54; McCurley 1983:126-127). This ‘world axis’ extends ‘invisibly beyond what [can] be seen’ of it ‘into the heights and into the depths’ (Talmon 1997:439). The preceding observations broach one important aspect of the temple motif as a conceptual and linguistic framework for understanding the ‘drama of brokenness and restoration’ detailed in Scripture (Brueggemann 2005:558).
2. Clarifying the Concept of the Temple
There is extensive scholarly discourse about the concept of the ‘temple’ within numerous ancient corpora. The latter include the following texts: the Old Testament (or Tanakh), the New Testament, and the Jewish writings penned during the intertestamental period (approximately 432-5 B.C.) and the era of Second Temple Judaism (appr...
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