Original Source:


Author: Scott Vigil


These are notes from Francesca Stavrakopoulou in her presentation, “The Bible’s Buried Secrets – The Real Garden of Eden”. It can be found by using this search string in a Google search. I found it in this location. However, there are annoying occurrences of ads played right over the top of the video that caused havoc with my browser. There are probably better copies available. Possibly, this should also be available at a public library.

This from Wikipedia:

Francesca Stavrakopoulou (born 1975 in Bromley, London with an English mother and a Greek father) is Professor of Hebrew Bible and Ancient Religion in the University of Exeter‘s Department of Theology and Religion. The main focus of her research is Israelite and Judahite history and religion.

Below, I am going to do the video equivalent of a book report. Largely, I will be writing from Professor Franceska Stavrakopoulou’s perspective and attempting to accurately represent her views. Quotations not attributed will be hers. My personal thoughts will be signaled in parenthesis. At the onset, I want to say I thought this a stupendously beautiful and moving presentation that gives me a new perspective on the Eden story. It has only been made available to me by a new awareness that history is presented to us by many people. Each adds their own layer. So, getting to the original intentions of an original writer require an open mind and a willingness to take into account a historical perspective and the methods of a historian and a scientist. Because of my studies of ancient Greece, ancient Rome, the middle-ages, the history of science, the causes of the First World War and others, I recognize this as a scholarly approach toward this subject. I appreciate Stavrakopoulou. She approaches this subject with integrity, a modern inscrutability and a tenderness that shows how she loves the material she studies.


Adam and Eve’s crimes are our crimes, according to Christian tradition. They are the cause of our toil, suffering and death. And many look to Genesis as the foundation for their faith in God and the Bible.

If I can’t trust Genesis 1 and 2, why should I trust Exodus, Mathew, Mark, Luke or any other book. And I think what’s at stake here is the authority of scripture.[i]

Original sin is disobedience of our first parents. We call them figuratively Adam and Eve.[ii]

If you don’t have original sin… if humankind didn’t fall away from God in the first place, we wouldn’t need redeeming. We wouldn’t need Christ. We wouldn’t need the church. So therefore, our existence, uhm, comes from that.”[iii]

However, a different view will be shown. The story of Eden was about a particular place and a particular time the crimes are of a particular place, time and king.

Also, it will be shown that some themes have been written in to the story but were not originally there.[iv] In Christianity, the serpent represents the devil. However, Satan is not mentioned in the story.[v] It will also be shown that inherent sin and the fall of man are also foreign to the book of Genesis.

All these Christian ideas are completely alien to the book to Genesis.

The bible doesn’t name the fruit used in the story. But it probably comes from the apple. However, the Greek word for apple can also be interpreted as “breasts” to represent erotic desire. The message of this story is that we are all fundamentally bad. In particular, this book has been used to reflect negatively on women and female sexuality. It blames the woman for the fall and has resulted in some severe hang-ups about sex[vi].

Eden was a particular place. The first clue is the use of the word garden. Although it is thought to be an idyllic primordial place because it was placed at the front of the bible[vii]. Political references can only be understood if one familiarizes one’s self with the cultures of Assyria, Babylon and Persia, the predominate powers of the time. Cherubs in the bible are placed at the entrance of the garden, examples from British museum are shown[viii].

I want to discover what the story first meant when it was originally written.[ix] – paraphrased

Relief from Ninevahin museum is shown. The Garden is a statement of power[x]. An aquaduct is shown channeling water to the garden. It is built to demonstrate control over the environment. In Genesis, waters rise up from the earth and split into four rivers to water the land.

Order meant life. Wilderness meant death.

The Generalife, (Architect’s Garden), Alhambra in Granada, Islamic garden, inspired by “ancient perceptions of Eden itself” in Koran provides a glimpse of the real Garden of Eden presented in the bible[xi].

Garden in Alhambre[xii].

This medieval Islamic garden, influenced by Persian design, demonstrates the Islamic vision of paradise. Note the stone work below.

Garden in Alhambre[xiii]

Alhambra slender columns[xiv]

Elegant structures, delicately reflect the natural world.

Cherubim examples shown at British Museum[xvi]

This often overlooked feature of the story ties Eden to royal gardens of antiquity. Eden was God’s garden. In the Genesis story, cherubim guarded the garden of Eden. They mark the dwelling place of God. This fact is often overlooked from the story[xv].

Royal Garden Relief, British Museum[xvii]

The Assyrian relief gives the clue of why Adam was in God’s garden. Adam was a king. In the relief, a king can be seen as a lone figure at the central point in the garden. One can see what appears to be aqueducts in the garden, distributing water to the various trees and plants. Controlling the environment was essential. Order meant life. Chaos meant death[xviii].

An example is shown of a near eastern garden attached to a large palace[xix]. (Note the stone structure and compare to Alhambre reflecting pool.[xx])

18th century BC palace and garden complex dig site of Mari in Syria on border with Iraq[xxi]

Palace Dig Site, contains many rooms and passage ways.[xxii]

 “According to near eastern belief systems, Adam fulfills the role of a King”. Eden was built as an earthly dwelling place for a god.[xxiii] The King could build impressive buildings because he had the wisdom of the cosmos. He performed as the link between the human and the heavenly worlds. In the ancient world, there was no distinction between the religion and politics. The king was granted access by the gods in order to tend the gardens.

He was the gardener of the gods.

Rabbi Yehuda Brodie, Manchester’s Beth Din (Jewish Court) at JT Tannebaum Jewish Cultural Centre, sees Adam and Eve as “progenitors of mankind” as the “first couple”, “the result of God’s handiwork himself”. Stavrakopoulou sees Adam as a royal figure, a royal gardener. This was very alien to the rabbi.[xxiv]

Professor Nicolas Wyatt, Biblical Scholar, University of Edinburgh is introduced.[xxv] According to him, the king was expelled due to violence and trade. This can be seen in two stories of Eden in Ezekiel, thought to be “very probably written earlier than” the Eden story in Genesis. In Ezekiel 28, we have two oracles against the kin of Tyre. Starting with verse 12, we have

the king walking on the holy mountain of God in Eden… It’s filled with fiery stones upon which the King walks.

He is expelled due to

trade, (capitalism with all the sins that go along side it) and violence, presumably military adventures… It was all about a king and his temple complex. There was not a hint about the beginning of the world… Eden seems to be a cipher for a real place, a real geographical location.

The stories in Ezekiel show that that the Eden story in Genesis is not a creation story.

Many people searched in Iraq for the site of Eden. However, it is the wrong place and at the wrong time.[xxvi]

Gihon is a spring that has supplied Jerusalem with water since antiquity.[xxvii]

The River Gihon perfectly matches the description in Genesis of water bubbling up from a spring.[xxviii] This leads us to the conclusion that Jerusalem is the location of the original Garden of Eden. And, since we now know the garden was part of a temple, logically the site of the original Jerusalem temple would be its location.

The Dome of the Rock[xxix]

Ain Dara, “Massive dwelling place for massive the gods”[xxxi]

Ain Dara temple is almost exactly the same as Jerusalem temple in Bible. Impressionistic plans drawn of the two structures compare in size and organization.[xxx] Its plan has been shown to be nearly identical to that of the Jerusalem temple as described in the bible.

Because of the Cherubim on Ain Dara we know both the temple of Ain Dara and the Jerusalem temple were gardens. In the Book of Kings, the temple was written to have great Cherubim on every corner.

Professor Stavrakopoulou with Ain Dara Cherub[xxxii]

Rabbi Brodie did not want to agree that the Garden of Eden was in Jerusalem; however he did feel that if there was any one place where God came and connected with man, the Jew would look to the temple in Jerusalem.[xxxiii]

Stravrakopoulou interviewed Professor Dr. Herbert Niehr of the University of Tubingen. According to him, being a vassal kingdom meant you regularly pay tribute. Twice, however, the Judean kings refused to pay tribute.[xxxiv] King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon besieged Jerusalem. The second time, he lost patience and had his general enter the city, destroy the royal palace, the temple and the city. The temple was “the center of the world, the place of creation” for these people. For them to see it go up in flames meant that “the cosmic order was heavily disturbed” and that nothing could go well after that.

Stavrakopoulou summarized: The link between God and his people was lost.

Beulah, baked hard from fire[xxxvi]

Evidence of a large and hot fire near the temple mount in Jerusalem was shown. The Beulah was a spot of clay used to seal documents. Many of these were found because they had been baked hard in the catastrophe.[xxxv]

Adam represents all humanity and his disobedience signals that all people are bad.[xxxvii]

However, it was the Judean king who had sinned. He alone was responsible for the expulsion from the garden, not all the people.[xxxviii]

According to Wyatt,

What Kings and Presidents and military leaders do determines the fate of a whole nation. The King misbehaved. He sinned!

Per Wyatt, when the writer sees the King’s wisdom has led him into adversity, he blames Wisdom. (This is signaled through the metaphor of the tree of knowledge).[xxxix]

Since God’s judgment is against a single man, a specific king, we are off the hook. The blame is to be placed on him alone.

Stavrakopoulou pictured walking past a pharmacy with the serpent symbol in front of it.[xli]

As one of the gods in the pantheon of the early Judean there was a healing cult that venerated the snake. Including the serpent in the story as the villain was a way of discrediting the snake cult and the serpent worship that occurred in the temple. However, this repudiation of the snake was not fully successful.[xl]

The serpent is still symbolic of healing.

In the bible, there are quite a few stories of men misbehaving. However, it is often because of their wives.

King Ahab was perhaps the most notorious of all monarchs, but only because he was egged on by his Queen, Jezebel.

This template is repeated often in the bible.

The other villain of the story was Eve. The bible places the blame on her for the loss of paradise. By proxy, blame has been placed on all women. Their lives have been profoundly affected ever since. We now know this was not the original purpose of the story of Eden.

However, it was only well after the sixth century BC, that Genesis was placed at the beginning of the Torah by scribes. This loading of the story completely changed its meaning. According to Professor Judith Hadley of Villanova University, this was quite unfair. The story was not even a creation story until it was moved to the front of Genesis. She’s not meant to be the first woman and should not be blamed for all the sins that have come into the world. The early Christian interpreters did not have access to the original intentions of the story and therefore heavily misinterpreted it.

According to Professor Rev. Walter Moberly, University of Durham, Christians are likely to interpret the story in its “recontextualized” location, where it now sits in Genesis.

They normally want to concentrate on the literary context, rather than the context of origin.

(So, they don’t look at how the book was written, who wrote it, when and why.)

 So the story is about the natural human tendency to sin.

Stavrakopoulou summarized. Moberly agreed with this interpretation.

Franceska Stavrakopoulou stressed that she doesn’t think the story is that people are bad, but it is about the sins of an individual at a particular time and place in history, two and a half thousand years ago.

The story,

allows us to engage with the real passions and anxieties of a people from long ago.


Personally, I find this perspective profound and moving. More to the point in the context of our conversation on evolution, however, is this. If Eden is a garden and the gardens are attached to a palace and if Adam was a king, then Adam was in no way the first man. And if Eve was not the first woman but simply a “fall guy” to, along with the snake, take the blame for all of men’s problems, then she was not the first woman. And if loading made this story into a creation story by the physical movement of it to the front of the book of Genesis, then clearly it is not a candidate model for the beginning of life here on Earth. Thus, creationists are left with no model whatsoever. And ID proponents no longer have an ontological rationale for resisting the idea that all species came from earlier species back in time as predicted Darwin’s theory of Evolution.

– Scott Vigil, Author

[i] Vinny Commons, fundamentalist pastor, 4:00 (As mentioned above, these are notes from Francesca Stavrakopoulou in her presentation, “The Bible’s Buried Secrets – The Real Garden of Eden”. It can be found by using this search string in a Google search. I found it in this location. However, there are annoying occurrences of ads played right over the top of the video that caused havoc with my browser. There are probably better copies available. Possibly, this should also be available at a public library.

Time signatures below in the form of mm:ss show where in Stavrakopoulou’s presentation items below were derived. ­­)

[ii] Pastor Vinny Commons, 6:03

[iii] Preist, Canon McBride, Dean of Salford Cathedral, 6:20

[iv] 7:00

[v] 7:20

[vi] 9:10

[vii] 9:45

[viii] 10:20

[ix] 10:45

[x] 11:45

[xi] 13:20

[xii] 13:33

[xiii] 14:32

[xiv] 14:51

[xv] 17:51

[xvi] 17:51

[xvii] 11:42

[xviii] 19:50

[xix] 20:30

[xx] 14:32

[xxi] 20:30

[xxii] 21:50

[xxiii] 24:00

[xxiv] 25:00

[xxv] 26:00

[xxvi] 29:30

[xxvii] 30:30

[xxviii] 30:43

[xxix] 31:20

[xxx] 35:00

[xxxi] 36:51

[xxxii] 37:16

[xxxiii] 40:37

[xxxiv] 45:50

[xxxv] 45:00

[xxxvi] 45:00

[xxxvii] 48:00

[xxxviii] 48:15

[xxxix] 48:19

[xl] 51:00

[xli] 52:25

Note: This essay may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This presentation is making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of religious issues. This essay presentation is a Creative Commons work – available for free in the public domain – of criticism, commentary, research and nonprofit education and thus constitutes a ‘Fair Use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided in the United States Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107.