IMAGINE yourself in a garden. There are no distractions, no sounds of chaotic city life drifting in over some nearby wall. This garden is vast, and nothing intrudes on its peace. Better yet, your mind is clear of worries, your body untroubled by any trace of illness, allergies, or pain. Your senses are free to take in your surroundings.
You feast your eyes first on the vivid hues of the blossoms, then on the sparkle of a stream, then on the myriad greens of foliage and grass in sun and shadow. You feel the mild breeze on your skin and smell the sweet fragrances it carries. You hear the rustling of leaves, the splash of water tumbling over rocks, the calls and songs of birds, the hum of insects at work. As you picture the scene, do you not long to be in such a place?
People around the world believe that mankind had its start in a place like that. For centuries, members of Judaism, Christendom, and Islam have been taught about the garden of Eden, where God put Adam and Eve to live. According to the Bible, they had a peaceful, happy existence. They were at peace with each other, with the animals, and with God, who kindly gave them the hope of living forever in that lovely environment.—Genesis 2:15-24.
Hindus too have their distinctive concepts about a paradise in ancient times. Buddhists believe that great spiritual leaders, or Buddhas, arise in such golden ages when the world is like a paradise. And numerous religions of Africa teach stories that bear a remarkable resemblance to that of Adam and Eve.
In fact, the idea of an early paradise has been pervasive in mankind’s religions and traditions. One author noted: “Many civilizations believed in a primordial paradise that was characterized by perfection, freedom, peace, happiness, abundance, and the absence of duress, tensions, and conflicts. . . . This belief gave rise in the collective consciousness to a profound nostalgia for the lost but not forgotten paradise and to a strong desire to recover it.”
Might all those stories and traditions stem from a common root? Is it possible that mankind’s “collective consciousness” is imprinted with the memory of something real? Was there actually a garden of Eden in the distant past and a real Adam and Eve?
Skeptics scoff at the idea. In this scientific age, many assume that such accounts are mere legends and myths. Surprisingly, not all the skeptics are secular. Many religious leaders promote disbelief in the garden of Eden. They say that there never was any such place. They say that the account is merely a metaphor, a myth, a fable, a parable.
Of course, the Bible does contain parables. Jesus himself uttered the most famous of them. However, the Bible presents the account about Eden, not as a parable, but as history, pure and simple. Yet, if the events described never occurred, then how can the rest of the Bible be trusted? Let us examine why some are skeptical about the garden of Eden and see whether their reasons are sound. Then we will consider why the account should matter to each one of us.