ONE of the most surprising objections that some scholars raise to the account about Eden is that it is not supported by the rest of the Bible. For example, Professor of Religious Studies Paul Morris writes: “There are no later direct biblical references to the Eden story.” His assessment may win nods of agreement from various “experts,” but it runs directly counter to the facts.
The Bible actually makes numerous references to the garden of Eden, Adam, Eve, and the serpent.* But the error of a few scholars pales in comparison to a much larger, more pervasive one. By discrediting the Genesis record of the garden of Eden, religious leaders and Bible critics are actually launching an all-out assault on the Bible. How so?
Understanding what happened in Eden is essential to understanding the rest of the Bible. For example, God’s Word is designed to help us find answers to the most profound and far-reaching questions that humans face. Again and again, the Bible’s answers to those questions relate to events that took place in the garden of Eden. Consider some examples.
● Why do we grow old and die? Adam and Eve were to live forever if they remained subject to Jehovah. Only if they rebelled would they die. In the day that they rebelled, they began to die. (Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:19) They lost perfection and could pass on only sin and imperfection to their offspring. The Bible thus explains: “Through one man sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 5:12.
● Why does God allow wickedness? In the garden of Eden, Satan called God a liar who withholds good from his creatures. (Genesis 3:3-5) He thus called into question the rightfulness of Jehovah’s way of ruling. Adam and Eve chose to follow Satan; so they likewise rejected Jehovah’s sovereignty and, in effect, asserted that man can decide for himself what is good and what is bad. In his perfect justice and wisdom, Jehovah knew that there was only one way to answer the challenge properly—allow time to pass, giving humans the opportunity to rule themselves as they choose. The resulting wickedness is due, in part, to Satan’s continued influence and has gradually revealed a great truth: Man is incapable of governing himself without God.—Jeremiah 10:23.
● What is God’s purpose for the earth? In the garden of Eden, Jehovah set a standard of beauty for the earth. He commissioned Adam and Eve to fill the earth with their offspring and “subdue it,” in order to bring the same measure of beauty and harmony to the whole planet. (Genesis 1:28) So God’s purpose for the earth is that it be a paradise inhabited by a perfect, united family of the offspring of Adam and Eve. Much of the Bible is about God’s means of fulfilling that original purpose.
● Why did Jesus Christ come to the earth? The rebellion in the garden of Eden brought a death sentence upon Adam and Eve and all their offspring, but God lovingly supplied hope. He sent his Son to the earth to provide what the Bible calls a ransom. (Matthew 20:28) What does that mean? Well, Jesus was “the last Adam”; he succeeded where Adam had failed. Jesus maintained his perfect human life by remaining obedient to Jehovah. Then he freely gave his life as a sacrifice, or ransom, providing the means for all faithful humans to receive forgiveness for their sins and eventually attain the kind of life that Adam and Eve enjoyed in Eden before they sinned. (1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; John 3:16) Thus Jesus guaranteed that Jehovah’s purpose to turn this earth into an Edenlike paradise will come true.
God’s purpose is not vague, nor is it some abstract theological concept. It is real. Just as the garden of Eden was a real place on this earth with real animals and real people, so God’s promise for the future is a certainty, a reality soon to come. Will it be your future, your reality? Much of that is up to you. God wants that future for as many people as possible, even for those whose lives have gone wrong.—1 Timothy 2:3, 4.
As Jesus was dying, he spoke to a man whose life had taken a terrible turn. The man was a criminal; he knew that he deserved to be executed. But he turned to Jesus for comfort, for hope. Jesus’ response? “You will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43) If Jesus wants to see that former criminal there—resurrected and blessed with an opportunity to live forever in an Edenlike paradise—does he not want the same blessing for you? He does! His Father does! If you want that future for yourself, do all that you can to learn about the God who made the garden of Eden.
See, for example, Genesis 13:10; Deuteronomy 32:8; 2 Samuel 7:14; 1 Chronicles 1:1; Isaiah 51:3; Ezekiel 28:13; 31:8, 9; Luke 3:38; Romans 5:12-14; 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; 2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:13, 14; Jude 14; and Revelation 12:9.