The Surviving Textual History of the Garden of Eden

The earliest surviving texts (to my knowledge) that mention the Garden of Eden are in the two Dead Sea Scrolls (1QIsaa and 1QIsab) that contain Isaiah 51:3, of which are dated to the 2nd century BC and the 1st c. BC-1st c. AD respectively. The earliest surviving accounts of the Garden of Eden in Genesis date to the 4th century AD. Aside from the DSS, the earliest Hebrew accounts date to the 9th-11th centuries AD.

The earliest they are believed to have been written is the mid-15th century BC, although that date is contested by other arguments of 10th, 6th, and 5th century dates, among others.

MICHELANGELO Buonarroti,
The Fall and Expulsion from Garden of Eden

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Edens in the Bible

Genesis 2:8 (NIV). “Now the Lord God had planted a garden in the east, in Eden; and there he put the man he had formed.”

Genesis 2:10 (NIV). “A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters.”

Genesis 2:15 (NIV). “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”

Genesis 3:23 (NIV). “So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.”

Genesis 3:24 (NIV). “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Genesis 4:16 (NIV). “So Cain went out from the Lord’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden.”

Isaiah 37:12 and 2 Kings 19:12 (NIV). Both of these verses are identical.
“Did the gods of the nations that were destroyed by my predecessors deliver them—the gods of Gozan, Harran, Rezeph and the people of Eden who were in Tel Assar?”

2 Chronicles 29:12 and 31:15, Ezekiel 27:23 (NIV). All of these verses use the name Eden to refer to a man by his name.

Isaiah 51:3 (NIV). “The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing.”

Ezekiel 28:13 (NIV). “You were in Eden, the garden of God;…”

Ezekiel 31:9 (NIV). “I made it beautiful with abundant branches, the envy of all the trees of Eden in the garden of God.”

Ezekiel 31:16 (NIV). “Then all the trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon, the well-watered trees, were consoled in the earth below.”

Ezekiel 31:18 (NIV). “‘Which of the trees of Eden can be compared with you in splendor and majesty? Yet you, too, will be brought down with the trees of Eden to the earth below;…”

Ezekiel 36:35 (NIV). “They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited.””.

Joel 2:3 (NIV). “Before them fire devours, behind them a flame blazes. Before them the land is like the garden of Eden, behind them, a desert waste— nothing escapes them.”

Amos 1:5 (NIV). “I will break down the gate of Damascus; I will destroy the king who is in the Valley of Aven and the one who holds the scepter in Beth Eden (House of Eden). The people of Aram will go into exile to Kir,” says the Lord.”

Revelation 22:1 (NIV). “[ Eden Restored ] Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb.”

Above, there are 20 verses which use the name Eden. I am not aware of any other verses in the Bible which use this name.

These 20 verses are scattered throughout 8 books, namely: Genesis (6),
2 Kings (1), 2 Chronicles (2), Isaiah (2), Ezekiel (6), Joel (1), Amos (1), Revelation (1).

The 8 verses that use the word Eden not in reference to the Garden are: Genesis 4:16, Isaiah 37:12, 2 Kings 19:12, 2 Chronicles 29:12 and 31:15, Ezekiel 27:23, Amos 1:5, and Revelation 22:1.

Genesis 4:16 is referencing the land in which the garden was placed.
Isaiah 37:12 and 2 Kings 19:12 are identical passages which refer to the people of Eden, which again is the land, not the garden.
2 Chronicles 29:12 and 31:15, Ezekiel 27:23 all use Eden as a male name.
Amos 1:5 refers to the House of Eden (Beth Eden).
Revelation 22:1 appears to me to be referencing the land of Eden, not the garden specifically. Although it does appear to reference the tree that was in the garden, this passage doesn’t emphasize the original garden from Genesis.

With the non-garden verses removed from the list, there are 12 verses left which are spread across 4 books; Genesis (5), Isaiah (1), Ezekiel (5), and Joel (1). The 3 last books are referencing the Genesis passages.

The definition for the name when given to a person appears to me to be the same as the definition for the name when given to the Garden.

I also find it interesting that the paradise in which the first two humans lived in is only mentioned in the books of prophets (two main and a minor), and it escaped capture by the authors of the poetic books or historical books aside from Genesis.

References: [2].

The Rebuke of Adam and Eve, 1626. Domenichino.

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When Were the Books Written?

Genesis: Mid-15th c., 10th c., 6th c., or 5th c. BC.
Isaiah: 6th-5th cc. BC.
Ezekiel: 6th c. BC.
Joel: 9th c., 8th c., 7th c., 6th c. or 5th c. BC.

Genesis is traditionally believed to have been written by Moses during the 40 years wandering in the desert. Moses is sometimes believed to have done this around 1445 BC (more popular) or 1290 BC (less popular). However, some recent scholars place the original writing of Genesis in the 10th century BC, or the 6th/5th centuries BC.

Isaiah Chapters 40-66 are reported to have been written during the 6th-5th centuries. Given that only one verse from Isaiah mentions the Garden of Eden and that the verse is located in Chapter 51, this chapter is the only one that matters for this discussion.

Ezekiel reportedly contains events from the 6th century, therefore could not have been written any earlier than the 6th century.

Joel has no explicit references to persons or events from which have known dates. Due to this, the centuries in which it was written span from the 9th-5th centuries BC. The 9th century dating appeared to me to be the most popular.

References: [3], [4], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10].

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Surviving Texts

Out of all the Dead Sea Scrolls, only two are reported to have relevant verses for this discussion and those are for Isaiah, dated to the 2nd c. BC and the 1st c. BC-1st c. AD. Possibly one of the DSS has the relevant verses for Ezekiel but the scroll is in bad condition and I haven’t found any reports of its relevance to this discussion aside from it containing “Ezekiel”.

The earliest known surviving accounts of the relevant Genesis verses are written in Greek and can be found in the Codex Vaticanus and the Codex Sinaitcus, both of which are dated to the 4th century AD.

Aside from the two DSS, the earliest surviving Hebrew records are from:
Genesis, Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus (10th c. AD).
Isaiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Codex Cairensis (9th c., 10th c., or 11th c. AD).

Codex Cairensis (Cairo Codex of the Prophets) appears to have been discovered in the geniza of the Fustat synagogue (Ben Ezra Synagogue?) in Cairo possibly in the late 19th century or the early 20th century. I think the earliest name I could find in relation to the MS is Christian David Ginsburg (1831-1917), who dated the manuscript to the 9th century based on its colophon. The second earliest name I could find was Paul Ernst Kahle (1875-1964), who appears to be the most popular source for early information on this MS. He dated it to the 10th century. More recent scholarship (1997) claims it to be an 11th century creation.

The second earliest surviving Hebrew record is called the Codex Babylonicus Petropolitanus (The Petersburg Codex of the Prophets). It was discovered in 1839 by  by Abraham Firkowitsch, who claimed to have discovered it in the synagogue of Chufut-Kale in the Crimea. It is dated by its colophon to 916 AD. This is the earliest record I know of that contains the relevant Genesis verses.

The other earliest Hebrew records include:
The Codex Aleppo, dated to the 10th c. AD.
The Codex Leningrad, dated to the 11th c. AD based on its colophon.
The Samaritan Pentateuch MS Add 1846, dated to the 12th c. AD.
The “University of Bologna Torah Scroll”, dated to the 12th-13th cc. AD.
The “Samaritan Pentateuch MSS (1232 AD) – New York Public Library”, dated to the 13th century (possibly based on the colophon).

References: [1], [12], [13], [14], [15], [16], [17], [18], [19].

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References:

[1] – https://www.biblegateway.com/quicksearch/?quicksearch=eden&qs_version=NIV

[2] – https://forums.catholic.com/t/where-are-the-oldest-known-pieces-of-genesis-stored/361005/2

[3] – https://bigthink.com/paul-ratner/how-old-is-the-bible

[4] – https://www.blueletterbible.org/faq/don_stewart/don_stewart_678.cfm

[5] – https://www.allaboutcreation.org/when-was-genesis-written-faq.htm

[6] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Genesis

[7] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Isaiah

[8] – https://www.haaretz.com/jewish/who-really-wrote-the-book-of-isaiah-1.5431430

[9] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ezekiel

[10] – https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-ezekiel

[11] – https://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-Joel.html

[12] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hebrew_Bible_manuscripts

[13] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dead_Sea_Scrolls

[14] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Cairensis

[15] – https://books.google.com/books?id=EZCgpaTgLm0C&pg=PA109&lpg=PA109&dq=kahle+1959+codex+cairensis&source=bl&ots=YgsvSZCCAx&sig=ACfU3U2D0v4IBw0BADryaIGBvZQK5qiVpA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwian–Vl47oAhUIXc0KHdypC5gQ6AEwCnoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=kahle%201959%20codex%20cairensis&f=false

[16] – https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/new-testament-studies/article/cairo-geniza-by-e-kahle-paul-2nd-edition-blackwell-oxford-1959/54CDB184C6392D60612F4006E70C4A05

[17] – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Codex_Babylonicus_Petropolitanus

[18] – https://www.oldest.org/religion/torah/

[19] – https://library.sebts.edu/c.php?g=457318&p=5847648

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