Eden, The Fertile Crescent, And Genesis

When I first heard about the idea of the "fertile crescent" some years ago, I immediately thought the area could be the basis of the myth of The Garden of Eden. It turns out that I am not alone. There are plenty of articles and books that mention the connection.

(For those who don't know, the fertile crescent is a crescent-shaped area that straddles the Arabian peninsula and is considered the place where human agriculture was first developed.)

However, some on the religious side seem to use the idea of the fertile crescent as at least a minor level of proof of the Garden of Eden's existence because the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are in the fertile crescent and that is where the bible says the Garden of Eden was located.

I have a different take on it, however. I think that the myth of the Garden of Eden was likely based on the existence of the fertile crescent, although that specific idea was not known at the time. Other peoples with which the Hebrew tribes came in contact must have told them (over and over) about the lush and fertile farm land in the fertile crescent. The Hebrews must have thought that because they weren't there, too, there must be a reason for it. If a desert-wandering people were to try and establish a set of myths to explain their home, which sucked in comparison, the reason needed to be pretty damn good in order to give them a sense of self-worth.

The tribes' myth-makers came up with it--they were kicked out by the gods! And the gods (remember, there were more than one at the time of the writing of Genesis) kept guards at the gates to make sure they never returned. They can't return; the gods are seeing to that and there's nothing to be done about it. They must toil and suffer in their current state.

But they also needed someone to blame. And, at the same time, they needed to link themselves to these gods in a manner that also gave them a sense of general importance, too. Voilà! Adam and Eve did it! The gods' original Hebrew couple were at fault. Those two fuckwads! We'll blame everything on them!

But, wait. They couldn't have them equally responsible. The male writers couldn't let themselves be lumped in with a woman with equal amounts of blame to go around. Geez. That would be just stupid. What to do about that?

Someone on a bender after a rough breakup (with his imagination running with an open throttle) had a thought that has plagued us to this day: "There's no way a talking animal would fool a man, for gods' sake! But, a woman--with her gossipy nature--she'll probably go for something like that. Yeah. That's believable!" Plus, he thought, a woman can trick a man in to getting what she wants from him--they have their ways, don't ya know. Blaming her for dragging man down with her is the way to do it. That'll teach those evil women!

His idea spread among the 12 tribes. Over time, each tribe tweaked the story a little, as can happen with all stories once the tellers of it become isolated from each other. Eventually, writing was invented and the tribes got together to write down their stores. In order to do so, though, they needed to come up with a single set of stories. "We don't have time to record everything!" they must have thought. "With 12 tribes, it'll take forever. The book will be huge!"

They whittled down the stories to two versions. But they couldn't agree which one was best. Eventually they decided to include them both so they could move on to all the laws they needed to include. With 12 tribes coming together to put their different laws in writing, can you guess what happened? Yep. They included them all, whether they conflicted or not.

But that's another story.

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