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God begins with simple language in Genesis. From the Eden narratives in Genesis 2 He uses the same symbols throughout the Bible to Revelation chapter 21, when God Himself will dwell on the New Earth as His new headquarters of the New Heavens. Only when the universe is subjected to Christ, and Christ subjects Himself, yielding all power and authority to the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24–28), only then does it appear that a new phase of God’s plan begins. Only then will the use of the Eden/Tabernacle/Temple 1 symbolism cease. One thing is sure: we will all be there. We will all participate. Enjoy the article, "The Temple Symbolism in Genesis".
Various elements of the Temple symbolism in the Eden narratives of the book of Genesis have long been recognized by scholars. But the linkage has never been as strongly demonstrated as in this article by Dr. Ernest L. Martin. He is the first scholar to my knowledge to understand the text as presented, and as it was likely understood by various readers and audiences throughout the centuries up to the destruction of the Temple in 70 C.E. To be sure, scholars have seen elements of Eden symbolism in the Temple, but no one has developed the linkage so strongly.
The reason for this is that modern scholars all too often do not accept that the text of the Bible reflects events that have a real time, a real place, real people and with real occurrences. But the events did happen just as they are recorded in the Bible. They are not a myth, a fantasy, an imagining or a creative metaphor that requires the creation of a scholarly “lying truth” more bizarre than any Greek myth or work of fantasy.
Why have scholars looked at the Eden events and missed their significance? The answer is simple. The original audiences of the Old Testament and the New Testament fully understood and did not need explanations of the symbolism connecting the Eden narratives in Genesis with Temple rituals, architecture and meaning. That understanding was lost during the period of the Early Church after the destruction of the Temple. 2 An example of this understanding is shown in a passage from Hosea. His audience knew about Eden. Hosea notes that Adam violated a “covenant” (Hebrew, berith) in a manner similar to Israel:
“For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, And in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings. But like Adam they [the tribes of Israel] have transgressed the covenant; There they have dealt treacherously against Me.”
Of course, since Dr. Martin’s article first appeared in 1977 others have written about the identification of the Eden narratives with Temple symbolism. One such work is by Joshua Berman, The Temple: Its Symbolism and Meaning, Then and Now. 3 This conservative Jewish presentation even includes a chapter specific to our discussion, titled “Temple as Garden of Eden,” but not even this chapter realizes the evidence Dr. Martin developed. Berman wrote 20 years after Dr. Martin, and referenced Jewish writings extensively, but he did not touch on all the points Dr. Martin brought out. No one has done so. Even so, credit must be given to Berman who caught the basic theme of the Eden narrative:
“Throughout the Bible, the Sanctuary is described via language and terms that are borrowed from the Eden narrative of Genesis, chapters 2 and 3. ... the Temple is reflective of the garden of Eden, the first environment in which man encountered God. Eden serves as a paradigm for communion with God in the Sanctuary in terms of man’s strict accountability for his misdeeds. ... All these are parallels that imply an identity between Eden and Sanctuary, as environments wherein man enters the realm of the divine.”
Berman, The Temple, p. 26–27 [emphasis mine]
The reason Dr. Martin understood the texts so clearly was that he read the Eden narrative from a geographic and structural point of view, in addition to the elements of the story itself. He recognized that the different areas, boundaries — and divisions between the areas — was an important point of contact between Eden and Temple. While not recognizing these factors, Berman does understand that,
“... both language and imagery borrowed from the garden of Eden narratives of Genesis, chapters 2 and 3 permeate many of the Bible’s references to the Tabernacle and Temple. ... The fact that the cherubim appear in only two places in the entire Torah implies an analogy between the two contexts.”
Berman, The Temple, p. 21 (italics his)
No other scholar has “put it all together,” insofar as I have found, but I will cite additional insights that add to Dr. Martin’s overall explanation in footnotes. The symbolism of Eden and the Temple permeates all of “salvation history.” Oscar Cullmann notes that apart from the origins of human sin in Eden the whole history of salvation would be unintelligible. 4 The Eden narratives gave Israel a fully developed understanding of the need to return to God’s presence. Sin established barriers to God. The Temple was a means for Israel to overcome those barriers and again come into God’s presence, but not on a permanent basis. Israel’s purpose, as a light to the Gentiles, is based on the need, both by Israel and the Gentiles to be reconciled to God. In Romans (particularly Romans 5:8–21) death is associated with Adam.
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2 Claus Westerman notes that there is no tradition of Genesis 2–3 throughout the Old Testament, “and this has impressed a number of scholars in recent times. It is not quoted and is never mentioned.” Genesis 1–11: A Commentary, trans. John Scullion (Minneapolis: SPCK, 1984), p. 276. Gerhard von Rad comments that, “The contents of Genesis, chapter 2, and especially chapter 3 are conspicuously isolated in the [Old Testament]. No prophet, psalm or narrator makes any recognizable reference to the story of the fall.” Genesis, A Commentary, trans. John Marks (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1961), p. 24.
Jacob Neusner resolves this apparent dilemma by noting that discussions of background elements of cultic practice occur only when there is a question about the basic necessity of the cult to exist at all. When no such questions of necessity exist, there are no discussions or writings about the background. In other words, the audience understood the background. Neusner, “The Idea of Purity in Ancient Judaism” in Journal of the American Academy of Religion, #43, March 1975, pp. 17–20. The Eden narratives (as true events) were written up by Moses in a style that was recognizable and familiar to Israel under the Old Covenant system.
In the Mishnah and later Jewish writings Eden is said to be a paradise located in heaven, contrasted with Gehenna (for example, Mishnah, Aboth 5:22, 24). See also “Paradise” in Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 13 (Jerusalem 1971), and particularly Enoch 23–28, Baruch 4, and 2 Esdras 7:52, apocryphal works where Eden is seen as a paradise for the redeemed.
3 Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson, Inc., 1995, pp. 25–34. Berman feels that the connection only “implies” an identity.
4 Salvation in History, trans. Sidney G. Sowers (New York: Harper & Row, 1967), p. 161.
David W. Sielaff
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