According to Mark Twain, the Garden of Eden was in the vicinity of Niagara Falls. In fact Mark Twain first published a version of Extracts from Adam’s Diary (1904) under the title The First Authentic Mention of Niagara Falls in 1893 in Buffalo, NY.
According to Twain’s version of Adam’s Diary, Eve re-named the Garden of Eden Niagara Falls Park.
Early Mormon leaders taught that the Garden of Eden had been situated in Jackson County, Missouri.
These two locations for the Garden of Eden are doubtful. But other locations suggested for Eden by historians and archaeologists are more possible. These include the Arabian peninsula, Iraq, Turkey, Egypt, and Lebanon.
What does the Bible say about the location of Eden?
Where Was the Garden of Eden?
The Lord God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. And the name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:8–14 NASB)
Traditionally Eden has been thought to be in the Middle East, because Genesis 2:10 says it was located at the source of a river which divided into 4 rivers: the Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers.
In thinking about where Eden may have been located based on Biblical clues, it’s essential to remember this: the surface of the earth was totally restructured by the Great Global Flood of Noah’s day. The Apostle Peter says the Flood destroyed the world (2 Peter 3:6). The Flood changed mountains and valleys (Psalm 104:6-9), so it surely changed the course of rivers, including potentially reversing their direction of flow.
Because of the upheaval of Noah’s Flood, it is now impossible to say for sure where the Garden of Eden was located. It was destroyed by the Flood, and all landmarks were obliterated.
The present Tigris and Euphrates rivers are in the Middle East. They flow over two-mile-thick Flood sediments into the Persian Gulf. Thus they are not exactly the same rivers as the ones that split off from the Eden River.
Today’s Tigris and Euphrates rivers were probably named by Noah and his sons after the big rivers they remembered from before the Flood. Since the topography of the earth was drastically changed by Noah’s Flood, today’s locations of the rivers could be different from their pre-Flood locations.
However, Moses’ description of the Tigris as flowing east of Assyria suggests that the Tigris may be in about the same location as before the Flood. Flood waters draining off the land surely created big river channels like today’s Tigris, Euphrates, Nile, Amazon, and Mississippi.
The Pishon and Gihon were destroyed by Noah’s Flood. They do not match any present day rivers. Some rivers have been proposed as candidates, and some dried up riverbeds (like the Kuwait River) have been suggested, but today nothing matches the geography Genesis describes: 4 major rivers diverging from a common source river.
This is a very unusual description. Today rivers flow into one another as tributaries. Rarely if ever do big rivers divide into subrivers. Today rivers start from a single source or from a confluence of other rivers. For example, the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers flow together at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio River. The Mississippi River starts as a small stream flowing out of Lake Itasca in northwestern Minnesota. The Ohio flows into the Mississippi River at Cairo, IL. Other major rivers which flow into the Mississippi include the Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Cumberland, and Red rivers.
The Eden River flowed out of the Garden of Eden and then split into four major rivers. This is the opposite of the river behavior we most commonly see today. This is one reason why it’s difficult to locate Eden. Nothing matches this pattern.
If the Tigris and Euphrates flowed the other direction before the Flood due to different topography, and if the old Kuwait River is all that remains of the mighty Pishon of Havilah, and the Gihon is the Abay river of Ethiopia (Cush), then with different topography the four rivers could have flowed out of the Persian Gulf region.
This would fit the Genesis 2 description if Havilah referred to part of Arabia or Africa, especially if the Red Sea did not exist before Noah’s Flood. This would place Eden in the Persian Gulf region, possibly now under water in the Gulf, or even in the Arabian Sea.
Nobody knows to what land Havilah referred. Genesis describes it as having gold, bdellium (an aromatic gum resin), and onyx stone. Even now, parts of Arabia, especially Yemen, have these products.
Satellite radar photographs have indicated the existence of many ancient dried up river beds in the Middle East and Africa. Some (like the Kuwait River) could be the old Pishon or Gihon rivers. For example, recently the large river that once drained the Sahara Desert and much of northern Africa has been discovered (see Sahara Desert Once Ran with Water, USA Today, Nov 10, 2015).
The first-century Jewish historian Josephus said the Gihon was Egypt’s Nile River and the Pishon was the Ganges River of India. This was widely believed for centuries. John Calvin even says that many of his day in the 16th century went along with this. However, if true, this would require a very different topography and river flow direction from what we see today. It’s not clear where Eden would be in this case — maybe underneath the Black Sea.
(Flavius Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, Book 1, Chapter 1, Paragraph 3.
John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis, Volume 1, Note on Genesis 2:10.)
An alternate location is eastern Turkey where the Euphrates and Tigris originate. The old Pishon and Gihon rivers could be other rivers in the region like the Karasu and Murat rivers.
Others place Eden in Armenia, from whence flowed the four rivers: Tigris, Euphrates, Phasis, and Araxes.
Some believe the Garden of Eden was in Lebanon. This is based on Ezekiel 31:16 which mentions “all the well-watered trees of Eden, the choicest and best of Lebanon.”
Garden of Eden — Unknown But Real
Although we cannot know Eden’s location because of the mammoth destruction of Noah’s Flood, it was certainly a real place on earth. The geographical details specifying its location recorded in Genesis rule out Eden being fictional. (See Was Adam’s Garden of Eden Real?)
The Garden of Eden may now be covered by the Persian Gulf or the Arabian Sea or the Black Sea or the Mediterranean Sea. It is undoubtedly covered by hundreds or even thousands of feet of sediment from Noah’s Flood. But no one knows where Eden was. We can only speculate based on clues in Genesis.
Nevertheless, the Garden of Eden was certainly an actual geographical location somewhere on earth at the beginning of history around 6,000 years ago.
Questions to Ponder
- Where on earth do you think the Garden of Eden was physically located?
- Are the cherubim still posted outside the Garden of Eden to guard the way to the Tree of Life in the middle of the garden (Genesis 3:24)?
Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.
Soli Deo Gloria.
This is the 14th of a series of weekly blog articles on Adam.
Read the prequels:
1. Was Adam in the Garden of Eden?
2. Did Moses Believe in Adam?
3. Did Jesus Believe in Adam?
4. Did Paul Believe in Adam?
5. Does Belief in Adam Matter?
6. Adam and Puppies
7. Why Did Adam Sin?
8. What Should Adam Have Done?
9. What Did Adam Cause?
10. What Was Adam’s Forbidden Fruit?
11. How Long Was Adam in Eden?
12. Was Adam’s Garden of Eden Real?
13. Christmas & Adam (with videos)
Read the sequels:
15. Did Adam Wear Clothes in Eden?
16. Was Adam Backward or Brilliant? (with video)
17. Who Was Mrs. Adam?
18. Adam’s Dream Girl
19. Adam’s Prolific Princess
20. Adam’s Problematic Princess
21. How Many Children Did Adam Have?
22. Whom Did Adam’s Sons Marry?
23. Did Adam Ride a Unicorn?
24. How Long Did Adam Live?
25. Did Adam Swat Mosquitoes in Eden?
26. Did Adam’s Garden Have a Talking Snake?
27. Why Should Adam’s Sin Affect Me?
28. Did Roses Have Thorns in Adam’s Garden?
29. Adam the Image-Bearer & Harambe the Gorilla
30. Did Adam Ever Return to Eden?
31. What Was Adam’s Tree of Life?
32. Will Adam Be in Heaven?
33. Did Adam See the Big Dipper?
34. Did Adam Know Earth Is Round?
35. Did Jesus Say When Adam Was Created?
36. Did Adam See Dinosaurs?
37. Did Adam Like Steak?
38. Could Adam Read & Write?
39. Did God Use Evolution to Make Adam?
40. Adam & the Olympics
41. Adam and the Gospel
42. Adam and the Genesis Road
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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday January 6, 2016 A.D.
The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.’” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate. (Genesis 2:16; 3:1-6)