The Rivers of Paradise

The Book of Genesis says that from Eden stemmed the headwaters of the four rivers of paradise.

The names of these are given as the PishonGihonHiddekel and Euphrates. Of these four, only the last can properly be identified by name. The Euphrates flows through Turkish Kurdistan, Syria and Iraq before emptying into the Persian Gulf.

The other three were identified by early biblical scholars respectively with the Ganges of India (although occasionally the Orontes of northern Syria), the Nile of Africa and the Tigris of western Asia, which, like its sister river the Euphrates flows through Iraq and empties into the Persian Gulf. The first two were chosen as suitable substitutes simply because they were looked upon by scholars as the mightiest rivers of the classical world; only the connection between the Hiddekel and the Tigris made any sort of geographical sense.

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In no way could it be said that all four of these rivers rose in the same geographical region, a problem that was conveniently overlooked by theologians before the re-discovery of cartography in the sixteenth century. Other sources, particularly the Armenian Church, accepted the Euphrates and Tigris as two of the four rivers of paradise, yet chose to associate the other two, the Pishon and Gihon, with, respectively, the Greater Zab, which rises in Turkish Kurdistan and empties into the Tigris, and the Araxes, which rises in Armenia and empties into the Caspian Sea.

Had the Armenian Church been right to do this?

Possibly yes, as they were the inhabitants of the geographical region in question and may well have been privy to local traditions unavailable to the outside theological world.

Whatever the identities of the four rivers of paradise, Kurdish tradition places their headwaters in the vicinity of Lake Van, an enormous inland sea – some 60 miles across and around 35 miles wide – situated on the border between Turkish Kurdistan and Armenia.

Indeed, legend records that the Garden of Eden now lies ‘at the bottom of Lake Van’, after it was submerged beneath the waves at the time of the Great Flood.

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Lake Van 

Curiously enough, it is the mountain of Cudi Dag, or Mount Judi, south of Lake Van that the Moslems as well as the various different faiths of Kurdish extraction locate the so-called Place of Descent, the site where Noah’s Ark came to rest after the Great Flood.

The attribution of this very same location with the more familiar Mount Ararat is a pure Christian invention that has no real basis in early religious tradition.

All this therefore implied that the compilers of the Book of Genesis placed both the birth-place of humanity, i.e. the Garden of Eden, and its point of regeneration after the Great Flood in the same general region of northern Kurdistan, surely a clue to the fact that the key to the origins of the Watchers lay in this same geographical area of the map.

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