Truth, Understanding, Insight


17th October 2008, hej


2) Ancient Hebrew use of the word paradise pardes

The Old Testament uses the older Hebrew version of the word, pardes, which tells us what it meant to them. The word translated 'forest' in the Old Testament is mostly the Hebrew word ya-ar meaning 'to thicken', but Nehemiah uses pardes to describe Artaxerxes' forest.

And a letter unto Asaph the keeper of the king's forest (pardes), that he may give me timber to make beams for the gates of the palace which appertained to the house, and for the wall of the city, and for the house that I shall enter into. And the king granted me, according to the good hand of my God upon me. (Nehemiah 2:8)

This 'king's forest' was paradise. Nehemiah is speaking of a pragmatic exchange and the word described a walled piece of land belonging to a king. The word also is used twice in Solomon's writings where he speaks of his gardens as pardes.

I made me gardens (Hebrew: gannah) and orchards (pardes), and I planted trees in them of all kind of fruits:(Ecclesiastes 2:5)
A garden (Hebrew: gan) inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed. Thy plants are an orchard (pardes) of pomegranates, with pleasant fruits; camphire, with spikenard, (Song 4:12-13)

Solomon makes a difference between a Hebrew gan and a Persian pardes. All three references speak of trees. Both references by Solomon to pardes again refer to a plantation owned by a king. A Hebrew 'gan' contained plants in a walled area. However, ancient descriptions of Persian pairidaêza feature an enclosing wall, trees for shade, water in ponds and canals, pavilions and animals. The control of such large areas of water in a hot arid climate would explain why these gardens were associated with kings. Also called a pairidaêza, which was a great privilege for kings to own, was a very large enclosed area full of trees, with water, wild animals and birds for hunting by the king. This King's pardes or pairidaêza was the area from which Nehemiah gained trees for building the gates of Jerusalem.

Hebrew translation of gan into Greek paradeisos

The third occurrence of the Greek word paradeisos in the New Testament is part of a promise to the faithful in Revelation,

Unto the angel of the congregation of Ephesus write; These things said he that holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands; I know your works, and your labour, and your patience, and how you can not bear them which are evil: ...He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit said unto the congregations; To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:1-7)

The word for paradise in Greek is paradeisos. It is used here to describe the garden of Eden. It was a walled place of trees that could not be entered after Eve and Adam were excluded as the result of sin. There is one point to note. The reward to the faithful is not to be in the garden! Rather, the reward is eating of the tree of life.

The use of this word is in keeping with the Septuagint which translates the Hebrew for garden gan as paradeisos wherever it refers to the Garden of Eden, or the Garden of Yahweh. In Genesis 13:10 the land Lot sees is like the paradeisos of Yahweh- a reference again to Eden. In effect, Revelation uses the same phrase as Genesis 13:10.

paradise of God = garden of the Lord = Eden

We can note some reasons for the acceptance of the term paradeisos by the Jewish Septuagint translators to describe Eden. Firstly, the concept was already accepted into Hebrew as Pardes and Aramaic as pardaysa. The word described Eden as something special rather than the more common Hebrew gan. Secondly, there were less than accidental similarities, between the Persian idea and Eden, as the Persian culture has traces of common Semitic origins. Eden was divided by 4 rivers and later Persian paradeisos feature multiple channels dividing the garden into 4. The entry was cut off to Eden, indicating an area that only had one point of access, just like a Persian walled garden. There were trees for shade and food and animals in both. And one last point in common was that the Persian paradeisos was a place of rest from labour.