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In Genesis 2 God plants a garden.

Genesis 2 8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed.

This same garden of God keeps popping up in several places in scripture, Ezekiel 31 being one such place notable for it's characters.

Ezekiel 31:3 Behold, the Assyrian was a CEDAR in Lebanon with fair branches, and with a shadowing shroud, and of an high stature; and his top was among the thick boughs.

So this tree is a rational being after all in the Assyrian being a species of a tree, even a ruler, signified as a Cedar.

Ezekiel 31:8
The CEDARS in the garden of God could not hide him: the fir trees were not like his boughs, and the chestnut trees were not like his branches; nor any tree in the garden of God was like unto him in his beauty.

Therefore there are others such cedars, where? In the garden of God.

Gen 2:9.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

So these are the trees that are were pleasant to sight made to grow in Gen 2:9. among whom was the offending tree in the midst.

In Isaiah 5 in the midst indicates circumstances rather than a literal location of the referent in his/their environment, which is the aspect illustrated in the imagery of a tower in the midst of the vineyard, and which tower are the laws, as implied later in God's explanation of the parable.

To mean of these were the tree of life and that of the knowledge of good & evil both of which God placed in the midst of this garden, but which garden was man's to keep, just as the vineyard was Israel's to tend in Isaiah 5.

My Well-beloved has a vineyard On a very fruitful hill. 2 He dug it up and cleared out its stones, And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes.

The imagery of planting trees to signify establishing a category of a congregation is also in Psalm 80:8 and Isaiah 61:3.

Therefore, on what other grounds should the trees in Eden be taken as a literal vegetation in light of these scripture?

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    I'm sorry -- I'm having a difficult time seeing how you're connecting these dots. Is it essentially that since trees are "figurative" elsewhere, they must be "figurative" in Genesis as well? – Dɑvïd Feb 18 '17 at 16:54
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    Of note, this site is best utilized for "real" questions rather than, "here's my theory, how could anyone be so absurd as to disagree with me?" There's no absolute rule against this, but in my experience with such Q&A's, everybody just leaves feeling frustrated. – Susan Feb 18 '17 at 18:31
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    OK, if you say so. Another bit of difficulty here IMO (in addition to the dot disarray mentioned above) is using later texts (if we assume that) to interpret an earlier one. I could see asking whether, e.g., Ezekiel, had in mind a particular interpretation of Gen 2 (there's no reason for not using concrete, "literal" things as the basis for a metaphor -- that's pretty standard), but apart from such "normal" intertextual relationships I don't really get it. – Susan Feb 18 '17 at 19:01
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    I think your question is reasonable. The part that gets me stumped is that you've answered it but it doesn't seem like you're arrived at a logical conclusion. It sounds like your argument is: (a) All these verses talk about a garden. (b) The garden in the passages outside Genesis are figurative. (c) Therefore, the garden passage in Genesis is figurative. The premise is valid but the conclusion is false. IE: (a) It's raining outside. (b) I hear raindrops on my roof. (c) It's raining on my roof. This is not logical because someone could be on the roof with a hose. Does that make sense? – Gigi Sanchez Feb 19 '17 at 3:14
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    @TedO the Genesis account of the garden of Eden was written as a historical account, not a poetical one. Later on the garden was used figuratively, but not so in Genesis. – A Child of God Apr 5 '17 at 12:18
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It seems that you are comparing apples and oranges. Each book of the Bible was written by a different author in a different literary style. Each book may be of a different genre and sometimes books of the Bible contain more than one genere. You have to determine the lens with which to view a particular passage in light of that text itself - not on the basis of the collection of works as a whole when determining genre. For some guidelines on doing that, I recommend that you reference:

How is genre determined?

For example, the Psalms were a collection of Hymns. Proverbs were just that - proverbs. Song of Songs and Ecclesiastes are considered poetry. Most of Genesis, on the other hand, is a type of historical narrative. It is not appropriate to hold a song or poem to the same standard of literalism as a historical narrative because these writing styles are more apt to contain symbolism and metaphor.

The converse is also true - other writing styles are less likely to contain symbolism and metaphor. You would not and should not read your newspaper (for example) in search of the symbolism and metaphor it might contain.

For example, it would be inappropriate to understand the tree in 1 Samuel 14 as non-literal in light Ez 31:8-9, Is. 14, Is. 5, and Ps. 80 (which reads):

Saul was sitting under the pomegranate tree in Migron on the outskirts of Gibeah; with him were about six hundred men.

Similarly we would not understand the sycamore tree Zaccheus climbed up into in Luke 19:4 metaphorically:

So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree in order to see Jesus, who was about to pass that way.

And sometimes, even within a genre there are reasons to take things literally or non-literally. But, in fact, the question could also be flipped around: How can the trees in the Garden of Eden not be understood as literal in light of Gen. 18:4-8, Josh. 8:29, 1 Sam. 14:2, 1 Sam 31:13, Luke 19:4, etc?

And of course, the answer is genre and authorial intent. How did the author intend for us to understand the meaning of the words they wrote. This is where the question over how to interpret the Trees of Genesis becomes hotly debated. On the one hand, this is part of a historical narrative and it seems like there may not be any markers that would indicate this should be considered differently than the story of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob and many don't see any clear division between these stories and the creation story.

But on the other hand, the character in the story is named "Adam" - literally "man". The creation story is broken into two parts with one taking the form of a hymnic prologue. The stories are separated by the Toledoth formula.

It is my opinion that this story is, in fact polemic (fable/parable/allegory/ mythos/metaphore) that should be read literally and a response to other creation stories.. But I got there by studying Genesis itself and considering the merits of Genesis as a discrete work and asking about the authorial intent and genre of the work on it's own merits - not in light of other texts. And while this did involve a literary comparison of similar works, this was done to help me determine the genre of the text by looking at the hallmarks of that particular literary style - I was comparing apples to apples.

Simply put, the authors of the works you reference didn't intend these works to be similar, the writing styles are different and neither author intended one to be a commentary on the other, so using the trees in the passage you referenced as the basis for understanding the trees of Genesis is wholly out of place.

  • I appreciate your response, but my observation of many scholars here is their disinterest in knowing what the bible REALLY says but what the text says. Spiritual thgs are what the bible is about, dependent neither on genre nor era etc, but on modes of expression, even then old bits of unique expressions survive into an age to act as a compass, and so the 'trees' that were in the Eden of God ending up in 'hell'. How clear can that get for a pointer as to the Author's intention? And MIND YOU, its not Ezekiel or Isaiah's, a massive oversight of many scholars not to recognise – Ted O Apr 6 '17 at 14:23
  • Even Paul upon whose words many hung onto but don't believe indicates that those prophets who wrote these things themselves some of them they didnt fully grasp. So as to these writers having a preconception as to what a reader should understand, they had less influence over than is overly attributed to them. I say to you AGAIN. Genesis isn't about creation of inanimate objects, i.e the sun, the moon, the stars, etc, yourself can observe that many thgs cannot be reconciled. Rather it's about creation of sentient beings and establishing their interaction according to essence and natures. – Ted O Apr 6 '17 at 14:23
  • God isn't a God of confusion, He meant these things to be understood and that includes making sense to the reader. Study Gen 1:1 again and see that there's no; beginning but 'head or chief', the article the is missing, here God meant, that 'by the head or chief He created the heavens and the earth!' The same figure He employs on Abraham in saying "'in you' shall all nations be blessed''' The same heads that eventually become 4 in Gen 2:10 This is how God speaks to limited 'capacities' that men are. Anyway stick to the current text and stay on the common tangent that many have taken... – Ted O Apr 6 '17 at 14:23
  • I'm not really disagreeing with the idea that the trees in Genesis didn't actually exist and that Genesis is theological, not factual - I'm actually agreeing with you. Just not on the basis of the texts you cited. It is my opinion that the Trees were inspired by Egyptian creation myths - specifically from the tree at the Sun temple of Atem in Heliopolis. – James Shewey Apr 6 '17 at 15:04

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