Is There a Lost Paradise?
The word "paradise" is of Arabic origin and signifies a garden. The Bible tells us that the Lord God planted a paradise in Eden, and there he put the man he had created (Genesis 2:8), later providing for him a wife – "male and female he created them". No reliable evidence as to the exact location of Eden remains to us, but paradise is traditionally understood to represent man's primeval state of bliss, in harmony with his Creator, as he was before the blight of sin and death entered into the world. Adam had been created in God's image – perfect in his intellectual, artistic, moral and religious faculties – and was given charge over the earth and its creatures. He was instructed to tend the garden, which provided all that was necessary to sustain life and health, physical and mental well-being, everlastingly.
But a prohibition was laid upon Adam and Eve: the fruit of one particular tree – the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" – was forbidden to them and partaking of this fruit would bring death. The story is told in few words. Satan, God's Adversary, "beguiled Eve", assuring her she would not die, but rather would be enlightened and become like the celestial beings. Deceived, Eve ate the forbidden fruit, and then gave it to Adam, who also ate. But Adam was not deceived (1 Timothy 2:14). He chose to share in the sin of disobedience and its penalty, rather than continue in divine favor without Eve, and thus he forfeited the right to life. Expelled from the garden, deprived of its life sustaining food, and alienated from their Creator, the first human pair began the bitter experience of toil and hardship, weariness, sorrow and death that became the inevitable legacy of every generation thereafter.
The Eden story in the modern mind has almost universally assumed the nature of legend, yet it lies at the root of the Christian faith, and man's fall from divine favor as a result of what appears on the surface to be a trivial act of rebellion set in motion a process of degeneration – physical, moral, mental, artistic, religious – which unfailingly ends in death. Thus not only as a geographical location of surpassing beauty and fruitfulness, but also as an idyllic condition of harmony between mankind and his Creator, Paradise was lost.