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Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors
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Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors

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Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht
Interpretations of the trees in the Garden of Eden misunderstand their significance by focusing... mehr
Sacred Trees in the Garden of Eden and Their Ancient Near Eastern Precursors
Interpretations of the trees in the Garden of Eden misunderstand their significance by focusing on sin or a theological “fall.” A tradition-historical approach to the motif of trees in ancient Near Eastern literature and imagery reveals their multivalent quality. Trees are connected with fertility and goddess devotion but also with the power and divine sanction given to kings and dynasties, and with the potency of sacred space, on which humans and the divine come together and meet. As cross-temporal motifs, trees are regularly associated with life-giving and blessing (a plant of rejuvenation; a tree of life); a connection of trees to knowledge and meaning appears as well, in wisdom literature, and in the book of 1 Enoch. Language of a world tree or cosmic tree, though useful conceptually, is a modern imposition on the ancient evidence. More evident from the ancient setting is the image of felling trees, which indicates the downfall of human leaders, especially kings, because of their hubris. Ultimately, sacred trees have an ambivalent value, as a source of both contestation and progress.