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The first paragraph in this week's Newsweek cover story did not portend well for the rest of the package. In "Unearthing the Bible," Melinda Liu and Christopher Dickey begin:
What there was in the beginning, in the world of the Bible, is what there was in the land now called Iraq. There is nothing left of the Garden of Eden, no artifact at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where myth has placed the Temptation and the Fall.
Using the loaded word myth is a sure way to alienate a huge part of Newsweek's readership. And readers are going to get exactly the wrong idea about what the Bible says. Here's Genesis:
A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.
No one across the spectrum of Genesis interpretations argues that the biblical garden of Eden actually existed at today's confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates riversthe geography just doesn't match, even if two of the names do. Even six-day creationists point to the description of four rivers and say there's no way we'll ever know where the Garden was. (They add that Noah's flood wiped away all traces.) So if tradition puts the Garden at a specific place in Iraq, that is indeed extrabiblical. But Newsweek readers may think the "myth" being referred to is the Genesis account, not local tradition.
The rest of the Newsweek cover package is actually pretty good, even if most of it is old hat for CT readers. What's biblical ...