Genesis ii. 8.

June 25, 2010

And the Lord God had planted a paradise of pleasure from the beginning: wherein he placed man whom he had formed.

8a. “A paradise of pleasure from the beginning”

(i) Translation.

St. Jerome: “For paradise, the Hebrew has garden.  [Hebr.] Edem: ‘pleasure,’ or ‘delights,’ or ‘adorned’”[1] (LHQG; LNH).

(ii) The nature of paradise in general.

Cornelius: “From the beginning – that is, from the third day of the world” (Commentaria, p 82).

St. Ambrose: “Paradise has many trees; but fruit-bearing trees, trees full of sap and virtue, of which it is said: All the trees of the woods shall rejoice;[2] trees always flourishing with the greenness of merits, like that tree which is planted near the running waters, whose leaf shall not fall off;[3] for the whole fruit abounds in it.  This, therefore, is paradise” (De Paradiso, i. 3.).

St. Thomas: “As Augustine says, ‘What may properly be said regarding the spiritual understanding of paradise – let those things be said, and no one hinder them; at the same time, however, let the most faithful historical truth of paradise be believed in the narration entrusted to us of the things accomplished there.’[4] For those things which are said in Scripture of paradise, are set forth by way of a historical narrative; and in everything which Scripture thus relates, the historical truth is to be kept as a foundation, and it is above that that spiritual expositions are to be built.  Therefore, paradise is, as Isidore says, ‘a place located in eastern parts, whose name when translated from Greek to Latin is hortus [garden].’  It is fittingly said to have been located in the east.  For it is to be believed that it was located in the most noble place of the whole earth.  But since the east is the right hand of heaven, as is clear through the Philosopher in II De Cœlo, and the right hand is nobler than the left, it was fitting that the earthly paradise be instituted by God in the east” (ST. Ia q. cii. a. i.).

“As John of Damascus says, ‘it is a place shining all around with mild, most fine and most pure air, and always leafy with flowering plants.’  Whence it is manifest that paradise is a fitting place for human habitation, according to man’s original state of immortality” (ibid., a. ii.).

(iii.) Mystical interpretation.

St. Isidore: “Paradise is the Church; for thus we read of her: My sister is a garden enclosed.[5] And paradise is planted from the beginning, because the Catholic Church is known to have its origin from Christ, the beginning of all things” (Quæstiones in VT, iii. 2. Cf. St. Augustine, infra, 8-14; St. Bede, In Pentateuchum col. 208).

For a visionary description of paradise, see Bl. Anne Emmerich, 2. Die Erschaffung der Erde.

8b. “Wherein he placed the man whom he had formed”

St. Thomas: “Paradise was a fitting place for human habitation, because of the incorruption of the primitive state.  This incorruption, however, was not man’s by nature, but from a supernatural gift of God.  Therefore, that this might be ascribed to the grace of God, God made man outside of paradise,[6] and afterwards placed him in paradise, that he might live there for the whole of his animal life; afterwards, when he had arrived at the spiritual life, to be carried across into heaven” (ST. Ia q. cii. a. iv.).

St. Bede: “Certainly it is to be believed that God planted paradise from the beginning; he removed from the whole of its land the waters that covered it and ordered the land to bring forth plants and fruit-bearing trees; and in it, on the sixth day, he placed man, whom he had created the same day.  Nor in any respect whatsoever is it to be doubted that paradise, in which the first man was placed, even if it holds a type either of the present Church, or of our native land to come, must nevertheless be understood according to the literal sense: ‘a place surpassingly beautiful, shaded with forests abounding in fruit; a spacious place, made fertile by a great fountain’” (In Principium Genesis I col. 43.; St. Augustine, De Genesi ad litteram, VIII. i. 4.; cf. infra 8-14).

St. Chrysostom: “God planted, is to be understood in this way: that he ordered paradise to be made on the earth, that, having been brought forth, man might dwell in it.  It was for man that God adorned paradise” (Homiliæ in Genesin, xiii. 3.).

“Do you see how this place is free from all suffering?  Do you see how wonderful life is there?  Man dwelt on earth like some angel, his body clothed, but created without bodily necessities, and, as it were, bedecked with purple and a crown; clothed in purple garments, he dwelt in the land of paradise in freedom, rejoicing in the great abundance of all things” (ibid., 4.).

[1] The two words in the Vulgate rendering, paradisum voluptatis, may both be translated differently: paradisum is an adoption of the LXX παράδεισον, which has essentially the same meaning as the Hebrew for “garden” (hortum).  Voluptatis may be translated, as in the Vulgate, or retained as a place name (Eden, ᾿Εδὲμ), as in LXX.  Finally, a principio, “from the beginning,” is rendered “towards the east” by LXX (κατὰ ἀνατολὰς).  The latter two are changed to conform with the LXX in the New Vulgate: paradisum in Eden ad orientem.

[2] Ps. xcv. 12.

[3] Ps. i. 3.

[4] infra, 8-14.

[5] Cant. iv. 12.

[6] Bl. Anne Emmerich says that Adam was created in the vicinity of what afterwards became Jerusalem (3. Adam und Eva).


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