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Mankind's biblical origins are in a garden

Posted Tuesday, October 11, 2005 - 9:49 am

By Durant Ashmore

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"And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in E'den; and there he put the man whom he had formed." Genesis 2:8

It is not surprising to me that God planted a garden and chose this spot for the beginning of mankind.

Indeed, gardens are mentioned throughout the Bible, and their importance in the life of ancient cultures is significant. There is some innate sensibility in the psyches of human beings that is touched when we are in the presence of a garden.

The Garden of Eden is the epitome of what many consider to be paradise on Earth. It is ironic that the actions of man are what destroyed this paradise.

The Garden of Eden is considered to be a parable in many ways. Perhaps it is pointing out to us today how our current actions may be destroying our own present day paradise.

There are 110 plants mentioned in the Bible. Unfortunately, we really do not know exactly what plants are being referred to.

"Lilies of the field" could be a lot of different things. Lilies as we know them today have their origination in the Far East.

Several popular plants today derive their nomenclature from biblical descriptions. Perhaps Rose of Sharon (Hybiscus syriacus) and burning bush (Euonymous alatus) are most closely associated with the Bible.

Both of these modern plants also originate in the Far East and would never have been known to Jews living on the Mediterranean shores.

Hibiscus syriacus is also known as Syrian mallow. According to Alice Coats in "Garden Shrubs and their Histories," the plant was known in China since the beginning of recorded time. Seeds of this plant made their way to Syria in the Middle Ages and then were introduced to England in 1596.

It's easy to see how the names of plants can get confounded. Even Linnaeus was confused by the nomenclature of this plant.

It also turns out that the true burning bush is probably a member of the raspberry family. The bright red fruit reminds some of a plant on fire. The Greek Orthodox monks of the Monastery of St. Catherine have maintained a solitary plant for the past seventeen centuries that St. Catherine herself declared to be the original burning bush from which God spoke to Moses.

The botanical name of this plant is Rubus sanctus (sacred raspberry). The Nov. 26, 2003, column went into much more detail on this plant. If you want I can send you a copy of this or, if there is sufficient interest, the column may be reprinted in these pages.

Indeed, there is debate about what may be the most famous fruit of all found in the Bible. Apples were not present in early times at the junction of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. Some theorists today postulate that the fruit Eve gave to Adam and therefore introduced sin into the world was in fact an apricot.

Problems in nomenclature have arisen because the 16th century translators of the Bible from Greek into English were not horticulturalists. In addition to this, many latter-day horticulturalists would give biblical names to plants that they favored.

It mattered little to these modern-day plant-namers if the plant was true to the biblical times or not. If the plant seemed to fit what they thought the Bible was describing, then that became the name forevermore.

There is a growing number of gardens throughout the world that are described as biblical gardens. These gardens are planned with the goal of using plants named in the Bible.

There are varying degrees of accuracy in these gardens. How true they are to ancient botanic accuracy really doesn't matter. The lessons that can be learned from sowing, nurturing and harvesting a garden have direct religious applications, no matter what that religion may be.

Beside the Garden of Eden, the other most famous garden mentioned in the Bible is the Garden of Gethsemane.

This is where Jesus went to pray the night before he was to be crucified.

The life of man began in the Garden of Eden and the life of Jesus was in its twilight when he was in the Garden of Gethsemane. Or was it?

Were seeds planted in Gethsemane that grew and grew and continue to thrive today?

Columnist Durant Ashmore, MLA, of Fountain Inn, is certified by the South Carolina Nursery Association. He can be reached at 243-3446 or

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