Saturday, April 23, 2011

Paradise in Haaretz

THE THEME OF "PARADISE" is explored from numerous different angles in an Haaretz article by Aviva Lori: Intimations of immortality. It includes, inter alia, comments from Rachel Elior and Guy Stroumsa on ancient Judaism and ancient Iran:
Prof. Rachel Elior from the Hebrew University is an expert on Jewish mystical thought across the ages. She recently edited a thick volume titled "A Garden Eastward in Eden: Traditions of Paradise" (Magnes Press, Hebrew ), which examines the representation of paradise in religious, literary, artistic and cultural works from ancient times to the present.

What does the Jewish paradise look like?

Elior: "The Dead Sea Scrolls and the Apocrypha contain marvelous descriptions of paradise with incense and perfume trees, as in the Song of Songs. It is pictured as a magnificently beautiful place where angels poeticize and do the sacred work. It was created on the third day, time does not control it, and everything that lives in it has eternal life. After the destruction of the Temple, it's already a different story. Rabbi Akiva says then, 'All Israel have a portion in the world to come, other than the wicked.'"


Paradise is an ancient Iranian conception, says Prof. Emeritus Guy Stroumsa, from the Hebrew University (Sarah Stroumsa's husband), who is currently professor of Abrahamic Studies at Oxford and recently edited a book about the concept of paradise in Judaism and Christianity in ancient times. "The word pardes [orchard] is a Hebraized version of faradis, an ancient Iranian word," he says. "In Greek it is paradiso, which means a closed place. The Greeks added the notion of 'closed garden,' and the Greek translation of the Bible used the term 'Gan Eden,' Garden of Eden."
Worth a read.