On a daily basis, firstname.lastname@example.org receives a plethora of questions from people all over the world. We try our best to answer as many emails as possible. Check out this example of a question we recently received. You may have had a similar question yourself.
Hello. While I count myself as a theistic evolutionist, I have only one question. It is about the Garden of Eden. What would that have been like looking at this understanding of the Bible?
My name is Tom Burnett, and I’m the associate editor at BioLogos. You ask an excellent question and one that has perplexed Jewish and Christian thinkers throughout all of history! Given how brief the account of Eden is in Genesis, we don’t have many details to work from. Thus, all attempts to describe the garden more precisely are quite speculative.
Something important to keep in mind, though, is that while our modern culture is fascinated by all of the details of nature, the author of Genesis seemed much more concerned with conveying different kinds of details. In particular, the emphasis is on the characteristics of God and the relationships of humans with their Creator. Nature is definitely there, but it’s not the focus. By trying to extract the physical appearance of Eden from Genesis, we run the risk of distorting what the author was trying to convey.
I think Denis Alexander conveys this point well in this video, and so does John Walton’s post Reconciling Science with Scripture. Tremper Longman’s video provides additional insights, and Robert Bishop’s scholarly essay Recovering the Doctrine of Creation: A Theological View of Science is also relevant here in that it reorients the reader toward the most important features of biblical creation.
But if you have more time and really want to explore your question in great depth, I recommend Denis Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation. Over the course of his book, Denis investigates Genesis from three perspectives: scientific, historical, and theological. This kind of approach is valuable in addressing the kind of question you have in mind.