Answer by John Mackay
To answer this question we will divide the issue into two parts.
Part 1: What was under Adam’s feet? The geology of claimed Eden sites.
At present three suggestions have claimed moderate consideration as present day locations` for Eden which could match the descriptive features of Genesis 2:10–15, where we read about a river which flowed out of Eden and became four rivers, which were named Pishon, Gihon, Tigris, and Euphrates. The geography of the river paths includes the whole lands of Havilah, Cush, and Assyria, and the minerals mentioned are gold, bdellium and onyx.
The most popular contender for the past century has been on the southern mainland of Iraq about 240Km (150 miles) north of the Persian Gulf. The second, and more traditional site, has been in the more mountainous regions in Turkey between the sources of the Tigris and the Euphrates, and the third, a more recent contender, is just off the coast of south eastern Iraq, known as the Zarin site.
But to satisfy criteria that a region recognizable as the location for Eden, even if the Garden no longer exists, such a location would have had to survive from the creation of the world down to present day via the catastrophe of Noah’s Flood, and through the ravages of early post Flood geological catastrophes, such as regional flooding, volcanic activity, earthquakes, land uplift/downwarp etc. So, what can be said in general about the geology of these areas?
Because the area has been extensively drilled for oil, the geology is well understood and we do know that both Southern sites (the Zarin and the 240Km site) are located on fossil-rich sedimentary strata up to 9,000m (28,000 ft) thick. Some of these fossils have been donated to our Creation Research collection by US soldiers returning from the Iraqi conflict. As these fossils are often in perfect 3D condition, they have definitely been buried alive.
The oil rich sedimentary layers of rock in both areas sit on a deeply buried vast Pre-Cambrian surface overlaid by often massive clastic erosional beds. This very large Precambrian basement surface with its vast dump features represent a huge erosional episode and the sedimentary beds beneath the southern sites that sit upon that basement represent further rapid catastrophic deposition.
Maps, diagrams and idealised geological cross sections of these sites are available as a PDF via the link at the end of the conclusion.
A Biblical world view puts these fossil-rich beds as definitely post-Creation in age, since there were no creatures to be fossilised until after God had finished His creating. We can further narrow their age as mechanisms for widespread fossilisation did not come into existence until a) after Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden; and b) commencing during the global cataclysm of Noah’s Flood; and c) continued more locally in regional post Flood catastrophism, which continues on a much reduced scale down to the present.
Therefore, with the known rock strata across Iraq and Turkey representing thousands of metres of catastrophically buried fossil rich sediments, representing Flood and post-Noahic history, the two southern sites do not provide any location where the Garden of Eden could have survived since Adam’s day.
The traditional northern site lies between the source of today’s Tigris and the Euphrates, and has enjoyed a sometimes undeserved popularity due to the virtually irrelevant fact that it is nearer the Mountains of Ararat where Noah landed. But to put it in context, we must consider the whole geological picture moving from southern Iraq northward to areas in Turkey. Such a transverse shows the rock formations move from deep sedimentary formations in the south to increasingly uplifted areas in the north, often associated with the volcanic activity seen in places such as Mount Ararat (5,165 m/16,946 ft above sea level) where volcanic rock overlies thick fossil bearing sediments. Therefore, in this northern locality the combination of regional tectonism, earthquake and volcanic activity along with simple uplift and erosion, are sufficient to have covered and/or destroyed, any original “Eden” site.
Whilst each of the interpreted claimed present day locations for Eden may be seemingly justified by referencing modern names for current topographic features, the evidence in the region’s rock record of large scale earth movement since creation, of widespread and very deep flood deposited sediments, along with volcanism that is Flood and post-Flood etc., would have obliterated any recognisable near surface evidence of the original Eden location.
The modern Euphrates and Tigris rivers run on top of, and across, thousands of metres of fossil rich flood deposited sediment and some post-flood volcanics. Therefore, these rivers are post-flood rivers, and their names do not indicate any relationship with pre-flood rivers, and do not indicate the location of the Garden of Eden.
Maps, diagrams and idealized geologic cross sections, associated with the claimed Eden sites,, along with the text of the article above, are available in a PDF article Geology of Proposed Eden Sites here.
These are based on information and diagrams contained in references below.
For the serious reader we recommend:
1:‘The Geology of Iraq; Edited by Jassim Saad Z, and Goff Jeremy C. Published by Dolin, Prague and Moravian Museum, Brno 2006
2: Geology of Turkey: A Synopsis Okay Aral I. Anschnitt, 21, 19-42
3. Sedimentary Basins and Petroleum Geology of the Middle East. Alsharhan A.S. and Nairn A.E.M. 1997
4. Iraqi Bull. Geol. Min. Special Issue, 2009: Geology of Iraqi Southern Desert p 7 – 33 GEOMORPHOLOGY Khaldoun A. Ma’ala*
5. Geomorphology of the Upper Tigris http://serc.carleton.edu/vignettes/collection/42077.html
Part 2: Biblical Issues
The original question was: “If we accept Moses as the author of Genesis then his use of the past tense to describe events such as creation, the fall and the flood, but his use of the present tense to describe the four rivers coming out of Eden in Genesis 2, must mean that the Garden of Eden was still there when Moses authored the document around 34/35 hundred years ago. Therefore does this means the locality of Eden was not destroyed during Noah’s flood, and should still be findable today?”
Because the original question which prompted this answer was rather long, and also dealt with the much less popular issues of grammar in Genesis, we will deal with “Is the above conclusion consistent with the description of Eden in Genesis and how do the tenses used in English translations of Genesis affect this argument?” This is covered in part 2 here
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