The Sumerian word édin means “steppe” or “plain”.
It compounds “éd” (send forth) and “in” (straw). [ref]
The word is likely to have been part of proto-Sumerian spoken language many thousands of years before Sumerian was eventually displaced by Akkadian, which evolved into Assyrian and Babylonian, which then had a strong influence on Aramaic, the language in which the earliest parts of the Book of Genesis are written.
What if the part of oral tradition that was eventually transcribed in Genesis as a story that the first humans came from a place called “Eden” was a translation error, passed down over generations, from a story in which people originally simply said: “We came from the plains.”
I’m not an expert in these matters. I am an interested amateur who has read some books. So I’m sure there are experts who can give reasons why this isn’t a particularly strong theory.
But what if?
This isn’t the first time I’ve entertained myself with this type of thought. I wrote Maybe it’s all just a joke last year, speculating that maybe Plato made up “Atlantis” as fiction and just assumed that everybody would realize that it was never meant to be taken seriously. Perhaps even Moses intended many of his stories in the Old Testament to be ironic or tongue-in-cheek, and they were later misconstrued.
I know many will say that I’m projecting current-day values, beliefs and expectations on a world that existed over 5000 years ago. There is no reason to assume that just because talking snakes are an obvious lampshade that something is fiction in today’s world, it necessarily was not meant to be taken literally back then.
I’ll concede that. But I will add that neither does anyone else have a reason to automatically assume that just because it was written 5000 years ago that the person who wrote it didn’t have a sense of humor. We really will simply never know either way.
Is it possible that the name “Eden” was a deliberate Sumerian pun? “Oh look,” thought Moses, “I’ll use the Sumerian word for field as the place where people came from in my little fable! I wonder how many people will get the joke?”
No many, Moses. At least, not any more.
It’s idle speculation, of course. I don’t mean any of this to be taken seriously. But it’s a kind of “speculative fiction” idea that does stop and make one think.
For centuries there have been people who have believed in their very core that a literal garden with the name of “Eden” existed long ago, and that God placed the two first humans there. Today there are people in heated legal battles, who believe so strongly in the idea of a place called “Eden” that they are trying to change school curriculum based on it.
And the Sumerian word édin means “steppe” or “plain”.
Isn’t it funny?