Eden in Africa?Some Christians have suggested that the Bible is not specific enough to conclude that Eden is in Mesopotamia. Let's look at the biblical description of Eden to see if it could be stretched to include eastern Africa.
The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is Pishon; it flows around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. The gold of that land is good; the bdellium and the onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is Gihon; it flows around the whole land of Cush. The name of the third river is Tigris; it flows east of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates. (Genesis 2:8-14)The location of Eden has always been somewhat uncertain. However, the Bible describes four rivers, two of which (the Tigris and Euphrates) are in Mesopotamia. The other two rivers are unknown. However, the Bible describes the river Gihon as being associated with Cush, which is described as being near Egypt, probably being on the Arabian peninsula. The other river (Pishon) is said to be in the land of Havila, which is described as being east of Egypt, toward Assyria, . A tentative map of the area is shown to the right. If modern humans originated during the last ice agethen the Persian Gulf would have been dry (due to sea levels at least 400 feet lower than present). So, it is entirely possible that the location of the Eden is currently under water.
A new review of the archeological literature4 reveals evidence that the Persian Gulf region was once a lush oasis, during the last glacial maximum. At that time, sea levels were much lower, meaning that virtually all of the Persian Gulf was a large floodplain above sea level. More than 60 archeological sites, some of which are currently submerged, show that the area was extensively inhabited. The study describes four rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers from Mesopotamia, the Karun River (biblical Pishon?) draining the Iranian Plateau, and the Wadi Batin River (biblical Gihon?) flowing across northern Arabia. The convergence of the four rivers, along with subterranean aquifers, resulted in what the author described as the "Persian Gulf Oasis." According to the study, "This evidence is
used to construct a model of human occupation around the basin over the course of the last 100,000 years."
Although it is possible that the garden of Eden was in Africa, it would have to be at the very boundary of potential locations. In addition, such a location would contradict the Genesis 2 narrative that says that God planted the garden "toward the east" (presumably east of Israel). Ethiopia is to the southwest. Therefore, the Persian Gulf region matches the description of the biblical narrative the best.
Out of Africa?Numerous scientific studies have proposed to have shown that a small group of individuals migrated out of eastern Africa and eventually expanded into most of today's populations.5 In reality, what the studies have shown is that African populations exhibit the most genetic diversity among all people groups. The theory is that once a population has been founded, the amount of genetic diversity increases over time. The theory is generally good, but does make some assumptions. One of the assumptions is that the populations have undergone little or no interbreeding with other populations. For Africa, the assumption is generally good, since Africa is geographically isolated from the rest of the world. The only route to get into Africa is through Suez. Likewise, for Native Americans, there was only one route - over the Aleutians near the end of an ice age, when sea levels were low and temperatures were beginning to moderate. However, for people groups in Mesopotamia and the Middle East, there was no geographic isolation. Being at the intersection of three continents, the Middle East has seen numerous people groups migrate through and back. So, it would be very unlikely that peoples of the Middle East would have the greatest genetic diversity of modern humans, even if humans originated there.
Two new studies, the result of the human genome project, examined the genetic diversity of over 1,000 individuals from 51 population groups all over the world. As in previous studies, peoples of Africa were the most genetically diverse. However, these studies also determined that those from the Middle East were the second most genetically diverse. The authors of one study admitted that Middle Eastern population genetics was not just simple gene flow, saying, "The Middle Eastern populations may have experienced both continuous gene flow and shared ancestry with the rest of Eurasia." The authors of either study did not consider the possibility that humans originated in Mesopotamia, as the Bible says, since the out of Africa hypothesis is the current reigning paradigm. However, given the evidence of admixture in Middle Eastern populations and the fact that those populations are still the second most genetically diverse, it is entirely possible that modern humans originated in the Middle East, but lost much of their genetic diversity through subsequent migrations and replacement.