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Paradise is a religious or metaphysical term for a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and eternal. It is conceptually a counter-image of the supposed miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and idleness. Paradise is often described as a "higher place", the holiest place, in contrast to this world, or underworlds such as Hell.
Paradisaical notions are cross-cultural, often laden with pastoral imagery, and may be cosmogonical or eschatological or both. In eschatological contexts, paradise is imagined as an abode of the virtuous dead. In Christian and Islamic understanding, Heaven is a paradisaical relief, evident for example in the Gospel of Luke when Jesus tells a penitent criminal crucified alongside him that they will be together in paradise. In old Egyptian beliefs, the otherworld is Aaru, the reed-fields of ideal hunting and fishing grounds where the dead lived after judgment. For the Celts, it was the Fortunate Isle of Mag Mell. For the classical Greeks, the Elysian fields was a paradisaical land of plenty where the heroic and righteous dead hoped to spend eternity. The Vedic Indians held that the physical body was destroyed by fire but recreated and reunited in the Third Heaven in a state of bliss. In the Zoroastrian Avesta, the "Best Existence" and the "House of Song" are places of the righteous dead. On the other hand, in cosmological contexts 'paradise' describes the world before it was tainted by evil. So for example, the Abrahamic faiths associate paradise with the Garden of Eden, that is, the perfect state of the world prior to the fall from grace, and the perfect state that will be restored in the World to Come.
The concept is a topos' in art and literature, particularly of the pre-Enlightenment era, a well-known representative of which is John Milton's Paradise Lost. A paradise should not be confused with a utopia, which is an alternative society.
Etymology and semasiology
The word "paradise" entered English from the French paradis, inherited from the Latin paradisus, from Greek parádeisos (παράδεισος), and ultimately from an Old Iranian root, attested in Avestan as pairi-daêza-. The literal meaning of this Eastern Old Iranian language word is "walled (enclosure)", from pairi- "around" and -diz "to create (a wall)". The word is not attested in other Old Iranian languages (these may however be hypothetically reconstructed, for example as Old Persian *paridayda-).
By the 6th/5th century BCE, the Old Iranian word had been adopted as Akkadian pardesu and Elamite partetas, "domain". It subsequently came to indicate walled estates, especially the carefully tended royal parks and menageries. The term eventually appeared in Greek as parádeisos "park for animals" in the Anabasis of the early 4th century BCE Athenian gentleman-scholar Xenophon. Aramaic pardaysa similarly reflects "royal park".
In the 3rd–1st centuries BCE Septuagint, Greek παράδεισος (parádeisos) was used to translate both Hebrew pardes and Hebrew gan, "garden": it is from this usage that the use of "paradise" to refer to the Garden of Eden derives. The same usage also appears in Arabic and in the Quran as فردوس (firdaws).
The idea of a walled enclosure was not preserved in most Iranian usage, and generally came to refer to a plantation or other cultivated area, not necessarily walled. For example, the Old Iranian word survives in New Persian pālīz (or "jālīz"), which denotes a vegetable patch. However, the word park, as well as the similar complex of words that have the same Indo-European root: garden, yard, girdle, orchard, court, etc., all refer simply to a deliberately enclosed area, but not necessarily an area enclosed by walls.
The word pardes, borrowed from the Persian word, does not appear before the post-Exilic period (post-538 BCE); it occurs in the Song of Songs 4:13, Ecclesiastes 2:5, and Nehemiah 2:8, in each case meaning "park" or "garden", the original Persian meaning of the word, where it describes to the royal parks of Cyrus the Great by Xenophon in Anabasis.
Later in Second Temple era Judaism "paradise" came to be associated with the Garden of Eden and prophesies of restoration of Eden, and transferred to heaven. The Septuagint uses the word around 30 times, both of Eden, (Gen.2:7 etc.) and of Eden restored (Ezek. 28:13, 36:35 etc.). In the Apocalypse of Moses, Adam and Eve are expelled from paradise (instead of Eden) after having been tricked by the serpent. Later after the death of Adam, the Archangel Michael carries the body of Adam to be buried in Paradise, which is in the Third Heaven.
In Rabbinical Judaism, the word 'Pardes' recurs, but less often in the Second Temple context of Eden or restored Eden. A well-known reference is in the Pardes story, where the word may allude to mystic philosophy.
The Zohar gives the word a mystical interpretation, and associates it with the four kinds of Biblical exegesis: peshat (literal meaning), remez (allusion), derash (anagogical), and sod (mystic). The initial letters of those four words then form פַּרְדֵּס – p(a)rd(e)s, which was in turn felt to represent the fourfold interpretation of the Torah (in which sod – the mystical interpretation – ranks highest).
The New Testament use and understanding of paradise parallels that of contemporary Judaism. The word is used three times in the New Testament writings:
- Luke 23:43 – by Jesus on the cross, in response to the thief's request that Jesus remember him when he came in his kingdom.
- 2 Cor.12:4 – in Paul's description of a man's description of a third heaven paradise, which may in fact be a vision Paul himself saw.
- Rev.2:7 – in a reference to the Gen.2:8 paradise and the tree of life
In the 2nd century AD, Irenaeus distinguished paradise from heaven. In Against Heresies, he wrote that only those deemed worthy would inherit a home in heaven, while others would enjoy paradise, and the rest live in the restored Jerusalem (which was mostly a ruin after the Jewish–Roman wars but was rebuilt beginning with Constantine the Great in the 4th century). Origen likewise distinguished paradise from heaven, describing paradise as the earthly "school" for souls of the righteous dead, preparing them for their ascent through the celestial spheres to heaven.
Many early Christians identified Abraham's bosom with paradise, where the souls of the righteous go until the resurrection, others were inconstant in their identification of paradise, such as St. Augustine whose views varied.
In Luke 23:43 Jesus has a conversation with one of those crucified with him, he asks: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom" and Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you today you will be with me in paradise.”; which is often understood to mean, that on that same day the thief and Jesus would enter the intermediate resting place of the dead who were waiting for the Resurrection. Divergent views on paradise and when one enters it may have be responsible for a punctuation difference in Luke; for example the two early Syriac versions translate Luke 23:43 differently. The Curetonian Gospels read "Today I tell you that you will be with me in paradise", whereas the Sinaitic Palimpsest reads "I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise". Likewise the two earliest Greek codices with punctuation disagree: Codex Vaticanus has a pause mark in the original ink after 'today', whereas Codex Alexandrinus has the "today in paradise" reading.
In Christian art Fra Angelico's Last Judgement painting shows Paradise on its left side. There is a tree of life (and another tree) and a circle dance of liberated souls. In the middle is a hole. In Muslim art it similarly indicates the presence of the Prophet or divine beings. It visually says, "Those here cannot be depicted."
Slavic languages, and Romanian which is not Slavic but Slavic-influenced, have a distinct term for "paradise", "raj" (read "rai") which is generally agreed to derive from Persian ray and co-exists alongside terms deriving from the Persian word pardeis.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that God's purpose from the start was, and is, to have the earth filled with the offspring of Adam and Eve as caretakers of a global paradise. However, Adam and Eve rebelled against God's sovereignty and were banished from the Garden of Eden, driven out Paradise into heavy toil and misery.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that disobedient and wicked people will be destroyed by Christ at Armageddon and that many of the righteous (those faithful and obedient to Jehovah) will live eternally in a restored earthly Paradise. Joining the survivors will be the resurrected righteous and unrighteous people who died prior to Armageddon. The latter are brought back because they paid for their sins by their death and/or because they lacked opportunity to learn of Jehovah's requirements prior to dying. These will be judged on the basis of their post-resurrection obedience to instructions revealed in new "scrolls". The Witnesses teach that resurrection of the dead in the graves to Paradise earth is made possible by Christ's ransom sacrifice. This provision does not apply to those that Jehovah deems to have sinned against his holy spirit.
One of Jesus's last recorded statements before he died were the words to an evildoer hanging alongside him on a torture stake, "you will be with me in Paradise." [Luke 23:43] The New World Translation places a comma after the word 'today', dividing it into two separate phrases, "I tell you today" and "you will be with me in Paradise". This differs from standard translations of this verse as "I tell you today you will be with me in Paradise". Witnesses believe scriptures such as Matthew 12:40 and 27:63 and Mark 8:31 and 9:31 show that Jesus himself expected an interval of three days between his own death and resurrection, making impossible a reunion in Paradise on the same day as Jesus's "you will be with me in Paradise" statement.
In Latter Day Saint theology, paradise usually refers to the spirit world, the place where spirits dwell following death and awaiting the resurrection. In that context, "paradise" is the state of the righteous after death. In contrast, the wicked and those who have not yet learned the gospel of Jesus Christ await the resurrection in spirit prison. After the universal resurrection, all persons will be assigned to a particular kingdom or degree of glory. This may also be termed "paradise".
In the Qur'an, Paradise is denoted as jannah (garden), with the highest level being called firdaus. The etymologically equivalent word is derived from the original Avestan counterpart, and used instead of Heaven to describe the ultimate pleasurable place after death, accessible by those who pray, donate to charity, read the Qur'an, believe in: God, the angels, his revealed books, his prophets and messengers, the Day of Judgement and the afterlife, and follow God's will in their life. Heaven in Islam is used to describe the Universe. It is also used in the Qur'an to describe skies in the literal sense, i.e., above earth. In Islam, the bounties and beauty of Heaven are immense, so much so that they are beyond the abilities of mankind’s worldly mind to comprehend.
The Urantia Book
The Urantia Book portrays Paradise as the "eternal center of the universe of universes," and as "the abiding place of the Universal Father, the Eternal Son, the Infinite Spirit, and their divine co-ordinates and associates." The book states that paradise is the primal origin and the final destiny for all spirit personalities, and for all the ascending creatures of the evolutionary worlds of time and space.
- El Dorado
- Fiddler's Green
- Golden Age
- Paradise garden
- New Oxford American Dictionary
- R. S. P. Beekes, Etymological Dictionary of Greek, Brill, 2009, p. 1151.
- Online Etymology Dictionary
- Church fathers: De Principiis (Book II) Origen, newadvent.org
- Jean Delumeau (1995). History of paradise. University of Illinois Press. pp. 29–. ISBN 978-0-252-06880-5. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- A. W. Zwiep (1997). The Ascension of the Messiah in Lukan Christology /. BRILL. pp. 150–. ISBN 978-90-04-10897-4. Retrieved 3 April 2013.
- What Does the Bible Really Teach? (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 2005), Chapter 7
- Insight on the Scriptures (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1988), 783–92
- Luke 23:43
- "Meeting the Challenge of Bible Translation", The Watchtower, June 15, 1974, page 362–363
- Duane S. Crowther - Life Everlasting Chapter 5 - Paradise of the Wicked - Retrieved 8 July 2014.
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