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Is Göbekli Tepe where the Garden of Eden was located?

Göbekli Tepe

Göbekli Tepe (Turkish for “Belly Hill”) is an important archaeological site in modern Turkey that contains the world’s oldest known megaliths. The hill is 1,000 feet in diameter and located at the high point of a mountain ridge in southeastern Turkey. The megaliths form circles somewhat similar to Stonehenge in England. Göbekli Tepe was discovered in the 1900s and investigated by German archaeologists under the leadership of Klaus Schmidt from 1996 to 2014.

Built prior to Stonehenge, Göbekli Tepe is considered by some to be the world’s oldest temple or religious site. What has been excavated so far in Göbekli Tepe reveals 43 monolithic limestone pillars, up to about 16 feet tall, linked by stone walls to form roughly circular structures. The structures vary in size between around 33 and 98 feet in diameter. Some of the pillars are decorated with carvings of animals or abstract symbols. There is much more to excavate; surveys of the hill indicate that there are as many as 250 more megaliths still buried around the site.

Some have surmised that Göbekli Tepe is somehow connected with the biblical Garden of Eden. Two details demonstrate that it is not:

First, trying to associate the Garden of Eden with any current location, including Göbekli Tepe, is problematic. According to Genesis 2:10–14, “a river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.”

Two modern-day rivers named the Tigris and Euphrates exist, and Göbekli Tepe is situated between them. However, there is no way to know if the modern-day Tigris and Euphrates are the same rivers mentioned in the Bible. The flood of Noah's day certainly changed the topography of the whole earth. Further, the modern Tigris and Euphrates start with different sources and eventually merge; the river mentioned as flowing out of Eden came from one source and then divided into four different streams. The details of Genesis 2:10–14 do not seem to allow for Göbekli Tepe as a possible site for the Garden of Eden.

A second biblical detail that makes Göbekli Tepe an unlikely candidate for the biblical Eden is the lack of any construction at Eden. After Adam and Eve sinned against God, their judgment included a forced expulsion from the garden: “So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life” (Genesis 3:23—24).

Adam and Eve had no opportunity to build a site of worship at Eden. Once they were ejected from the garden, they were barred readmittance. Instead, the Garden of Eden remained an unoccupied garden or orchard, likely up to the flood in the time of Noah (Genesis 6–8). At that time, Eden was likely destroyed completely.

Whether Göbekli Tepe was constructed before or after the time of Noah’s flood is uncertain; what is certain is that it fits neither the location nor the description of the biblical Garden of Eden.

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Is Göbekli Tepe where the Garden of Eden was located?
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This page last updated: June 2, 2023