Monday, March 14, 2005
Ten miles from the sprawling Iranian industrial city of Tabriz, to the northwest of Teheran, says British archaeologist David Rohl, he has found the site of the Biblical garden . . . "As you descend a narrow mountain path, you see a beautiful alpine valley, just like the Bible describes it, with terraced orchards on its slopes, crowded with every kind of fruit-laden tree," says Rohl, a scholar of University College, London, who has just returned from his third trip to the area, where mud brick villages flourish today.To believe or not? This is the kind of story that arouses my inner skeptic. It is also the kind of story that arouses the inner poet in hope that it is true.
“The Biblical word gan (as in Gan Eden) means `walled garden,’ ” Rohl continues, "and the valley is indeed walled in by towering mountains." The highest of these is Mt. Sahand, a snow-capped extinct volcano that Rohl identifies as the Prophet Ezekiel’s Mountain of God, where the Lord resides among `red-hot coals’ (Ezekiel 28:11-19). Cascading down the once-fiery mountain, precisely echoing Ezekiel, is a small river, the Adji Chay (the name of which also translates in local dialect as ‘walled garden’). The locals still hold the mountain sacred, Rohl says, and attribute magical powers to the river’s water.
A brief poke around the web shows that Rohl is regarded by academics as a borderline crackpot. See here for a fairly ruthless example. Also see strange bedfollows here, here, and here.
I'm disappointed. Don't you wish that borderline crackpot theories like this were carried around by better messengers, perhaps someone with a modicum of wit and a light touch. Maybe a Dan Brown would be just the ticket, or maybe the only current writers with the proper touch for conspiracy would be Salman Rushdie or Umberto Eco.
So it goes.