Editor: This is the third article in a series of adaptations from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s recent talk at the “Temple on Mount Zion” Conference, sponsored by the Interpreter Foundation (www.mormoninterpreter.com). Read Part One: Taking the Stories of Adam, Eve, and Noah Seriously, Part Two: Temple Symbolism in the Form of Noah’s Ark, Part Three: Temple Symbolism and Noah’s Ark.

Part 4: Temple Symbolism in the Garden of Noah

There are rich thematic connections between the emergence of the dry land at Creation, the settling of the Ark at the top of the first mountain to emerge from the Flood, New Year’s Day, and the temple. Ancient Israelites believed the holiest spot on earth to be the Foundation Stone in front of the Ark of the Covenant within the temple at Jerusalem:[1] “[I]t was the first solid material to emerge from the waters of Creation,[2] and it was upon this stone that the Deity effected Creation.” The depiction of the Ark-Temple of Noah perched upon Mount Ararat would have evoked similar temple imagery for the ancient reader of the Bible.

01-Tissot-SolomonFigure 1. James Tissot, 18361902, Dedication of the Temple, ca. 1896-1902

Spotlighting the theme of a new beginning, the number “one” plays a key role in the description of re-creation after the Flood. For example, note that “on the first day of the [tenth] month the tops of the mountains [were] seen,”[3] and that “in the six hundred and first year [of Noah’s life] in the first month, the first day of the month  the waters were dried up.”[4] “There can be no mistaking the emphasis on the number one,”[5] writes Claus Westermann. Moreover, both of these verses, like their counterpart in the story of the original creation, use the rarer Hebrew term yomehad, corresponding to the English cardinal term “day one” rather than the common ordinal term “first day.” This would hint to the ancient reader that the date had special ritual significance.[6] Consider that it was also the “first day of the first month”[7] when the Tabernacle was dedicated, “while Solomon’s temple was dedicated at the New Year festival in the autumn (the month of Ethanim ).”[8] Consistent with usage in ritual texts within the Bible and other texts from the ancient Near East, Mark Smith concludes that the Hebrew cardinal term “day one’ does not mark the beginning of time in any sort of absolute way” but rather is an expression “suggestive of the ritual world” that can be found within narratives that are themselves infused throughout “with temple and ritual sensibility.”[9] More explicitly, Westermann concludes that:[10]

The day on which the waters of the flood disappeared from the earth, the day of the end of the flood, becomes New Year’s day. The cosmos is renewed in the cultic celebration of this day. It is the conclusion of the Flood narrative that later, in muted and covert ways, provides the rationale for the annual cultic renewal of the cosmos at the New Year’s feast.

02-Morales-Days of CreationFigure 2. Michael Morales: Days of Creation and Re-Creation, 2012[11]

Emphasizing “the stability of this re-creation,”[12] God’s promises to Noah articulate the reestablishment of the alternating rhythm of the times and seasons required to sustain agricultural life and the cultic calendar that goes along with it. In Genesis 8:22, we read:

While the earth remaineth,
seedtime and harvest,
and cold and heat,
and summer and winter,
and day and night
shall not cease.

Apart from these brief allusions to selected works of the subsequent days of Creation, Harper’s detailed study[13] reveals that “the majority of the created works of the first five days are completely disregarded” in the story of the Flood, “while the elements of the sixth day: animals (with birds attached), the adam (male and female in the image of God), the blessings, commands, and provisions of food are recalled, rearranged, and at times reinterpreted” within subsequent episodes of Noah’s life. We now leave the story of re-creation and enter the scene of a garden.

03-Tissot-NoahsFigure 3. James Tissot, 1836-1902: Noah’s Sacrifice, ca. 1896-1902

Noah’s Garden

Nothing in the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden can be understood without reference to the temple. Neither can the story of Noah and his family in the garden setting of a renewed earth be appreciated fully without taking the temple as its background.

Allusions to Garden of Eden and temple motifs begin as soon as Noah and his family leave the Ark. Just as the book of Moses highlights Adam’s diligence in offering sacrifice as soon as he entered the fallen world,[14] Genesis describes Noah’s first action on the renewed earth as the building of an altar for what Morales[15] aptly calls “restful’[16]-smelling” burnt offerings.[17] Likewise, in each account, God’s blessing is followed by a commandment to multiply and replenish the earth.[18] Both stories contain instructions about what the protagonists are and are not to eat.[19] Notably in each case, a covenant is established in a context of ordinances and signs or tokens.[20] More specifically, according to Pseudo-Philo,[21] the rainbow as a sign or token of a covenant of higher priesthood blessings was said by God to be an analog of Moses’ staff, a symbol of kingship.[22] Both the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah prominently feature the theme of nakedness covered by a garment.[23] Noah, like Adam, is called the “lord of the whole earth.”[24] Surely it is no exaggeration to say that Noah is portrayed as a new Adam, “reversing the estrangement” between God and man by means of his atoning sacrifice.[25]

04-NoahSendsFigure 4. Dreux Jean, fl. 1448-1467: The Dove Returns to the Ark, 1450-1460[26]

What about Noah’s garden itself? Though no analogs to the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge are explicitly mentioned, an olive tree is implied in the story of the dove which returns to Noah with its branch. A variety of texts associate the olive tree with the Garden of Eden. For example, ancient traditions recount that on his sickbed Adam requested Eve and Seth to return to the Garden to retrieve oilpresumably olive oilfrom the “tree of his mercy.

[27]  Recalling the story of the dove that returned to Noah’s ark with the olive branch in its mouth, a rabbinical opinion states that the “gates of the garden of Eden opened for the dove, and from there she brought it.”[28] Two days after a revelation describing how war was to be “poured out upon all nations,” Joseph Smith designated D&C 88, by way of contrast, as the “olive leaf plucked from the Tree of Paradise, the Lord’s message of peace to us.”[29]

As a side note, a “phonetic affinity”[30] can be found between Noah (noach) and the term for dove (hayyonah) which, on her first sortie from the Ark, found “no rest [manoah] for the sole of her foot.”[31] The dove “is white, a clean animal often used in sacrifice.[32] Like other sacrificial animals, it is sometimes seen as a symbol of Israel,[33] and therefore within this story it is an ideal representative of Noah himself.”[34]

05-Ararat WorldFigure 5. AgriDagi in Eastern Turkey, Identified by Christian Tradition as Mount Ararat[35]

Although no parallel to the four rivers of Eden is explicitly mentioned in the description of Noah’s garden, remember that the sources of two of these rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates, lie in the region of the “mountains of Ararat.”[36] In addition, most of the other significant elements of the Garden of Eden are present in Noah’s garden: a prominent mountain,[37] fruit whose eating leads to important consequences,[38] and a place of holiness where unauthorized entry is forbidden.[39]

However, important differences also exist between the garden story of Adam and Eve and that of Noah. Whereas the Garden of Eden is situated in a terrestrial world, Noah’s garden is clearly portrayed as telestial, on the earth as we know it. Noah, not God, plants it. Moreover, the earmarks of telestial law are evident in the details of the commandments given to Noah. Man’s dominion in Noah’s garden is to be experienced by the beasts with fear and dread,[40] for they are to become the meat of man.[41] Anticipation of conflict and bloodshed among Noah’s descendants is implicit in the description given of the punishment to be meted out for murder,[42] recalling the tragic precedent in the slaying of Abel by Cain.[43] Clearly Noah’s garden scenes do not take place in an Eden paradise, but instead are set in a fallen world.

In the next article, we will conclude the discussion of Noah’s garden and come to the scene of a “fall” and consequent judgment.

[Editor: This is the fourth article in a series of adaptations from Jeffrey M. Bradshaw’s recent talk at the “Temple on Mount Zion” Conference, sponsored by the Interpreter Foundation (www.mormoninterpreter.com). This and related subjects will be the focus of a forthcoming book of scripture commentary, “In God’s Image and Likeness 2: Enoch, Noah, and the Tower of Babel.” This book, which is co-authored with David J. Larsen, will appear in late 2013 or early 2014. See www.templethemes.netfor other writings and presentations by the author.]


Anderson, Gary A., and Michael Stone, eds. A Synopsis of the Books of Adam and Eve 2nd ed. Society of Biblical Literature: Early Judaism and its Literature, ed.John C. Reeves. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1999.

Bradshaw, Jeffrey M., and Ronan J. Head. “The investiture panel at Mari and rituals of divine kingship in the ancient Near East.” Studies in the Bible and Antiquity4 (2012): 1-42.

Butterworth, Edric Allen Schofeld. The Tree at the Navel of the Earth. Berlin, Germany: Walter de Gruyter, 1970.

Clifford, Richard J. The Cosmic Mountain in Canaan and the Old Testament. Harvard Semitic Monographs4, ed. Frank Moore Cross, William L. Moran, Isadore Twersky and G. Ernest Wright. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1972. Reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, n.d.

. “The temple and the holy mountain.” In The Temple in Antiquity, edited by Truman G. Madsen, 107-24. Salt Lake City, UT: Bookcraft, 1984.

Collins, John J. “Sibylline Oracles.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. 2 vols. Vol. 2, 317-472. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Fisk, Bruce N. Do You Not Remember? Scripture, Story, and Exegesis in the Rewritten Bible of Pseudo-Philo. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 2001.

George, Andrew, ed. 1999. The Epic of Gilgamesh. London, England: The Penguin Group, 2003.

Harper, Elizabeth A. 2009. In the beginning: The interrelationship of Genesis 1 and Genesis 6-9. First draft paper prepared as part of initial research into a doctorate on the Flood Narrative. In Elizabeth Harper’s Web Site.  (accessed June 18, 2012).

Holloway, Steven Winford. “What ship goes there: The flood narratives in the Gilgamesh Epic and Genesis considered in light of ancient Near Eastern temple ideology.” Zeitschrift fr die alttestamentliche Wissenschaft103, no. 3 (1991): 328-55.

Holzapfel, Richard Neitzel, Dana M. Pike, and David Rolph Seely. Jehovah and the World of the Old Testament. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 2009.

Lundquist, John M. The Temple: Meeting Place of Heaven and Earth. London, England: Thames and Hudson, 1993.

Malan, Solomon Caesar, ed. The Book of Adam and Eve: Also Called The Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan: A Book of the Early Eastern Church. Translated from the Ethiopic, with Notes from the Kufale, Talmud, Midrashim, and Other Eastern Works. London, England: Williams and Norgate, 1882. Reprint, San Diego, CA: The Book Tree, 2005.

Martinez, Florentino Garcia. “Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen ar).” In The Dead Sea Scrolls Translated: The Qumran Texts in English, edited by Florentino Garcia Martinez. 2nd ed. Translated by Wilfred G. E. Watson, 230-37. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.

Morales, L. Michael. The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (pre-publication draft). Leuven: Peeters, 2013.

Neusner, Jacob, ed. Genesis Rabbah: The Judaic Commentary to the Book of Genesis, A New American Translation. 3 vols. Vol. 1: Parashiyyot One through Thirty-Three on Genesis 1:1 to 8:14. Brown Judaic Studies 104, ed.Jacob Neusner. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press, 1985.

Nibley, Hugh W. 1986. “Return to the temple.” In Temple and Cosmos: Beyond This Ignorant Present, edited by Don E. Norton. The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley 12, 42-90. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1992.

Parry, Donald W. “Garden of Eden: Prototype sanctuary.” In Temples of the Ancient World, edited by Donald W. Parry, 126-51. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1994.

Pseudo-Philo. The Biblical Antiquities of Philo. Translated by Montague Rhodes James.

London, England: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK), 1917.Reprint, Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2006.

Sarna, Nahum M., ed. Genesis. The JPS Torah Commentary, ed.Nahum M. Sarna. Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society, 1989.

Smith, Joseph, Jr. 1938. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1969.

Smith, Mark S. The Priestly Vision of Genesis 1. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.

Walton, John H. Ancient Near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006.

. Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology. Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 2011.

Wenham, Gordon J., ed. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary 1: Nelson Reference and Electronic, 1987.

Westermann, Claus, ed. 1974. Genesis 1-11: A Continental Commentary 1st ed. Translated by John J. Scullion. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 1994.

Wintermute, O. S. “Jubilees.” In The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, edited by James H. Charlesworth. Vol. 2, 35-142. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, 1983.

Wyatt, Nicolas. “‘Water, water everywhere’: Musings on the aqueous myths of the Near East.” In The Mythic Mind: Essays on Cosmology and Religion in Ugaritic and Old Testament Literature, edited by Nicholas Wyatt, 189-237. London, England: Equinox, 2005.


[1] J. M. Lundquist, Meeting Place, p. 7. Ancient temples found in other cultures throughout the world also representand are often built uponelevations that emulate the holy mountain at the starting point of Creation (see, e.g., E. A. S. Butterworth, Tree; R. J. Clifford, Cosmic Mountain; R. J. Clifford, Temple). Nibley writes that the temple is (H. W. Nibley, Return, p. 48):

the “hierocentric point,” the place where all time, space, and humanity come together. The word templum not only designates the template, the point of cutting between the cardo and decumanus from which the observer of the heavens makes his viewing, it is also the diminutive of the word tempus, denoting that it measures the divisions of time and space in a single pattern. There, all the records of the past are kept and all of the prophecies for the future are divined.”

[2] E.g., Psalm 104:5-9.

[3] Genesis 8:5.

[4] Genesis 8:13.

[5] C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 450.

[6] M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, p. 81. Besides Genesis 1:5, 8:5, and 8:13, Smith notes this use of ehad for “(day) one” in Exodus 40:2, 17; Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 1:1, 18, 29:1, 33:38; and Ezekiel 26:1, 29:17, 31:1, 32:1, and 45:18.

[7] Exodus 40:1.

[8]N. Wyatt, Water, pp. 215-216. See 1 Kings 8:2. Wyatt remarks that the expression about the New Year festival comes from S. W. Holloway, What Ship, noting that “[m]any scholars regard the search for the New Year festival to be something of a futile exercise” (N. Wyatt, Water, p. 235 n. 129).

[9]M. S. Smith, Priestly Vision, p. 81. Besides Genesis 1:5, 8:5, and 8:13, Smith notes this use of ehad for “(day) one” in Exodus 40:2, 17; Leviticus 23:24; Numbers 1:1, 18, 29:1, 33:38; and Ezekiel 26:1, 29:17, 31:1, 32:1, and 45:18.

[10] C. Westermann, Genesis 1-11, p. 450. Emphasis added.

[11] In L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (pre-publication draft), p. 146.

[12]J. H. Walton, Genesis 1, p. 165. Cf. J. H. Walton, Ancient, pp. 190-191.

[13]E. A. Harper, In the Beginning, p. 19.

[14] Moses 5:5-8.

[15] L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (pre-publication draft), p. 171.

[16] The adjective nichoach, used to describe the sweet smell of the sacrifice, is a deliberate pun on the name of Noah (G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 189).

[17] Genesis 8:20.

[18] See Moses 2:28; Genesis 9:1, 7.

[19] See Moses 2:28-30, 3:9, 16-17; Genesis 9:2-4.

[20] See Moses 5:5, 59; Genesis 9:9-17.

[21] See Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities, 19:11, pp. 129-130.

[22] See J. M. Bradshaw et al., Investiture Panel, pp. 38-39 for a brief summary of the symbolism of the staff, and B. N. Fisk, Remember, pp. 276-281 for Pseudo-Philo’s identification of the staff with the rainbow. Just prior to his equating of the rainbow and the staff as a “witness between me and my people,” Pseudo-Philo, Biblical Antiquities, 19:12, pp. 130 has the Lord showing Moses “the measures of the sanctuary, and the number of the offerings, and the sign whereby men shall interpret (literally, begin to look upon) the heaven, and said: These are the things which were forbidden to the sons of men because they sinned” (cf. JST Exodus 34:1-2).

[23] See Moses 4:27; Genesis 9:21-22.

[24]G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 198.

[25] L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (pre-publication draft), p. 197. Cf. O. S. Wintermute, Jubilees, 6:2, p. 66: “And he made atonement for the land. And he took the kid of a goat, and he made atonement with its blood for all the sins of the land because everything which was on it had been blotted out except those who were in the ark with Noah.” See also F. G. Martinez, Genesis Apocryphon, 10:13, p. 231: “I atoned for the whole earth.”

[27] Cf. G. A. Anderson et al., Synopsis, Latin 36:2, p.40E; S. C. Malan, Adam and Eve, 36:1-3, pp. 39-40.

[28]J. Neusner, Genesis Rabbah 1, 33:6, p. 351.


Smith, Jr., Teachings, 14 January 1833, p. 18.

[30]G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 186.

[31] Genesis 8:9.

[32] E.g., Leviticus 1:14, 12:6.

[33] Hosea 7:11, 11:11.

[34]G. J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, p. 186.

[35] In R. N. Holzapfel et al., Jehovah, p. 27. Art Resource.

[36] Genesis 8:4. See N. M. Sarna, Genesis, p. 57. In the Sibylline Oracles we read that there “the springs of the great river Marsyos had sprung up” (J. J. Collins, Sibylline Oracles, 1:265, p. 341). L. M. Morales, The Tabernacle Pre-Figured (pre-publication draft), p. 153 likewise observes:

It is, perhaps, not irrelevant here to note that the Babylonian flood-hero, Utnapishtim, gains eternal life by being translated to the pnrti, the Eden-like “mouth of the rivers” (see A. George, Gilgamesh, 11:205, p. 95), this UrzetEndzeit concept whereby the end is like the beginning (a new beginning) informing also the parallels between the creation and deluge/re-creation accounts, between Ararat and Eden.

[37] Ezekiel 28:13-14; Genesis 8:4. Regarding the presence of a cosmic mountain in Eden, see D. W. Parry, Garden, pp. 133-137.

[38] Genesis 3:1-24; 9:20-27.

[39] See discussion in the next article in the series.

[40] See Genesis 9:2.

[41] See Genesis 9:3.

[42] See Genesis 9:5-6.

[43] Genesis 4:8.