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14 - Locating paradise

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 December 2010

Markus Bockmuehl
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
Guy G. Stroumsa
Affiliation:
University of Oxford
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Summary

COLUMBUS AND THE DECLINE OF PARADISE

In the pleasant early days of August 1498, Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) caught his first glimpse of the South American mainland. On turning from Trinidad, off Northeastern Venezuela, into the Gulf of Paria between the mountainous Venezuelan headland of Marabal and the island of Trinidad, he ran into a mass of fresh water from the mouth of the Orinoco River and was enraptured by the idyllic climate and sights of what faced him there. “Holy Scripture,” he famously recorded in his logbook,

testifies that Our Lord made the earthly Paradise in which he placed the Tree of Life. From it there flowed four main rivers: the Ganges in India, the Tigris and the Euphrates in Asia … and the Nile, which rises in Ethiopia and flows into the Sea at Alexandria … I do not hold that the earthly Paradise has the form of a rugged mountain, as it is shown in pictures, but that … by gradually approaching it one begins, while still at a great distance, to climb towards it … I do believe, however, that, distant though it is, these waters may flow from there to this place which I have reached… All this provides great evidence of the earthly Paradise, because the situation agrees with the beliefs of those holy and wise theologians and all the signs concord strongly with this idea.

Type
Chapter
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Paradise in Antiquity
Jewish and Christian Views
, pp. 192 - 209
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2010

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