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Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the 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. It is often used in the same context as that of utopia.

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 that day. In Native American beliefs, the other-world is an eternal hunting ground. In old Egyptian beliefs, the other-world 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.

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 alternate society.

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" + -diz "to create, make". 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 ho parádeisos "park for animals" in the Anabasis of the early 4th century BCE Athenian gentleman-scholar Xenophon. Aramaic pardaysa similarly reflects "royal park".

Hebrew pardes appears thrice in the Tanakh; in the Song of Solomon 4:13, Ecclesiastes 2:5 and Nehemiah 2:8. In those contexts it could be interpreted as a park, a garden or an orchard. In the 3rd-1st century BCE Septuagint, Greek parádeisos was used to translate both Hebrew pardes and Hebrew , "garden": it is from this usage that the use of "paradise" to refer to the Garden of Eden derives. This usage also appears in Arabic firdaws.

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 – 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 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, which denotes a vegetable patch.

Modern secular use

Sociology

From a sociological perspective the term paradise, as social theorist Kyle Vialli explains, is "often used to reference a society (whether it be hypothetical or otherwise) whose organizational features serve to render, and are fully calibrated towards, the harmonious luxuriating development of the psychological, physiological and creative natures of mankind. As such, a society, continent or planet so constructed, naturally provides a suitably nourishing and convivial social and educational formulae apt to bring about unconditional joy and happiness within that populace".

Implicit in this definition is a socio-political milieu characterised by a social libertarian standard; set within an appropriately pure and abundant environmental habitat from which to dwell and prosper.

The word Paradise entered European languages from the Persian root word "Pardis" which was the name of a beautiful garden enclosed between walls. In this sense, paradise existed on earth and was a place that uplifted the human spirit. Through history, paradise started to mean heaven which implied a non-earthly place that could only be reached by the common person after death. Some philosophers have interpreted human paradise as a humanly escape method from reality. In this way, paradise has been described as a idealistic perfect place, tailored by individual societies. We know now that Pardis garden could be enjoyed fully by live humans with no need for a physical death of the body. This implies that happiness and peace can be obtained by living people and that in fact the picture of heaven was formed by what humans saw on this beautiful planet earth. Perhaps the idea of an outside paradise entered the minds of those who were not close to the Pardis garden and longed for its beauty and hoped that one day their soul could leave the physical limits of space and distance and enjoy the garden. Also, many people pondered the possibility of other beautiful gardens in the sky. Since as of today the average living person cannot easily go to far away places in the sky, it is believed that the souls of the good hearted people find their way to beautiful sky gardens that are even more spectacular than the original "Pardis" garden.

Religious use

Christianity

In the New Testament, paradise refers to a paradise restored on Earth (Matthew chapter 5, verse 5 - the meek shall inherit the earth), similar to what the Garden of Eden was meant to be. However, certain sects actually attempted to recreate the garden of Eden, e.g. the nudist Adamites. On the cross, Jesus told Dismas that he would be with him in paradeisos (Luke 23:43). There are two other references to Paradise in NT: 2 Cor. 12:4 (there are things beyond human expression), and Rev. 2:7 (there is a 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. 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.

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.'

Jehovah's Witnesses

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. After God had magnificently designed this earth for human habitation, however, Adam and Eve rebelled against Jehovah and so they were banished from the Garden of Eden, or Paradise. Jehovah's Witnesses also believe that the wicked people will be destroyed at Armageddon and that many of the righteous (those faithful and obedient to Jehovah) will live eternally in an earthly Paradise. (Psalms 37:9, 10, 29; Prov. 2:21, 22). Joining the survivors will be resurrected righteous and unrighteous people who died prior to Armageddon (John 5:28, 29; Acts 24:15). The latter are brought back because they paid for their sins by their death, and/or also because they lacked opportunity to learn of Jehovah's requirements prior to dying (Rom. 6:23). These will be judged on the basis of their post-resurrection obedience to instructions revealed in new "scrolls" (Rev. 20:12). This provision does not apply to those that Jehovah deems to have sinned against his holy spirit (Matt. 12:31, Luke 12:5).One of Jesus' last recorded statements before he died were the words to an evildoer hanging alongside him on a torture stake: “Truly I tell you today, You will be with me in Paradise.”—Luke 23:43. Notice the placement of the comma is after the word 'today', indicating that there are two separate phrases, 1. 'I tell you today' and 2. 'You will be with me in Paradise'. This distinction differs from other Christian understanding of this verse where they read it as 1. 'I tell you' and 2. 'Today you will be with me in Paradise'. Some scriptures that Jehovah's Witnesses use to support their belief are (John 3:13-15); (Acts 24:15)

Mormonism

In Latter Day Saint theology, paradise usually refers to the spirit world. That is, 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".

Islam

In the Qur'an, Paradise is denoted as "Jannat" or Garden, with the highest level being called "Firdous", the etymologically equivalent word 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, and read the Qur’an. 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.

The Urantia Book

The Urantia Book portrays Paradise as the beginning of all things and the dwelling place of God.

References

  1. New Oxford American dictionary
  2. human paradise
  3. Church fathers: De Principiis (Book II) Origen
  4. What Does the Bible Really Teach? (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 2005), Chapter 7
  5. Insight on the Scriptures (Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, 1988), 783-92


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