The Bible as a Geographical Guide to Armenia

We continue to publish a series of articles by cartographer Grigor Beglaryan about the history of Armenian civilization and Armenian toponymy. While we find Beglaryan’s hypotheses very interesting and deserving of attention, we are also ready to provide space in our newspaper to other specialists whose views do not coincide with those of the author of this publication.

In previous articles, we talked about the profound influence that Armenian civilization had on the neighboring Mesopotamia, the evidence of which is a multitude of toponyms. By the way, Mesopotamia itself was divided into two parts in ancient times – Armenian Mesopotamia (the northern part, with its capital in Edessa, modern-day Urha or Urfa), and Assyrian Mesopotamia – in Armenian Ayoç and Asorvoç Midjagetk.

It was in Armenian Mesopotamia where the Armenian kingdom of Edessa was located, where one of the most outstanding and enlightened kings of the ancient world, King Abgar, ruled. The latter, without having seen Christ and his miracles, believed in him, inviting him to live in Armenia…

In his response letter to King Abgar, Christ, declining the invitation (he was destined to go his own way), gave eternal blessing to all the Armenian people, singling them out as the most godly.

Since then, the Armenian people have become the keepers of the fundamental values of Christianity, both spiritual and material. All the most significant symbols of the Christian religion are still preserved in Armenia or in Armenian churches around the world.

From the year 33 AD, in Edessa, then in Constantinople, and now in Genoa, in the Armenian church, the only lifetime, non-handmade portrait of Christ is kept. From the first centuries AD, in Geghard – Airivank, and now in the Cathedral of Surb Echmiadzin, the spear of Longinus, which pierced Christ on the cross, is preserved.

Until 1915, in Sasun, in the Akhberkavank Monastery (Monastery of the Spring), which was founded at the Roslin spring, a vessel with the blood of Christ (the very Grail Cup) was kept, the whereabouts of which are now unknown.

Finally, since 301 AD, the essence and conscience of Christianity have been preserved in Armenia – in its original form, without changes, interpretations, and additions… It could not have been otherwise.

And it could not be otherwise precisely because of the ancientness of Armenian civilization in the Armenian highlands, because of the values of the world’s first state, which fully fit into the scheme of the world’s first human-centric religion.

From the very first pages of the Bible – a book that in our (and only in our!) language is called “The Spirit of God,” that is, the Word of God, the Essence of God, – the whole world begins to get acquainted with the Country of God, Armenia.

“And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden in the east… A river went out of Eden to water the garden; and from thence it was parted, and became into four heads. The name of the first is Pison: that is it which compasses the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold…

And the name of the second river is Gihon: the same is it that compasses the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is Hiddekel: that is it which goes toward the east of Assyria. And the fourth river is Euphrates” – these are lines from Genesis, the First Book of Moses of the Old Testament.

Also here, after the description of the Flood and Noah’s Ark, it is said: “And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.”

First of all, let’s locate the paradise itself. The location of the Ark’s rest – the mountains of Ararat – directly indicates its location. There is also an indirect indication of the location of paradise or Eden somewhere in the east.

To the east of what? Let’s start with the fact that the most ancient texts of the Bible, according to the almost unanimous opinion of all researchers, were written either in Palestine or in neighboring Nabatea or Syria.

Armenia lies to the northeast of all these countries, and to the east of them is Mesopotamia, whose civilizations either originated in Armenia or were in a strong cultural dependence on it. In addition, the East in the ancient world meant primordiality, the place of the first civilizations, where the life-giving sun rises and where gods lived.

More precisely, such a country (specifically, Armenia) was called the East in Palestine, Egypt, Hellas, and Asia Minor, and in Sumer or Babylon, in full accordance with geographic logic, it was called the Northern country. Moreover, the preserved echoes of the oldest name of Armenia – Aratta (or Arat, Arats – that is, the country of creation, the country of the Sun – Ar(ev), the country of the beginning of beginnings Ar(ia), the country of Gods or God – Ararich), as well as numerous Armenian toponyms with the root “ar” led to the formation of further, including, still used names of our country: it is the country of Ararat, and Urartu, and Armenia itself.

From the most ancient times, and throughout the Middle Ages, the localization of paradise caused no doubts among scholars – open any European map of the 9th, 14th, or 18-19th centuries, and on the territory of Armenia you will find an unchanging inscription – Eden, earthly paradise (and both in the times of our independence and when it was lost, the country was always signed with its original name, Armenia).

The only clarification that needs to be made when localizing paradise is the fact that Eden in Europe has always been understood as all of Armenia. From a civilizational point of view, this is extremely important – our entire country was perceived as paradise, in its universal, integral sense.

And the expulsion of Adam and Eve, who sinned and therefore were no longer worthy of paradise life, is their expulsion from Armenia!.. By the way, in the very center of our country, on the plateau of Byurakn, which is named so because of the abundance of springs – Ten thousand or Many springs – and which is now translated in Western Armenia as Bingel, there is still a village called Aramik or Aremik. This village was founded by one of the descendants of Ayk Naapet, Aram – the grandson of Gegam, at the beginning of the 1st millennium BC, and was named in his honor.

So, Armenians who lived in Aramik until 1915 (and maybe, secretly, until now), showed travelers the house (!) where Adam and Eve lived.

In the vicinity of the village of Aramik, there are two hills called Seli Moruk and Kayeni Blur – under these hills are buried the sons of Adam Abel and Cain (Abel and Kayen in Armenian)! And a little to the south, between the gavars of Khnus and Mush, the ridge of Hamekaberd stretches: Hamek or Gamek is the Armenian sound of the name of the hunter Lamek, who accidentally killed Cain with an arrow.

The ruins of the fortress of Hamekaberd, in Armenian – the Fortress of Hamek, have survived on one of the peaks of the ridge… Such a concentration of toponyms with biblical names in a relatively small area is not accidental.

It is on the plateau of Byurakn, among the multitude of springs, that almost all the largest rivers of Armenia (that is, paradise) or their largest tributaries originate. Exactly ten thousand springs of Byurakn is the main river that flows out of paradise, and then divides into four rivers – a kind of geographical description of the river source, a powerful spring.

And it is the plateau of Byurakn, if speaking from a strictly geographical position, is the earthly paradise, or Eden! By the way, in the biblical text these concepts are indirectly separated – the garden of paradise was planted in Eden, that is, paradise – the flowering plateau of Byurakn, is part of the country of Eden, that is, Armenia.

And the name Eden is consonant with the name of Adam – the first man. Armenia is Eden, that is, the country of Adam – the country of the first man, the country of beginnings… In turn, the name of Adam is repeatedly found all over Armenia – rivers, peaks, finally, the city of Adamakert to the southeast of Van (now – Bashkale).

Armenia was for the ancients not only the Country of gods, the country of beginnings and the first man, it also served as a refuge for Noah, that is, for renewed humanity, – after all, Armenia was also geographically the highest among the Near Eastern countries.

And it is quite logical that both the ancient Sumerian Gilgamesh (near Amida-Diarbakir there is even a village of Gilgamesh) and the biblical Noah were saved in Armenia after the flood.

So, the mountains of Ararat are not only Masis and Sis, Greater and Lesser Ararat, – this, in a figurative sense, is all of Armenia, a mountainous country, where in the southwest, near the Tigris, there are mountains of Ararad; where in Sasun the son of Noah, Sem or Sim, pitched his camp – on the mountains of Simsar is the famous Sasun village Semal;

where near the Dzirav field on the left bank of Aratsani – the mountain of Apeta (Japheth) Npat; where the dove released by Noah indicated places for vineyards and for the construction of the first settlement – in Armenian Nakhichevan, with the graves of Noah, his wife, and sons…

What are these rivers into which the paradise river – the springs of Byurakn – is divided?

And on this account, researchers almost have no disagreements. The first of them, Pison (Armenian Pison or Pisovn), is identified with the modern Chorokh, Gihon or Gihovn – with the Araks (ancient Erasx), Hiddekel (“in front of Assyria”) – with the Tigris, and Euphrates (Armenian Eprat) is so named. Geographically, from the plateau of Byurakn originate Erasx-Araks-Gihon and the major tributaries of the Euphrates and Tigris.

A little further north are the sources of the Euphrates, Chorokh, and Kura (in the nominative case – Kur, not Kura). The last two are arguing about the right to the name Pison. However, there is another Pison or Pisovn in the upper basin of the Tigris.

In any case, from Eden-Armenia originate all the major and other rivers of the region, flowing from the mountains of the Armenian Highlands into the Black and Caspian seas or into the Persian Gulf. The subject of a separate interesting conversation is the etymology of Armenian hydronyms and oronyms (that is, the names of rivers, lakes, and mountains).

by Grigor Beglaryan

Translated by Vigen Avetisyan

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