In the first two chapters of the book of Genesis, God is quoted as pinpointing the fruitful area where Adam and Eve would live. He names four rivers flowing out of it.

Two of the rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates, largely in what is now Iraq, are familiar to anyone who has looked at war news in the last decade. They flow side by side, from Turkey in the north, south through Iraq into the Persian Gulf.

The other two rivers — God calls them the Pishon and the Gihon — have not been finally identified. They’ve puzzled adventurous minds for centuries, including St. Augustine, Christopher Columbus and Emperor Wilhelm II, who led Germany through World War I.

St. Augustine, an early commentator, had trouble deciding if the garden was a real place, finally concluding that it was. Columbus wrote Ferdinand and Isabella that if the area that impressed him — now northern Venezuela — could be conquered, it would help convert pagans to Christianity. The emperor sometimes called “Kaiser Bill” got into trouble with German church people after he helped run a slide show on a controversial theory.

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