This Bible History Daily feature was originally published in 2013.—Ed.
In “Daphnis and Chloe in the Garden of Eden” in the July/August 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, Theodore Feder explores how a second-century pagan love story alludes to the Biblical tale of Adam and Eve. In this post, delve deeper into the story with passages from the pagan romance, their Biblical counterparts and images of artistic representations of the lovers and their idyllic garden.
Written around 200 A.D. by the Greco-Roman author Longus, Daphnis and Chloe is a pagan pastoral romance that echoes the Biblical story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Daphnis and Chloe are simple country-dwelling teenagers in love. They are the adopted children of pastoralists indentured to a far off Master. In a meadow where the couple often meet, there is an apple tree, completely bare except for one large and sweet apple hanging from the topmost twig. Daphnis climbs the tree and picks it for Chloe, to her dismay. Daphnis justifies himself, saying that if he did not pluck it, the apple would fall to the earth and be trampled by a beast or poisoned by a snake.
In spite of some variations, all the principal elements of the Genesis story of Adam and Eve are included in Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe. There are male and female counterparts, the tree and the fruit in the Edenic setting and even an ominous mention of a snake. It is likely that Longus knew some version of the Genesis story, whether by first or second hand. As Theodore Feder writes, Daphnis and Chloe is an example of how “stories of the Jews and early Christians were becoming part of the general cultural inventory of the time.”
Read passages from Longus’s text below (translated by Ronald McCail) alongside their Biblical counterparts to see how Daphnis and Chloe draws from the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. And enjoy our collection of artistic depictions of Daphnis and Chloe in their idyllic world. We include pieces by Marc Chagall, Francois Boucher, Louis Hersent and Francois Gerard.
BAS Library Members: Read “Daphnis and Chloe in the Garden of Eden” by Theodore Feder as it appears in the July/August 2013 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review.
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In the free eBook Exploring Genesis: The Bible’s Ancient Traditions in Context, discover the cultural contexts for many of Israel’s earliest traditions. Explore Mesopotamian creation myths, Joseph’s relationship with Egyptian temple practices and three different takes on the location of Ur of the Chaldees, the birthplace of Abraham.
Excerpts from Daphnis and Chloe and Genesis
All text from Longus’s Daphnis and Chloe are from the excellent translation by Ronald McCail (Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 2002).
Daphnis and Chloe, Book 3.33–34 (pp. 63-64)There stood an apple-tree, all picked, with neither fruit nor leaf remaining; bare were all its boughs; yet one apple still hung ripening atop the very topmost twig, an apple large and lovely, which by itself surpassed the sweet scent of its whole clan. He feared to go up there, the harvester, nor had he taken heed to reach it down—perhaps some power was guarding it, that apple fair, for a love-struck shepherd.
When Daphnis saw the apple, he made to go up and pluck it, and took no notice of Chloe when she tried to hold him back. Whereupon she, ignored, went angrily away to the sheep and goats; but Daphnis quickly clambered up the tree and succeeded in plucking the apple and bringing it down as a gift for Chloe, and made this speech to the wrathful girl:
and a fair tree fed
beneath the mellowing Sun
and Chance preserved;
that it may fall to earth
or gliding snake to poison
or Time to ruin when it lies forlorn—
This did Aphrodite win as a prize for beauty,
this do I give you as a prize of victory.
a goatherd am I.’
With these words he placed the apple in her bosom, and when he came close she kissed him, so that Daphnis was not sorry that he had risked climbing to such a height. For the kiss that he got was better than even a golden apple.
Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1–7
The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?’ The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”’ But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.
Daphnis and Chloe, Book 4.8 (p. 68)
True, they were weeping for fear of their master; but even a complete stranger would have wept, had he chanced on such a sight.
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden at the time of the evening breeze, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden.
This Bible History Daily feature was originally published on June 12, 2013.