There have been lively discussions on this issue for many years, but the only thing the experts agree on is that the “forbidden fruit” was definitely not an apple.
Scientists agree that the notorious “forbidden fruit” from the biblical Garden of Eden was most likely not an apple, according to Live Science.
According to experts, the Hebrew Bible does not really specify what fruits Adam and Eve ate.
“We don’t know what it was. There is no indication that it was an apple,” Ari Zhivotofsky said, a rabbi and professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University.
The main scene with the “tree of knowledge” was described in Genesis, the first book of the Hebrew Bible.
“As for the type of fruit, it is referred to simply as the ‘fruit of the tree.’
The Hebrew word “peri” is used in the verse, a common word for fruit in both biblical and modern Hebrew. On the other hand, the modern Hebrew word “tapuach,” meaning apple, is never found in the Book of Genesis or in the first five books of the Hebrew Bible, Zhivotofsky says.
So, if the forbidden fruit was an apple, then what?
In other works completed before about 500 AD, rabbis put forward several different ideas in this regard. However, the apple is not included in this list.
For many years, rabbis wrote that figs could be a “forbidden fruit,” so in the Hebrew Bible, Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves after tasting the fruit. Also, some believed that it could be grapes. Many rabbis suggested that the fruit may be a lemon or “etrog” in Hebrew, a bitter-sweet lemon-like fruit used during harvest festivals.
The interpretation of the apple did not originate from Jewish legends, the scientist said.
“I do not think that in the Jewish tradition the fruit could become an apple, that is, in Jewish art you will not find it,” – says Zhyvotofsky.
Most likely, the metamorphosis began in Rome in 382 AD, when Bishop Damasius I of Rome asked a scholar named Jerome (St. Jerome) to translate the Bible into Latin. Jerome translated the Hebrew “peri” into Latin “malum”, says Robert Appelbaum, an honorary professor of English literature at Uppsala University in Sweden.
“The word ‘malum’ is translated from Latin as ‘apple,’ which also meant any fruit with a seed core and pulp around it. But it was a general term for fruit,” Appelbaum said.
According to him, Jerome chose the word “malum”, because this word also means “evil”. Such a pun may have emphasized the gravity of what Adam and Eve had done, but it eventually became the basis for a common mistake.
At the same time, paintings and other works of art on the theme of the Garden of Eden helped to reinforce the notion that the forbidden fruit was an apple. According to Appelbaum, in art, unlike writing, fruit cannot be represented by something direct.
“Artists needed to show something specific,” says the scientist.
And they did not always depict an apple, such as a lemon (“Ghent altar. Angels playing music”), an apricot (“Eve tempted by a serpent”) and even as a pomegranate (“The Fall of Man”).
However, in the 16th century, the apple began to appear among the “forbidden fruits”. Thus, in 1504 an apple was depicted in an engraving by the German artist Albrecht Dürer and in a painting in 1533 by the German artist Lucas Cranach. Also, in the poem “Paradise Lost”, the English poet John Milton twice uses the word “apple” to denote the forbidden fruit.
But according to Appelbaum, John Milton describes his “apple” as “fluffy in appearance, extremely juicy, sweet and delicious.” All these epithets are more applicable to peaches, Appelbaum emphasizes.
Perhaps the so-called “grafted tree”, which can bear various fruits, would help to solve the riddle, but the problem is that such trees did not exist in biblical times.