Did Adam and Eve Eat an Apple or Not?

Is it just me or does Satan look like
Jack Nicholson in this painting?!
“Here’s Johnny!”

We customarily think of Adam and Eve eating as an “apple” in the Garden of Eden from the forbidden tree. This is because the Latin word for “apple” is malum, which is similar the word that means “evil” (malus). Latin writers often made use of this fantastic pun, and we have inherited the “apple=forbidden fruit” tradition ever since.

Jewish tradition identifies the fruit with the fig:

R. Yose said: They were figs, as may be inferred from the context.

A parable of a king’s son who disgraced himself with one of the maidservants. When the king heard of it, he deprived his son of high rank and expelled him from the palace. The son then went about to the doorways of the other maidservants, and none would take him in. But she who disgraced herself with him opened the door of her house and received him.

So, too, when Adam ate of that tree, the Holy One deprived him of lofty status and expelled him from the Garden of Eden. Adam then went about among all the trees, but none would receive him [ie. take even one leaf ].

But the fig tree whose fruit Adam had eaten opened its doors [so to speak] and received him, as is said, “They sewed fig leaves together.” (Bereishit 3:7) Gen. Rabbah 15:7.

Whether the forbidden fruit was a fig or not, the English word “apple” is actually an appropriate translation, because etymologically, the English word “apple” is a generic term including all fruits, berries, and nuts. For example, the Old English word for cucumbers is eorþæppla – literally, “earth-apples” or “earth fruit”. Thus, the forbidden fruit could have been an apple, fig, etrog fruit, banana, or even a cucumber – all of these fruits would be encompassed by the generic English word “apple” in its traditional sense.

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