While grocery shopping the other night I had a thought as I filled up a green produce bag with Honey-crisp apples. Well, two thoughts actually. One is how much plastic we overuse in this country, while the other was wondering how one of the most delicious things on the planet could have been the fruit used to cause the downfall of man. Just thinking about the juicy flesh that blends with the wax encrusted exterior, and delicious juices with every bite. That perfect blend of tart and sweetness is one of the most delicious things in the world. That is, of course, my opinion because apples are my favorite fruit and apple juice is one of my favorite things to drink. So knowing this, you can imagine that I have always thought that the apple got a bad rap in regards to the story of Adam, Eve, and their expulsion from Paradise. As the story goes, in chapter two from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible (the story is also told in Judaism, Gnostic, Islam in the Qur’an, in the Baha’i Faith, and John Milton’s Paradise Lost). According to the story of creation, Adam and Eve were the first man and first woman created by God in his image. Adam is placed in the Garden of Eden and is told that he can eat whatever he likes; except for one tree. Genesis 3 says:
1 Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? 2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. 4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: 5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. 6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
After this, the Lord God comes back to the garden and Adam and his wife hide from God because realize that they are naked. God realizes that they ate of the tree and God tells them their punishment. They are kicked out of the Garden of Eden and their lives (and subsequently our lives) were harder. I’m not going to get into what ‘knowledge’ they learned from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil because sometimes the Bible takes some research and explanation. Since the tree itself is only described as being a fruit-bearing tree that was good for food and pleasant to the eyes; how did so many people link this unknown forbidden fruit to that of a red apple?
The Adam and Eve story may take place in the Garden of Eden but there is no disclosure of a location of this garden; so that gives us no exact clue as to what trees would grow there. There is a theory that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in the Middle East and therefore the theorists infer that the forbidden fruit was actually a pomegranate. There are many reasons why many theorists lean towards the pomegranate being the fruit; one of which is that the pomegranate is actually mentioned or alluded to multiple times in the Bible. There is even a deep tradition to eat pomegranates on Rosh Hashana (the Jewish New Year) because the numerous seeds of the pomegranate symbolize fruitfulness. While it is also said that the pomegranate has 613 seeds which correspond to the 613 commandments of the Torah (the five books of the Hebrew Bible also known as the Pentateuch). The pomegranate has also been linked to other belief systems. In Ancient Greek mythology, people believed that the pomegranate sprung from the spilled blood of Adonis and was even known as the “fruit of the dead”. The pomegranate is also tied to the myth of Persephone (daughter of Zeus and Demeter). Persephone was kidnapped by Hades and while in the underworld she refused to eat. Zeus had to work out a deal with Hades because while in the underworld she ate a few pomegranate seeds which required her to live with her husband Hades in the underworld three months out of the year. During that time, her mother (who presided over grains and the fertility of the earth) mourns her and thusly no longer blesses the Earth causing it to not be fertile during that time.
While discussing grains, according to Jewish nutritional recommendations; “a child ‘does not know how to call out ‘mother’ or ‘father’ until he tastes grain” (according to the 40th verse of the Berakhot – the first tractate aka laws relating to plants and farming). This implied that the time a child was old enough to eat cereal and other grains coincided with his/her language development. Rabbi Yehuda proposes that because of this, that the forbidden fruit was actually wheat. In Hebrew, wheat is called ‘khitah’, which is widely considered wordplay for the Hebrew word ‘khet’, meaning ‘sin’. So keeping with the ‘sin’ theme; what other sins could have happened at that same time? Some have alluded to the fruit is a grape; specifically inferring that they had made their own wine. The story alludes to them taking a bite from a fruit (though you don’t really take bites of a single grape); not taking many pieces of the fruit, pressing them to release the juices, and then letting the juices ferment to create wine. Besides all of that, grapes are grown on a vine…not a ‘tree’. I think that the reason why so many want to link grapes to the forbidden fruit is their yearning to link the original sin to the sin of drunkenness.
Do I think that Adam and Eve got drunk and therefore found some great revelation? No. Is the explanation for wheat a bit far fetched? Completely. Is the link of the forbidden fruit to the pomegranate just an amalgamation of many stories from different cultures throughout the years? Maybe so; but all that Genesis 2:16-17 indicates is that Adam and Eve could freely eat of every tree in the garden except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. So since there obviously being multiple types of fruit and edibles in the garden; so how do we know what this specific ‘fruit’ was? We don’t know exactly but the chance of it actually being an apple is extremely slim. The fruit began its depiction as an apple in Western Europe based on central Asian art. The use of the apple may have been the artists who depicted Adam and Eve’s eating of the apple with their own artistic license; or maybe it was a confusion of the two Latin words mālum (a Latin noun meaning apple borrowed from Greek) and another Latin noun, malum (meaning evil). There was even a Latin pun (“by eating the mālum, Even contracted malum) that could have led to much of that confusion. The larynx in the human throat is more visible in males and is even called Adam’s apple; which is said to be a reference to the forbidden fruit getting stuck in the throat as he swallowed it.
So we know it is probably not an apple. Apples are only mentioned in the Bible itself six times and apples are not common in that part of the world for quite some time. Many theologians (specifically Islamic and Hindu spiritual teachers) have inferred that the ‘fruit’ was not actually something to eat. Many infer that the eating of the fruit was a metaphor for an act that took place. Many have speculated that the act was sexually related. Whether the fruit was the ‘womb’ and that the sexual act itself was the tree of knowledge was the sexual awakening of Adam and Eve. When they realized they were naked after their sexual act they covered themselves with a girdle of fig leaves, but I think that that is where we find our biggest clue. It is intriguing to think about the original sin being sex but if we follow that belief then we must throw out that the Garden of Eden was a real place, to begin with. Therefore the whole story is just a metaphor. I do not follow that logic. If we have to think that it was a specific fruit (I along with countless theologians, Christian researchers, Jewish Rabbi Nechemia, etc); then I will infer that the forbidden fruit was actually a fig. Specifically on the fact that it says that after eating the fruit that “the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig-leaves together, and made themselves girdles.”
I guess that after saying all of that I have to say this. I don’t think it matters what the forbidden fruit looked like. It’s probably bested that we don’t know what the forbidden fruit actually was because it might be something that we eat every day or it might be something that God allowed to become extinct after the events of the Garden of Eden. Whatever the fruit was or whatever happened, that act of disobedience of God’s instructions was a sin that God tried to keep them from committing. So use the story of Adam and Eve to remember a couple of things:
God intimately formed us for a greater purpose – Remembering that God breathed the breath of life into us; not to just live and die but to live and live for him! God also instructed man to be caretakers of the world he created (and I think that that is something in which we need to do a better job).
We have free will – Adam and Eve proved that God allows us to make mistakes. God did not create slaves or robots to blindly follow the commands that he has laid out. God tells us what is good and bad. He warns us not to do something — but allows us to make our own choices.
God created Eve out of Adam’s rib to be more than a ‘helper’ – Many in the Christian church tend to infer that it was Eve’s fault that they ate the fruit (Adam was actually, in my opinion, more to blame because he as the ‘head of the family’ should have made a stand against the devil because he knew that the eating of the forbidden fruit was a direct rebellion against the will of God) or that Eve was created to be the ‘helper’ of man. I think that Welsh-born author and nonconformist minister said it best when he said “(t)hat the woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved.”
God has not forsaken you – Adam and Eve completely disobeyed God. They committed sin and openly rebelled against something God instructed them to do. God could have killed Adam and Eve on the spot but God even killed an animal and made them clothes to wear to hide their nakedness. Like Adam, it seems that our sins and shortcomings are what receive the most emphasis in the world; but if we turn to God and ask forgiveness, then he will forgive us. I think that Adam and Eve did seek forgiveness (after the birth of their third son, Seth, the people in the land began to worship the Lord again (Genesis 4:26)) and if God can forgive them, then I definitely think that he can forgive you and me for any of our transgressions.
Honeycrisp apple from an organic food farm co-op by Evan-Amos – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16918509
Depiction of the Original Sin by Peter Paul Rubens – http://www.geheugenvannederland.nl : Home : Info : Pic, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8769226CC
Punica granatum BY-SA 2.1 es, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=324389
Wine Grapes by Fir0002 – Own work, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=135219
Adam and Eve by Marcantonio Raimondi – This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60850978
Ficus carica at the Picasso-Museum by Hedwig Storch – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2887833