Project Genesis

The Chumash (Five Books of Moses)

Adam and Eve story

Forbidden Fruit and the Apple Myth

Question: In school we learned that the forbidden fruit that Adam and Eve ate from wasn’t actually an apple like I always thought, but grapes, figs, or wheat. So why then do so many people assume it is an apple? Are there any sources that tell us that?

Answer: I often wondered about this as well, until I learned that in Old English the word apple was a general word used to refer to all fruit. says

O.E. æppel “apple,” from P.Gmc. ap(a)laz (cf. O.Fris., Du. appel, O.N. eple, O.H.G. apful, Ger. Apfel), from PIE ab(e)l “apple” (cf. Gaul. avallo, O.Ir. ubull, Lith. obuolys, O.C.S. jabloko), but the exact relation and original sense of these is uncertain. Gk. melon and L. malum are probably from a pre-I.E. Mediterranean language. A generic term for all fruit, other than berries but including nuts, as late as 17c., hence its use for the unnamed “fruit of the forbidden tree” in Genesis. Cucumbers, in one O.E. work, are eorþæppla, lit. “earth-apples” (cf. Fr. pomme de terre “potato,” lit. “earth-apple;” see also melon). Fr. pomme is from L. pomum “fruit.”

It is only in more recent times that it has become a term used only for the fruit we refer to as an apple.

All the Best,
Rabbi Azriel Schreiber

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