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Did You Know ... The Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was NOT an Apple?

Imagine the scene. The serpent is speaking to Eve. He is tempting her with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eve is holding in her hand an item of produce. A fruit. The fruit. The fruit which, when eaten, will violate God's Law, break man's covenant with God, and open the floodgates of sin and death into a hitherto pristine Earth. 

What does the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge look like? 

Did you imagine in the cradle of Eve's hand an ... apple? 

Wrong! It wasn't an apple. Did you know that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil was NOT an apple? 

If not an apple, then ... what was it?

[Also, stay tuned for my comic strip at the end!]

First off, if you don't believe me, re-read Genesis 3 (reproduced below). 

I promise you, the word "apple" doesn't appear anywhere in Genesis 3:1-7:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you 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, 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 themselves aprons.

Isn't that weird? If you're like me when I was first told this, you might be feeling like this is some kind of trick. It's not. 

What is the Tree of Knowledge a Metaphor For? Is it Much More Than a Metaphor?

So, where did we get the idea that the fruit of Original Sin was an apple? Why does every Children's Bible and every Sunday school class have an image of Adam, Eve, and the apple? 

Why does every painting ever of the Fall of Man depict an apple? Was Michelangelo just lying to us? Milton? 

No! It's a pun. A Latin pun, no less. 

What is the Tree of Knowledge Fruit?

To get to the bottom of this, we have to go all the way back to the fourth century A.D. when Pope Damasus I asked his secretary to translate the Bible into Latin, the so-called "vulgar tongue." 

That translation became known as the Vulgate, and the secretary was Saint Jerome. Saint Jerome would spend the better part of the next 15 years in the city of Bethlehem, translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek.

In the Hebrew Bible, a generic term, peri, is used for the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In his book Aguecheek's Beef, Belch's Hiccup, and Other Gastronomic Interjections, Professor Robert Appelbaum -- Yes! the professor's name is actually Apple-baum! -- describes the biblical provenance of the apple. [1]

Appelbaum, a professor of English literature at Sweden's Uppsala University, says that St. Jerome had  several options for translating peri. "But he hit upon the idea of translating peri as malus, which in Latin has two very different meanings. As an adjective, malus means bad or evil. As a noun it seems to mean an apple, in our own sense of the word, coming from the very common tree now known officially as the Malus pumila."

The Malus pumila is the species name of the apple tree. 

So malus means bad or evil like "malice," but it's also a word for apple. St. Jerome made a pun!

So, if the Fruit of the Tree of Knowledge wasn't an apple, what was it?

Re-read the passage from Genesis 3, above. Though you won't find the word "apple," you will find the name of another fruit ...

What fruit is mentioned specifically in Genesis 3? 

... and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

Fig! It is much more likely that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was a fig. 

The Hebrew word peri could be basically any fruit. According to Appelbaum, "Rabbinic commentators variously characterized it as a fig, a pomegranate, a grape, an apricot, a citron, or even wheat. Some commentators even thought of the forbidden fruit as a kind of wine, intoxicating to drink."

In Saint Jerome's time, even the word malus could refer to any fleshy, seed-bearing fruit, such as a pear, a peach, or even a fig.

Michelangelo actually gets it right: 

Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, The Fall of Man and the Expulsion from Eden

Look at the leaves in Michelangelo's depiction of the Fall. Those are fig leaves! Before reading this, didn't you, like me, just assume it was an apple tree?

It was actually a 1504 engraving by Albrecht Dürer that marks the shift from fig to apple, from the Italian Renaissance to the Northern Renaissance. 

What is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Wait ... Fig Leaf Clothing?

So, we've had the First Sin, right? Original Sin. For more on what actually happened at the Original Sin and how this relates to Lent and Jesus' Temptations in the Desert, read this.

Next, God shows up in the Garden. Adam and Eve hide. They know they messed up. 

God says, "Where are you?" (As if He didn't know.) 

Slowly, they creep out of hiding, and God asks, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?"

Game over. Adam and Eve confess their sin. Sort of. Adam points his finger at Eve, God, and the serpent, but not himself. Adam blames every other person on earth, but himself. Eve is far more contrite. 

So what is this? The First Confession in human history. 

We've now had the First Sin and the First Confession - what comes next? 

The First Penance in human history.

Let me ask you a question. A Louisiana boy like myself takes fig trees and summer fig-picking for granted, but have you ever felt a fig leaf or fig sap? It's probably the itchiest substance known to mankind. 

Now imagine making clothes with fig leaves and covering your private areas with these extremely itchy leaves. Bad idea! 

Here's that COMIC I promised: 

Those fig leaf clothes were the First Penance! I would even argue they were the first "hair shirts." 

This isn't my joke. The credit belongs to my Scripture professor, the eminently amazing Dr. Brant Pitre. Please go read all of his books:

So the Apple's Not an Apple - What If the Serpent's Not a Serpent?

Now, what if I told you the serpent wasn't really a serpent?? What if the little garter snake in Dürer's 1504 engraving, above, isn't at all what is depicted in the Bible? Check out that article here:

Also, what happened after the Fall and Original Sin? What was God's plan to fix what Adam and Eve messed up? Read about the Protoevangelium here - this is where God lays out his plan of redemption with three prophesies. 

[1] Read more about the Latin pun here.

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  1. The first confession was not contrite. It may have been an invalid confession. They were blaming each other.
    If they would have been truly contrite maybe things would have been different.

    1. Possibly, that's interesting. I would say that Eve's confession was much more contrite than Adam's.

  2. Scott Smith is correct according to my research. The clue to the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil is the mention of fig leaves being used to cover their nakedness. Not addressed by Scott Smith is what was the fruit on the Tree of Life that bestows immortality if eaten? The Bible has the answer. Note that in Genesis God stations the Cherubim to prevent access to the tree (Gen 3:24) by Adam and Eve. Later, we are told that Solomon decorated the Temple in Jerusalem with Cherubim and Palm Trees (1 Kings 7:36, Ezekiel 41:25)). Palm trees bear dates as their fruit. Ergo the Date Palm is apparently the Tree of life in the Garden of Eden.

  3. God is supposed to know everything that is and was and shall be? So he must have known that Adam and Eve would sin, therefore creating an inescapable trap of sorts. Common sense dictates that this is a very cruel thing to do, so if there is a God, he's very mean.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anon. God empowered Adam and Eve not to sin. His alternate plan was to sacrifice Himself to heal the breach. That's not cruel - that's the fundamental basis of our concept of heroism and goodness. Please rethink your logic.

    2. Scott Smith, I appreciate your response as well as Anonymous' initial post. Thank you.

  4. Seriously? Everyone knows that it is a proverbial fruit...right? That Cain is the fruit that produced from original sin? That is why his offerings where not accepted and why he killed Abel. That's why they realized they were naked and had shame.....immediately after this Adam "knew" Eve and Abel was conceived. She noticed that the tree was "a delight to the eyes and to be desired"......

    Ezekiel 28:12-14

    12 "You were the seal of perfection,
    Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
    13 You were in Eden, the garden of God;
    Every precious stone was your covering:

    1. Exactly!! Fruit of my loins comes to mind.

  5. My research indicates Genesis is an ANTI-THESIS. So, what is the earlier THESIS that it is refuting? Its the Mesopotamian myth about man's origins (Sumerian and Babylonian). In these myths man is portrayed as originally being a naked, hairy animal, wandering with wild animals in the EDIN as his companions, they are herbivores, specifically antelope and wild cattle. There is no woman for him (see Enkidu in the Epic of Gilgamesh, who wanders the EDIN). Because he is a wild hairy, naked beast, he possesses no knowledge of good and evil, just as the beasts possess no knowledge of good and evil. Then the gods remove him from the EDIN, and have him care for their fruit-tree gardens they have planted in the EDIN, within their cities they built for themselves. The gods must eat earthly food or they will starve to death, having bodies of flesh. Man will end the back-breaking work for the gods in caring for their gardens in the EDIN, giving the gods an eternal rest from physical toil. Man is a lowly, wretched, gardening slave for the gods. Genesis rejects this notion. God did not make man a naked hairy beast, to wander EDIN with herbivores for companions, and possessing no knowledge of Good and Evil. God made man to be the ruler of the world, and rule over the Creation. The gods send a flood to destroy man, whom they despise, for his noise disturbs their rest by day and sleep by night. The Hebrews deny this, God destroyed man for being evil and shedding his fellowman's blood. At the end of the flood the god Enlil of Nippur is outraged to learn a man has built an ark and humans have been spared. He wanted ALL HUMANS DEAD! With their demise, he would have his rest by day and sleep by night. He looks forward to the SEVENTH DAY of the Flood as his day of rest, with all of mankind decimated, peace and quiet engulfs all the earth. Genesis refutes this explanation of how a god rested on a SEVENTH DAY, it was after a creation of the world, not the destruction of the world. See my book at for more details, The Garden of Eden Myth: Its Pre-biblical Origin in Mesopotamian Myths.

  6. e V e = twice wise virgin that spoke to serpent
    Isis is the virgin serpent goddess of double wisdom in Assur's(Osiris) garden.

    The same or daughter of Isis, the Great Mother Goddess. The first of our kind i.e., H. SapienS SapienS.

    The first kingdoms were grain based economies. Ergot was the fruit in the midst of the garden. It didn't kill them, it gave them 'Hawk Eye' vision.
    How could the lowly serpent overrule God? She knew the antidote.

    The Soma Sacrament in Egypt was imbibed in the form of bread and beer. They ate the "bread of eternity," and drank the "beer of everlastingness." The Eye of Heru was in the bread. The antidote was in the beer. The bread without the beer was poison. The beer without the bread was poison.

    The line of kings that sprang from the womb of Isis ruled the world for 3,000 years. Including the Isis~Sons the Essenes. That's right; J+Isis aka Iesous(Iesus) his original name. Before Isis and the invention of weaving most of the world was naked or wore animal skins. Isis' original name was aSt. The name of the throne Isis creates is called the Ass. The story of the king;

    King James Version
    Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.

    SoLoMoN, a Pagan king. Known as a Sun King. The sun kings from the womb of Isis.

    "Clement of Alexandria and St. Cyril of Jerusalem considered the Greek form Iesous to be the original, even going so far as to interpret it as a true Greek name and not simply a transliteration of Hebrew." just scratching the surface.

    1. Wow, that's some wild and wacky stuff. Thanks for your comment, though. Also, Mr. Keith, if you're the real Keith Richard(s) by chance, the Rolling Stones were/are brilliant, but please repent of all the mortal sins and churn out some holy songs before it's too late.

  7. So God told Adam and Eve that they’d die if they ate the fruit and then the serpent said he was lying because he didn’t want them to have knowledge, then they ate the fruit, didn’t die and gained knowledge. Who’s the bad guy here?

    1. Trick question! You're the bad guy for defending the devil, lol. But no, they did die immediately upon violating God's law. Their immortal souls suffered mortal sin. Death not only entered them, but the entire world through them. The devil was relying on the same lie as you - that physically they're still alive, despite being dead spiritually. There's still so much of this in the world.

  8. Was it really the fruit of knowledge Adam and Eve ate and found that they were naked? ,or was it on some other reason...

    1. Of course. There appears to be a strong causal relationship described in the text, plus it has been the common understanding of the Hebrews and the Church for thousands and thousands of years.

  9. The poppy: the TRUE "forbidden fruit."
    Once you've tasted its juice, your knowledge surpasses anything earned or deserved; your hunger is no longer satiable, and even the warmest sunlight brings a chill, as well as darkness. Your thirst will never be quenched, and your mouth always dry. The only real desire that you have left is that you will one day die, and for those who watch you wither, that day comes much too soon, like watching a speeding train suddenly crash in slow motion as it flies off and to its end. But for the addict this brilliant crash can never come soon enough. All for just a little taste... The ultimate rush, for all it gives, it takes far too much.
    - The Anti-Hero~in Recovery