Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What was the forbidden fruit?

It grew on a tree in the primordial garden. After the snake tricked Eve into tasting it,  she shared it with the Man. From then its been all downhill. But what was the fruit? There are lots of contenders...

Early Jewish ideas:

Reason: (a) It puns on to-anah which means "grief" By eating from the teinah [=fig] the first couple introduced suffering, death and the rest into the world  (b) Juxtaposition of verses: After they fruit has been eaten, the pair perceive that they are naked [of mitzvoth] and sew garments for themselves from fig leaves. [Bereishis Rabah 19:6] Also, figs have a phallic shape. On the ceiling of the Sistine Chapal Adam is shown tasting a fig.

Reason: What creates more suffering than the grape? Do you doubt it? Well look what happened to poor Noah. [Bereishis Rabah 15:7; Rabbi Meir on BT Berachos 40a]

Reason: Puns on khet, which means sin. By eating from the khitah [=wheat] the first couple introduced sin into the world [Rabbi Yehuda on BT Berachos 40a]

Reason: Puns on ragag which means desire. Also, esrogim are shaped like the uterus/cervix.

Reason: Puns on churban which means destruction.  By eating from the charuv [=carob] the first couple introduced sin into the world

I'll leave it to you guys to work out how much stock we should put in puns as an exegetical method. 

Later Jewish idea:

Reason: Song of Songs speaks of apples in an erotic fasion. They're a symbol for female breast, and used in the Song to connote sweetness and desire

Early Christian idea

Reason: (a) The Vulgate describes the tree of Good and Evil as de ligno autem scientiae boni et mali: "but of the tree (lit. wood) of knowledge of good and evil. Mali is a form of malum which means apple" (b) The evil goddess Eris uses apples to create discord in the famous Greek myths.

Generally, the western Church went with apples, while the Eastern Church used figs. (Muslims tend to identify the fruit as figs or olives)

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