Was the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden an apple tree?

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Some artists depict in their art the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil as an apple tree after the German artist Albrecht Dürer’s famous 1504 engraving  which portrayed Adam and Eve beside an apple tree.

The narrative of eating the forbidden fruit is recorded in Genesis 2:16–17. The Lord commanded that Adam and Eve may eat of all the trees of the Garden of Eden except from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As long as they were obedient they could live forever. But if they disobey they will die (Genesis 2:17).

While apples are mentioned in Scripture (Song of Solomon 2:3, 8:5; Joel 1:12), they are not mentioned in relation to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The mix up between the forbidden fruit with the apple could be due to the similarity of the two words in the Latin translation of the Bible, known as the Vulgate. The word evil in the tree’s name in Latin is mali (Genesis 2:17). The word apple in other places is mala (Proverbs 25:11) or malum (Song of Solomon 2:3).

However, if we study the original Hebrew, the words are not similar. The word in Genesis 2:17 for evil is rah, while the word for apples in Proverbs 25:11 and Song of Solomon 2:3 is tappuwach.

It should be added also that in the Hebrew Bible, the word used for the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is a generic term, peri. And this term could mean absolutely any fruit. Rabbinic commentators characterized the word peri as a fig, a pomegranate, a grape, an apricot, a citron, or even wheat.

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BibleAsk Team