WHAT WAS “THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT?” WAS IT REALLY AN APPLE?
by Shawn Brasseaux
Nearly all people—even “learned” ones—speak of Adam and Eve eating an “apple.” This idea has become so engrained in public knowledge and speech that it is likely the most pervasive Bible misconception. In fact, the prominent nodule on the throats of human males—the so-called “Adams apple”—derived its name from such nonsense. There is no Scriptural proof that an apple was the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. From where did such confusion come? How did an apple ever become associated with Adam and Eve? Can we use the Bible to discover the identity of the forbidden fruit? “For what saith the Scriptures?”
LATIN AND THE FORBIDDEN FRUIT
Never once does the Bible indicate that the eating of an apple led to man’s fall into sin. The Book of Genesis merely provides the generic word “fruit.” So, when and how did the idea of an apple enter the picture? Confusion likely arose with the Latin Bible over 1,000 years ago. The Latin “malus/mala/malum” means “bad/evil.” It is important to note that it has a short /a/ sound—as in “malnutrition,” “malpractice,” “malady.” The Latin “malus” (pronounced differently) translates to “apple.” It has a long /a/ sound—sounding like “age,” “day,” “laid.” (The Latin word is from the Greek for “apple”—“malon” or “melon.”) Since Scripture calls it “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil,” that word “evil” in Latin sounds very similar to the Latin word for “apple.” People began associating the two concepts, and the erroneous notion was eventually established to plague us with confusion even now.
If it were not an apple, can we use the Bible to learn what type of fruit it was? Yes!
LETTING THE SCRIPTURES SPEAK
We turn to Genesis chapter 2: “ And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil….  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:  But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
Moving to chapter 3 now: “ 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?  And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:  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.  And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:  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.  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.  And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”
As you saw for yourself, friend, there was nothing here about an “apple,” was there? The Bible said “fruit” and that is all it said. If we are to find out anything more, we will have to look for other Scripture verses. In fact, the Book of Judges contains an interesting and insightful “Parable of the Trees.” Let us consider Judges chapter 9 now:
“ And when they told it to Jotham, he went and stood in the top of mount Gerizim, and lifted up his voice, and cried, and said unto them, Hearken unto me, ye men of Shechem, that God may hearken unto you.
“ The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us.  But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
“ And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us.  But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?
“ Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us.  And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees?
“ Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us.  And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.”
Did you notice four “trees” are identified here? We see an olive tree (verses 8-9), a fig tree (verses 10-11), a vine tree (verses 12-13), and a bramble tree (verses 14-15). A group of trees visit the olive tree, then the fig tree, next the vine tree, and finally the bramble tree. These four trees appear elsewhere in the Bible. If we are diligent in picking them out, we will better understand the passage in Judges as well as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The fig tree first shows up in Scripture in Genesis 3:7: “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.” Instead of Adam and Eve letting God clothe them with animal skins (verse 21), they clothed themselves with itchy fig leaves. The fig tree in the Bible is a picture of religion, man’s futile attempt to “cover up” his naked (sinful) spiritual body, going about to establish his own righteousness instead of submitting to the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3).
Genesis chapter 3, albeit indirectly, mentions the bramble (a prickly shrub). Scripture does not speak of these thorns until the Fall of man and the Curse of sin on creation: “ And unto Adam he [the LORD God] said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;  Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;….” The bramble is connected to sin, a departure from the one true God and His doctrine; that is, the bramble tree symbolizes apostasy.
We find the following in 1 Kings chapter 6 as concerning the olive tree: “ And for the entering of the oracle he made doors of olive tree: the lintel and side posts were a fifth part of the wall.  The two doors also were of olive tree; and he carved upon them carvings of cherubims and palm trees and open flowers, and overlaid them with gold, and spread gold upon the cherubims, and upon the palm trees.  So also made he for the door of the temple posts of olive tree, a fourth part of the wall.” King Solomon used olive wood to fashion the doors and doorway of the oracle of the Jerusalem Temple. God’s presence—the Shekinah glory—dwelt in that innermost room. Olive wood thus typifies spiritual life, access to the one true God.
The vine tree* is found in Psalm 80:8: “Thou [Almighty God] hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.” Surely, this “vine” is the nation Israel. Read Isaiah 5:1-7, and especially note verse 7: “For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant: and he looked for judgment, but behold oppression; for righteousness, but behold a cry.” The vine tree is typical of Israel as a national entity. Of course, Israel corrupted herself with Satan worship (idols, false religion), so Jesus Christ said the nation Israel that God wanted must have a personal relationship with Him (Christ). Christ declared, “I am the true vine…. I am the vine, ye are the branches…” (John 15:1,5). Only Israel in the Lord will be accepted of God (Isaiah 45:17,21-25).
(*NOTE: Someone may inquire if it is “natural” for us to say “vine tree.” After all, is the vine really a tree? The title, although awkward to us, is appropriate because a vine has branches like a tree. Our King James Bible thrice uses the term “vine tree” [Numbers 6:4; Ezekiel 15:2,6]. We are thus not in error concerning the term. On the authority of Scripture, we can rightly call the vine a “tree.”)
In summary, we have four trees—fig tree, bramble tree, vine tree, and olive tree. What was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? There were many trees in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:9,16; Genesis 3:2,8) but the Scriptures outright name two of them. One is, of course, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:9,17). The other is “the tree of life” (Genesis 2:9; Genesis 3:22,24). Read Genesis 2:9 to recapitulate: “And out of the ground made the LORD God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
Using the process of elimination, the forbidden tree was not the fig tree, for the fig tree does not appear by name until after the Fall (when Adam and Eve covered their bare bodies). It was not the bramble tree either, since thorns and thistles were the result of the Fall (God’s curse on creation). Therefore, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was either the vine tree or the olive tree. If we keep studying Scripture, we can narrow it down even further—right down to one!
As we saw earlier, the olive tree was used to make the doors to the Most Holy place in Solomon’s Temple. Olive wood symbolizes access to God, spiritual life. This would therefore suggest—to this author anyway—that the tree of life was an olive tree. The tree of the knowledge of good and evil would have to be the remaining tree—the vine tree. If the tree of the knowledge of good and evil were a vine, then the forbidden fruit would have been (not an apple but) a… GRAPE!
SUPPLEMENTAL: THE “SERPENT-SEED” DOCTRINE
There is a rather absurd claim that sex with Satan was the “forbidden fruit.” If ever you have heard of prostitution as being “the world’s oldest profession,” you have heard an offshoot of this heresy. It is said that, in prohibiting Eve from eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, God was actually telling her (euphemistically), “Do not have sexual relations with Satan!” This is all borne out of a twisting of Eve’s words in Genesis 3:2-3.
“And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: 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.” True, Scripture can use the word “touch” to euphemistically indicate a sexual connection (see Genesis 20:6, Leviticus 15:19, Proverbs 6:29, 1 Corinthians 7:1, for example). However, it is downright preposterous to suggest God forbade Eve to commit a sexual act with Satan. By the same token, God would actually be telling Adam not to have sex with Satan either (Genesis 2:16-17)!
As a further nonsensical departure from the plain and simple truths of Scripture, such adherents say Cain was the result of the sexual act between Eve and Satan (1 John 3:12 being their proof text). This ridiculous idea is not worth our time, and it should be outright rejected as nothing but vain speculations of the natural man!