How Adam and Eve Ended Up Eating an Apple

The Talmud lists three contradictory opinions about the identity of the unnamed fruit eaten by Adam and Eve in Garden of Eden: that it was a fig, a grape, or a kernel of wheat; Moses Naḥmanides, meanwhile, contends that it was a citron. But in the West, for centuries, it has been understood to be an apple. In Temptation Transformed, Azzan Yadin-Israel seeks to determine how this came to be so, debunking some widely held explanations in the process. Philip Getz writes in his review:

In 12th-century France, apples began showing up in Christian depictions of “the Fall of Man,” everywhere from the Cathedral of Notre Dame to illuminated Bibles and psalm books. These red and gold apples supplanted the previous identification of grapes and figs as the forbidden fruit with which the serpent tempted Eve and Eve tempted Adam.

Yadin-Israel is not the first to discuss this erroneous identification of the forbidden fruit with the apple. In 1646, Sir Thomas Browne published a book called Pseudodoxia Epidemica: or, Enquiries into Very Many Received Tenets and Commonly Presumed Truths, also known by the simpler title Vulgar Errors, which is what it cataloged. Book 7 concerned biblical misconceptions, first among them being that the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge was an apple. Browne suggested that some authorities had identified that as the forbidden fruit because in Latin the word malum means both “bad” and “apple.”

This neat explanation was taken up by modern scholars, including the distinguished 20th-century German Lutheran scholar Gerhard von Rad and, more recently, Ziony Zevit in a widely read book called What Really Happened in the Garden of Eden? Whatever did happen in the Garden of Eden, Yadin-Israel demonstrates that this linguistic misunderstanding never occurred, no matter how plausible it sounds. It turns out that the word malum so rarely appears in Latin translations of Genesis that this explanation is certainly false. In fact, the word was specifically avoided precisely because of its malevolent resonance.

Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Art history, Garden of Eden, Hebrew Bible, Talmud


Universities Are in Thrall to a Constituency That Sees Israel as an Affront to Its Identity

Commenting on the hearings of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday about anti-Semitism on college campuses, and the dismaying testimony of three university presidents, Jonah Goldberg writes:

If some retrograde poltroon called for lynching black people or, heck, if they simply used the wrong adjective to describe black people, the all-seeing panopticon would spot it and deploy whatever resources were required to deal with the problem. If the spark of intolerance flickered even for a moment and offended the transgendered, the Muslim, the neurodivergent, or whomever, the fire-suppression systems would rain down the retardant foams of justice and enlightenment. But calls for liquidating the Jews? Those reside outside the sensory spectrum of the system.

It’s ironic that the term colorblind is “problematic” for these institutions such that the monitoring systems will spot any hint of it, in or out of the classroom (or admissions!). But actual intolerance for Jews is lathered with a kind of stealth paint that renders the same systems Jew-blind.

I can understand the predicament. The receptors on the Islamophobia sensors have been set to 11 for so long, a constituency has built up around it. This constituency—which is multi-ethnic, non-denominational, and well entrenched among students, administrators, and faculty alike—sees Israel and the non-Israeli Jews who tolerate its existence as an affront to their worldview and Muslim “identity.” . . . Blaming the Jews for all manner of evils, including the shortcomings of the people who scapegoat Jews, is protected because, at minimum, it’s a “personal truth,” and for some just the plain truth. But taking offense at such things is evidence of a mulish inability to understand the “context.”

Shocking as all that is, Goldberg goes on to argue, the anti-Semitism is merely a “symptom” of the insidious ideology that has taken over much of the universities as well as an important segment of the hard left. And Jews make the easiest targets.

Read more at Dispatch

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus, University