Forbidden fruit

Depiction of the original sin by Pieter Paul Rubens

Forbidden fruit is a phrase that originates from Genesis concerning Adam and Eve in Genesis 2:16–17. In the narrative, Adam and Eve ate the fruit of good and evil in the Garden of Eden, which they had been commanded not to do by God. As a metaphor, the phrase typically refers to any indulgence or pleasure that is considered illegal or immoral.

Identifying the fruit

The word fruit appears in Hebrew as פֶּ֫רִי (pərî). Potential forbidden fruits of the Garden of Eden include the apple, grape(Talmud), pomegranate,[1] the fig,[2] the carob,[1] the etrog or citron,[1] the pear, mushrooms, the quince and, more recently, the datura.[3] The pseudepigraphic Book of Enoch describes the tree of knowledge: "It was like a species of the Tamarind tree, bearing fruit which resembled grapes extremely fine; and its fragrance extended to a considerable distance. I exclaimed, How beautiful is this tree, and how delightful is its appearance!" (1 Enoch 31:4).

One alternative view is that the forbidden fruit is not a fruit at all, but a metaphorical one, possibly the fruit of the womb, i.e. sex and procreation from the tree of life. For example, in his Autobiography of a Yogi, the Hindu spiritual teacher Paramhansa Yogananda cites an interpretation by his master Swami Sri Yuktiswar that the Garden of Eden refers to man's body, with the fruit in the center being that of the sexual organs[4]

The Apple

In Western Europe, the fruit was often depicted as an apple, possibly because of a misunderstanding of, or a pun on mălum, a native Latin noun which means evil (from the adjective malus), and mālum, another Latin noun, borrowed from Greek μῆλον, which means apple. In the Vulgate, Genesis 2:17 describes the tree as de ligno autem scientiae boni et mali: "but of the tree (lit. wood) of knowledge of good and evil" (mali here is the genitive of malum). The larynx, specifically the laryngeal prominence that joins the thyroid cartilage, in the human throat is noticeably more prominent in males and was consequently called an Adam's apple, from a notion that it was caused by the forbidden fruit sticking in Adam's throat as he swallowed.


Rabbi Meir says that the fruit was a grape, made into wine.[5] The Zohar explains similarly that Noah attempted (but failed) to rectify the sin of Adam by using grape wine for holy purposes.[6][7] The midrash of Bereishit Rabah states that the fruit was grape,[8] or squeezed grapes (perhaps alluding to wine).[9]


Rabbi Nechemia says that the fruit was a fig, as it was from fig leaves that God made garments for Adam and Eve upon expelling them from the Garden. "By that with which they were made low were they rectified."[10] But the Bible says that it was Adam and Eve who had made their own fig leaf clothing: "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." (Genesis 3:7) And that God made "coats" (tunics?) of skins. (Genesis 3:21)

Since the fig is a long-standing symbol of female sexuality, it enjoyed a run as a favourite understudy to the apple as the forbidden fruit during the Italian Renaissance. The most famous depiction of the fig as the forbidden fruit was painted by Michelangelo Buonarroti in his masterpiece fresco on the Sistine Chapel ceiling.[3]

The fig tree is also a symbol of knowledge, good or evil. The question asked of Adam, may have been another way of saying, where did you get the knowledge that you were naked?


Proponents of the theory that the Garden of Eden was located somewhere in what is now known as the Middle East suggest that the fruit was actually a pomegranate,"as the pomegranate is native from Iran to the Himalayas in northern India and was cultivated and naturalized over the whole Mediterranean region since ancient times".[11] The association of the pomegranate with knowledge of the underworld as provided in the Ancient Greek legend of Persephone may also have given rise to an association with knowledge of the otherworld, tying in with knowledge that is forbidden to mortals.


Rabbi Yehuda proposes that the fruit was wheat, because "a baby does not know to call its mother and father until it tastes the taste of grain."[12]

In Hebrew, wheat is "khitah", which has been considered to be a pun on "khet", meaning "sin".[1]

Although commonly confused with a seed, in the study of botany a wheat berry is technically a simple fruit known as a caryopsis, which is homologous with an apple. Just as an apple is a fleshy fruit that contains seeds, a grain is a dry fruit that absorbs water and contains a seed. The confusion comes from the fact that the fruit of a grass happens to be morphologically similar to some seeds.[13]


A fresco in the 13th-century Plaincourault Abbey in France depicts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, flanking a Tree of Knowledge that has the appearance of a gigantic Amanita muscaria, a psychoactive mushroom.[14] Terence McKenna proposed that the forbidden fruit was a reference to psychotropic plants and fungi, specifically psilocybin mushrooms, which played a central role, he theorized, in the evolution of the human brain.[15] Earlier, in a well-documented and heavily-criticized[16][17] study, John M. Allegro proposed the mushroom as the forbidden fruit.[18]


In the Book of Enoch [19] chapt. 1, verse 69: "And the third was named Gadreeel: he it is that showed the children of men all the blows of death, and he led astray Eve, and showed [the weapons of death to the sons of men], the shield and the coat of mail, and the sword for battle, and all the weapons of death to the children of men. And from his hand they have proceeded against those who dwell on the earth from that day and for evermore." Therefore, the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil was flesh and the methods to acquire it.

Islamic tradition

According to the Quran, Surah Al-A'raf 7:19 describes Adam and his wife in Paradise where they may eat what is provided, except that they may not eat from one particular tree, should they be considered Zalimun.[20] Surah Ibrahim #.14:26 describes the forbidden tree as an evil tree that is forbidden for guidance.[21]

Surah Al-A'raf 7:22 describes the ˈibliːs who misled them with deception, and then it was Adam who initiated eating from the forbidden tree. Then when they tasted of the tree, that which was hidden from them of their shame became manifest to them and they began to cover themselves with the leaves of Paradise. And their Lord called out to them: "Did I not forbid you that tree and tell you; Verily, Shaitân is an open enemy unto you?" (Quran 7:19). The Quran holds both Adam and his wife accountable for eating the forbidden fruit. As punishment, they were forced to leave the garden, banished from Heaven and sent to the Earth where they were forgiven after repenting.

Ancient Greeks

The similarities of the story to the story of Pandora's box were identified by early Christians such as Tertullian, Origen, and Gregory of Nazianzus.[22]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 The Straight Dope: Was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden an apple?
  2. The Fig: its History, Culture, and Curing, Gustavus A. Eisen, Washington, Govt. print. off., 1901
  3. 1 2 High Art: Were Botticelli's Venus And Mars Stoned? : NPR
  4. "Autobiography of a Yogi, Chapter 16, Outwitting the Stars (Paramhansa Yogananda)".
  5. Berachot 40a; Sanhedrin 70a.
  6. Zohar Noah 73a
  7. The Zohar: The First Ever Unabridged English Translation, with Commentary; Rabbi Michael Berg, ed., Vol. 2, pp.388-390
  8. Bereishit Rabah 15:7
  9. Bereishit Rabah 19:5
  10. Berachos 40a; Sanhedrin 70a
  11. "POMEGRANATE Fruit Facts". Retrieved 2016-11-30.
  12. James D. Mauseth (2014). Botany. Jones & Bartlett Publishers. p. 223. ISBN 978-1-4496-4884-8. Perhaps the simplest of fruits are those of grasses (all cereals such as corn and wheat)...These fruits are caryopses.
  13. William Dudley Gray (1973). The Use of Fungi as Food and in Food Processing, Part 2. CRC Press. p. 182. ISBN 0-8493-0118-1.
  14. "Food Of The Gods (Terence McKenna) [FULL]". YouTube. 24 July 2011.
  15. "John Allegro, 65; Aided Deciphering of Dead Sea Scrolls", obit., NY Times
  16. John Marco Allegro: The Maverick of the Dead Sea Scrolls, by Judith Anne Brown, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company (1 March 2005), ISBN 978-0-8028-6333-1, pp. xii-xiii
  17. Allegro, John M. (1970). The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross: A study of the nature and origins of Christianity within the fertility cults of the ancient Near East. Garden City, New York: Doubleday., re-released in a new edition by Gnostic Media Research & Publishing in 2009
  18. Internet Innovations, Inc. "The Book of Enoch, Chapters 1-60".
  19. Quran 7:19; "And O Adam! Dwell you and your wife in Paradise, and eat thereof as you both wish, but approach not this tree otherwise you both will be of the Zâlimûn (unjust and wrong-doers)."
  20. Quran 14:26: "And the simlitude/parable (مۡثَالَ )of an evil word is that of an evil tree uprooted from the surface of earth having no stability."
  21. Charles W. Durham; Kristin A. Pruitt (eds.). "Reassembling Truth: Twenty-first-century Milton". p. 37.
  22. Dowling, Curtis F.; Morton, Julia Frances (1987). Fruits of warm climates. Miami, FL: J.F. Morton. ISBN 0-9610184-1-0. OCLC 16947184.
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