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Contrary to popular belief no mention of the fruit being an apple can be found in the Book of Genesis.

Jewish commentaries recorded in the Midrash Rabbah speculate that the tree might have been a species of wheat, or corn, or that the fruit might have been grapes or figs.

And yet, the idea that it was an apple is widely accepted.

Was it due to Classical influences (The golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides)?
Is it a legacy from the Latin 'malum' (apple/evil)?
Or is there another reason?

Are there any other theories that have been put forward as to what the fruit might have been?

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'Apple' used to just mean fruit (which is where the name of 'pineapples' comes from... pinecone shaped fruit), so maybe the idea came from the time when the word wasn't specific? –  curiousdannii Mar 25 at 21:48
I don't have time to do this myself now, but someone should check when the word first meant the specific fruit and compare that time to English Bible translations. –  curiousdannii Mar 25 at 22:00
I remember a sermon from Fulton Sheen where he mentioned that the reason was the similarity between the Latin words as you mentioned. –  LoveTheFaith Mar 25 at 22:36
I remember reading somewhere that golden apples of Hesperides were actually oranges, so maybe this story also suffers from the ambiguity of the English word apple. –  david brainerd Mar 26 at 2:27

1 Answer 1

According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word apple has, until recently, always meant simply "fruit" in English. This was certainly the case at the time of the earliest English Bible translations in the 1600s.

In Middle English and as late as 17c., it was a generic term for all fruit other than berries but including nuts (e.g. Old English fingeræppla "dates," literally "finger-apples;" Middle English appel of paradis "banana," c.1400). Hence its grafting onto the unnamed "fruit of the forbidden tree" in Genesis.

(emphasis added)

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