Ever since Eve grabbed it and bit into it, condemning all mankind to a life of suffering away from Heaven, the apple has become the forbidden fruit. In the Bible there is no clear reference to an apple, but only to a "fruit". But where does the story that we all know and that is represented in many ancient paintings come from?
This is explained in an interview by Assan Yadin-Israel, professor of literature and Jewish studies at Rutgers University School of Arts and Sciences in the USA.
According to him, the Book of Genesis never mentions the identity of the forbidden fruit.
"Early Jewish and Christian commentators put forward different hypotheses: the most popular were figs and grapes, but also pomegranates and citrons. Beginning in the seventeenth century, scholars began to hypothesize that the forbidden fruit was an apple. This belief derives from a homonym present in the Latin language, where "malum" meant "bad" and "apple", explains Assan Yadin.
However, this theory, Yadin-Izrael explains, is not supported by Latin sources: "I have read the works of all the major medieval Latin commentators on the book of Genesis, and virtually no one refers to this pun." Not to mention that in the late fourteenth century no commentator still identified the forbidden fruit with the apple, while there were references to figs and grapes.
Yadin-Israel notes that the apple began to appear in French paintings as early as the 12th century. Why? The answer refers to a linguistic rather than a historical question.
"Latin authors usually referred to the forbidden fruit as 'pomum', a term that means 'fruit' or the fruit of a tree," explains the expert.
In the first translations of Genesis into Old French, a language derived from Latin, the word "pom" (in modern French "pomme") was used to translate the Latin "pomum." While it is true that originally the meaning of "pom" in Old French was "fruit", over time it changed to "apple". Thus, instead of retaining the generic sense of "fruit," "pom" became "apple" in the story of Adam and Eve as well. And here, due to a linguistic evolution, the apple became for all the forbidden fruit bitten by Eve.