The Origin Of How ‘Apple’ Became Associated With Evil In Genesis

Many theologians simply don’t understand anything outside a rigid historicism.  Leo Strauss lambasted such a methodology in ‘Natural Right & History’.  I’ve never stopped being amazed at the lack of a broad liberal arts education grounding either Seminaries or institutes of theological study.  Most simply don’t demand the rigor of mastering ancient languages.  The original biblical texts are simply amazing to read in their original languages.  It’s really not hard to do, let me explain why.

Contemporary English language has about 500,000 words.  I know ’cause I’ve counted them!  Actually the preface to Webster’s Third International Dictionary reveals such.  Nevertheless, ancient languages have extremely limited vocabulary.  Ancient Hebrew has about 400 words, of which a reader would need to know about 250 to read the Hebrew bible in its original language; the Greek world had about a total of about 700 words, proficiency in about 350 would permit one to run through any ancient text.  Latin is similar in range to Greek.  Know the limited vocabulary and you’re proficient.

Just how did people come to confuse ‘apple’ as the fruit of the Tree of knowledge of good and evil?  The Latin word for evil is malum, the Latin word for apple is malum.  The latin Vulgate translation of Genesis used the word ‘malum’ for ‘apple’.  This is the origin of the association.

Just another point:  The names of the books of the bible is from the first noun in the first sentence: THAT’S THE NAME OF THE BOOK! The word ‘Genesis’ in Greek is translated into ‘In The Beginning’.  In Hebrew its ‘Bereshit’ (pronounced Bear-eh-sheeth).  Throughout the ancient world, if you could remember the first sentence of a manuscript you could find it in any library.  Also, manuscript culture provided a running commentary along the margins of a text giving detailed reference to any passage.  Sort of like very long running footnotes.


About William Holland

Systematic Theologian/International Relations
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