The type of fruit Adam and Eve ate

  • Question 120, from LLG, USA

    I have a question about the tree of knowledge? Was the tree an apple tree or a fig tree? I was told that Adam and Eve did not eat from an apple tree because an apple tree can not grow in the Middle East due to the climate, but that they ate from a fig tree instead. Also I was told that Adam and Eve came from Africa. Is any of this factual from a scientific viewpoint?

    The account of the ‘Fall’ in Genesis chapter 3 where Adam and Eve disobey God by eating from ‘the tree of knowledge of good and evil’ is probably best understood as being metaphorical. The type of tree (or fruit) isn’t referred to in the text.

    The idea that Adam and Eve ate an apple has certainly taken hold in popular Western thought. Possibly this can be traced to times of very low literacy, when most Christian stories were transmitted in pictorial form. Apples as a recognisable fruit appear in Christian art which survives from the dark ages, and have remained a contextual icon in art ever since.

    The location given for Eden in Genesis is firmly within the ‘fertile crescent’ of Mesopotamia (modern day Iraq and surrounding areas). Rivers such as the Tigris and Euphrates are mentioned as bordering it (Genesis chapter 2, verse 14). The existence of Mesopotamian names relating to Eden are some of the characteristics of the story which show its origins in Babylonian myths, which may then have been adapted by the authors of Genesis.

    If the ‘fruit’ Adam and Eve ate was more than just a literary construct, and Eden was located in Mesopotamia, then it would certainly be far more likely to be a fig, rather than an apple.

    As to the African origins of Adam and Eve, there have been claims amongst evolutionary scientists that the human race is descended from one original ‘prime ancestor’ in Africa. In an odd twist to the story, the matrilineal most recent common ancestor has been referred to as Mitochondrial Eve, with all mitochondrial DNA in human beings currently alive being derived from this one woman. In terms of its Biblical location, however, ‘Eden’ was not in Africa.

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