Which Tree Was It?
Why is the Adam’s Apple called the “Adam’s Apple”? Many people surmise, not without some justification, that the term is a reference to a piece of fruit stuck in Adam’s throat. Although apples may be one of the most common fruits, the Hebrew word used in the Torah for the food that Eve offered Adam is “pree.” Pree is a generic term for fruit, whereas an apple is specifically a tapuach.
While artists have frequently used their brilliant imaginations to try to depict the landscape of the Garden of Eden, no one really knows what the garden looked like nor exactly what type of fruit grew on the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. In fact, the different opinions of what type of fruit it might have been are recorded both in the Talmud (Brachot 40a) and in the Midrash (Genesis Rabbah 15:7).
Rabbi Nechemia and Rabbi Jose are both of the opinion that the Tree of Knowledge was a fig tree. Their reasoning, as stated by Rabbi Nechemia, is the same: “They (Adam and Eve) repaired their misdeed with the instrument of it [the sin], as it says (Genesis 3:7), ‘And they sewed fig leaves together’” (Brachot) to cover their nakedness.
Rabbi Abba of Acco believed that the pree referred to was the etrog (citron). “Consider: Go forth and see, what tree is it whose wood can be eaten just like its fruit, and you find none but the etrog” (Genesis Rabbah).
According to the Talmud, Rabbi Meir* defines the Tree of Knowledge as the vine, meaning the grape, noting “since the thing that most causes wailing to a man is wine” (Brachot).
According to Genesis Rabbah, Rabbi Meir** suggested wheat, “for when a person lacks knowledge, people say, ‘that man has never eaten bread of wheat’” (Genesis Rabbah). To explain how wheat could be mistaken for a tree, the Midrash notes that the wheat of the Tree of Knowledge “grew lofty like the cedars of Lebanon.”
Thus, according the Jewish tradition, the fruit of the forbidden tree was a fig, an etrog, some grapes, or, perhaps, wheat…but not an apple.
*According to the Midrash, grapes was the opinion of Rabbi Judah ben Illai.
**The Talmud credits the idea of wheat to Rabbi Judah.