From Augustine onward this ancient story got whipped up into dogmas of total depravity and inheritable collective guilt which was only expiated by Jesus Christ. Thus, Madonna with a baby Jesus is often depicted with a humble apple tree in the background and sometimes even with a baby Jesus holding an apple in his little hands and not biting! (Of course not; babies don’t have teeth!) Thus from both ends of this Christian dogma, apple is the fruit of depravity and sin.
Here I don’t want to discuss whether this dogma misunderstood and twisted beyond recognition an ancient Hebrew story, or to what extent it is an appropriate description of our fallen human nature. Today I want to defend the poor apple, its tree and its biblical reputation.
Nowhere in the Bible is the forbidden fruit associated with any apple. The biblical tree in the garden and its fruit is never named. That false association appeared in medieval times when some sloppy linguists made a connection between Latin MĀLUM (a long A) which means "an apple" and MALUM (a short A) which means "an evil, a wrong". It is only a quirk of Latin language, linguistic ignorance and the fact that Latin almost never records the length of vowels. Apple has nothing to do with evil, forbidden fruit or original sin.
On the contrary, apple in the Bible carries a much brighter meaning. The Hebrew word for an apple - TAPUAH, is derived from the word for "a fragrance" and from as essential an aspect of life as "the breath". This Sunday we will celebrate Mothers’ Day with the Song of Songs and we will also note this forgotten connection of apple tree and gift of life.
And for those who are curious, the word "melon" is also derived from the same Indo-Arian root for apple/fruit just like, for instance, the word for "marmalade".