Ok, maybe there was an apple tree in Eden, but we don’t know for sure. The apple isn’t mentioned in Genesis. The fruit that was used to tempt Eve and Adam was from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I never ate an apple that wised me up or messed me up that much.
How the Apple Got a Bad Rap
So, how did the apple get the bad rap, and the good publicity, since all publicity is good, as we know from following the daily scandals of Hollywood celebrities? Well, gentle reader, it is all about cultural cross pollination, and the conflating of ancient Hebrew and Greek myths in the popular culture.
The Bad Apple – A Greek Gift
“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts.” Especially beware of Greek goddesses. The Trojan horse, that famous gift of the Greeks to the Trojans, brought down the mighty city of Troy. But the story of the Trojan War began with another gift, from Eris, the Greek goddess of discord and wedding crasher. What was the gift? It was a golden apple. In Greek mythology golden apples are associated with a garden, the Garden of the Hesperides.
The Golden Apple of Discord – A Greek Fruit Grafted onto a Hebrew Tree
How did the apple get from the Garden of the Hesperides to the Garden of Eden? It, like all other commodities, was transported by travelling merchants, who carry stories as well as commercial goods from place to place.
Like the spiteful fairy in the story of Sleeping Beauty, Eris was not invited to a big party, and she got peeved. So peeved she crashed the party, and lobbed the apple, inscribed “To the most beautiful,” into the middle of a wedding reception, a reception attended by more than one beautiful goddess.
Eris wasn’t the goddess of discord for no reason. She knew how to start a fight. I suspect some adolescent school girls still worship at her altar. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite all claimed the apple. Zeus, in an effort to settle the dispute, selected the handsome mortal, Paris of Troy, to judge their case. Zeus, the top Greek god, was not fool enough to put himself in the middle of three fueding goddesses, one of whom, Hera, was his wife, and another, Athena, his daughter. Paris was handsome, but apparently not too bright, and accepted the assignment.
Man Bites Off More of the Apple Than He Can Chew
Paris awarded the apple to Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty, who bribed him, another Greek gift, with the promise that the world’s most beautiful woman would be his. That woman, Helen, just happened to be married to the king of Sparta, the most warlike Greek city. Undeterred, the very handsome,but not very bright, Paris seduced Helen and carried her off to Troy. War ensued.
We get the Greek picture. Zeus is on Olympus Below, a goddess tempts another goddess with a piece of fruit, a dumb guy makes a dumb decision, party is over. All hell, the Trojan War, breaks loose.
Did I mention that the serpent in the Hebrew Garden of Eden was often, in the past, depicted as a female serpent?
We get the Hebrew picture. God is in heaven. In Eden a female serpent tempts a woman, Eve, with a piece of fruit, and dumb Adam bites off more than he can chew. Next thing, the children are killing each other. Does this sound familiar?
See how the fruit of the tree in the Garden of Eden might get conflated with the apple of discord from the Garden of the Hesperides? So ends our lesson for today in Scripture, the Classics, and Comparative Anthropology.