2023-2024 Events & Programs

Temptation Transformed: How the Forbidden Fruit Became an Apple


Date: Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Time: 07:00pm - 

Location: Douglass Student Center, Trayes Hall, 100 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Public Lecture

Temptation Transformed Book CoverThe University of Chicago PressPresented by Azzan Yadin-Israel, Professor of Jewish Studies and Classics, Rutgers University

Stained Glass ImageHow did the apple, unmentioned by the Bible, become the dominant symbol of temptation, sin, and the Fall? In his new book, Temptation Transformed, Professor Azzan Yadin-Israel takes the reader on a journey into the mystery behind why the forbidden fruit became an apple, upending an explanation that stood for centuries. He reveals that Eden’s fruit, once thought to be a fig or a grape, first appears as an apple in twelfth-century French art, and then traces this image back to its source in medieval storytelling. Though scholars often blame theologians for the apple, accounts of the Fall written in commonly spoken languages—French, German, and English—influenced a broader audience than cloistered Latin commentators. In his wide-ranging study of early Christian thought, Renaissance art, and medieval languages, Yadin-Israel shows that, over time, the words for “fruit” in these languages narrowed until an apple in the Garden became self-evident. He will share his discoveries at this lecture, offering an eye-opening revisionist history of a central religious icon.

azzan yadin israelAzzan Yadin-Israel is a professor of Jewish studies and classics at Rutgers University whose broad research interests are reflected in the six books he has published over the past ten years: A philological study of the earliest rabbinic commentary on the Book of Leviticus; a monograph on biblical and theological themes in the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen; three volumes of his Intuitive Vocabulary series (German, Spanish, and Ancient Greek); and his new book, Temptation Transformed: The Story of How the Forbidden Fruit Became an Apple (University of Chicago Press, 2022).


"If Genesis speaks only of the forbidden 'fruit,' how and when did that fruit become an apple? To answer, Yadin-Israel leads us from Genesis to the Song of Songs, through an iconographic survey worthy of Erwin Panofsky, into medieval languages, and even a brief history of apples in ancient and modern horticulture. This visual and literary masterpiece will serve as a methodological guide for future research, but its ultimate subject is nothing less than the pictorial representation of human sinfulness and the hope for redemption."
—James Kugel, author of 'The Bible as It Was'

Rutgers Today - February 16, 2023
Jewish Standard - February 16, 2023
New Jersey Jewish News - February 16, 2023
New Book Network, Podcast - February 20, 2023
The Wall Street Journal - February 24, 2023

Stained Glass Image: Anonymous, 12th century. France, Le Man, Cathedral of Saint Julien de Le Mans, Window 106.
Credit: Selbymay, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons