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- Exploring Religious Options
"An Apple a Day"
I remember being told since I was child, "An apple a day will keep the doctor away." Now, I don't know if I truly believed that or not, but I loved apples. I had no problem eating an apple, sometimes two a day. I can remember coming home from school and having my mother peel an apple and cut it into small pieces for me. Other times, I might eat it sliced or whole.
Apples are not only nutritional, but they are also good! Apples are also symbolic. In fact, they are a part of a lot of religious traditions. The Bible is full of references to "apples". These references are sometimes literal, but mostly metaphorical. Apples are found in many fables, folktales and mythology. They were often seen as being a mythical and forbidden fruit.
In the story of Adam and Eve the "forbidden fruit" is often interpreted as an apple. Although, the fruit is never identified this has become a part of the Christian tradition. I find it interesting that the words "apple" and "evil" are closely identical in Latin and this may have been why the apple may have been interpreted as the "forbidden fruit" the Vulgate (the Latin translation of the Bible).
Legend has it that when Adam took a bite of the "apple" it became stuck in his throat causing a bulge. This, of course, became known as the "Adam's apple".
The Spanish artist, Francisco de Zurbaran depicted the Christ child holding an apple in many of his paintings. This was to suggest the idea of redemption. As Paul taught in I Corinthians 15, through the first Adam came sin and death, through the second Adam (Jesus) came redemption and life.
Whatever you see as the "forbidden fruit" the story is meant to teach us something about the human condition and nature. I personally like the Gnostic interpretation of the story of Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden found in The Testimony of Truth,"which was a part of the Nag Hammadi Library discovered in Egypt in 1945. The story of the Garden of Eden is from the viewpoint of the serpent. In Gnosticism the god of this realm, which is the say the physical or material realm is considered evil. This god is not the true God - creator of the spiritual realm. Therefore, god's instruction to Adam and Eve to not partake of the tree of knowledge was an attempt to deny humanity true gnosis or knoweldge. The serpent is seen not as a villain in this interpretation but as a hero. After all, the serpent granted them knowledge. The "apple" therefore opened their eyes and their minds to truth and knowledge.
Maybe there is more to this interpretation then we realize. In fact, there is a lot of new scientific evidence out now that suggest that "an apple of day, may keep the doctor away." Apples are loaded with nutrients that offer many health benefits. And they are considered brain food and may even combat against Alzheimer's. Perhaps the apple does open our minds and gives us knowledge.
I have eight tattoos, and one of my favorites is the one that I have on my right forearm of an apple. The apple has a bite taken out of it in the shape of a heart. I also have the words "love" and "grace" written around around the apple in Greek. This tattoo reminds me of my grandmother. My grandmother loved apples too. After she had developed Alzheimer's she would often have dinner with us at my parents' house. Once, while she was sitting at the table, thinking no one was looking, she grabbed an artificial apple from the centerpiece on the table, thinking it was real, and bit into it. Of course, it didn't take her long to realize that it was artificial and she quickly put it back. I still have the artificial apple sitting on my desk in my office and sure enough it bears the teeth marks of my grandmother.
My apple tattoo reminds me of my grandmother. She taught me to a lot about family and faith. It also speaks of my hunger for truth and knowledge, and my faith in a God of love and grace - not one who limits us or sets boundaries, but the God who gives us freedom and wisdom.
For me, the apple isn't literal, nor is the story of Adam and Eve, and the Garden of Eden. These are just allegories that speak of the human condition and, more importantly, our hunger for truth and knowledge.
I love the scene from the movie Phenomenon when George, a terminally ill man played by John Travolta, uses an apple as a metaphor to express his wishes to leave those around him his love and wisdom. He tells Al and Glory, "If we were to put this apple down, it would spoiled and be gone in a few days, but if we were to take a bit of it like this then it would become a part of us and we could take it with us forever." He finally tells Al, "Everything is on its way to somewhere - everything!"
Let's take a bite and seek truth and knowledge; enjoy the friendship and companionship of others; share love in word and deed. As we make our journey, let's enjoy some apples along the way.
“It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man.” - Henry David Thoreau