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Fruit and Trees, Symbolism of

god’s represented signifies apple

Similar to the *Flowers and Plants depicted in medieval art, fruit and trees may have specific symbolism (theological connotations or associations with particular holy figures), or they may be more abstract, even decorative, indications of the beauty and bounty of *God’s *Creation.


The trees and fruit growing so abundantly in the *Garden of Eden are unidentified apart from the *Tree of Life and the *Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Eating the forbidden fruit from the latter caused *Adam and Eve to be expelled from the garden. Although not so named in the Bible, this fruit is traditionally represented as an APPLE (perhaps because the Latin word for apple, malum , also means “evil”). When held by Adam or Eve, or in the mouth of a Page 97  serpent, the apple signifies sin, but in the hands of *Christ or the Virgin *Mary, the apple signifies salvation .


Sometimes, the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is represented as a FIG tree; Adam and Eve covered themselves with fig leaves (Genesis 3:7) and the many-seeded fig fruit may be a symbol both of lust and fertility. Multiseeded POMEGRANATES also symbolize fertility, as well as the Christian *souls safely contained in the community of the *church. The bright red seeds of the pomegranate may also symbolize blood (the sacrifice of Christ, blood of the martyrs).


OAKS, OLIVE, AND PALM trees all may have symbolic value. The sturdy OAK signifies strength, faith, and endurance (although it was also sacred to the Druids and hence may be shown cut down by Saint *Boniface). The OLIVE branch borne by a dove back to *Noah represents peace (signalling the end of God’s wrath displayed in the *Deluge), and olive branches may be carried by *Gabriel in scenes of the *Annunciation. PALM branches were thrown down in the road upon Christ’s *Entry into Jerusalem, and are carried by martyrs, symbolic of victory over *death (the latter an adaptation of the ancient classical use of palms in military victory processions). A palm tree sheltered and nourished the *Holy Family on their *Flight into Egypt, and clothing of palm fronds may be worn by desert *saints such as *Paul the Hermit and *Onuphrius.


The ALMOND symbolizes God’s favor (from the miraculous flowering rod of *Aaron indicating his chosen status in Numbers 17:1-8) and hence became a symbol of Mary, also favored by God. Almond-shaped body *haloes are known as mandorlas. Dark CYPRESS trees are associated with death and cemeteries, and in general, withered and barren trees signify sin, evil, and death, while healthy trees represent life and redemption.


GRAPES and *vines are among the most frequent and important symbols in early Christian and medieval art. Often used in the Old Testament as symbols of God’s relationship with the Israelites, the vine became the emblem of Christ who, in *John 15:1, referred to himself as the “true vine.” The infant Jesus may thus be depicted with a bunch of grapes, this also signifying the wine symbolic of Christ’s blood partaken at the *Last Supper. Figures or *angels harvesting grapes may symbolize the *Last Judgment as described in the *Apocalypse where a great winepress signifies God’s anger at injustice . The *Cross and Tree of Life may be represented as, or with, grape vines.


In addition to the theological interpretations above, trees and fruit are represented in medieval herbals founded upon such classical works of natural history as *Dioscurides’ De materica medica .

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4 months ago

"Although not so named in the Bible, this fruit is traditionally represented as an APPLE."

A visit to www.thefirstscandal.blogspot.com gives access to the forbidden fruit's identity. It was not an apple.