Concerning many Historical Tenents generally received, and some deduced from the history of holy Scripture.

Chap. I.

Of the Forbidden Fruit.

THAT the Forbidden Fruit of Paradise was an Apple, is commonly believed, confirmed by Tradition, perpetuated by Writings, Verses, Pictures; and some have been so bad Prosodians, as from thence to derive the Latine word malum, because that fruit was the first occasion of evil; wherein notwithstanding determinations are presumptuous, and many I perceive are of another belief. For some have conceived it a Vine; in the mystery of whose fruit lay the expiation of the Transgression:[1] Goropius Becanus reviving the conceit of Barcephas, peremptorily concludeth it to be the Indian Fig-tree; and by a witty Allegory labours to confirm the same. Again, some fruits pass under the name of Adams apples, which in common acception admit not that appellation; the one described by Mathiolus under the name of Pomum Adami, a very fair fruit, and not unlike a Citron, but somewhat rougher, chopt and cranied, vulgarly conceived the marks of Adams teeth.[2] Another, the fruit of that plant which Serapion termeth Musa, but the Eastern Christians commonly the Apples of Paradise; not resembling an apple in figure, and in taste a Melon or Cowcumber. Which fruits although they have received appellations suitable unto the tradition, yet can we not from thence infer they were this fruit in question: No more then Arbor vitæ, so commonly called, to obtain its name from the tree of life in Paradise, or arbor Iudæ, to be the same which supplied the gibbet unto Judas.

Again, There is no determination in the Text; wherein is only particulared that it was the fruit of a tree good for food, and pleasant unto the eye, in which regards many excell the Apple; and therefore learned men do wisely conceive it inexplicable; and Philo puts determination unto despair, when he affirmeth the same kind of fruit was never produced since. Surely were it not requisite to have been concealed, it had not passed unspecified; nor the tree revealed which concealed their nakedness, and that concealed which revealed it; for in the same chapter mention is made of fig-leaves. And the like particulars, although they seem uncircumstantial, are oft set down in holy Scripture; so is it specified that Elias sat under a juniper tree, Absolon hanged by an Oak, and Zacheus got up into a Sycomore.

And although to condemn such Indeterminables unto him that demanded on what hand Venus was wounded, the Philosopher thought it a sufficient resolution to re-inquire upon what leg King Philip halted; and the Jews not undoubtedly resolved of the Sciatica-side of Jacob,3 do catelously4 in their diet abstain from the sinews of both:[5] yet are there many nice particulars which may be authentically determined. That Peter cut off the right ear of Malchus, is beyond all doubt. That our Saviour eat the Passover in an upper room, we may determine from the Text.[6] And some we may concede which the Scripture plainly defines not. That the Dyal of Ahaz was placed upon the West side of the Temple, we will not deny, or contradict the description of Adricomius.[7]That Abrahams servant put his hand under his right thigh,[8] we shall not question; and that the Thief on the right hand was saved, and the other on the left reprobated, to make good the Method of the last judicial dismission, we are ready to admit. But surely in vain we enquire of what wood was Moses rod, or the tree that sweetned the waters. Or though tradition or humane History might afford some light, whether the Crown of thorns was made of Paliurus;[9] Whether the cross of Christ were made of those four woods in the Distick of Durantes,10 or only of Oak, according unto Lipsius and Goropius, we labour not to determine. For though hereof prudent Symbols and pious Allegories be made by wiser Conceivers; yet common heads will flie unto superstitious applications, and hardly avoid miraculous or magical expectations.

Now the ground or reason that occasioned this expression by an Apple, might be the community of this fruit, and which is often taken for any other. So the Goddess of Gardens is termed Pomona; so the Proverb expresseth it to give Apples unto Alcinous; so the fruit which Paris decided was called an Apple; so in the garden of Hesperides (which many conceive a fiction drawn from Paradise) we read of golden Apples guarded by the Dragon. And to speak strictly in this appellation, they placed it more safely then any other; for beside the great variety of Apples, the word in Greek[11] comprehendeth Orenges, Lemmons, Citrons, Quinces; and as Ruellius defineth,12 such fruits as have no stone within, and a soft covering without; excepting the Pomegranate. And will extend much farther in the acception of Spigelius,13 who comprehendeth all round fruits under the names of apples, not excluding Nuts and Plumbs.

It hath been promoted in some constructions from a passage in the Canticles,14 as it runnes in the vulgar translation, Sub arbore malo suscitavi te, ibi corrupta est mater tua, ibi violata est genetrix tua; Which words notwithstanding parabolically intended, admit no literal inference, and are of little force in our translation, I raised thee under an Apple-tree, there thy mother brought thee forth, there she brought thee forth that bare thee. So when from a basket of summer fruits or Apples, as the vulgar rendreth them, God by Amos foretold the destruction of his people;[15] we cannot say they had any reference unto the fruit of Paradise, which was the destruction of man; but thereby was declared the propinquity of their desolation, and that their tranquility was of no longer duration then those horary and soon decaying fruits of Summer.16 Nor when it is said in the same translation, Poma desiderii animæ tuæ discesserunt à te, the apples that thy soul lusted after are departed from thee,[17] is there any allusion therein unto the fruit of Paradise. But thereby is threatned unto Babylon, that the pleasures and delights of their Palate should forsake them. And we read in Pierius, that an Apple was the Hieroglyphick of Love, and that the Statua of Venus was made with one in her hand. So the little Cupids in the figures of Philostratus18 do play with apples in a garden; and there want not some who have symbolized the Apple of Paradise unto such constructions.

Since therefore after this fruit, curiosity fruitlessly enquireth, and confidence blindly determineth, we shall surcease our Inquisition; rather troubled that it was tasted, then troubling our selves in its decision; this only we observe, when things are left uncertain, men will assure them by determination. Which is not only verified concerning the fruit, but the Serpent that perswaded; many defining the kind or species thereof. So Bonaventure and Comestor affirm it was a Dragon, Eugubinus a Basilisk, Delrio a Viper, and others a common snake. Wherein men still continue the delusion of the Serpent, who having deceived Eve in the main, sets her posterity on work to mistake in the circumstance, and endeavours to propagate errors at any hand. And those he surely most desireth which concern either God or himself; for they dishonour God who is absolute truth and goodness; but for himself, who is extreamly evil, and the worst we can conceive, by aberration of conceit they may extenuate his depravity, and ascribe some goodnesse unto him.[19]


* [My or others' notes are in square brackets]; Browne's marginalia is unmarked; {passages or notes from unpublished material by Browne is in curly braces}.

1 [Jeff. in Wilkin: By the fatal influence of whose fruit the nakedness both of Adam and of Noah were exposed. See the Targum of Jonathan.]

2 [Wilkin: The fruit shops of London exhibit a large kind of citron labelled Forbidden Fruit, respecting which, and the Pomum Adami of Matthiolus, I have the following obliging and satisfactory notice from my friend Professor Lindley: — "The forbidden fruit of the London markets is a variety of the Citrus Decumana, and is in fact a small sort of shaddock {a shaddock is a large pear-shaped grapefruit}. But as to the Pomum Adami, no one can make out exactly what it was. The common Italian Pomo d'Adamo is a variety of Citrus Limetta; that of Paris is a thick-skinned orange; and at least three other things have been so called. I do not think it possible to ascertain what Matthiolus meant, beyond the fact that it was a Citrus of some kind."]

3 Iacobs Sciatica, see Gen. 32.25, 31, 32.

4 [Cautelously: here, warily, cautiously; literally "full of cautels", deceitfully, artfully. 1672 has "cauteously".]

5 [Wren, exhibiting his usual demeanor in regard to anything Jewish: "And this superstition befooles them alike in both."]

6 [Viz. Mark 14:15: "And he will shew you a large upper room furnished [and] prepared: there make ready for us"; Luke 22:12: "And he shall shew you a large upper room furnished: there make ready."]

7 [2 Kings 20:11; Isaiah 38:8. See also V.xviii and Chomer on the Dial of Achaz.]

8 [Gen. 24:2: "And Abraham said unto his eldest servant of his house, that ruled over all that he had, Put, I pray thee, thy hand under my thigh"]

9 [Paliurus aculeatus, Christ's thorn, a thorny shrub.]

10 Per cedrus est, truncus cupressus, oliva supremum,
palmaque transversum Christi sunt in cruce lignum.

11 [Wren: Not only in Greeke but in Latin also, all these are cald by the very name of apple trees as Malus Aurantia, Citria, Cydonia, Granata.]

12 Ruel. de stirpium natura.

13 Isagoge in rem Herbarium.

14 Cant. 8

15 [Amos 8: "[1] Thus hath the Lord God shewed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. [2] And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more."]

16 Fructus horæi.

17 [Rev. 18:14]

18 Philostrat. figu. 6 De amoribus.

19 [As Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden in order to keep them away from the other tree (the tree of Life; see Gen. 3:22-24), it seems likely that there was only one of each, that they remain in Eden, and that therefore the fruit of neither tree is available here on the outside, except perhaps in New York City, of course.]

This page is dedicated to the memory of Boo the Cat.

Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional