This is an excerpt from Jewish homiletical commentary called Midrash Rabbah. This compilation is a few centuries older then the NT and בְּרֵאשִׁית רַבָּה (Bereshit Rabbah) in particular was penned by the sages during the Talmudic period 4th-5th centuries CE. Yet its contents are often much more ancient. Midrash stories were a part of Jewish oral lore and often preserve traditions that go to many centuries before Jesus. Consider this teaching in light of Adam and Eve story you know. What species was the tree of knowledge?
“AND THE TREE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL”. What was the tree whereof Adam and Eve ate? R. Meir said: It was wheat, for when a person lacks knowledge people say, ‘That man has never eaten the bread of wheat’. R. Samuel b. Isaac asked R. Ze’ira: Is it possible that it was wheat? Yes, replied he. ‘But surely TREE is written?’ he argued. ‘It grew lofty like the cedars of Lebanon replied he. R Jacob b. Aha said: R. Nehemia and the Rabbis are in conflict. R. Nehemiah said: [The benediction for bread is: ‘Blessed art You…] who brings forth (ha- mozi) bread from the earth because He brought it forth in the past. The Rabbis maintain: [The benediction is:…] brings forth (mozi), because He will bring it forth in the future, as it is written, There shall be a handful of corn (pisath bar) in the land (Ps. 72:16)…
R. Jose said: They were figs. He learns the obscure from the explicit, and [the meaning of] a statement from its context, thus: This may be compared to a royal prince who sinned with a slave girl, and the king on learning of it expelled him from court. He went from door to door of the slaves, but they would not receive him; but she who had sinned with him opened her door and received him. So when Adam ate of that tree, He expelled him and cast him out of the garden of Eden; and he appealed to all the trees but they would not receive him. What did they say to him? Said R. Berekiah: ‘ Behold, a deceiver who deceived his Creator, who deceived his Master! as it is written, Let not the foot of presumption come unto me (Ps. 36:12), which means, the foot that presumed against its Creator; And let not the hand of the wicked shake me i.e. let it not take a leaf from me.
But because he had eaten of its fruit, the fig-tree opened its doors and received him, as it is written, And they sewed fig-leaves together, etc. (Gen. 3: 7). Of what species was that fig-tree? R. Abin said: It was the ‘berath sheva’, so-called because it brought seven (shiv’a) days of mourning into the world. R. Joshua of Siknin said in R. Levi’s name: It was the ‘berath ali’, because it brought lamentation and weeping into the world. (Genesis Midrash Rabbah 15:7)
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