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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Jesus and the fig tree

This story in the bible has always amused me. Jesus is taking out his frustration on a tree that was not purposefully attempting to upset him. A tree cannot do any conscious acts of rebellion or defiance. It is hardly the fault of the tree that it was barren. If fact, if he is all knowing as it is claimed, then he should have already known before approaching the tree that it was bare of any figs. Since he was supposed to be all powerful, why not make the tree bare figs instantaneously as another miracle?

Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.
When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. "How did the fig tree wither so quickly?" they asked.
Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, 'Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and it will be done. If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer."
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." And his disciples heard him say it.
When evening came, they went out of the city.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!"
"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins."

Here is an article that attempts to explain the bizarre verse.

Why did Jesus curse the fig tree, when figs weren't in season?
Some light is shed on this passage by an article in Hard Sayings of the Bible by F. F. Bruce:
Was it not unreasonable to curse the tree for being fruitless when, as Mark expressly says, "it was not the season for figs"? The problem is most satisfactorily cleared up in a discussion called "The Barren Fig Tree" published many years ago by W. M. Christie, a Church of Scotland minister in Palestine under the British mandatory regime. He pointed out first the time of year at which the incident is said to have occurred (if, as is probable, Jesus was crucified on April 6th, A.D. 30, the incident occurred during the first days of April). "Now," wrote Christie, "the facts connected with the fig tree are these. Toward the end of March the leaves begin to appear, and in about a week the foliage coating is complete. Coincident with [this], and sometimes even before, there appears quite a crop of small knobs, not the real figs, but a kind of early forerunner. They grown to the size of green almonds, in which condition they are eaten by peasants and others when hungry. When they come to their own indefinite maturity they drop off." These precursors of the true fig are called taqsh  in Palestinian Arabic. Their appearance is a harbinger of the fully formed appearance of the true fig some six weeks later. So, as Mark says, the time for figs had not yet come. But if the leaves appear without any taqsh,  that is a sign that there will be no figs. Since Jesus found "nothing but leaves" - leaves without any taqsh- he knew that "it was an absolutely hopeless, fruitless fig tree" and said as much.

However, this is an absurd argument. If the tree was  "an absolutely hopeless, fruitless fig tree" and would never bare any fruit, there was no reason to curse it so that it would never bare any fruit. That would already be the destiny of that tree and the curse would not add anything to the situation. Keep in mind this part of the verse. " When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs". The story tells us that the reason for the tree having no figs was that it was the wrong season. Therefore, to try and claim that Jesus was only cursing the tree since it would never bare fruit is to disregard the test. 


  1. Jeff,

    Looks like your gonads are sharper than your mind (referring to your post here). Quite unfortunate status quo you are dealing with. No wonder you post such old canards refuted by theology 101 students ages ago but then again maybe there were not so uncomfortable as you are... :)

  2. Stating that something is refuted is not the same as actually refuting it. If you want to argue the issue, then feel free to present one.

  3. No, I see no point of arguing the issue that has been argued over hundreds of years ago and effectively solved back then also by rebuking your rehashed assertions. Issue that I worked through like 8 years ago or so... and I have moved on since. I would suggest you educate your self by reading at the very minimum these compendiums:

    "New International Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties" by Gleason.


    "Hard Sayings of the Bible" by Kaiser, Davids, Bruce and Brauch.

    It would save you a lot of time all that gain for about 35 dollars all together....

    Now I must end Jeffo for it looks like I have created extraordinary amount of traffic to your blog. Read those and perhaps then this will be more frequent occurrence :)

    1. As I already mentioned, simply stating that something has been refuted is not actually refuting it. I know you will never actually engage me on the issue, but it is amusing that you think you are posting something relevant.

  4. Gentlemen: There are sects out there that contest every word of biblical meaning everyday. It is a "living" document evidently for them and they just go at it full swing. Just go to any Reformed Bookstore in your area and peruse the shelves. My recommendation with this passage is just to cut out the part that indicates the fig crop is out of season and you will get the point of what Jesus is trying to teach, for heavens sakes. Any academic can make a mistake like that. It is high time for that fact to be broadcast far and wide, because it has caused untold misery, not to mention dollars to do the studies.

  5. Jeff you are just trying to impute human life to a fig tree. Where do you draw the line? : )

    I hope you take me seriously and go to The Cornwall Alliance for the Steward of Creation
    and read and sign the petition! This is perfect for you. You love the Earth.

  6. I am not trying to input human life to a fig tree. I am stating an all knowing god would be aware that a tree was not able to produce figs.