Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Spectrum SS Commentary "Week of Destiny"

Did you ever wonder how myths and traditions get into the church. Here is an example from Spectrum Online Sabbath School Commentary. Week of Destiny By Ron E. M. Clouzet :

“Then came the following morning. With the loss of Jerusalem in mind, Christ mournfully made his way from Bethany to the temple again until he saw fig trees ahead. Hoping to get fed, he aimed for the only tree with leaves—clear evidence among fig trees that fruit must be already be available. To his surprise, there was nothing but leaves. Then, stepping back, he thought about the events that just transpired, looked up to the tree once again, and exclaimed, "May you never bear fruit again!" (Matt. 21:19 NIV). Jerusalem’s leadership provided high expectations but never delivered. And no one would get anything from them again.”

Now first of all most of us have seen fruit trees and we know that fruit does not appear before the leaves, that the fruit will not be ready at the time the leaves appear either. Flowers often appear before the leaves but in no fruit tree does the fruit ripen with the appearance of the first leaves of spring. It is true that Fig trees often produce a Breba crop in the early season as the Purdue Horticulture department fact sheet on figs says:
“Fig trees usually bear 2 crops a year, the early season ("breba") fruits being inferior and frequently too acid, and only those of the second, or main, crop of actual value.” Of course if there was winter damage it would not have a breba crop.

But for some reason this idea that a fig tree that has leaves is a sure sign that it should have fruit however absurd is repeated throughout the SDA church. I have recently heard it several times this year.

But most importantly for the Christian is that in the story which is only mentioned in Matthew and Mark it clearly says that it was not the season for figs!
Mark 11:13 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. (NIV)

The fig tree cursing is an interesting topic but cannot be really discussed when completely inaccurate observations are inserted into the story. A more reliable discussion of the incident is examined in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary where it says:

“12-13 This is one of the most difficult stories in the Gospels. It is not found in Luke. (Did he too have problems with it and omit it, or was it unknown to him?) Many modern commentators would just as soon it were not here at all. Rawlinson (p. 154) says that it "approximates more closely than any other episode in Mk to the type of `unreasonable' miracle characteristic of the non-canonical Gospel literature." Hunter (p. 110) comments: "With our knowledge of Jesus from other sources, we find it frankly incredible that he could have used his power to wither a fig tree because it did not yield figs two or three months before its natural time of fruitage." While rejecting the historicity of this account, Hunter finds the kernel of history in this story in the parable of the barren fig tree found in Luke 13:6-9. What was originally a parable has been changed into a factual story. Though admittedly difficult, the incident is not impossible. An important consideration is the position it occupies. It is one of Mark's interrupted accounts, in the middle of which stands the record of the cleansing of the temple. This is the clue to its meaning. Like the cleansing of the temple, the story of the unfruitful fig tree has to do with judgment.
The incident occurred on the way to Jerusalem from Bethany (v. 12), where Jesus had spent the night. He was hungry; and, noticing a fig tree, he went to see whether it had any figs on it (v. 13). Fig trees around Jerusalem usually leaf out in March or April, but they do not produce figs till June. This tree was no exception. It was in full leaf; but, as Mark tells his readers, there were no figs on it "because it was not the season for figs." It is this phrase that makes the story such a problem. Grant (p. 828) says Mark's explanation "only increases the problem, as it reflects on the good sense of Jesus." An easy solution is to consider the phrase a scribal gloss. But that will not do, because there is no textual evidence to support it. Also there is the fact that explanatory notes are a feature of Mark's style (cf. 1:16; 5:42; 7:3-4, 19, 13:14). It seems best to consider the phrase Mark's own insertion to explain to people not familiar with the characteristics of a fig tree why one fully leafed out would not have fruit on it.”

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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