Withered Fig Tree

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What was the cursing of the fig tree all about?

Matt. 21:18-20; Mark 11:12-14, 20-21

(Huck 199, 201; Aland 272, 275; Crook 308, 310)[1]



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The Withered Fig Tree story was composed by the author of Mark. The origin of the story appears to lie in the author of Mark’s strange interpretation of the Fig Tree parable in Jesus’ prophecy of destruction and redemption as describing an eschatological sign. When a particular fig tree’s branches grow tender and put forth leaves, the Son of Man’s coming will be at hand. The Withered Fig Tree identifies which fig tree will supply this sign and explains how the poor fig tree’s fate became intertwined with that of the city and Temple that were doomed to destruction, but would one day be delivered when the Son of Man returned in glory. The author of Matthew took over Withered Fig Tree from Mark, but condensed it into a single episode. In the Gospel of Matthew the Withered Fig Tree symbolized the doom that hung over Jerusalem, the Temple and the Jewish people, but there is no indication that the author of Matthew believed that the unfortunate fig tree would one day be revived, thereby providing Jesus’ followers with an eschatological sign.

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Le figuier maudit (The Accursed Fig Tree), painted by James Tissot between 1886 and 1894. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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  • Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton

    Joshua N. Tilton studied at Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts, where he earned a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies (2002). Joshua continued his studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, Massachusetts, where he obtained a Master of Divinity degree in 2005. After seminary…
    [Read more about author]

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin

    David N. Bivin is founder and editor of Jerusalem Perspective. A native of Cleveland, Oklahoma, U.S.A., Bivin has lived in Israel since 1963, when he came to Jerusalem on a Rotary Foundation Fellowship to do postgraduate work at the Hebrew University. He studied at the Hebrew…
    [Read more about author]

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