I was comparing translations when I noticed this difference in Mark 11:20-21.

As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” - ESV

As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.” - NASB

Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” - NKJV

My question is simple. From the last two translations, it is clear that the intended meaning of the passage is that the fig dried up starting at the roots and moving upwards. So why does the ESV choose to render the passage in a way that seems to reverse this, suggesting that the plant withered from the top down instead?

  • 1
    Perhaps it is an idiom that means that the tree withered from top to bottom. Indicating that it was not just the leaves that faded but also the roots indicating that the plant was completely dead and not just ailing. Hence, no more would anyone eat fruit from that tree. Apparently the context suggests that the tree refers to the temple slash old covenant.
    – Ruminator
    Feb 18, 2019 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


In Mark 11:20, the operative Greek word is "ek" which BDAG give three meanings to:

  1. marker denoting separation, from, out of, away from.
  2. marker denoting the direction from which something comes
  3. marker denoting origin, cause, motive, reason, from, of.

BDAG then suggests that in Mark 11:20, the meaning is #2 above, "from its roots".

However, while this this is the literal meaning, I would not press the Greek too literally - I suggest the idiomatic meaning is simply, the fig tree had completely withered in its entirety, and thus totally dead and not just dead and withered leaves as is often normal out of season.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.