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Mark 11:12-14

12 On the day following, when they had come away from Bethany, He was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree [covered] with leaves, He went to see if He could find any [fruit] on it [for in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. But when He came up to it, He found nothing but leaves, for the fig season had not yet come. 14 And He said to it, No one ever again shall eat fruit from you. And His disciples were listening [to what He said].

Does "no one ever again shall eat fruit from you" constitute a curse? Was Jesus' command to the tree to wither from its roots? The Bible states that the disciples were listening when He spoke to the tree but Peter later interprets it as a curse. Is this a correct interpretation?

Mark 11:20-21 (AMPC)

20 In the morning, when they were passing along, they noticed that the fig tree was withered [completely] away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to Him, Master, look! The fig tree which You doomed has withered away!

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  • it says " His disciples were listening " but you are interpreting that "his disciples were saying (these things)"
    – Michael16
    Jul 6, 2023 at 15:56
  • What I'm saying is that all of them were listening to what Jesus said but it's only Peter who is forward with his interpretation. The question asked is, was this the correct interpretation by Peter? Remember that Peter has not as yet have the Holy Spirit indwelling him. So some of his sayings might be wrong. Jul 7, 2023 at 15:16
  • You are assuming that Peter was wrong, in a natural obvious context; if he was wrong then Jesus would have corrected him. Jesus cursed it, Peter said hey you cursed it yesterday and now its dead. There is nothing unusual and inconsistent with Peter's words.
    – Michael16
    Jul 7, 2023 at 15:29
  • I don't have any assumptions about Peter. My attention was arrested by the discrepancy and how the bible make it clear that all were listening. Why does the Holy Spirit want to specify that "they were listening ". Yet a few verses down the always outspoken Peter opens his mouth. In Matthew 17:24 Jesus does not rebuke him for what he said to the collectors. Note in the gospels that when Peter is wrong, Jesus calls him Simon, not Peter. So assuming that Jesus would have immediately corrected him ignores the fact when he was wrong, sometimes a teaching would be given to educate him and us Jul 7, 2023 at 18:03
  • If you focus on the actual origin of these writings which is human, and less of the "holy spirit" then you will be far better equipped to interpret them, and the whole ancient books or scripture. The less "inspiration" (assumption) the better your chance of understanding them.
    – Michael16
    Jul 8, 2023 at 8:18

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It should be noted that Mark split the story of the fig tree in two parts, in between is the cleansing of the temple courts.

In the first part (Mark 11:12-14), Mark described Jesus was hungry. He saw a fig tree in leaf but not bearing fruit, then He said to the tree "no one ever eat fruit from you again" and his disciples heard it.

In analysis to the first part, we may recall Jesus was tempted to turn stone into bread and he didn't do it (Luke 4:2-4). In Mark 13:28, Jesus told His disciples “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near." So Jesus apparently knew He should barely find fruit on the fig tree as it was early April. Therefore it may hardly be explained that Jesus was upset with the fig tree for He couldn't have fruit to ease His hunger.

Continue to the second part, we may see the act of Jesus was actually a metaphor teaching to His disciples.

First of all, Jesus did not directly response to Peter's comment, not even objected to his word "curse". But He said;

23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them.

24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:23-25 NIV)

If we thought Jesus used the fig tree represent the Jewish nation, their faith in God is the leaves, and their reward is the fruit. As their faith withered, their fruit is gone. The metaphor was physically illustrated when Jesus cleansed the temple court, which mean Jesus removed their centre of their faith, and no longer anyone could benefit from it.

Perhaps Mark 11:25 is a response to Peter about his word "curse". Jesus asked people to forgive each other, as He forgives our sin when we repented. Otherwise, the sinners will meet their destruction, which becomes their curse. Jesus did not object to Peter using 'curse' in his sentence, for in some situation, Peter was not totally wrong.

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  • This is the clearest analysis by far and it does not seek to prove any superior knowledge of nothing. It goes to answer the question asked and not assume nonexistent motives and labeling some as devils. I can only add that the story does not end in chapter 11 but continues to chapter 12 because the Holy Spirit is emphasing something about any tree which does not produce in season and out of season. Jesus felt hungry and remember His hunger is to do the will of God and finish it. Because of His hunger, He performed a sign which the interpretation is found in the rest of story up to chapter 12 Jul 9, 2023 at 9:20
  • Thanks! I believe the metaphor in the scripture often has multi-facet, and it inspires people at a chosen time by the Lord. It is the merit of this site that one may find an answer that most inspiring to their desire. Jul 9, 2023 at 21:58
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Trees have no ears to listen, neither do they have free will to be accountable for misdeeds and neither do they have misdeeds. Thus, Lord provided simply a visual metaphor of what does it mean to have words and not deeds, because the fig tree story is directly related in Matthew in the same chapter 21 to the story of two sons (21:28-32), one of whom promised to do the assignment of the father, while did not do it, whereas another son refused to do the assignment and yet, eventually repented and did it. The first son had only leaves, while the second son had fruits - the deeds. With only leaves, or empty promises nobody will inherit the Kingdom and the symbol of non-inheritance is the withering.

In Mark the same story is semantically related to faith and prayers (Mark 11:22). Now, prayer without faith is futile and avails for nothing, it is as leaves without fruit; therefore the Lord teaches the disciples to hold faith while praying, in order to have results of the prayers, like a fruits of a tree. Otherwise, if one just utters the good words of the prayers, say "forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us", but says this without faith and does not really work to forgive anybody, then he will go to hell with those beautiful leaves of prayers that bear no fruit due to faithlessness.

Now, God curses nobody, but since the tree itself would not wither so quickly without God and so the edifying metaphor would not work if the tree was given to a natural course of life, that's why the Lord said an audible curse over it. Yet, with humans God does not behave like that, for He only blesses, it is humans who curse themselves by their bad thoughts and actions.

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  • Literalists will surely disagree but I commend your interpretation and have written an answer intended to complement it. Jul 6, 2023 at 20:12
  • It's not interpretation of the story that I seek as there are many teachings on the story. The question asked is, did Jesus really curse the tree or was it Peter's interpretation of what Jesus said. It's possible for Peter to interpret based on the teachings of the old testament. But taking word for word of what Jesus said, did He curse or not? Or are we following teachings from sunday school that Jesus cursed the tree? Jul 7, 2023 at 15:24
  • @MichaelUnrebukable what is “curse”? An anti-prayer, invoking evil powers with an intent of harm. Now, can the eternal Logos, the provider of all good things to His creatures intentionally harm His creatures? Yes, if one is a sick Calvinist heretic, No, if one is of a sound mind and sound theology. Thus, what we know, He said words with intent to make this tree stop thriving; if He did so then it was proper for this tree and entire world, as it was proper for the businesses of money-changers to be ruined by Him in the Temple of Solomon. With what emotion He said the phrase, anybody’s guess. Jul 7, 2023 at 16:20
  • In the book of genesis there are a few curses from God to the serpent, ground etc. Did God invoke evil powers? I want to know nothing about calvinist except Christ. The question asked is, did Peter interpret correctly what Jesus said earlier? Or was he biased on what the old testament said? Jul 7, 2023 at 17:38
  • @MichaelUnrebukable Yes Peter was right from human perspective; but humans curse out of grudge and some finite reason, but the Lord who is infinite goodness and devoid of all grudge, did not have any of such, therefore what seemed to Peter “curse”, was in fact a completely different phenomenon. The fig tree was blessed by this “curse”, for instead of being an instrument for glutting stomachs of gluttons, the Lord baptized it into His co-teacher, for through this fig a great wisdom was conveyed to humanity. Other, fecund and fruity figs envied their withered bro’s glorious fate. Jul 7, 2023 at 22:09
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If you or I had been in Jesus' company when he pronounced that statement over the fig tree, then seen it withered to its roots a few hours later, we would have known whether what Jesus said constituted a curse, or not. As we were not there, we have to go by the Holy Spirit-inspired written account of eye-witnesses. If Peter merely gave his own personal interpretation of that event, and this is a source of perplexity, what is the point in inviting all and sundry today to give their own personal view of what Jesus' words amounted to? We were not there.

The account says of all the disciples who were there, "they noticed that the fig tree was withered to its roots" - not just Peter. All of them made that startling observation. Voiceful Peter instantly spoke up, saying Jesus had uttered a curse the day before and - look! - the tree was visibly cursed! - and nobody contradicted him, not even Jesus. Further, Mark agreed with that account, because he wrote it down. Also, Matthew agreed with that account, though he wrote more briefly about it.

Is the perceived problem the word "cursed"? Is the idea that Jesus, when on Earth, would utter a curse over a tree, offensive? This account is not speaking about swear-words. It is not blasphemously invoking God's name. It is in line with Genesis 3:17-18 & 5:29 where God cursed the ground so that it would begin to produce thorns and thistles. In this case, the lack of the tree producing fruit caused Jesus to speak, to ensure it would never produce any fruit ever. What's wrong with that? One particular tree in one particular place and at one particular time had Jesus pronounce a command over it, and Christ's words were fulfilled. Call that a command, or a curse; whatever it's called the result is undeniable. The Once who made everything that was made (John 1:3), who is the Word of God, speaks the words of command, and it happens.

Christians are often told in scripture not to curse other men - not even those who persecute and kill them - but this account is about a tree. In the last book of the Bible, Jesus relates to John many plagues that come on godless humanity. You could equally call those 'curses'. They are certainly the opposite of blessings!

In that sense, Jesus uttered the opposite of a blessing on that fruitless fig tree. What is the opposite of a blessing? Find that word, and you have found the answer to your question.

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  • Peter was not always rebuked for opening his mouth. Often times he would be called Simon when in error. Or a teaching would be given to clarify where he went wrong. Peter opening his mouth does not mean he was inspired by the Holy Spirit...otherwise Jesus would not have said to him "get behind me satan". There are many instances were Peter was wrong. Is this not one of the.?I will not find fault with what Jesus said but rather seek to understand why He said it Jul 9, 2023 at 3:12
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As disturbing as the thought may be that Jesus would curse an innocent fig tree, that is the clear sense of the text. The OP asks "Did Jesus really curse the fig tree or is it Peter's interpretation?" The story may indeed be a legend, whether due to Peter's interpretation or the oral tradition leading to the report of the episode in Matthew and Mark, writing a generation after the fact. @Levan gives a good exegesis on the meaning of the story.

Interestingly, Luke and John do not include the episode. Luke instead offers a parable that is apparently related to it.

He told them this parable: “There once was a person who had a fig tree planted in his orchard, and when he came in search of fruit on it but found none, 7 he said to the gardener, ‘For three years now I have come in search of fruit on this fig tree but have found none. [So] cut it down. Why should it exhaust the soil?’ 8 He said to him in reply, ‘Sir, leave it for this year also, and I shall cultivate the ground around it and fertilize it; 9 it may bear fruit in the future. If not you can cut it down.’”

If this is Luke's version of the same underlying material, then he presents Jesus (the gardener here) as much more forbearing and merciful than the version in Matthew and Mark.

The story as Mark presents it is probably a legend that evolved from an oral tradition, taking Jesus' symbol of the fig tree literally. Jesus used the fig tree as a metaphor of faith made barren when the time of fulfillment drew near. He also used it as a sign of hope:

Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. (Mark 13:29-29)

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  • Would you elaborate the meaning of 'faith made barren when the time of fulfillment drew near'? Jul 7, 2023 at 1:53
  • "The story as Mark presents it is probably a legend that evolved from an oral tradition, taking Jesus' symbol of the fig tree literally." If this is true, then what happened in the four gospels might be a legend that evolved. But then we know that it's false assumption. The fact is: Jesus spoke to the tree and it withered. Jesus had and continues to have the power to speak and creation listen and obey Jul 7, 2023 at 15:27

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