Mark 11 (New International Version)
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree and Clears the Temple Courts
12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 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. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples[e] went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly[f] 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.”  [g]
[e]Mark 11:19 Some early manuscripts came, Jesus
[f]Mark 11:23 Some early manuscripts “If you have faith in God,” Jesus answered, 23 “truly
[g]Mark 11:26 Some manuscripts include here words similar to Matt. 6:15.
Matthew 21 (New International Version)
Jesus at the Temple
12 Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. 13 “It is written,” he said to them, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
14 The blind and the lame came to him at the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they were indignant.
16 “Do you hear what these children are saying?” they asked him.
“Yes,” replied Jesus, “have you never read,
“‘From the lips of children and infants
you, Lord, have called forth your praise’?”
17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night.
Jesus Curses a Fig Tree
18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. 19 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.
20 When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked.
21 Jesus replied, “Truly I tell you, 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. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
Matthew 21 (New King James Version)
The Fig Tree Withered
18 Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.
The Lesson of the Withered Fig Tree
20 And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?”
21 So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. 22 And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”
It has been a few months since my last post. I have been doing more in promoting the atheist community in Louisville and Kentucky. These activities, such as the state fair booth and the Kentucky Freethought Convention, are about promoting something true and good (atheism), while this website is more about demonstrating that something (the bible) is not accurate. I enjoy promoting what is positive more than demonstrating something is in error.
However, after continuous comments from readers and noticing that this blog is constantly receiving 300 to 400 hits per day, I decided to have at least one new post per month. I have decided to blog about biblical contradictions as well as “bible verses rarely read on Sunday.”
In the two passages above, there is a clear contradiction on the timing of the withering of the fig tree. In Mark 11 Jesus curses the fig tree, drives out capitalists from the Temple, and his disciples notice the tree is withered the next morning. In Matthew 21 Jesus drives the capitalists out of the Temple, then he curses the fig tree and it “immediately” withers. Both stories can not be literally true.
Another problem is that all-knowing Christian god did not know that it was not the season for figs to appear on fig trees. Jesus “went to find out if it had any fruit“, which clearly means he did not know whether or not it had fruit. Another question raised is why did Jesus curse this tree? Was he angry at the tree? And one more claim of this verse is that if “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.” If any Christian apologist can cause Mount Everest to be thrown into the sea, I will stop this blog and concede that the bible is the inerrant word of god. I am not worried about losing this challenge, but I still challenge all those who comment on this blog to prove me wrong.
Now I will get into another reason why I have not blogged so much. Christian apologists are some of the most dishonest people I have ever met. They are first and foremost dishonest to themselves. If they read these verses in the Koran, they would be the first to scream about how the Koran has a contradiction. But because they read this contradiction in the bible, they go to extravagant lengths to make up excuses for the contradiction.
Two examples of Christian apologies (the first two to pop up in Google) include Christian Courier (https://www.christiancourier.com/articles/790-fig-tree-incident-a-contradiction-the) and Answers in Genesis (http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2012/07/17/contradictions-figuring-out). In regards to the timing of the fig tree withering, both of them talk about Mark being chronological and Matthew being “topical”. They claim Mark has the correct sequence of events in regards to what happens on what day and that Matthew is simply putting the fig tree lesson as a topic separate from the Temple events. However, let us review the Matthew verses to see if it is also implying a chronology.
12 Jesus entered the temple courts…17 And he left them and went out of the city to Bethany, where he spent the night…18 Early in the morning, as Jesus was on his way back to the city…Immediately the tree withered.
Both apologists are incorrect when they claim that Matthew was not listing events in a specific chronology. The author of Matthew uses multiple phrases to indicate a specific order of events, and the order of events in Matthew clearly contradicts the order of events in Mark.
The apologists make multiple assertions that are unsupported by the verses. They both claim that the tree does or could represent Israel.
Observing this fruitless tree, Jesus pronounced a “curse” (i.e., a withering judgment) upon the tree as a symbolic preview of that punishment which ultimately would befall the Hebrew nation (A.D. 70).
Many scholars believe the fig tree represented Israel, or at least her leaders in Jerusalem, since fruitless fig trees are often used symbolically in reference to judgment (Jeremiah 8:13; Joel 1:7). If this is accurate then Jesus was showing what would soon come to pass as God’s judgment would fall on the nation.
However, the verses say nothing about the tree representing Israel. As previously noted, Jesus “went to find out if it had any fruit”. The bible does NOT say he want out to the tree to teach a lesson about Israel. These apologists are basically saying “the bible means what we say it means, not what it says.”
I included the New King James Version of Matthew 21, because it divides the fig tree story into “The Fig Tree Withered” and “The Lesson Of The Fig Tree Withered.” Bible publishers do all kinds of things to make the bible echo the doctrines of the publishers, and they also do things to try to eliminate contradictions (i.e. Yahweh and Elohim are both translated as god in the flood story; sub-headings are added to Matthew and Luke nativity stories to mask contradictions; etc). This could be what the NKJV publishers did by separating these five verses (18-22) into two sections.
Lastly, regarding the ignorance of Jesus concerning fig trees, Answers in Genesis wrote
I can just imagine the disciples thinking, “That was strange. Jesus should know that figs come later in the season.” Of course, Jesus knew that—He created the fig tree.
However, the claims of the apologist are once again contradicted by the words of the bible: “Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit.” If he knew “that figs come later in the season”[Answers in Genesis] then he would not need to “find out if it had any fruit”[bible].
Last of all, I included some of the footnotes in the NIV verses to show examples of how manuscripts deviate from each other. There are hundreds of thousands of different variations of text in early New Testament manuscripts. I recommend reading Misquoting Jesus or Jesus Interrupted by Bart Ehrman for further information on manuscript variation.
Please keep the comments brief and focused on theses verses.