Jesus and the fig tree, what are jws taught?

by Crazyguy 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • David_Jay

    The first thing that comes to mind on that verse from a Jewish reading is the outright connection to Jewish language about the Messianic Age.

    As in the many references to the prosperity to be enjoyed under the Messiah (for example Micah 4:4), Jesus links a fig tree to the approach of "summer," which by no coincidence is being used as an example of the approach of his promised Parousia. Summer is when the fig is in season, and having one's personal source of in-season figs is the symbol of the Jewish concept of Messianic rule.

    Recall that God during the Exodus promised the Israelites that they would be brought to a land "flowing with milk and honey"? The "honey" is not what most Westerners or Gentiles think it is. The actual Hebrew word refers to a syrupy jelly that was used as the main sweetener as sugar and syrup is used today. While the same word was used to describe the honey made by bees, it's main meaning is this sweet jelly. You can make it from fruits like grapes, but especially for the Jews in the land of Israel, this "honey" was made from figs.

    From the very beginning, life in the Promised Land was to be idyllic, and the honey of figs was symbolic of the prosperity God wanted for his people. As Micah 4:4 states, in the Messianic Age each Jew shall "sit under their own vines" from which they make wine "and under their own fig tree" from which this main symbol of "honey" was produced.

    While Jehovah's Witnesses are apt to say that Jesus is telling people to interpret world events to know when the end is near (which has caused them much egg on the face for constantly being wrong), Jesus might be saying something far more simpler. It seems like he his saying that once his followers find themselves in the thick of the time of the end, they should be at ease for this is a sign that "summer is near." The "fig tree" is in bloom, symbolically speaking, when it becomes undeniable that the world has reached its end. In other words Jesus is saying to be hopeful.

    Unfortunately, the Witnesses have taken a symbolism of hope in the midst of crumbling world events to be a measure of time. Because verse 34 about the "generation" follows immediately after, they assume that Jesus is saying that when you see all the signs of the end, it is like seeing that a fig tree has all its leaves. That doesn't seem likely because Jesus spoke and taught like a Jew. Using a fig tree is not a coincidence. A Jewish sage would never do that and switch a symbol of Messianic prosperity and suddenly make it a symbol of a time indicator measuring how close we are to the end.

    While I can't say for sure if there is meant to be a way to understand "generation" as a literal measurement of time (there might be), there is likely no literal connection between the fig tree and the time factor. It is just the Jewish way of saying what Luke (in his gospel for Gentiles) adds: "When you see all these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near." ( Luke 21:31) The direct reference to the kingdom is not there in Matthew. Why not? Because the fig tree is used, and Matthew was written mainly for Jewish Christians who understand what the symbol means.

  • Carol1111

    Do you think the re-growing of the fig tree could be related to the rebirth of the state of Israel?

    I found what you said about honey interesting. Honey would not have been easily come by 2000 years ago before bee hives were invented.

  • David_Jay

    That I can't say. I can only offer Jewish commentary as it is up to those Christians who feel they have a vocation to interpret such things. What Christians decide these verses mean is what they mean.

    That being said, it is the interpretation of some literalist Orthodox Jews that the current re-establishment of Israel is the fulfillment of prophecy, and even how this is so has no general accepted agreement among these literalists.

    Interestingly, I side with the last three Catholic popes as an opinion of mine (and merely a possibility ). Un-dogmatically, St. John Paul the Great, Pope Emeritus Benedict, and current Pope Francis believe that the Gentile Times of Luke 21:24 ended with the recapturing of Jerusalem by Israel at the end of the Six Day War.

    Since then the Gentile nations have indeed become more or even exclusively secular while a resurgence in Judaism and even an interest in reclaiming Jesus as a Jewish sage (though not the Messiah by any means) is the current and foreseeable status of Jewry. But for them it is a wait and see moment. Unlike the Jehovah's Witnesses or some Christians who take it upon themselves to say something is happening when it is not, these religious leaders take a humble second seat and do not claim insight where no affirmed insight from Heaven has come.

    Finally, Jews in general take a similar view. We cannot say. There is no prophet to explain what is happening. Jews usually don't take it upon themselves like Christians to make such interpretations without a prophet. This explains why there is currently no central leadership in Jewry. And, of course, the views of Jesus are not accepted by Jews as prophecies for Israel.

  • Carol1111

    What do Jews think of Zechariah 14 which says that there will be an horrendous earthquake in Israel? Do you think it is intended to be taken literally.

    Apologies to crazyguy for hijacking his thread.

  • Vanderhoven7

    The fig tree incident is presented as a literal/historical event but has obvious symbolic overtones. The fig tree is representative of Israel as others have brought out. Nationally Israel has refused to respond to the kingdom message , repent of her sins, bring forth fruits of righteousness and turn to her Messiah for salvation/healing.

    Israel's antitypical curse was pronounced by Jesus as he departed from the temple for the last time . "Your house is left to you desolate" The temple now vacated was ripe for destruction at the hands of the abominable Gentile armies.

  • David_Jay

    Jews, Catholics, and other mainstream Christians recognize the quake as a literal earthquake that occurred during the reign of King Uzziah (ca. 783-742 B.C.E.). The mention of it in Zechariah 14:5 is an allusion to it or a remembrance, and it is recorded in Amos 1:1 and later used as a backdrop for Amos' final vision at Amos 9:1.

    The mention of it in Zechariah 14 is not that there will be an earthquake in the future but that people will flee as they did because of the quake in Uzziah's day.

  • David_Jay

    To avoid further hijacking of this thread, if you have any more specific questions about Jewish views and how they differ from and contrast with those of Jehovah's Witnesses, I can start a new thread.

    If you have questions in general about Judaism and it's interpretation of Scripture, however, it may be best to seek direct contact with a temple or synagogue in your area or to consult publications like the Jewish Study Bible.

    The main reason is that outside of helping fellow ex-JWs find answers they may be looking for in connection with our current status outside the Watchtower, I don't desire to advance my religious views or choices in this forum. First and foremost, Jews don't proselytize, but second I think we've all had enough of people telling us that religion is "the" answer and having religion served up as a pancea, sometimes to the point of it being shoved down our throats.

    Even though I am a practicing Jew, I personally don't believe that religion has all the answers or is the answer for everything or everybody. In fact, you might say it goes against my religion to even believe that.

  • smiddy

    Who gives a fig what Jesus said to a tree , thats like Eve talking to a snake.

  • James Mixon
    James Mixon

    An anger management class would have been great for Jesus but I give him credit for being better behaved than Jehovah. He keeps his genocidal rage under control (at least until the book of Rev.)...The man is talking to a tree, try that today and see where you will end up.

  • darkspilver

    The WT says that it's all to do with the leaves.....

    Link to scans

    Watchtower 15 September 1950, page 335

    Questions From Readers: "How could Jesus justly condemn and cause to wither the fig tree that had no fruit on it, in view of the fact that it was not the season for figs?"

    Watchtower 1 February 1972, pages 95 and 96

    Questions From Readers: "Since it was not the season for figs, why did Jesus curse a fig tree that had no fruit on it, as reported at Mark 11:13, 14?"

    Link to scans

    The WT has also discussed it in more recent publications, but all as per the above QFRs

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