fig tree

Trinitarians make the claim that God is one Being who exists eternally as three distinct persons — the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Put simply, “one God in three persons.” All three persons of the Trinity are said to be co-equal and co-eternal, and “each is God, whole and entire”. Notice that Trinitarians make the claim that the Son, whom they believe to be Jesus Christ, is fully God. Not partially God, but fully God. Now, being God carries with it certain essential attributes, two of which are omnipotence (All Power) and omniscience (All Knowledge). If Jesus really is fully God then we would expect him to consistently exhibit such characteristics throughout the New Testament.

THE FIG TREE INCIDENT

The Gospel of Mark touches upon an incident with Jesus and a fig tree:

The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 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. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it. [Mark 11:12-14]

We are told that Jesus approached a fig tree because he was hungry, and when he realised it had no fruit, he became angry and cursed it. Such an incident makes no sense in light of the Trinitarian claim that Jesus is God. God is All Knowing, so if Jesus really is God then that would make him the creator of fig trees, in which case how could he not have known that it was not the season for figs? Moreover why would God curse the fig tree for doing something He himself willed it to do? If Jesus is God, then wouldn’t it have been more befitting of him to command the tree to bear fruit? Why ruin a perfectly good tree, come fig season this tree would have had fruit and others could have eaten from it!

From the perspective of Trinitarian theology and the dual nature of Jesus, it would have been the limited human nature that made the mistake and the divine nature that had the power to curse the fig tree. However this situation presents us with some difficult questions with regards to the interplay between the divine and human nature – why did the divine nature not inform him that there were no figs instead of acting upon the mistake of his human side? Is this a case of the human nature overriding the divine nature? Is such a thing possible?

This incident brings to light the many paradoxes of the Trinity. For example, how can God be All Powerful and yet have weaknesses such as hunger? Such attributes are mutually exclusive. It would be like being asked to draw a square circle. Such a task is impossible, because a shape cannot have four corners like a square and no corners like a circle at the same time. Yet such paradoxes are what Trinitarians have to believe in order for Jesus to not only be God, All Powerful and All Knowing, but also human with limitations such as hunger and possessing limited knowledge. Something cannot be both infinite and finite at the same time, and to believe so is no different than believing in a squircle.

From this incident we can see that when it comes to the knowledge of Jesus, it seems that either the divine nature is lacking or completely absent. How then can the claim be made that Jesus is fully God? From what we’ve seen it seems that Jesus is human but not fully divine because he lacks essential attributes of God, such as possessing All Knowledge. The co-equality of the persons of the Trinity is a central pillar of Trinitarian theology, without which the foundation of the Trinity comes crashing down.

TRINITARIAN REBUTTAL

Some Trinitarians try to get around these problems by claiming that the story about the fig tree and its lack of fruit are not to be taken literally but rather is a symbol of the nation of Israel and its lack of faith. Now if the fig tree represents Israel in this particular incident then this creates a problem. Notice that Mark makes it clear that the fig tree was not defective, rather it just wasn’t the right season, yet Jesus admonished a perfectly functioning fig tree for obeying God’s law by producing figs in certain seasons. This would mean that Israel was being punished by God for obeying him! Such interpretations must be rejected because Mark very clearly gives us the reason that Jesus approached the fig tree: “Jesus was hungry.” It doesn’t say that “Jesus approached the fig tree because he saw an opportunity for a parable.” To ignore this understanding is to do a disservice to the text which states in crystal clear terms the reason why Jesus approached the tree, hunger.

THE QUR’AN

For the three Abrahamic faiths, the nature of Jesus is perhaps the most contentious issue. Was he just a Messianic imposter, as seen by Jews? Or perhaps a divine Son of God, as seen by Christians? The Islamic view of Jesus lies between these two extremes. The Qur’an clarifies for mankind that Jesus the Messiah was a messenger in a long line of messengers:

The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger; other messengers had come and gone before him; his mother was a virtuous woman; both ate food [like other mortals]. See how clear We make these signs for them; see how deluded they are. [5:75]

This verse illustrates one of the many beautiful qualities of the Qur’an, its simplicity. The Qur’an contains a universal message for people of all ages and backgrounds, from the child to the adult, from lay people to scholars. Here the example presented by the Qur’an, the need of sustenance by Jesus, is in fact profound if we reflect upon it. Anything that has a need, in this case food, cannot be God. What happens if the need is unfulfilled? In this case, Jesus would die from hunger. But we know that God is All Powerful, He cannot die. What happens to human beings after we eat? We need to relieve ourselves. To entertain such a thought about God however, would be blasphemous.

CONCLUSION

For Trinitarians to hold foundational beliefs about the nature of God that are at odds with the New Testament is a clear indication that they are in a state of confusion. Revelation is an opening up, an uncovering. If one’s understanding of God, which is a fundamental aspect of revelation, is confused then this is a clear indication that our understanding is incorrect. God, out of His mercy for mankind, resolved all of the confusion surrounding Jesus in the 7th century by revealing the Qur’an. The Qur’an puts forward a clear picture of both God and Jesus that is easy to understand:

People of the Book [Jews and Christians], do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary, a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’– stop [this], that is better for you– God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust. [4:171]

In one short verse, the Qur’an unravels centuries of myth-making and demystifies for us who the real Jesus is. Jesus is not God, or even the literal Son of God, rather he is a man, messenger and Messiah. He is a creation of God, just like the messengers that God sent before him, such as Abraham and Moses. God, by contrast, is unique and separate from His creation. Islam is a religion of clear guidance; there is no confusion about who God is and who Jesus is. The Qur’an provides the simplest, easiest and most accessible description about the nature of God.

Muslims respect and love Jesus as a great prophet of God. In fact Islam holds a unique position among world religions as it is the only religion other than Christianity that acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah. You may be surprised to know that Jesus is mentioned more times by name in the Qur’an than Muhammad, peace be upon them both, and that Mary, the mother of Jesus, even has a chapter of the Qur’an named after her.

You can learn more about Jesus in Islam here.

Written by Many Prophets One Message
A CALL TO THE TRUTH

    11 Comments

  1. Seyed May 15, 2016 at 10:16 am

    ASA and thank you for yet again another informative article. Irony is that Gid has sworn by the tree of fig in Qoran. I am no farmer but was told that the fig tree has no season and it bears fruit all year round. The name of fig is mentioned in Qoran 7 times more than olive. It’s been said that a diet of olive and fig in seven to one ratio would do wonder for staying young.

  2. rob May 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

    “Some Trinitarians try to get around these problems by claiming that the story about the fig tree and its lack of fruit are not to be taken literally but rather is a symbol of the nation of Israel and its lack of faith. Now if the fig tree represents Israel in this particular incident then this creates a problem. Notice that Mark makes it clear that the fig tree was not defective, rather it just wasn’t the right season, yet Jesus admonished a perfectly functioning fig tree for obeying God’s law by producing figs in certain seasons. This would mean that Israel was being punished by God for obeying him! Such interpretations must be rejected because Mark very clearly gives us the reason that Jesus approached the fig tree: “Jesus was hungry.” It doesn’t say that “Jesus approached the fig tree because he saw an opportunity for a parable.” To ignore this understanding is to do a disservice to the text which states in crystal clear terms the reason why Jesus approached the tree, hunger.”

    such fig-urative interpretations have caused jesus’ mythcist to deny jesus’ existence. they think jesus himself did not exist. christian apologists have helped the cause of jesus mythicists

  3. rob May 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    fig-gurative interpretations gone wild

    http://vridar.org/2014/04/19/jesus-crucifixion-from-the-olivet-prophecy-to-gethsemane-the-fall-of-jerusalem/

    thanks to christian apologists for helping jesus mythcists.

  4. rob May 16, 2016 at 10:25 am

    the other thing is that why would mark have peter notice that the fig tree completely withered the next day when judgement on israel was instant or at once(matthew says, “at once it had withered”)?
    why have them hear the curse and not see what it had done?
    well because he has them react the next day. could be a possibility to interpret it as the destruction of the jewish temple .

    • Many Prophets One Message May 16, 2016 at 8:41 pm

      The answer to the question about why Matthew has different details lies in understanding the literary dependency between Matthew and Mark:

      http://www.manyprophetsonemessage.com/2013/12/02/literary-dependency-between-the-gospels-independent-witnesses-or-plagiarism/

      Matthew makes the tree wither instantly to portray Jesus as being more powerful, this is consistent with the analysis and findings in the above link. Regardless of when the tree withered, Matthew also states the reason why Jesus approached the tree:

      “In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he was hungry.” [Matthew 21:18]

      So both Mark and Matthew give the same reason as to why Jesus approached the tree, he was hungry. Neither of them say he approached the tree because he saw the opportunity for a parable. Mark is just more explicit with the additional comment “for it was not the season for figs”.

  5. Nasr May 18, 2016 at 2:11 pm

    For Christians, definition of God can either be three distinct gods all equal to each other in the beginning a Father, a Word (Only one word out of many words being a God), a Spirit.

    Or some sects view it as One God appearing in 3 divine forms at the same time.

    Jesus on the other hand is a combination of The Word that manifested after The Spirit caused Mary to conceived. And The Spirit remained in manifested body of The Word (only one word out of many words was divine, as the other words were non divine despite taking the manifested form of compiled book. The book of bible was still not a God).

    So for Christians they tend to argue that as The Spirit and The Word had combined to be Jesus; Jesus is still God although showing signs of a non-divine human.

    And by saying that God manifested as human on earth will totally nullify the covenant brought by Noah and past Israelites prophets. And hence all other religions in the world are no longer false as other religions had always believe in a God that manifested on earth making equals of Himself as a form of mercy to mankind.

    Manifestation on earth is the antithesis to the religion of Noah and Israelites that believed in a unique singular God sending down His servants (angels/prophets) to carry out His actions on earth.

  6. Abu Muhammed Alee Al Ansari May 21, 2016 at 2:33 am

    As salaam alaikum akhi nice article mashallah I wish you had this passage add to your article mathew 24:36
    No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father knows.

    • Many Prophets One Message May 21, 2016 at 5:37 pm

      Wa alaykum as-salaam wrwb. this particular article focussed on the fig tree incident, I have written other articles about the Trinity which use the reference you provided. Jazak Allah khayr for your suggestion.

  7. rob June 20, 2016 at 2:32 pm

    quote:
    I think that the way the Gospels structure the order and cause-and-effect relationships in their plots frequently results in narratives, which, while rhetorically interesting, strain historical credulity. One example of this is Jesus’ cursing of the fig tree in Mark 11:12-25. In that passage, Jesus curses the fig tree, then enters Jerusalem, clears the Temple courts, then leaves Jerusalem, and returns to find the fig tree withered. Now, what’s interesting is that this passage uses ring composition. The cleansing of the Temple is “sandwiched” between the fig tree being cursed and withering. The rhetorical effect created is that the fig tree is a metaphor for the Jewish Temple. Just as the fig tree withered, so too will the Temple be destroyed.

    Now, I think that the narratological technique used with the fig tree is interesting, but it strains historical credulity. Are we to expect that Jesus simply walked into the Temple, caused a major disturbance clearing out its courts (which was a very large area), and then merely walked out of Jerusalem again with no one apprehending him, in order to return to the fig tree? I think it is more likely that this scene is used rhetorically, in order to prophesize the Temple’s destruction, and does not depict a historical sequence of events.

    end quote

    what do you think?

    • Many Prophets One Message June 23, 2016 at 11:51 pm

      Hi,

      We can only speculate as to whether the incident is historical or not, as a Muslim I can neither confirm nor deny the incident as Islamic sources are silent on the incident, at least from what I know. In any case I don’t believe that the cursing of the fig tree is purely an exercise in metaphor, as we are told that Jesus approached the tree because he was hungry, not because he saw an opportunity for a parable.

  8. Ibrahim Adakeke July 11, 2016 at 3:36 pm

    Jazak’Alalahu Khairan for this untiring efforts.