What is this miraculous evidence of Jesus' love?
Jesus and his disciples were out walking around and became hungry, as you do. Jesus spied a fig tree and went up to it excited. But, when he found there was no fruit on the fig tree, Jesus got angry at it and put a curse on the fig tree causing it to wither away and then lectured to his disciples about the need for faith.
Where is it found?
Why does it suck?
Seriously, how is this a miracle? Your savior threw a hissy-fit since he was too uneducated to know that it wasn't fig season. Seriously, how dumb do you have to be to not know it's fig season while living in the middle friken east. I don't grow pumpkins, but I can tell you when it's spiced pumpkin beer season and I live in a goddamn city! And cursing a tree for lack of faith...do I even need to say anything here? Apparently I do...
This is one of those verses most Xians have to skip over (Usually I call this cherry-picking, but perhaps fig-picking is apt here) since it really does make their savior look like an unbalanced psycho. To warp this story into a miracle will take some serious juggling. Thus:
Apologists say that there is no way Jesus could have misunderstood the fact that fruit grows in seasons and this story is actually evidence of Jesus' wisdom and deeper knowledge of the tree than we have. Apparently fig leaves appear with a knobby fruit called taqsh (in Arabic) which fall off before real figs grow. The poor would eat these. They claim that Jesus understood that the absence of taqsh meant that the tree would never be able to grow figs and “for all its fair foliage, it was a fruitless and a hopeless tree.” (Bruce, Are the New Testament Documents Reliable [Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove, Ill, fifth revised edition 1992], pp 73-74).
It is also added that the fig is often an Old Testament reference to Israel and it was a metaphor for people to be fruitful in their lives. In other words, since the tree failed to grow fruit it should be destroyed and since the Hebrews never had faith they too should be destroyed. When it comes to antisemitism, Hitler and Ahmadinejad ain't got anything on interpretations of the New Testament!
I'll skip the metaphor bit until the next segment, and let's look at the “miracle” itself. Scientific rationality tells us it's impossible for Jesus to speak a few words and the tree just whither away, but for a skilled magician this trick would be quite easy, especially with some setup time. Maybe it whithered away in a fire.
Now I lack the linguistic skills to say this for certain, but I suspect that if Jesus was wanting to eat taqsh, the Bible would have said taqsh instead of fig. Maybe it did in earlier translations, but it never in my English version and that's something the translators should have gotten right. Those are clearly two separate things, and the fact that the apologist website I looked at was using an Arabic word instead of something in Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic means that they were really stretching for an idea to justify Jesus' irrational anger. Even if this were the case, maybe someone else had eaten it and Jesus had just walked too slow.
And aren't we anthropomorphizing (or is it figpomorphizing) a bit too much here? A tree not having enough faith? The tree should have known Jesus was coming and bore fruit earlier just for him...!? The phrase “hopeless tree” in the above quote is interesting. To literally believe that a tree can have hope or faith means someone has no understanding of biology—which we might expect from an illiterate desert Jew—but you should know better! Although seedlings can appear playful, and certain willows do weep, we have no evidence that trees have any emotion. Emotional trees belong solely in the pages of J.R.R. Tolkien. Jesus either thought trees did have understanding and feelings which means he was—even for those times—loopy, or meant that he was acting the way he did as a metaphor.
Why does this even suck as a story?
Apologists love to twist things around to force metaphors. While the actual act of causing a tree to whither away with a few words is impossible without deception, the metaphor option is possible. Also likely is that everyone in that region understood the fact edibility of tasqsh or whatever. But, the Bible is said to be God's perfect word for all time, and to those of us in the modern era with little understanding of figs, it makes him come off looking less wise and more batshit insane. A good author will make sure his/her metaphors are described in such a way that allow them to stand up in time. Yes, taken as a whole, there are plenty of other fruit examples, such as Luke 13:6-9 where it was recommended to cut down fruit trees that did not grow, but these were many different authors and the expressions have gone through several translations. Metaphors have a hard time holding up to that sort of Chinese-whispers and Bart Ehrman's books do a good job at documenting other failed attempts.
Of course were the Bible really divinely inspired, God would have put some sort of check in place to make sure that the important elements of the story were preserved which means that even if you believe in the literal truth of the Bible, the simplest answer remains the most likely: Jesus and his posse were out and about, hungry, got their hopes up when they saw a fruit tree, but then were pissed off when there was nothing there, and in his hunger and frustration Jesus probably kicked the tree and yelled at it like a high schooler does when his locker won't open.
Disastrous consequences if this were not bullshit
But what if it were real? In this case, fig trees have intelligence, and in true Biblical tradition, they are our slaves and should be murdered when they fail to perform the impossible for the Lord. We're talking trees having intelligence not in a metaphorical way such as paper coming from trees and books filled with knowledge are their result—no!—the Bible seems to imply here that trees actually have emotions and thoughts. As a publisher it means I've already committed genocide, which seems to be right up there with the will of the Lord—the Bible being the world's bestselling book.
Jesus, believing that trees are essentially wooden people (a few of my professors might actually serve as evidence for this hypothesis) is demonstrating that they need to be kept in line in much the same way the Bible mandates beating one's slaves. Maybe trees aren't the only plants to possess emotions, maybe mushrooms and chickpeas have thoughts too! This means that even vegans, in their attempts to treat animals with respect, are horrible bastards brutally eating conscious plants. This seems to make Xianity an evil Bizzaro-World version of Jainism.