One of my favorite Biblical stories is the one of Jesus killing a fig tree. Aside from the implication that Jesus would kill a tree just because… well, he was hungry and it wasn’t producing food (I’d hate to see how he gets at a Denny’s on a busy night), the story is just bizzare and I don’t think I’ve gotten the same response twice as to its meaning.
My girlfriend, who lies somewhere in the void between religious and atheistic says that as a young girl, she watched a musical cartoon that explained that the story is about the power of words. If Jesus curses the tree, it will die. A sort of be careful what you wish for deal, I guess.
Recently, I heard another defense of the story saying that if the tree wasn’t producing anything meaningful, it serves no purpose and should die. I often say the same thing about Ben Stein, but, alas, I am not Jesus Christ. (Note: though Ben Stein is an obnoxious moron, I don’t actually wish him dead — for clarification purposes, this last sentence uses a literary device known as humor to get its point across. In truth, I don’t care enough about him to actually wish him anything.)
But, for the best explanations of the fig tree story, I turned to google, which gives us a link that explains simply that the fig tree represents the Jews or at least those who are so stuck in their religious ways that they won’t accept the new way of thinking (I think my irony meter just exploded). Wikipedia sort of confirms this, but then includes a few other oddball interpretations to keep things interesting, including one that somehow relates to The Matrix.
All of this points back to the relativism inate in religiousity. No two people actually subscribe to the same exact religion and often will defend their beliefs by explaining that those bad people who call themselves Christians (or Jews, or Muslims, etc.) aren’t true Christians (or Jews, or Muslims, etc.) and then explain what it means to be a true Christian. Unfortunately, Dictionary.com isn’t too helpful in this regard, offering 11 different definitions ranging from “a person who believes in Jesus Christ” to “a male given name.”
As for my particular interpretation, I believe that figs are a nasty fruit and Jesus, in his omniscience, tried to destroy the fruit before it could give rise to the truly awful Fig Newton. Unfortunately, being in human form, he was not omnipotent and could not prevent its ultimate creation.
However, there’s a fairly good chance that I’m injecting a little too much Terminator into the story.