Re: Syn. Apoc. (Parable of the Fig Tree)

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Wed Sep 06 1995 - 07:23:10 EDT

Well put, Larry. Of course it is true that Matthew has a powerful symbolic
dimension too and you have nicely explicated it in this sequence. I would
only add that Matthew sometimes seems to overliteralize the symbolism
(sound like gobbledygook?) as in the notorious case of Jesus riding both on
the colt and the foal of an ass.

I do wonder in part about the MIAN. At times I wonder whether it doesn't
almost function as an indefinite article, but I wouldn't try to argue that
here--it does follow the noun (but wait: when TIS has the force of an
indefinite article as in, say, EIDON ANQRWPON TINA, "I saw a man," it takes
the second position. Interesting. But in Matthew it would seem to indicated
an isolated fig tree as opposed to one in a grove or group.

On looking more carefully at Mt's fig-tree pericope, I am all the more
inclined to think that it is redacted from Mark's version: it is far better
told and the lesson about faith is far-better integrated with the story
itself, whereas in Mk's version the faith-lesson seems almost loosely
attached to the story of the fig-tree. Matthew also tells the story in a
way that makes Jesus look a lot less foolish than in Mark, as there is no
indication that "it was not the season for fruit." I think I'd still want
to say that Matthew has "historicised" (in the sense of underscoring its
factuality) what in Mark is a much more purely symbolic narrative.

It does make for an interesting comparison. And Luke's deliberate omission
of it (not demonstrable perhaps, but it seems pretty likely to me) is also

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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