Entries tagged with “Bible”.


Tetherd Cow Ahead Presents: The Baffling Bible
Episode #5: Jesus and the Fig Tree


When I was a kid in Sunday School, I learned lots about the life of Jesus. I knew the stories of the Sermon on the Mount, the casting out of demons into swine, the miracle of the loaves & fishes, the overturning of the moneylenders’ tables in the tabernacle and many other colourful yarns that have turned out to have about as much relevance to my adult life as they did to my ten-year-old self.

One baffling tale that doesn’t usually get much of an airing when the life of Our Lord is being recounted, though, is the story of Jesus and the Fig Tree. It certainly didn’t make it into my Bible class back in the day – I think it’s just possible that’s because a ten-year-old might’ve empathized with it all too well.

To set the the scene: Jesus has returned from his 40 days and nights in the desert where he has had a lengthy hobnob with God, and is traipsing across the countryside accumulating crowds1 of the faithful and assembling the cabal of chaps who would end up as his apostles. This is the Jesus of Matthew and Mark. This is the Jesus we all know and love from the comic books; he has just appeared to his followers (and Matthew & Mark’s readers) in dazzling white raiment which of course proves he is not just some guy like all the other common-garden-variety Messiahs who were touring the land at the time. In addition, he takes every opportunity to voice noble (if mostly obvious and occasionally curious) moral advice, and he performs miracles. Lots of them.2

The Story of the Fig Tree is one such miracle. We’ll take up the tale with Jesus waking up one morning after having spent the night in the countryside outside Jerusalem (somewhere around here I figure). Over to Matthew to relate the tale in his compelling literary style:

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered.

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.

And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!

~(Matthew 21:19)

In other words, because Jesus was hungry and there were no figs, he threw a tantrum and did the supernatural equivalent of punching his fist through the wall: he put a curse on the tree. Kapow! Take THAT you stupid tree! I’ll teach you not to have figs out of season!

Now religious scholars are quick to put forward all kinds of explanations for this decidedly tetchy Saviour behaviour. It’s certainly not fashionable these days to have Jesus to appear to petulantly invoke his super powers out of spite, so most modern Christian scholars interpret the story of Jesus and the Fig Tree as some kind of metaphorical statement about the condition and the predicted eventual fate of the Jewish nation.

But I want you to pause and reflect on that for a moment. None of Jesus’ other miracles get the ‘allegory’ explanation. If Jesus does a really cool thing – like healing a blind man, say, or walking across a lake – that’s not a metaphor. That’s a myrrh-soaked, gold-plated, frankinsence-doused, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die-and-never-be-resurrected MIRACLE! But when Our Lord chucks a tanty and fries a fig tree, well then, that must be symbolic

That’s all well and good, and I might even buy it except for one thing: both Matthew and Mark independently make the effort to point out that Jesus was hungry. This tiny detail makes nonsense of the fall-of-the-Jewish-nation explanation. How does that high-falutin’ symbolism have anything to do with Jesus not getting breakfast? Plus, it just gives the whole story a ring of truth – I mean, we’ve all been there, right?

No, Faithful Acowlytes, I believe that the most reasonable hypothesis for this story is that Jesus just got out of bed on the wrong side and took his grumpiness out on the first thing he saw (and I offer this as scientific endorsement of my assertion). Luckily it was just a tree – his dad had something of a tendency to take his pique out on entire cities.

Or maybe, just maybe, the Westboro Baptist Church has had it right all along, only their bibles have a small typographical error…

  1. We should take mentions of ‘crowds’ in the Bible with a grain of salt. That part of the world was not especially densely populated at that time, and I suspect that if you got a toothless man and his wife and their goat to come out and look at you, that probably counted as a ‘crowd’. Especially in the eyes of someone spinning a yarn to beat up some PR, as Matt and Mark unquestionably are. []
  2. I feel I have to point out that, in the light of the way we are familiar with ‘healings’ & clairvoyance and visions of the Virgin and other contemporary ‘miracles’, you don’t have to try too hard to come up with fairly reasonable non-supernatural explanations for all Jesus’ marvellous conjurations. And given nearly 20 centuries of undoubted ’embroidery’, well… []

Ah, you gotta love the combination of the internet and the tendency for people in large numbers to suddenly lose all capacity for coherent thought. The Guardian reports today that, probably due at least in part to a Facebook group called 11 Maggio Terremoto a Roma, thousands of people in Rome believe that the city is destined to be destroyed by an earthquake tomorrow, May 11.

And it is, supposedly, all because of the predictions of a self-styled ‘geophysicist’ by the name of Raffaele Bendandi.

It will not surprise you to learn that Bendandi, who died in 1979, was not any kind of proper scientist. Despite being awarded a knighthood by Mussolini, he had no formal scientific training and none of his research was ever supported by independent corroboration. The many ‘theories’ that he advanced in his lifetime were not inhibited by actual factual content. Among other things, Bendandi advanced an hypothesis for the flooding of Atlantis and believed that he had discovered a planet in an orbit between the sun and Mercury.

But here’s the best part – the rising panic in Rome appears to be the result of some idiot somewhere getting his wires crossed. Bendandi didn’t actually ever predict an earthquake for May 11, 2011. According to Paola Lagorio, the president of an organization who looks after Bendandi’s legacy, there is no such indication in any of the the writings attributed to him. Someone just pulled that right out of their ass (Paola Lagorio didn’t say that, you understand, but I bet she was thinking it).

But hey – Rome is the where the Pope lives, right? Why don’t the people who think there’s going to be an earthquake just pray to God that it won’t happen?1 Oh, yeah, right. I guess they will, and that’s why it won’t happen. Silly me.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow Faithful Acowlytes, in order that we might comprehensively ridicule all those Romans who took their kids out of school and fled to the countryside. You know you want to.

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Thanks once more to Atlas for bringing this to the attention of the Cow.

  1. I’m betting that the Venn diagram of People Who Are Very Religious in Rome and People Who are Very Gullible in Rome has a pretty big area of intersection… []

There are in the world some truly detestable human beings, and Fred Phelps, pastor of the Westboro Baptist Church in Kansas is one of them. This poisonous hate-filled individual is about as repugnant as anyone living on this planet can possibly be. His peculiar Fascist-Calvinist view of Christianity holds that Christ died so that only a few ‘elect’ people will be ‘saved’ and believes he is one of the elite on Earth who is worthy of God’s Grace. You decide what kind of a God might want to claim this man:

That’s one seething humanity-loathing mess of a person. That’s a man who has hate infused so thoroughly in his being that I doubt he can experience much else. I imagine that being inside his head is like living in a perpetually mouldy rat-infested sewer. How does someone get to be like this? More to the point, how does a person like that get through their obviously misery-saturated day? If ever I need to remind myself how much I love life, living, my friends, my family and this wonderful experience of EVERYTHING around me, I think I need only watch that video again.

You’ve been reading Tetherd Cow Ahead: proudly brought to you from the Land of the Sodomite Damned.



The Adventures of Pocket Jesus
Episode 4: Eggs is Eggs

*Boy, I really hope these are going to hatch into dinosaurs so I can ride ’em!

(Eggs and rabbits are virtually non-existent in the Bible. Eggs are mentioned only six times and rabbits only twice. Chocolate is not mentioned at all.)

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The font used in The Adventures of Pocket Jesus (aram44.ttf) features genuine Aramaic characters and is used with permission of Mr. G. S. Dykes. What Jesus is saying may or may not make sense. Just like in the Bible.

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Live Science is carrying a story about how the amount of food featured in paintings of The Last Supper has increased over time.

Computer-assisted calculations have enabled researchers to compare similar items in 52 depictions (made between about 1000 AD to 2000 AD) of Jesus’ fabled final meal. They show that portion sizes of main courses (usually eel, lamb and pork) shown in the paintings grew by 69 percent, while plate size grew by 66 percent and bread size grew by 23 percent.

Seems like no better time to remind everyone to enter the Fat Jesus competition over on The Amateur Scientist.

Here’s my effort:



So if you’re feeling a little guilty about sitting down to the big Easter Sunday lunch today, just console yourself by asking: What Would Jesus Do?