July 14, 2011

How This Sounds in First Century Judea

From the Wikipedia entry on 'Figs in the Bible':

"The Jewish Encyclopedia[3] states that the fig tree is a symbol of the coming of the Mashiach:
The simple meaning of these parables, however, was lost later on, and they were taken to be allegories and mysteries, especially when they alluded to the Messianic expectations, about which it was not safe to speak in public, as they assumed the end of the kingdom of Satan (Rome; comp. Mark 4:11, Mark 4:34; Matt 13:1-52, especially Matt 13:35 and Matt 13:39). Thus "the parable of the fig-tree" (Mark 13:28; see Wellhausen, who is at a loss to explain it) is actually a "symbol" of the Messianic advent, according to the Midrash (Cant. R. ii. 13), but was no longer understood by the evangelists, either as an allegory or as a sign of Messianic success or failure, in the story of the blasted fig-tree (Mark 11:13-14, Mark 11:20-23)."
-----

Searching on midrash & fig tree, I get a googlebooks exerpt from The New Testament and Rabbinic Literature by Reimund Bieringer: “The biblical images of vine and fig tree are symbols for Israel, abundance, the Day of the Lord, and the coming of Messiah; their absence signifies desolation..... Likewise, in rabbinic Midrash the fig tree and its fruits symbolize Israel and its good works or Torah teachings, the messianic age, the coming of Messiah, even the hour of death."

----
Jeremiah 8.13 :

"When I would gather them, says the Lord,
there are no grapes on the vine
nor figs on the fig tree:
even the leaves have withered,
and what I gave them has passed away from them."

----
Isaiah 5->5.7

Let me sing for my Beloved
a love song concerning his vineyard

My Beloved had a vineyard
on a very fertile hill.
He digged it and cleared it of stones
and planted it with choice vines;
He built a watchtower in the midst of it,
and hewed out a wine vat in it;
and He looked for it to yield grapes
but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem
and men of Judah,
judge, I pray you, between me
and my vineyard.
What more was there to do for my vineyard
that I have not done in it?
When I looked for it to yield grapes
why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you
what I will do in my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge
and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its walls
and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
it shall not be pruned or hoed,
and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts
is the house of Israel,
and the men of Judah
are his pleasant planting;
and He looked for justice,
but behold: bloodshed;
for righteousness
but behold: a cry!

7 Comments:

At 6:01 PM, Blogger Random Arrow said...

“.. Wellhausen, who is at a loss to explain it) is actually a ‘symbol’ of the Messianic advent, according to the Midrash (Cant. R. ii. 13), but was no longer understood by the evangelists, either as an allegory or as a sign of Messianic success or failure, in the story of the blasted fig-tree (Mark 11:13-14, Mark 11:20-23)."

Excellent sleuthing. Thank you for the excellent foraging.

What does this mean?

That Gideon hiding in the presses hard-crying, begging (“O my lord, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, 'Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?' But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian?”) – that this particular wheat-beating Gideon was a fig and was fig-pressed closer in his raw crying hope, closer to the “sign of Messianic success or failure” – than the evangelists?

That the evangelists did not have even a fig-leaf covering for the raw nakedness of their symbolic misunderstanding (or is ignorance better here?)? Open question ...

Why build Second Temples? – or First? On this mountain? Or that? Why manhunt Muslims digging under the current ruin? Why not just build low-down presses? And hide hard-pressed in holes close to the dirty ground? Until we howl in pain out of our prophetic guts to cry, “Maranatha!” ?

I’m not sure whether I buy the theory that the evangelists were ignorant of this. Save that they were ignorant of so much else. If the law of averages applies, okay. But why not see the comfort and riches and wealth of the Temple as the whorish-wealth-bait to make them forget how desperately they needed a Messiah – to tear it down!

Why is it a bit difficult to believe that a mere loss of historical memory – and not current wealth and prosperity – caused such an aphasia?

Why? Figs are always in season. When they’re in season. There should be a symbol in every bite!

If there’s a poet about, consider these questions a way of setting the dinner table ... plates are empty, but ready for serving up heaping and helping portions.


Cheers,


Jim

 
At 7:18 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Well, I don't buy that notion about "the evangelists" either-- except that as these stories defused into regions where most of the audience were ex-pagan converts their significance stopped being as obvious as they would have been to a Jewish reader.

Poets? Sometimes guilty.

Herod
always tries to kill the children
It is nothing
you did wrong;
it is
Nature. You should not
complain so.

 
At 8:51 PM, Blogger Random Arrow said...

“ ..as these stories defused into regions where most of the audience were ex-pagan converts ..”

Now, that does make sense.

“Herod ..
...
Nature.”

So your real name is Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus! You are outed!

A good poem too!

 
At 9:28 PM, Blogger forrest said...

Purrrr...

But no, I meant something more like "It's the nature of rulers to act that way." (Was thinking about what you said abt the next post, how sons of mucketty-mucks so often turn out grasping & corrupt.)

And in this part, all the people wondering why God seems to have forsaken their nation (whichever happens to be their favorite contender for most-forsaken. Lots of nations could make a strong case.)

Which has a lot to do with why nations keep forsaking God, yes? The idols are so much prettier, so much less complicated; they aren't Eternity In Love With The Productions of Time (as Eternity is, according to Blake); they're subject to control. They may terrify but they don't overwhelm so much!

 
At 12:40 AM, Blogger forrest said...

One comment on quakerquaker ... has reminded me to check my Matthew (12.33):

"Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; you can tell a tree by its fruit. You vipers' brood! How can your words be good when you yourselves are evil?-- for the words that the mouth utters come from the overflowing of the heart."

We tend to take this as addressed to individuals-- but in the context of this passage Jesus is definitely defending himself from his opponents-- and addressing them as representatives of a society which had become corrupt. [The Judaism we know was born from the wreckage of the state religion of Jesus' time-- with its hopes of nationalist, military triumph crushed, with the Temple destroyed-- necessarily emphasizing the spiritual and ethical elements of the traditions.] Basically, Jesus was saying here that the state Judaism of his time was not leading to the kinds of people or the kinds of actions that God intended. Hence his predictions of coming desolation!

Tonight I was thinking of "the Jews" as "suffering for our sins." They haven't been any worse than the rest of us; many of them have striven and succeeded at being far better. But, in the spotlight of so many sacred writings-- Have they ever showed us the consequences of putting our faith in nationalism, militarism, personal wealth, piety, any of the countless idols to which human beings are prey!

 
At 12:02 PM, Blogger Random Arrow said...

" .. whichever happens to be their favorite contender for most-forsaken. Lots of nations could make a strong case .."


“Now then, Dmitri,
you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb ...
The Bomb, Dmitri....
The hydrogen bomb!
....
Let me finish, Dmitri ...
Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?!
Can you imagine how I feel about it, Dmitri?
....
They [the bombers] will not reach their targets for at least another hour ...”

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger forrest said...

It's some kind of miracle that we've survived more than fifty years under criminal negligence, in which the Wonderful Death Machine you're talking about came very close to killing everyone through a false alarm. If the guy in charge had been a Believer in one of our Christian apocalyptic sects, if his idea of "rapture" had looked something like: getting vaporized & spread throughout the stratosphere before the real trouble starts...

"When you come, as you soon must, to the streets of our city,
Mad-eyed from stating the obvious,
Not proclaiming our fall, but begging us
In God's name to have self-pity..."
[from 'Advice to a Prophet' by Richard Wilbur]

& when we fall, probably from side effects of some minor evil we've long given up on even noticing, will our survivors have learned better?

It seems to me that Christians have inherited this great tradition of self-criticism, but have used it mainly to pretend that we're somehow different!

 

Post a Comment

<< Home