Jesus, The New Temple Mark 11:20–25 in its Narrative Context

Jeffrey Berge, Concordia Seminary, St. Louis


The cursing of the fig tree in Mark has led to myriad readings, and wide-ranging discussions from botany to textual criticism. This work argues that reading Mark 11:20–25 in its narrative context shows that the cursing of the fig tree in Mark should be seen in the light of the previous temple-cleansing scene, signaling the condemnation of the present temple order. However, in 11:20–25, the Marcan Jesus provides his followers with encouragement to have faith that God is still with them despite the condemnation of the present temple order. The very activities that one would have seen as dependent on the old temple order will still continue beyond its condemnation. This reading arises out of narrative-based observations, but is also strengthened by recognizing the subtle allusion to Solomon’s dedicatory prayer at the “founding moment” of the first temple in 1 Kgs 8. For those disciples who were concerned by the condemnation and loss of the visible temple in Jerusalem, Mark gives them encouragement that the benefits which the temple once offered may now be sought in Jesus’s faithful and enduring words, just as he told you.