Kirkus Reviews

A brief, allusive study of the final days of Jesus Christ on Earth.

Klein intriguingly looks at the story of the ministry and mission of Jesus from the perspective of the fig tree in that story.

He looks at the tree’s place in Jewish folklore as well as its mentions in the New Testament, in which Jesus not only spotted the virtuous Nathanael under its branches, but also angrily cursed it in Mark 11 for not bearing fruit out of season. This latter biblical passage has been used by critics of Christianity for hundreds of years to illustrate what they see as Jesus’ human fallibility. But Klein offers a deeper reading here, tying Jesus’ condemnation of the tree to his contempt for the Sanhedrin, the ruling religious authority in Jesus’ day. In Klein’s interpretation, Jesus was certainly pragmatically aware that it wasn’t fig season and was, in fact, using the tree to illustrate deeper corruption: “The power of the visual as a symbol and metaphor,” the author writes, “contains meaning that would transcend linear doctrine.” This theme of criticizing ossified, official religions runs through the book: “Whoever despises religion is not alone,” Klein writes. “So did Jesus.” According to the author, Jesus rebelled against “the doctrines, the myths and religious biases” that were exemplified by the Sanhedrin, but he also notes that they all have modern-day counterparts. In the latter half of his book, Klein moves on to offer a thorough discussion of the archaeology of Jerusalem that somewhat clashes with the opening, largely theological sections. However, he still maintains a lively, sometimes-eloquent narrative line throughout. For example, when he describes Jesus’ final pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he writes, “How sacred the moment, walking in such close proximity to Jesus the Lamb of God, who in just a few short days by the shedding of his own blood would become the fulfillment of the Passover.” This throughline makes the book as a whole genuinely compelling. A powerful interpretation of the deeper roots of the Passion of Jesus.