Palm Sunday: Date Palms Do Not Grow in Jerusalem

Image result for image of date palm
date palm

 

So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,

“Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
    the King of Israel!”

Gospel of John 12:13

 

Palms do not grow commonly in the uplands, and they were usually brought up from the Jordan valley when required for ceremonial use…Matthew and Mark do not mention palms, but suggest that the disciples spontaneously cut branches of the trees growing in the locality.  –Lindars (1972, 422)

Date palms are the palms mentioned in the New Testament with reference to Palm Sunday…  The date palm can survive a temperature as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit but requires a mean temperature over 65 degrees Fahrenheit in order to flower and fruit.  The mean temperature in Jerusalem in the winter is 41 degrees Fahrenheit for the low.  Of course it sometimes gets much colder and it even snows in Jerusalem.  …Date palms grow in cities like Jericho which had always been famous for them.  Jericho is about 40 km east of Jerusalem.  –Solowey (1987, 115-117)

It (the date palm) is the only native palm tree in the Holy Land.  Actually, it is native only to desert oases, e.g., Jericho, ‘the city of palms'” (Deut. 34:3; 2 Chr. 28:13);  –Malina and Rohrbaugh (1998, 210) in Social Science Commentary on the Gospel of John

(All quotes taken from The Resurrection:  A Critical Inquiry, pp. 57-58, by Jewish author, Michael J. Alter)

 

Gary:  And we are to believe that the author of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness to this event!!!  My goodness.  The man didn’t even know that date palms do not grow in Jerusalem, yet, he has the disciples (and the crowds?) strewning palm fronds all over the streets of Jerusalem!

This is just another example of why the Gospels are NOT reliable historical documents.  They were not written by eyewitnesses.  They most likely were not even written by Palestinian Jews.

 

16 thoughts on “Palm Sunday: Date Palms Do Not Grow in Jerusalem

  1. Gary –

    do some fact checking. Just google “photos date palms jerusalem”, and you’ll see the place is loaded with them.

    sheesh.

    Better yet, go visit there.

    the date palm is virtually the “national tree” of Israel, and has been since before the 1st century. And yeh, they had them in Jerusalem back then, too.

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    1. Scholars say that during Jesus’ time, date palms were the only palms in Palestine and that they only grew at lower elevations. The fact that other species of palm grow in Jerusalem TODAY was not the point of the post. If you can provide proof that date palms have always grown in Jerusalem, please give me the link.

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      1. Dates didn’t grow on date palms at higher elevations (or, grew very poorly – not good enough for agricultural purposes), but date palms themselves grew even in mountainous regions.

        See “The History of the Date through the Ages in the Holy Land” (Asaph Goor, Economic Bontany, Vol 21, 1967)

        It is almost ludicrous to imagine Jerusalem without palm trees. Palm trees even appeared on sheckels. And, Israeli farmers knew well about planting, cultivating and pollinating palm trees.

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        1. Please provide a credible source which states that the ancient Judean palm grew in JERUSALEM, not just a vague “higher elevation. I have looked at several sources on this issue and have found none that mention these palm trees having been in ancient Jerusalem. In addition, please be aware that the palm trees in Jerusalem today were brought in from outside the region in the 1950’s.

          We need an answer to a very specific question: Did palm trees grow in Jerusalem during Jesus life time? If not, then the author of John has made a mistake, assuming that the infamous date palms of Jericho also grew in Jerusalem, a city that is several thousand feet higher in elevation, and much colder in the winter.

          http://www.biblicalproductions.com/document/94,69,98.aspx

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          1. re: “I have looked at several sources on this issue and have found none that mention these palm trees having been in ancient Jerusalem. ”

            So what? Virtually every article available out there talks about agricultural practices. They didn’t do “date farming” in Jerusalem.

            But — It’s entirely irrelevant whether date palms grew in Jerusalem or not.

            The QUESTION is COULD A CROWD OF PEOPLE IN JERUSALEM HAVE HAD DATE PALM BRANCHES for religious celebrations?

            And, the answer to that is “Yes, very, very easily”. It’s that simple. Those date palms didn’t have to GROW in Jerusalem. Not at all. Just like any other “desired product” – and, date palm branches most certainly fit that bill, because of their significance in religious ceremonies – date palm branches could easily have been carried from Jericho to Jerusalem. Even IF they didn’t grow in Jerusalem.

            Next thing you’re going to bring up is the fact that you can’t find any references to sheep being raised in Jerusalem, in order to make an argument that there couldn’t have been sacrifices at the Temple…

            Your turn, though: Show me one credible scholar who says “there were no date palms in Jerusalem in the first century”.

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            1. The issue is not whether or not palm fronds were bought and sold in Jerusalem it is whether or not the authors of the Gospel are collectively correct to say that the disciples picked palm branches to lay at Jesus feet.

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          2. OFF THREAD: I hope you’re not getting “repeated posts” from me, but I’m afraid that might be the case. Many times that I have hit the “Post Comment” button, nothing happens, but then, I get a message about some server error. So, I try again. And, it might be that MY messages are getting to the blog server, but, the blog server isn’t sending back anything. I dunno. I just hope you haven’t gotten multiple copies of my recent posts. If so, I just want you to know I’m not intentionally trying to do anything to flood the blog, or anything like that…

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            1. Your comments go to moderation due to your past history of including personal insults in your comments. Those comments with insults are deleted. Those which address the post are posted after being reviewed.

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              1. Matthew: The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

                Mark: Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.

                Luke: No mention of any branches

                John: The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting,

                So if we combine the three accounts, people went out into the fields and cut palm fronds to lay at Jesus feet. Did palms grow in Jerusalem???

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                1. “Matthew: The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them; 7 they brought the donkey and the colt, and put their cloaks on them, and he sat on them. 8 A very large crowd[b] spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road.
                  Mark: Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields.
                  Luke: No mention of any branches
                  John: The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. 13 They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting
                  So if we combine the three accounts, people went out into the fields and cut palm fronds to lay at Jesus feet. Did palms grow in Jerusalem???”

                  First off, in Matthew, the people are cutting branches from trees; it does not say palm branches. Second, in Mark, the people are laying down the branches they had cut from the fields; again, it does not say palm branches. In John, it says they took palm branches and went out to meet him….it does not say they cut them from palm trees in Jerusalem, it simply says, they took the palm branches they had and went out to meet Jesus.

                  In Matthew and in Mark, nowhere do we read that palm branches were cut from palm trees, and in John, they did take palm branches but nowhere do we read that they cut these palm branches from palm trees. All we read is that they took the palm branches. Where did these palm branches come from? From Bethany about 2 miles outside of Jerusalem. (John 11:18) or from Jericho known as the city of palm trees. (Deut. 34:3) Jericho is about 25km or 34 odd miles from Jerusalem.

                  In Bethany, palm trees grew; in fact, the word Bethany means “house of dates (as in the dates of palm trees) and it was also given as the “house of affliction” due to its poverty. Bethany was about 2 miles east of Jerusalem. Just as today when flowers can be trucked, shipped, etc for special occasions, so did the people (merchants, business people, or simply private folk) of Jerusalem have palm branches brought from outside Jerusalem, from either Bethany or Jericho.

                  Gary, when you ask “did palm trees grow in Jerusalem?” The assumption is that the Gospel account of John says that the people took palm branches and lay them in front of Jesus. You ask that because you assume the Gospel accounts say that the people in Jerusalem cut down palm branches from palm trees in Jerusalem. The Gospels never say that! What you did was add your “special flavor of the month” to the Gospel narrative, so to speak.

                  When the account of John 12:9-13 is read carefully, we find that a large crowd went to Bethany to see both Jesus and the resurrected Lazarus…and then we read that “the next day a large crowd which was coming to the Feast (these are not the same people of verse 9) were already coming with their palm branches, nowhere do we read that they had cut those palm branches from palm trees in Jerusalem.
                  A large crowd was following Jesus on His way to Jerusalem from Jericho: Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through (Luke 19:1)
                  As they (Jesus and His disciples) were going out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him (on the way to Jerusalem). Matthew 20:29/Mark 10:46
                  The crowds were with Jesus on the way to Jerusalem and along the way they were cutting branches from trees, throwing them down along with those who carried with them palm branches from Jericho and also threw them down before Him as He approached Jerusalem.
                  One last time: Nowhere do the Gospel accounts say that the people cut their palm branches from palm trees in Jerusalem.

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      2. Dates didn’t grow on date palms at higher elevations (or, grew very poorly – not good enough for agricultural purposes), but date palms themselves grew even in mountainous regions.

        See “The History of the Date through the Ages in the Holy Land” (Asaph Goor, Economic Bontany, Vol 21, 1967)

        The venerated and well-researched Jewish Encyclopedia notes “In the Temple service, branches of the date-palm were used at the Feast of Booths”.

        It is almost ludicrous to imagine Jerusalem without palm trees. Palm trees even appeared on sheckels, and the Temple was decorated with palm-tree carvings. And, ancient Israeli farmers knew well about planting, cultivating and pollinating palm trees. So, even if there weren’t palm trees in Jerusalem when they started building the Temple, it’s almost unimaginable that there wouldn’t have been plenty planted.

        BUT – forget all that. You do realize, do you not, that the Date-Palm Capital of Judea – Jericho – is a mere TEN MILES from Jerusalem? Did you know that? Had you looked that up? Seen a map, maybe?

        Trust me – for the Feast of Booths – Succoth – it’s NO PROBLEM to bring tons of date palm branches to Jerusalem, and to the Temple. It’s not even a half-days walk from Jerusalem.

        So – your great Jewish author is, I think, perhaps a dimwit.

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        1. The Gospels state that the disciples went out and picked the branches and John says that the branches were palm branches. Therefore if these two claims are correct, the palm trees had to be in Jerusalem. Can you provide evidence that palm trees grew in ancient Jerusalem?

          I am fully aware that palm fronds are used for Succoth. However, that holiday is in the fall, and, yes, they brought palm fronds from Jericho.

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          1. re: “The Gospels state that the disciples went out and picked the branches”

            NOWHERE does it say the disciples “picked” the branches. Not in Greek. It simply says they “took” branches, and in this instance (John 12:13), it is used in exactly the same sense that we might say “he took a knife and cut the bread”.

            There is absolutely NO indication whatsoever of WHERE these branches came from.

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  2. Hi Gary. The gospel of John tells us in Chapter 12:16-19 “16 The disciples didn’t notice the fulfillment of many Scriptures at the time, but after Jesus was glorified, they remembered that what was written about him matched what was done to him.

    17-19 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus from the tomb, raising him from the dead, was there giving eyewitness accounts. It was because they had spread the word of this latest God-sign that the crowd swelled to a welcoming parade. The Pharisees took one look and threw up their hands: “It’s out of control. The world’s in a stampede after him.” This was taken from Eugene Peterson’s THE MESSAGE. In chapter 11 we were told that after the Raising of Lazarus, Jesus went into hiding because there was a plot to take his life. So Jesus was entering the city of Jerusalem from the town of Ephraim as stated in chapter 11 of John’s gospel. This was in the region of the Jordan Valley. John is several years later interpreting the events of that day through the lense of faith. This is key. His gospel is all about the “Signs” that Jesus was and is the promised Messiah. So John invites us in his gospel right from early on to “Come and see!” Since Jesus was coming from outside the city, and since we are told in chapter 11 that the people were watching and wondering if Jesus would be coming for the Passover feast at all, and because of the raising of Lazarus which happened the week before — again, outside the city of Jerusalem, we need to recognize a few things. First, that the people were looking for Jesus and waiting for him because no miracle like this had been done since the prophets Elijah and Elisha. Second, they were really excited for Passover as it was, never mind the fact that Jesus was viewed as the greatest prophet since times of old. Third, The psalms themselves attest to the fact that people processed into the city from down below because Jerusalem was a city as you say, on a higher elevation. They always processed up into the city from below where the palms were plentiful, and they sang the psalms of ascents found in the book of psalms. Many of them in many biblical translations are labeled “a song or a psalm of ascent.” These were sung in worship as the people walked. So the palms came from below, outside the city, and the people were looking for him. John tells us that the people were spreading the word. One final thing — after the death of Herod the Great, his regent kingdom was split between his surviving sons. You can search up coinage from that time and you will see that Herod Antipas, mentioned throughout the gospels was one of those regent kings during the lifetime of Jesus. On several of his coins you will see the symbol of the palm. Entire books have been written on it — you can find that easily with a simple google search. That’s because the palm was a national symbol going back to the time of King Solomon when the nation of Israel was one united kingdom. His Temple had inscriptions of palms in it. His palace did also. It became known as a symbol of kingship way back then. And Solomon, David’s son, rode on a donkey. Jews knew this. It was a kingly symbol, as is the palm. When kingly leaders came to visit in Jerusalem, palms would be spread before them as a sign of respect. Kind of like a bow or curtsy before the queen of England. So all of these events came together — the ride on the donkey, the palms in procession and being spread before him on his entry, the term “Hosanna!” meaning, “Save us now!” The disciples were simply caught up in the parade! They really didn’t think about the significance of the donkey or the palms or the prophecies until after Jesus’ death. What we do know that history confirms is that the Temple authorities of that day recognized a potential problem as did the government. Rome was the authority of the day, and that was not to be questioned. The Temple establishment –their responsibility was to keep the peace during this festival — the largest of the three pilgrimage Jewish festivals of the year. If they did not do their job and this man caused an uproar — and this ruckus entrance was a display that they were not succeeding in doing their job — well, there would be hell to pay! Therefore, the gospels need to be viewed not as verbatim historical accounts. They were never intended to be such. In fact, that concept never came about until the post-enlightenment modern era of history. The gospels, and John even states it, were written “so that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah (Christ in Greek), the Son of God (a Greek expression meaning that Christ himself was divine), and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31) So it is a holy text — a text of faith, just as the Quran is a holy text for the followers of Islam. Not meant to be a historical document, it is an invitation for belief. The authors of the gospels are giving their personal testimony of who Jesus was to them and their invitation for us to join the community of believers whose lives have been transformed from faith in Christ. I don’t recommend that the Bible ever be viewed as a historical document as in a verbatim. Even when viewed historically, it is always one person’s history — the author’s interpretation of that history. All holy texts are meant to be read as sacred texts… holy texts… as ways to glean truths on how to live and be better loving people. I invite you, with John to, “Come and see!”

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    1. Sorry. I see a lot of ancient superstitious nonsense in your belief system.

      I invite you to embrace reason, science, and rational thinking, my friend.

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