The Temptations of Jesus

The temptations of Jesus are recorded in some detail in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and referred to in Mark’s Gospel. It is an episode in which Jesus goes out into the desert and there, after forty days, he suffers three temptations. The first of these is the temptation to perform a miracle and make food from the stones of the desert - which could be used to feed his followers and hence to build a huge following. The second temptation involves spectacle. Jesus is tempted to throw himself from the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem, knowing that God would save him from injury. This, of course, could also be used as a means of generating a following without the need to go through the process of the cross and resurrection. Finally, Jesus is tempted to give in to human nature, to follow human desire for power and domination.

 

Many commentators see this as an encounter with an evil entity in the desert. However, this view has several serious difficulties.

  • The episode begins when Jesus is led into the desert to be tempted by God, through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1,2)

  • The episode takes place in the desert (Mark 1:13; Luke 4:1,2). However, Jesus was also on the pinnacle of the temple (Matthew 4:5) and on a high mountain from which he could see all the kingdoms of the world (Matthew 4:8). This could only occur where the action took place in the mind; Jesus is imagining these places. He was in the desert, not in Jerusalem on the pinnacle of the Temple there; there is no mountain anywhere from which one can see all the kingdoms of the world.

  • The temptations are what any human being might suffer. After a long time in the desert it would be natural to think of food. The idea of appealing to the crowd by means which didn’t involve the suffering of the cross would also appeal to human nature. There is no reason to suppose that anyone other than Jesus was present in the desert during this episode.

 

 

This episode is discussed in more detail in the book “Wrested Scriptures” [Abel R. (2011) “Wrested Scriptures” The Christadelphian magazine and publishing association, ISBN 978-0-8518-9194-1], page 248.

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