Jesus Tempted

The Synoptic accounts follow Jesus' anointing at Jordan 'immediately' (Mark 1.12) with the account of his being tempted in the wilderness for forty days (Matt. 4.1/Luke 4.1). It can be judged quite likely that Jesus did spend some time in the desert at the beginning of his mission.186 Such a recoil for prayer and reflection is entirely to be expected. The traditions of Moses and Elijah fasting forty days (in connection with a direct revelation from God)187 would not only have shaped the later telling of the story but could also be expected to have shaped the motivation of Jesus himself. After all, Jesus is remembered as retiring to deserted places at other times for Similar motivation probably lies behind Saul of Tarsus's departure from Damascus into Arabia following the 'revelation' given to him on the Damascus road (Gal. 1.12, 17). From the immediate context we might even mention Josephus, recalling that as a young man he became the devoted disciple of the ascetic Bannus in the wilderness for three years before settling to a more traditional lifestyle {Life 11-12). Not least of interest is that Mark's description of Jesus being 'driven out' into the wilderness by the Spirit (Mark 1.12) carries strong echoes of the characteristic account of the shaman driven into the bush by the inspiring Spirit to undergo a testing or purifying experience in preparation for his future role.189 That is to say, the Synoptic narrative may reflect typical reli

185. Theissen, 'Legend' 84-85. In contrast, Josephus may be attempting to excuse Herod in some degree by exaggerating the threat of insurrection posed by John's popularity.

186. Sanders, Historical Figure 112-17.

188. Mark 1.35/Luke 4.42; Mark 1.45/Luke 5.16; Mark 6.32/Matt. 14.13; Luke 6.12; John 6.15; 11.54.

189. See, e.g., J. V. Taylor, cited in my Jesus and the Spirit 383 n. 105. Does this perhaps explain why both Matthew and Luke soften the description of the Spirit's action — 'led up by the Spirit' (Matt. 4.1), 'led by the Spirit' (Luke 4.1)?

gious experience and motivation before it reflects a story-teller's patterning of performance to conform to traditional accounts of such experiences.

At the same time, we recall the historical difficulty in locating such a wilderness period within the beginning of Jesus' mission (above 11.2b). If Jesus' mission did indeed initially model itself on John's (John 3.22-24) and assumed its distinctive shape only following John's imprisonment (Mark 1.14), we are left in some uncertainty as to the timing of any wilderness retreat, particularly as the Fourth Evangelist (our only source for the early overlap period) makes no reference to one. Did it happen 'immediately' after the initial encounter with John, or only after John had been removed from the scene? We are no longer in a position to answer such a question.

The question whether we can speak of 'the temptation of Jesus' as an experience of Jesus himself leaves us similarly non-plussed. (1) As with the question of Jesus' experience at Jordan (above we need to take seriously the fact that what we have is a story about Jesus, not a story told by Jesus or teaching remembered as a personal communication from Jesus. Behind the story there are no doubt impressions left by Jesus, but how much more we can say remains un-clear.190 (2) Moreover, there can be little doubt that each of the Evangelists passes on a version which has been shaped in the various tellings. In Mark the interpretative element is modest: 'he was with the wild beasts', signifying, perhaps, Jesus being protected during the forty days (cf. Dan. 6.16-23), or possibly even an anticipation of paradise restored.191 The Q version is much more elaborate, with its account of three specific temptations.192 It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Q account has been shaped to bring out a parallel between Je

190. Fitzmyer wonders whether 'Jesus recounted some form of these stories as figurative, parabolic resumes of the seduction latent in the diabolic opposition to him and his ministry' (Luke 509-10).

191. Cf. Gen. 2.19-20 withlsa. 11.6-9; 65.25; Hos. 2.18. See, e.g., Jeremias, Proclamation 69-70; Pesch, Markusevangelium 95-96; D. C. Allison, 'Behind the Temptations of Jesus: Q 4:1-13 and Mark 1.12-13', in Chilton and Evans, eds., Authenticating the Activities of Jesus 195-213 (here 196-99, though note also 202-203); various interpretations are reviewed by R. H. Gundry, Mark (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993) 54-59; J. W. van Henten, The First Testing of Jesus: A Rereading of Mark 1.12-13', NTS 45 (1999) 349-66.

192. As Kloppenborg notes, 'the temptation story in Q has often proved something of an embarrassment', which he partially resolves by treating it as 'a late addition to Q' (Formation ch. 6; here 246-47). The issue is bound up with the question of a link between the temptation narrative and what preceded (see above, n. 165). But it could equally be questioned whether the temptation narrative should not rather be attributed to oral tradition, picked up independently by Matthew and Luke (cf. Luhrmann, Redaktion 56): the verbal agreements come precisely in the key exchanges of dialogue, as we would expect in oral tradition; and the variation in detail (tempted during or after forty days, the different order of the temptations) is quite what assemblies accustomed to the oral performance of tradition would expect.

sus' forty days in the wilderness and Israel's forty years in the wilderness.193 But the idea of the 'testing'/'temptation' of the righteous is deeply rooted in Jewish tradition.194 (3) Furthermore, there may be echoes of other episodes in Jesus' mission of which there were rather more witnesses: the expectation engendered by reports of a feeding miracle (cf. particularly John 6.26); the request for a miraculous sign, also represented as a 'testing', peirazein (Mark 8.11; Matt. 16.1/ Luke 11.16); and Jesus' affirmation that only God could demand total allegiance, again in response to a 'testing' (peirazein) question according to both Matthew (22.35) and Luke (10.25).195 (4) Finally, the emphasis on temptation in regard to Jesus' sonship (Q 4.3, 9), as in the case of the heavenly voice at Jordan, suggests that the story of the temptation took its present shape only when the conviction regarding Jesus' divine sonship had taken firm and definite shape in the common faith of Jesus' disciples.196

The temptation tradition, therefore, can hardly be said to bear the marks of an impact made directly by Jesus, either 'there and then' or in his later teaching. The narrative attests an impact made, as it were, at one remove. An impression made by Jesus, perhaps through his whole mission, is dramatically represented in this story form.197 That could mean that his disciples thought of Jesus as with-

193. Clearest in Matthew which is almost a midrash on Deuteronomy 6-8 (Jesus quotes from Deut. 8.3; 6.16; and 6.13); see particularly B. Gerhardsson, The Testing of God's Son (Matt. 4.111 & Par-.) (ConBNT 2/1; Lund: Gleerup, 1966); 'a haggadic tale' (Davies and Allison, Matthew 1.352). The echoes of the manna miracle are strong (Exod. 16.4; Deut. 8.2-3; cf. John 6.25-34), and in the third temptation there may be an echo of Moses on top of Pisgah looking over the Promised Land (Deut. 3.27; 34.1-4); but other motifs are evidently at work too (see further Davies and Allison adloc.) . However, the allusion to the wilderness as a period of testing is clear (note the. use ofpeirazein/peirasmos in Exod. 15.25; 16.4; 17.7; 20.20; Deut. 4.34; 8.2; 33.8; Ps. 95.9; Wisd. 11.9; 1 Cor. 10.13; Heb. 3.8-9). For a concise treatment see W. Popkes, EDNT3.65-66.

194. Abraham (Gen. 22.1; Sir. 44.20; Jdt 8.26; 1 Macc. 2.52; Jub. 19.8), Job, David (Ps. 26.2), Hezekiah (2 Chron. 32.31), Daniel (1.12, 14), Tobit (Tobit 12.14S), Judith (Jdt 8.25), and the righteous (Wisd. 2.17; 3.5; Sir. 2.1; 4.17; 33.1).

195. Mark and Matthew also regard the question about tribute to Caesar as a 'test' (peirazein) question (Mark in answer to which Jesus sets in antithesis worldly power and the duty owed to God, as in the third temptation according to Matthew (4.8-10).

197. Jeremias argues that the temptations all boil down to the same temptation: 'the emergence of Jesus as a political Messiah'. Since that issue has no Sitz im Leben in the early church, the nucleus of the temptation story probably goes back to a pre-Easter tradition (Proclamation 71-72). Wright argues that 'some kind of experience, early in his career, in which Jesus believed himself to have won an initial decisive victory over the "real enemy", must be postulated if we are to explain what was said during the Beelzebul controversy' (Jesus 457; similarly Allison, 'Behind the Temptations of Jesus' 207-13); on the latter see below particularly n.

standing particular temptations at certain points — most notably when confronted with the likelihood of a fearful death (Mark 14.32-42 pars.).198 But it could also mean that they saw Jesus' whole mission as characterized by a firm refusal to embrace the sort of alternative strategies for mission which the temptations Either way the temptation story does bear vivid witness to the impression made by Jesus on his disciples: that he was remembered as firmly rejecting populist or merely eye-catching options and as resolutely refusing to compromise on the whole-hearted devotion which God alone could demand.

This final thought on the sovereign demand of God, expressed so powerfully in the third temptation in Matthew's version, is a fitting preface to the principal emphasis of Jesus' own teaching.

198. The theme of temptation, ('Pray that you might not enter into temptation'), is an integral part of the Gethsemane story (Mark 14.38/Matt. 26.41/Luke 22.46). Luke gives it particular emphasis (Luke 22.40), and two paragraphs earlier records Jesus as saying to his disciples, 'You are those who have continued with me in my temptations' (22.28). This correlates also with Luke's conclusion to the temptation narrative: 'When the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time (achrikairou)' (Luke 4.13). In Luke's account Satan (presumably = 'the devil') does not re-enter the story till just before Gethsemane (Luke 22.3, 31).

199. Similarly Hebrews seems to think of Jesus enduring a fuller testing (4.15 — 'in every respect as we are'), but focused particularly in his Gethsemane ordeal (5.7-8). There is no indication that Hebrews has been directly influenced by the Synoptic tradition of Q 4.1-13.

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