Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness

This entry is part 7 of 7 in the series Satan & demons: Thomas Farrar's commentary

In response to an eight part study I wrote on Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, Tom Farrar has written a four part response to just one of my arguments. I address all four parts of his response in this article.

Part one: midrash & historical narrative

This section addresses the first part of Farrar’s response. Farrar makes the following claim.

“He cites three scholars, two of which refer to a resemblance between the temptation story and midrash, and only one of which claims that the TS is haggadic midrash. Moreover, none of these scholars say that this is the scholarly consensus, and as we shall see, there is debate about the extent to which ‘midrash’ is a helpful category for understanding the TS.”

Firstly it is ironic that Farrar attempts to isolate the temptation accounts from haggadic midrash, since later he will appeal to midrashic material as containing the closest pre-Christian Jewish parallels to the temptation accounts, and will use those parallels to help determine the meaning of the text, exactly as I did. Secondly Farrar’s comment on the sources I cited appears to be either extreme hairsplitting or a misunderstanding of the sources. It is not true that out of the three sources I quoted two “refer to a resemblance between the temptation story and midrash, and only one of which claims the TS is haggadic midrash”.

I quoted Stemberger saying “the term ‘midrash’ has been used especially for the infancy gospels and for the story of Jesus’ temptation”,1 I quoted Hare saying “It [the temptation account] constitutes a piece of haggadic midrash”,2 and I quoted Twelftree saying “That the scenes comprising the temptation Narrative in Q resemble a scribal haggadic midrash* does not in itself tell against their historicity”.3 Two of these sources identify the temptation account explicitly as midrash, and when Twelftree says “the scenes comprising the temptation Narrative in Q resemble a scribal haggadic midrash”, he is not saying “they resemble a scribal haggadic midrash, but in fact they are not”.

In the same way, when Donaldson says “it is generally agreed that the closest formal parallels are to be found in disputations over the interpretation of Scripture in Haggadic midrash”,4 he does not mean “although it is generally agreed that the closest formal parallels are to be found in disputations over the interpretation of Scripture in Haggadic midrash, it is also generally agreed that the passage is in fact not haggadic midrash”. On the contrary, as Kennedy points out, the passage is “often labeled as haggadic midrash or tale, because it appears to bear close resemblance that type of literature”.5 Hagner’s assessment is typical of the literature; “The genre of the passage is again that of haggadic midrash.”6

Farrar continues.

“A further reason why Burke’s claim is untidy is that it conflates different kinds of biblical criticism. The claim that the TS is a haggadic midrash belongs largely to form criticism. This is quite distinct from, for instance, historical criticism, redaction criticism and narrative criticism. It may help to bridge the gap between history and the TS as a final literary product, but it is of limited value in determining the intended meaning of that final product.”

This is a very confused paragraph. The fact is that form criticism, historical criticism, redaction criticism, and narrative criticism (among other techniques), all contribute to determining the intended meaning of the final textual product. That Farrar agrees with this himself is clear from his own application of form criticism to help determine “the intended meaning of the final product”. He argues that parallels (identified by form criticism), between the temptation accounts (of Matthew and Luke), and haggadic midrash, support the reading of the temptation account as a description of Christ’s struggle with a supernatural evil being.

“Hence, the parallels between the TS in Matthew and Luke and ‘haggadic materials’ actually support a mythological reading of the TS.”

So Farrar does exactly what he has said I shouldn’t have done. Farrar continues.

“Similarly, by his repeated use of the term ‘historical narrative’, Burke conflates two issues: (1) whether the TS in the Gospels belong to the genre of narrative, and (2) the historicity of the TS.”

This is simply untrue. When I use the term “historical narrative” I am not conflating “the genre of narrative” and “the historicity of the TS”. I am using a standard term for a specific kind of narrative; that which describes literal historical events, as opposed to non-literal text. This term is well established in the literature; “a historical narrative of Ahaz during the Syro-Ephraimite war”,7 “Hopkins takes the Genesis story as historical narrative rather than as sacred myth”,8 “Mark’s Gospel might be more of a historical narrative because stylistically he occasionally imitates the Old Testament historical narratives“,9 “some epistles provide a significant amount of historical narrative background”,10 “Many are convinced that Jonah is a historical narrative“.11 Farrar’s unfamiliarity with this term is further evidence of his lack of awareness of the relevant scholarly literature.

Farrar continues.

“Along the same lines, some of Burke’s claims are exceedingly vague: he defends “the idea that Jesus’ temptation was figurative, symbolic, or visionary.””

This is a complete fabrication. Farrar has lifted my phrase “the idea that Jesus’ temptation was figurative, symbolic, or visionary” out of a sentence in which I describe his views, not mine, and quoted it out of context. Here it is in bold, in its original paragraph. Farrar continues.

“Farrar claims that the use of the Greek verb proserchomai (‘came’), together with the verb epw (‘say’), indicates that the temptation must necessarily have been a literal encounter with a personal being. Whilst acknowledging proserchomai can be used in a figurative sense, he argues that such usage is rare, not part of Matthew’s established style, and that Matthew’s use of proserchomai with another verb typically introduces a literal encounter between two people, thus militating against the idea that Jesus’ temptation was figurative, symbolic, or visionary.”

It can be seen that in its original context, I was describing the interpretations Farrar opposes, not listing views I defend. This is deliberate misrepresentation. Farrar goes on to write this.

“However, ‘figurative/symbolic’ and ‘visionary’ are two very different ideas, and Burke does not state which of them he endorses.”

Of course ‘figurative/symbolic’ and ‘visionary’ are two very different ideas, that’s why I listed them independently as different ideas. I didn’t state which of them I endorsed, since I had already explained my own view. Farrar continues.

“Nor does Burke clarify whether this claim refers to Jesus’ temptation historically, in pre-Gospel tradition, or in the text of the Gospels (or all of the above?)”

This is another fabrication. I stated my own view explicitly, identifying the temptation account as comprising genuine historical events described in the form of haggadic midrash. Here are my words.

This article assumes genuine historical events underlying the temptation accounts, whilst acknowledging that these events are described in the form of haggadic midrash.”

Farrar then comments “Nor would the presence of symbolic or visionary elements in the TS conflict with it being a narrative, or with its historicity”. I agree. Farrar does not tell readers that I made this point myself. Farrar continues.

“Burke regards my exegesis as “idiosyncratic”, a “litany of error” which “demonstrates a complete lack of familiarity with the relevant scholarship.”[1] Unfortunately, Burke has chosen to interact only with a blog post in which I briefly outlined ten exegetical points without citing any sources. In the post, I referred the reader to more detailed treatments of these points which do cite scholarly sources (here and here). Burke neglects to cite either of these, so it is not clear whether he has even bothered to read them!”

This is a complete misrepresentation of what I wrote. I did not fault Farrar for not citing sources in his ten point summary article. I said that he demonstrated a complete lack of familiarity with the relevant scholarship. I described exactly what I meant by that, identifying Farrar’s lack of acknowledgment of the range of interpretations of the wilderness temptation, his failure to even mention (still less address), figurative, symbolic, and visionary interpretations, his failure to address scholarship on the genre of the wilderness temptation, and his failure to address scholarship on the lexicographical evidence which is contra-indicatory to his claims. Farrar continues.

“Robbins is prepared to countenance the TS as ‘midrash’ (lower case m) which is used in scholarship for “just about every kind of Jewish interpretation of Scripture,”[7] but he is not prepared to refer to them as ‘Midrash’ (upper case M), meaning “a very specific generic category of Jewish exegesis and exposition.””

Farrar conceals the fact that Robbins also states explicitly “But perhaps it also qualifies as a “narrative Midrash”” (that’s Midrash with an upper case M). So after all that we find Robbins is prepared to view the wilderness temptation as “midrash”, and suggests it also qualifies as “narrative Midrash” (the view I take). It would have been better if Farrar had just acknowledged this from the start instead of spending several paragraphs trying to avoid it. Farrar continues.

“Of particular note, he states, “In view of the dramatis personae, the mythic setting and the fact that the purpose is not exegesis, the analogy of a ‘rabbinic dispute’ is not apposite.”[12] This clearly runs contrary to Burke’s claim that “the aim of the temptation account is to explicate the relevance of Biblical passages to Jesus’ messianic mission”.”

There are several problems with this paragraph. Firstly I do not claim the purpose of the temptation account is exegesis. This would mean the temptation account has been crafted specifically to explain the meaning of certain biblical texts. I have said the opposite; the aim of the temptation account is to explicate the relevance of Biblical passages to Jesus’ messianic mission. The end goal is to illuminate Jesus’ messianic mission by use of the texts, not to illuminate the meaning of the texts by use of Jesus’ messianic mission.

Robbins is objecting to the classification of the temptation account as a “rabbinic dispute” because the purpose of the that particular literary device is to exegete the meaning of a text by describing two rabbis debating its meaning. I agree completely with Robbins that the temptation account is not a literary device with the purpose of exegeting the text by describing two parties debating its meaning; there is no “rabbinic dispute” of that kind in the text, though some scholars believe the narrative is an “exegetical duel”.12

Instead of a temptation story being written as a literary device to explain the meaning of biblical texts through the construction of an ahistorical narrative using non-historical figures, biblical texts are used to explain the meaning of a historical figure (Jesus), and his personal theological aims (his messianic mission), using midrashic forms. Secondly the description of the temptation account as explicating the relevance of Biblical passages to Jesus’ messianic mission is not merely my claim; it is well represented in the literature.13

Farrar then quotes from the New American Commentary.

“Finally, Stein, in listing various options for the source of the TS, states, “It is unlikely that the temptations simply arose out of midrashic reflections on various OT passages, such as Deut 6:10-16; 8:1-9:22.””

Here Stein is opposing the view that the temptation account is a literary fabrication from Old Testament cloth, rather than a description (however stylized), of actual events. This is not relevant to my argument, since I am not saying any such thing. However, once again we find it is what Farrar fails to quote from his source, which is of greater interest. This is what Stein says just before the words quoted by Farrar.

Others have suggested that this account may have originated out of parabolic stories Jesus told the disciples in which he expressed the temptations he faced with regard to false messianic conceptions of his ministry. Still others have seen this as Jesus’ autobiographical sharing with his disciples of his messianic temptation in order to clarify for them his own understanding of the messianic task.”14

Stein is clearly not dismissing the proposal that the temptation accounts are midrashic. Farrar concludes this section thus.

“In short, the TS in its pre-canonical form was broadly ‘midrashic’ inasmuch as it contained exegesis of OT texts, but there is little support for viewing its literary genre as ‘Midrash’. Matthew and Luke incorporated this traditional material within a wider biographical narrative about Jesus. Some formal similarity between the TS and midrash may be acknowledged, but this form-critical observation is not decisive for questions of narrative function in the Gospels nor of historicity.”

Is it really true that “there is little support for viewing its literary genre as ‘Midrash’? It is identified explicitly as haggadic midrash by Dupont (1956-57, 1966), Bultmann (1966), Gerhardsson (1966), Davies and Allison (1988), Hagner (1993), Curzon (1995), Gibson (1995), Birmingham (1999), Dunn (1970, 2010), Bovon (2003), Osborne (2010), Kennedy (2008), Focant (2012), Ramey (2013). Consequently, Kennedy notes that it is “often labeled as haggadic midrash or tale”.15

Part two: the “trial of the righteous man” & myth

This section addresses the second part of Farrar’s response. Farrar again resorts to Kloppenborg, in an attempt to deny that the temptation account is midrash, claiming that instead the relevant background is “the ordeal of the righteous man”.

“We have already seen Kloppenborg’s claim that the form-critical background to the TS in Q is the ordeal of the righteous man (which for him is exemplified in the stories of Abraham and Job, especially in extra-canonical versions). As Morris states, “What is depicted at a basic level is a righteous figure who is confronted with demonic temptation.””

Farrar appears unaware that this is not incompatible with the temptation account being midrash. In fact, having previously attempted to distance the temptation account from midrash, he now appeals repeatedly to Jewish midrash as its closest analogue, the same argument I made. Farrar then quotes extensively from Kelly.

“The identification of the TS as belonging to the genre of the trial of a righteous man owes much to the analogues to the TS in Jewish haggadic materials identified by Kelly. These include the Apocalypse of Abraham, “a typically Jewish midrash on Genesis 15” in which Abraham is tempted by an unclean bird who is identified as Azazel.[2] A second parallel is from the Book of Jubilees, in which “Mastema (who in 10.8-11 may be identified with Satan) requests God to tempt Abraham further.”[3] Again, “The disputatious aspects of the Temptation scene in Mt and Lk, therefore, may have a partial inspiration in stories retailing the adventures of the Angel of Death in dealing with Moses.”[4] Furthermore, “As a parallel to the Mt-Lk Temptation account of the meeting of Christ with the ruler of the world, we may cite the Martyrdom of Isaiah.”[5] Again, “In the Damascus Document, which dates from well before the Christian era, we find still another analogue to the Temptation account of Mt-Lk”,[6] namely Beliar’s three nets. A striking feature shared by all of these parallels to the TS is that the antagonist is a mythological figure. Hence, the parallels between the TS in Matthew and Luke and ‘haggadic materials’ actually support a mythological reading of the TS. The implications for historicity are not as pronounced: “We should emphasize here that the mere presence of literary elements in the Temptation accounts would solve no question as to the kind of historicity involved in these scenes.””

So having previously claimed “Some formal similarity between the TS and midrash may be acknowledged, but this form-critical observation is not decisive for questions of narrative function in the Gospels nor of historicity”, Farrar now appeals to similarities between the temptation account and midrash in order to determine its narrative function. Once again we see a hermeneutic of convenience; midrashic parallels are irrelevant when Farrar wants to deny the temptation account is a haggadic midrash, but relevant when he wants to use them to support his claim that the temptation describes a historical battle of wits between Jesus and a supernatural evil being.

Farrar appeals only to the midrash in which a righteous man is tempted by a supernatural being, because he wants this to be decisive for determining the narrative function of the temptation account. These parallels, Farrar believes, “support a mythological reading of the TS”, a reading in which Jesus is tempted by a supernatural being. However, Farrar attempts to make much of just one form of parallel (a righteous man tempted by a supernatural being), while ignoring the differences between the temptation account and the midrashic literature he cites.

Firstly, the tempter or challenger in each case is not a supernatural opponent of God, but an obedient servant, whether Azazel, Mastema, the Angel of Death or Beliar. Secondly, in none of these cases is a righteous man tempted by a supernatural being called Satan. This is a point I identified specifically in my article, in a section which Farrar has completely omitted to even cite, let alone address. Here is what I wrote.

“Three terms are used to describe Christ’s adversary in the Synoptic temptation accounts; ‘satan’ (ὁ satanaV in Mark 1:12, with the vocative satana without the definite article only in Matthew 4:10), ‘the tempter’ (ὁ peirazwn, only in Matthew 4:3), and ‘the devil’ (ὁ diaboloV). Elsewhere in Matthew (and only Matthew), the term ‘the evil one’ (ὁ ponēroV), may also be used (Matthew 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38), though this is debated in the literature.12 Lexicographical evidence contradicts the assumption that these terms normatively referred to a supernatural evil being in the first century. In Second Temple Period literature the term ‘satan’ (whether in Hebrew or Greek), is predominantly used as a common noun rather than a personal name, the term ‘the devil’ (ὁ diaboloV), is rarely if ever used to refer to a supernatural evil being, and the terms ‘the tempter’ (ὁ peirazwn), and ‘the evil one’ (ὁ ponēroV), have no pre-Christian witness with such a meaning. The term satan, whether in Greek (satanaV), or Hebrew (śāṭān), is used rarely in pre-Christian literature 13 and never as a proper name.14 Consequently, Laato notes that ‘we lack an established tradition whereby the name of the personal Evil or the leader of demons is Satan’.15″

There is therefore is no evidence for a pre-Christian Jewish tradition of a supernatural opponent of God called “Satan”, tempting a righteous man. If Farrar wishes to appeal to these midrashic tales as the best Jewish analogues for the temptation account, he will need to acknowledge that at best they provide evidence for a pre-Christian Jewish tradition of a supernatural obedient servant of God testing a righteous man; a far cry from the Satan of the popular theology espoused by Farrar.

Thirdly, despite his lengthy quotation of Kelly, Farrar conceals the fact that Kelly does not draw the same conclusion from these parallels as Farrar himself. In fact Kelly’s conclusion is an interpretation of the temptation account which Farrar himself opposes. Kelly believes these parallels strengthen the view that Christ’s temptation in the wilderness “are a dramatic theological expansion of events recorded elsewhere in the gospels”, rather than a literal historical account of Jesus being tempted by a supernatural evil being. Here are Kelly’s words.

“And it has been suggested that since the temptation in the desert was not a witnessed event, as the gospel episodes purport to be, the accounts of Matthew and Luke are a dramatic theological expansion of events recorded elsewhere in the gospels, especially three closely related episodes in John (Jn. 6-7). We read there that Jesus fled an offered kingship, that on the next day he rebuked the people’s implicit desire for more bread, and that his relatives urged him to go to Judea for the feast of tabernacles to manifest his works. This hypothesis of the non-historical, or meta-historical, character of the temptations in the desert is further strengthened by the presence of formal elements and literary conventions in the account, some of which we have just seen.”16

Farrar claims “There seems to be much wider scholarly agreement that the TS is mythological than that it is midrashic”, citing a range of scholars from the mid to late twentieth century (Robbins, Dibelius, Kloppenborg, Allison, Dormandy, Schiavo, Pagels, Sim, Donaldson, Riches, De Boer, Lieu). However, although it is not in dispute that a mythological view of the temptation account is widespread, it is certainly not “much wider” than the view that the account is midrashic (a claim for which Farrar provides no evidence).

Finally Farrar claims I have almost completely ignored the category of myth in my assessment of the temptation account.

“Remarkably, Burke’s discussion of the genre of the TS almost completely ignores the category of ‘myth’ (in his article, the term appears only in footnoted quotations from his sources). The scholarly consensus that the TS is mythological poses a serious problem for Burke’s exegesis, because he himself states, “A cosmological understanding of the temptation accounts would be that Jesus was tempted by a supernatural being,” and regards ‘cosmological’ and ‘mythological’ as synonymous terms referring to supernatural evil.”

This is a complete fabrication. On the contrary, I address the category of myth extensively throughout my article. In fact explicitly declared aim of my article is to challenge the existing consensus that the temptation account is mythological. In my article I first identify the fact that scholars typically view the account as mythological. Here are my words.

Scholars typically assume the terms all have a cosmological referent, citing Second Temple Period beliefs in supernatural evil beings.”

I then describe three lines of evidence with which I challenge this consensus.

“This conclusion is vulnerable to criticism on the basis of several lines of evidence.

1. Satanological terminology in Matthew and Luke: the most common terms used in pre-Christian Second Temple literature for a supernatural evil being, are not used in the Synoptics. In fact most of them are not used in the New Testament at all (Beliar is used once). In contrast, the terms used in the Synoptic temptation accounts have almost no pre-Christian witness in Second Temple literature as a reference to a specific supernatural evil being.

2. Ethical dualism and psychological dualism are dominant in the Synoptics, rather than the cosmological dualism which would be expected if a supernatural evil being was present in the temptation accounts.

3. There are no Old Testament or Second Temple parallels to the temptation accounts; the earliest analogs appear in the Tannaitic literature of the second century.”

I summarize this evidence later in my article.

“The paucity of pre-Christian witness to the satanological terminology in the Synoptic temptation accounts, together with the absence from the Synoptics of established Second Temple terms for supernatural Satan figures (Satanael, Mastema, Belial, Shemihazah, Azâzêl, etc), gives reason to doubt the Synoptic writers held the cosmological dualistic views of their contemporaries. An examination of dualism in the Synoptics, within their Second Temple Period context, leads in a very different direction.”

Not only has Farrar concealed the fact that I identify the existing consensus that the temptation account is mythological and describe the basis on which I challenge that consensus, he has also failed to address the three lines of argument I present against the mythological reading.

Part three: narrative & history

This section addresses the third part of Farrar’s response. Farrar wrongly claims I ignore narrative criticism and deny the temptation account is narrative.

“Despite the widespread use of this methodology in interpreting the Gospels, including the TS, Burke inexplicably ignores it and flatly denies that the TS are narrative. In a curiously circular fashion, this assumption becomes his basis for dismissing my evidence that the TS must be read as a narrative.”

This is another fabrication. I never denied the temptation account is narrative. I said it should not be treated as “strict historical narrative”, or “literally historical”, or “straightforward historical narrative”. Here is a list of statements I made with regard to the temptation account’s relationship to narrative. It is clear I never denied it is narrative.

1. “Rather than being read as historical narrative, the temptation account is generally understood to take the form of haggadic midrash10 (non-historical commentary used to illustrate interpretations of the sacred text ).11 Thus the aim of the temptation account is to explicate the relevance of Biblical passages to Jesus’ messianic mission rather than simply recount historical events (though it may do so in the process).”

2. “Since the account has been constructed for exegetical purposes rather than historical purposes, it ought not to be treated as strict historical narrative. ”

3. “Additional evidence for this is the fact that the Synoptic temptation accounts are irreconcilable if treated as strictly historical narratives: Matthew 4:3 has Jesus tempted to turn ‘these stones’ into bread, but Luke 4:3 has ‘this stone’; Matthew describes the kingdom temptation as the third temptation (Matthew 4:8-10), whereas Luke describes it as the second (Luke 4:5-8); Matthew and Mark both speak of a mountain high enough to see the entire world from (Matthew 4:8, Luke 4:5), which is physically impossible; Mark describes Jesus’ temptations taking place entirely in the wilderness (Mark 1:13), whereas Matthew and Luke describe two of Jesus’ temptations taking place outside the wilderness (Matthew 4:5, 8-10, Luke 4:5-9). These issues are cited by scholars as reasons for not treating the text as literally historical.12″

4. “Attempts are sometimes made to reconcile these discrepancies in order to justify a preconception that the temptation account is a straightforward historical narrative, instead of taking into account the literary evidence indicating otherwise. As noted previously, mainstream scholarship typically sees the accounts as visionary or symbolic descriptions rather than literally historical, and thus sees no need for such harmonizations. However, this does not necessarily mean the temptation account is unhistorical in the sense that Jesus did not undergo temptations in a wilderness immediately after his baptism. This article assumes genuine historical events underlying the temptation accounts, whilst acknowledging that these events are described in the form of haggadic midrash.”

Farrar does not mention any of these statements. He then makes a statement with which I agree, though he clearly expects I do not.

“That the Gospels, in their finished form, position the TS fundamentally as events within the wider narrative about Jesus can scarcely be denied.”

I agree. I don’t deny it. Farrar continues.

“The TS belong to the genre of narrative within the Gospels, regardless of what view may be taken concerning their historicity. Hence, any enterprise in the discipline of biblical theology which seeks to recover the Satanology of the Synoptic Evangelists must approach the TS as narrative and, consequently, resort to narrative criticism.”

It is begging the question to assume the temptation accounts are simply historical narrative. It is widely agreed that the temptation accounts do not belong to strict historical narrative, and the fact that they are frequently identified as a form of haggadic midrash cautions against treating them simple narrative accounts. Farrar continues.

“While many scholars would dispute the extent to which the TS describes actual historical events verbatim, there does seem to be support for the idea that has a basis in actual historical events:”

It is unclear why Farrar wrote this, since I made this point explicitly myself, three times. Here are my words.

“Thus the aim of the temptation account is to explicate the relevance of Biblical passages to Jesus’ messianic mission rather than simply recount historical events (though it may do so in the process).”

“As noted previously, mainstream scholarship typically sees the accounts as visionary or symbolic descriptions rather than literally historical, and thus sees no need for such harmonizations. However, this does not necessarily mean the temptation account is unhistorical in the sense that Jesus did not undergo temptations in a wilderness immediately after his baptism. This article assumes genuine historical events underlying the temptation accounts, whilst acknowledging that these events are described in the form of haggadic midrash.”

Farrar continues.

“What seems to be beyond historical doubt in the minds of most scholars is that Jesus and the Gospel writers believed in Satan as a supernatural being.”

I made the same point myself; it is precisely that majority view that I am challenging explicitly. Here are my words.

Scholars typically assume the terms all have a cosmological referent, citing Second Temple Period beliefs in supernatural evil beings.”

I also specifically quoted Howard Marshall saying “Jesus certainly took for granted the reality of Satan“.17 Farrar continues.

“We can see that the historical problems bound up with the TS are very similar to those in these other two pericopae. In all cases a transcendent being palpably interacts with the human sphere. There are, in each case, three basic positions that scholars may take. The first regards the event as a historical fact. The second regards it as purely symbolic, with no historical foundation. The third, intermediate position allows for some rhetorical license but regards the pericope as based on a historical “experience” of some kind, such as a vision.[20] The third position is perhaps the most sensible for a historian to take in all three cases. However, for a reader who regards the supernatural worldview of the early church as normative, there is no reason why these historical “experiences” may not be seen as rooted in objective reality, and thus tantamount to historical facts.”

The third position is the one I take explicitly. I regard the supernatural worldview of the early church as normative, and I see no reason why these historical experiences cannot be seen as rooted in objective reality and thus tantamount to historical facts.

Part four: visionary experience

This section addresses the fourth part of Farrar’s response. Farrar’s response presents a modified version of his earlier interpretation of Jesus’ temptation. He now combines mystical and literal elements.

“It is therefore possible that what is described here is a mystical experience which nonetheless entailed the transportation of Jesus’ body. For the second temptation (in Matthew’s order) requires Jesus’ bodily presence to be meaningful: how else could he be tempted to throw himself down?[4] Similarly, the third temptation seems to require corporeal presence inasmuch as Jesus is tempted to fall down and worship the devil.”

This is a peculiarly idiosyncratic interpretation. Farrar wants to read the language as literally as possible, so he insists that Jesus’ body was transported physically. Yet the problems resulting from this drive Farrar to suggest that the temptation is also “a mystical experience”. In an attempt to preserve some kind of literalism, Farrar then conflates this with a physical experience, in an attempt to argue that Christ’s temptation may have been a physical experience and a visionary experience.

“Does the TS describe visionary experiences or bodily experiences? The two are not mutually exclusive, of course. Paul, probably referring to his own visionary experience, admits in 2 Cor. 12:2-3 that he is ignorant as to whether the experience was “in the body or out of the body.””

This is a misreading of Paul’s words. He is not saying he was ignorant whether he was having a vision in the body or out of the body. He was saying he did not know if he had been transported to heaven in the body (literally and physically), or out of the body (mystically, in a vision). He certainly did not say “whether in the body or out of the body, or both in the body and out of the body”. Farrar even quotes a scholar making the same distinction.

“Paul’s confusion as to whether his ecstatic journey to heaven took place in the body is a rare insight into first-century thinking, since it demonstrates either a disagreement in the community or more likely a first-century mystic’s inability to distinguish between bodily and spiritual journeys to heaven.”

Here Segal (like Paul), differentiates between “bodily and spiritual journeys to heaven”. The two are mutually exclusive. Either a journey to heaven is physical, “in the body” (the physical transportation of the body to heaven), or it is spiritual, “out of the body” (a visionary experience of heaven without any transportation of the body). Similarly, RT France treats a physical transportation as a mutually exclusive alternative to a visionary transportation; “this transportation was not physical but visionary”.18

Farrar also appeals to parallels with a “heavenly journey” literary form.

“We have seen earlier that Schiavo noted parallels between the literary form of the ‘heavenly journey’ and the TS. For him, the characteristics of this form include.”

However, as Farrar acknowledges, Schiavo concludes that Jesus “seems to remain on earth”, whereas the “heavenly journey” involves the individual being literally transported to heaven. Consequently, parallels with the “heavenly journey” fail to address the point under discussion; whether or not Jesus was physically transported to a literal mountain. Farrar continues.

“On the “mountain” issue, one can refer Burke to Donaldson’s study referred to previously (Part 2), which concludes that the Matthean temptation is to be read within the setting of the cosmic mountain motif known from Jewish apocalyptic. Orlov sees the same idea here.[11]”

It is unclear whether Farrar has fully understood the “cosmic mountain motif” cited by Donaldson and Orlov. The cosmic mountain in Second Temple Period Judaism is a literal mountain from which the entire earth can literally be seen (in the pre-scientific age this was considered possible, though we know today it is not). Donaldson describes it as “the mountain which is the centre and high point of the earth”. If Matthew is citing the cosmic mountain motif, then he is saying Jesus was literally taken to a literal mountain from which the entire earth can literally be seen. Is this really what Farrar believes? If so, where is this stupendous mountain?

Orlov on the other hand has a different interpretation; he notes that “Several scholars have previously remarked that the mountain here might allude to the place of divine presence and dominion”. In other words, Jesus was not literally taken to a mountain, he was literally taken to the divine presence in heaven, from which the entire earth and all its realms could literally be seen. Orlov cites 1 Enoch 25:3, which he notes “identifies the high mountain as a location of the throne of God”, and then suggests that Matthew is saying Jesus was taken by Satan into the divine presence, and literally shown all the kingdoms of the earth by means of “The celestial curtain Pargod,54 the sacred veil of the divine presence, which in 3 Enoch 45 is described as an entity that literally “shows” all generations and all kingdoms at the same time”.

So Donaldson and Orlov are not saying the same thing. If Farrar wishes to appeal to them he must decide whether he agrees with Donaldson that Matthew wants his audience to understand Jesus was taken to a literal mountain which is literally so high that the entire earth can literally be seen from it (in which case Farrar would do well to identify the location of this astonishing mountain), or whether he agrees with Orlov that Satan took Jesus into God’s dwellingplace in heaven and used the magical Pargod to literally show Jesus the entire earth and its realms as if viewed on a television. Farrar continues.

“As to “all the kingdoms of the world,” one need not insist that this means literally every location on planet earth. This would be equivalent to arguing that, because Gen. 13:14-15 is part of a historical narrative, a consistently literal hermeneutic requires us to limit the scope of the promise exactly to Abram’s field of vision!”

If Farrar is to accept either Donaldson or Orlov’s readings (to which he has appealed), that is exactly what we must insist. The alternative is to accept a non-literal reading. But this is precisely the issue; previously Farrar claimed that the temptation account is “a straightforward, literal narrative”, and that a consistent hermeneutic requires verbs such as proskunew to be understood literally. Now he wishes to interpret parts of the narrative literally, and other parts non-literally. He is at liberty to do this, but must recognize it is a departure from the hermeneutic to which he appealed previously. Farrar continues.

“As Burke should be aware if he has read my previous comments on this text, the land which Yahweh showed Moses according to Deut. 34:1-4 is not visible from Mount Nebo, so that it would require “an airborne experience for Moses to actually see all that the biblical text says he saw in his vision from the summit of Mount Nebo.”[12]”

Of course I’m aware of it, this was precisely my point; Farrar insists the text must be read literally, and then arbitrarily treats it as non-literal when convenient. He claims that the word proserchomai necessarily refers to a literal person literally coming to Jesus.

“The verb translated ‘came’ here is proserchomai. This verb occurs 87 other times in the New Testament (50 of them in Matthew!) and in every one of them it takes a literal meaning.”

“Furthermore, the fact that proserchomai is used together with another verb, epo, militates against taking it figuratively.”

He claims that the words proskunew and piptw necessarily refer to Jesus literally falling down and literally worshiping a literal person.

“Both Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the temptation are explicit that what the devil demanded from Jesus in the third temptation (second in Luke’s order) was a physical act of obeisance. In Matthew’s case this is expressed by combining the verbs proskuneo (to worship) and pipto (to fall down).”

He claims that the temptation of the kingdoms of the world is illuminated by a Roman legal term referring to a financial transaction between two parties, which he presents as evidence that Jesus must literally have been offered the kingdoms of the world by a literal person.

“With this background in mind, the devil’s move in showing Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and his offer to give them to Jesus can be understood as an offer to transfer this property to him. This shows that the temptation was transactional in nature; a transaction requires two distinct parties.”

But he then claims “all the kingdoms of the world” only means “the Roman Empire and its environs”, and that the term “can be understood hyperbolically”.

“First of all, in a first century context, “all the kingdoms of the world” does not refer to the entire globe but rather to the then known world, namely the Roman Empire and its environs. Secondly, being shown “all the kingdoms of the world” can be understood hyperbolically (Jesus didn’t literally see the whole world, but a vast expanse of land which he and the devil understood to represent the whole world).”

If “all the kingdoms of the world” only refers to “the Roman Empire and its environs”, then not only was Jesus only shown “the Roman Empire and its environs”, but the tempter was not actually offering him the entire world, only “the Roman Empire and its environs”. This is a poor temptation for a man who was promised rulership of the entire world by God. Farrar is content with this term being understood hyperbolically or in some other non-literal sense, despite its natural usage as a reference to the entire world being indicated by the context. His insistence on literalism is a hermeneutic of convenience, which is abandoned as soon as it becomes problematic.

It is clear from the sheer range of interpretations cited by Farrar, that this temptation is significantly problematic for his reading of the narrative. Here is a summary of the interpretations he provides (though he later abandons them all and suggests something else).

1. Donaldson: Jesus was literally physically taken to a literal very high mountain from which the entire earth could literally be seen (this requires a very unusual mountain).

2. Orlov: Jesus was literally physically taken to God’s dwellingplace by Satan, where Satan borrowed God’s sacred veil (the Pargod), to literally show Jesus all the kingdoms of the earth (this requires Satan to be on curiously good terms with God).

3. Schiavo: Jesus was literally taken physically to God’s dwellingplace by Satan, a vantage point from which Jesus could literally see all the kingdoms of the earth (though Farrar notes Schiavo says this kind of “heavenly journey” could not apply in Jesus’ case since Jesus remains on earth during the temptations).

4. Farrar: Jesus was literally physically taken to a very high mountain, but since he couldn’t literally see very far from this mountain he was given a visionary experience which literally showed him all the kingdoms of the earth (this seems idiosyncratic to Farrar).

Farrar’s own interpretation of this temptation is anything but literal.

“Another alternative, more likely in my view, is that Jesus did see all the kingdoms of the world, but that this required a supernatural experience, such as supernaturally enhanced vision or being taken up from the mountain into the heavens.”

This abandons a literal reading and involves an idiosyncratic interpretation of the text. Given Farrar’s previous insistence that words must be understood within their semantic range (which is of itself entirely legitimate), where is the evidence that “taken up to a high mountain” really means “taken up from a mountain into the heavens”, or that “shown all the kingdoms of the world” means “given supernaturally enhanced vision”? Precisely what kind of “supernaturally enhanced vision” allows someone to see the entire surface of the globe on which they are standing?

If this was simply a case of “supernaturally enhanced vision”, then there was absolutely no need for Jesus to be taken up into a high mountain in the first place; he could have seen the entire planet from the comfort of his own home, with his “supernaturally enhanced vision”. Additionally, in proposing that Jesus was “taken up from the mountain into the heavens”, Farrar is in disagreement with one of the scholars he cited himself previously; Schiavo stated explicitly that a heavenly journey does not apply in this case since Jesus “seems to remain on earth”. Farrar continues.

“Finally, the “fact” “that the verb used for ‘see’ means literally viewing with one’s own physical eyes” is simply a figment of Burke’s imagination, since no verb meaning ‘see’ occurs in the Gospel TS! The verb that does occur is δείκνυμι, to show, which is used frequently of apocalyptic visions (Zech. 3:1 LXX; Rev. 1:1; 4:1; 17:1; 21:9f; 22:1, 6, 8).[13]”

Despite my error in saying the verb means “see” instead of “show”, this avoids the point. The apocalyptic visions which δείκνυμι is used to describe, were seen literally with the eyes.

Farrar’s interpretation of the temptation accounts requires Jesus’ experiences with the tempter to all be literal experiences with another literal person. He fails to address (or even mention), all the scholars who understand the experience to be visionary rather than a historical, observable event.19 He also fails to address (or even mention), all the scholars who understand the temptation account as ” a symbol of the struggle with Satan and the forces of evil which is characteristic of Jesus’ entire ministry”.20 He fails to address (or even mention), all the scholars who understand the temptation account as a dramatization of events throughout Jesus’ ministry.21 It is Farrar’s responsibility to explain why these scholars do not accept that the temptation accounts must be read in the literal manner which Farrar claims is required by specific words in the narrative. If what Farrar says about these specific words is true, why is it not recognized by these scholars?

Farrar continues.

“Burke fails to demonstrate why the presence of visionary experiences would be inconsistent with a narrative reading of the TS.”

I have not argued that the presence of visionary experiences is inconsistent with a narrative reading. Farrar has completely avoided what I am actually saying.

Conclusion

Farrar makes the following claim.

“Similarities between the TS and haggadic midrash, particularly accounts of righteous biblical figures being tested by supernatural beings, assist us in situating the TS from a history-of-religions perspective.”

Farrar has omitted to mention (and is perhaps unaware of), the parallels between the temptation narrative and accounts of individuals struggling with a highly anthropomorphized yetzer ha ra (the evil inclination). These are particularly relevant since they show the yetzer personified to the point that it is depicted as an independent being, even while being identified as an internal impulse to sin.22 Although these sources are typically later than the first century, scholars still consider them relevant for understanding Second Temple Period Judaism (Farrar himself cites as relevant, Jewish sources well into the second century).

In Sifre Numbers, Boaz is tempted by his yetzer, which speaks to him.

“Along these same lines: As the Lord lives! Lie down until morning—because his evil yetzer sat and importuned him the entire night. It said to him: “You are unmarried and you want a woman, and she is unmarried and she wants a man [teaching that a wife is acquired by sexual intercourse].10 So go and have intercourse with her, and she will be your wife.” He took an oath against his evil yetzer: As the Lord lives!—I shall not touch her; and to the woman he said: Lie down until morning. (Sifre Numbers 88, ed. Horowitz, p. 88).”23

It is noteworthy that this narrative not only depicts the yetzer speaking to Boaz, but Boaz replying to it. Rosen-Zvi note that this temptation is not depicted as a mere impulse, but as an independent person arguing cogently with Boaz.

“Additionally, the sophistication of the argument advanced by the evil yetzer to persuade Boaz to lie with Ruth is striking. The yetzer does not simply entice Boaz to sin; it makes a logical and persuasive legal argument. It speaks in the voice of a Torah scholar and sets forth a halakhic claim. It describes the legal facts cogently (“you are unmarried . . . and she is unmarried”), and then draws the evident conclusion: “Go and have intercourse with her, and she will be your wife” (according to m. Qidd. 1:1).”24

Another parallel is the story of a young Nazarite who is tempted by his yetzer, which speaks to him while attempting to make him sin. As with the story of Boaz’s temptation, the young Nazarite replies to his yetzer, and it is notable that he refers to it as “evil one” (a term found in the New Testament).

“He said to me, ‘Rabbi, I was a shepherd in my town, and I came to draw water from the river. I looked at my reflection, and my evil impulse grew proud within me and besought thereby to remove me from the world. I said to it, ‘Evil one, Have you a right to be jealous of a thing which really is not yours, of something which is destined to turn into dust, worms, and maggots? Lo, it is incumbent on me to shave you off for the sake of Heaven’ [and that constituted the vow of a Nazir].”25

Rabbis even identified the yetzer in Old Testament passages which were speaking plainly of human beings.

“R. Judah son of R. Nahmani, the speaker of Resh Lakish, expounded: “What is the meaning of the verse: Trust not in a friend, Rely not on an intimate (Mic 7:5)? If the evil yetzer tells you: Sin and the Holy One, blessed be he, will pardon—do not believe it, for it is said: Trust not in a friend, and friend [ רע ] means none other than one’s evil yetzer, for it is said: For the yetzer of man’s heart is evil [ רע ] (Gen 8:21).”26

“Rava said, First it is called a passer-by, then it is called a guest, and finally it is called a man, for it is said, And there came a passer-by to the rich man, and he spared to take of his own flock and of his own herd, to dress for the guest, but took the poor man’s lamb and dressed it for the man that was come to him (2 Sam. 2:12).”27

In these passages the text is obviously referring to a human being speaking, but the rabbis interpret it as a reference to the yetzer, demonstrating they had anthropomorphized the yetzer to the extent that it was now natural to depict it as an individual separate from humans, which could speak and hold a conversation, even while understanding it as the natural impulse to sin, which is inside people.

These Jewish sources demonstrate that the literary device of a highly anthropomorphized yetzer, depicted as an individual with whom the tempted person has a conversation, was well established in Judaism at least as early as the Tannaitic period. Farrar continues.

“Nevertheless, this is only one component of the literary background. The Gospel TS are widely recognized as mythological narrative, owing in part to the presence of Satan as an active character. Narrative criticism has drawn out the role that Satan plays in the plot of each of the Synoptic Gospels, with the TS functioning as the opening salvo of a cosmic conflict that continues throughout the story.”

This is precisely what I am challenging. The concept of a cosmic conflict is an assumption brought to the text. Farrar made no attempt to address the lexical evidence I brought to bear against this assumption.

Farrar asserts “Mark shows that there are two independent and early strands of tradition which attribute Jesus’ temptations to Satan/the devil”, and that Mark’s account suggests he “regarded ho satanas as a proper name or, at the least, as a specific theological term well known to his readers”. The identity of this satan, Farrar says, is most likely “a concept of ‘satan’ found in the Old Testament and/or intertestamental Judaism”. Farrar believes this concept of satan was of a supernatural evil being (specifically a fallen angel), with the personal name ‘Satan’, but fails to present any evidence for this. In particular, he fails to address these facts noted in the article of mine which he criticized.

“Three terms are used to describe Christ’s adversary in the Synoptic temptation accounts; ‘satan’ (ὁ satanaV in Mark 1:12, with the vocative satana without the definite article only in Matthew 4:10), ‘the tempter’ (ὁ peirazwn, only in Matthew 4:3), and ‘the devil’ (ὁ diaboloV). Elsewhere in Matthew (and only Matthew), the term ‘the evil one’ (ὁ ponēroV), may also be used (Matthew 5:37; 6:13; 13:19, 38), though this is debated in the literature.12 Lexicographical evidence contradicts the assumption that these terms normatively referred to a supernatural evil being in the first century. In Second Temple Period literature the term ‘satan’ (whether in Hebrew or Greek), is predominantly used as a common noun rather than a personal name, the term ‘the devil’ (ὁ diaboloV), is rarely if ever used to refer to a supernatural evil being, and the terms ‘the tempter’ (ὁ peirazwV), and ‘the evil one’ (ὁ ponēroV), have no pre-Christian witness with such a meaning. The term satan, whether in Greek (satanaV), or Hebrew (śāṭān), is used rarely in pre-Christian literature 13 and never as a proper name.14 Consequently, Laato notes that ‘we lack an established tradition whereby the name of the personal Evil or the leader of demons is Satan’.15″

Farrar makes the following false claim about what I wrote.

“The consensus of modern scholarship is that Jesus and the early church believed in a supernatural being called Satan and interpreted his experience in the wilderness in terms of conflict with this cosmic enemy. Burke has failed to recognize this only by focusing all of his attention on form criticism and historical criticism of the TS while neglecting narrative criticism as well as scholarship which ascribes a mythological worldview to the historical Jesus.”

It is difficult to understand how Farrar could make a claim which is so opposed to the facts. He does not tell readers that I specifically quoted Howard Marshall saying “Jesus certainly took for granted the reality of Satan”.28 Nor does Farrar tell readers that I also said explicitly “Scholars typically assume the terms all have a cosmological referent, citing Second Temple Period beliefs in supernatural evil beings”, making specific reference to the scholarly consensus that Satan in the temptation accounts is a supernatural evil being.

Farrar has also failed to address the fact that I cited and challenged “scholarship which ascribes a mythological worldview to the historical Jesus”. I identified the reasons why mainstream scholars advise against treating the temptation accounts as simple or strict historical narrative, I identified the reason why many scholars identify the genre as haggadic midrash, and I provided extensive evidence (in a wide ranging review of Second Temple Period literature), that there no evidence for a pre-Christian Jewish tradition of a supernatural opponent of God called “Satan”, tempting a righteous man, certainly not in the manner described in the temptation accounts.

Farrar concludes thus.

“In the end, it is Burke’s exegesis of the TS that is idiosyncratic, as well as vague.”

This is clearly false. I regard the genre of the temptation account to be midrash, a view represented widely in scholarship.29 I do not believe it should be read as strict or literal historical narrative, another view represented widely in scholarship.30 I believe literal historical events underly the temptation account, which is again represented widely in scholarship.31

Although my view that Jesus was tempted by his own desires is marginal within scholarship, it is certainly not idiosyncratic; Lachs and Kesich both read the accounts as descriptions of Jesus tempted by his own desires.32 Similarly, Harrington and Kelly refer to scholars who read the accounts as dramatizations of Jesus’ struggle with opponents of his messianic mission throughout his life, rather than as a series of temptations by a supernatural evil being.33

Finally there is nothing vague about the very specific description of the temptation account I gave.

“This article assumes genuine historical events underlying the temptation accounts, whilst acknowledging that these events are described in the form of haggadic midrash.”

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  1. Joshua L. Moss, Midrash and Legend: Historical Anecdotes in the Tannaitic Midrashim (Gorgias Press LLC, 2004). 8 []
  2. Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew (Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching &amp; Preaching; Westminster John Knox Press, 2009), 22 []
  3. Graham H. Twelftree, “Temptation of Jesus,” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (ed. Joel B. Green, Scot. McKnight, and I. Howard. Marshall; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992). 822. []
  4. Donaldson, Terence. Jesus on the Mountain: A Study in Matthew (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1987), 90. []
  5. Kennedy, Joel. The Recapitulation of Israel: Use of Israel’s History in Matthew 1:1-4:11 (Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 185-186. []
  6. Donald Alfred Hagner, Matthew 1-13, vol. 33, Word Biblical Commentary (Word Books, 1993), 62. []
  7. III, Tremper Longman. Introducing the Old Testament: A Short Guide to Its History and Message (Zondervan, 2012). []
  8. Mariani, Paul. Gerard Manley Hopkins: A Life. Penguin (2008), 242 []
  9. Witherington, Ben III. New Testament History: A Narrative Account. Baker Books, 2003), []
  10. Huffman, Douglas S. “Historical Competence of New Testament Commentaries.” On the Writing of New Testament Commentaries: Festschrift for Grant R. Osborne on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday. Edited by Stanley E. Porter and Eckhard J. Schnabel (Brill, 2012), 102. []
  11. Gary Hall, “Minor Prophets,” in Old Testament Introduction (ed. Mark Mangano, Terry Briley, and Paul Kissling; The College Press NIV Commentary; Joplin, MO: College Press Pub., 2005), 570. []
  12. “Jesus’ temptation in the desert (4.1-11) is a virtual exegetical battle, with Jesus’ parrying each of Satan’s challenges with a scriptural verse, often in its interpreted sense. Comparable exegetical duals [sic] between rabbis and heretics are found throughout rabbinic literature.”, Stern, David H. “Midrash and Parables in the New Testament.”, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament, edited by Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Z. Brettler (Oxford University Press (2011), 567. []
  13. “The symbolic character of the narrative is evident; the temptations and Jesus’ answers define the true character of his Messianic mission. The answer of Jesus to all three questions is taken from Dt (8:3; 6:16, 13). The use of this source shows that the Law itself reveals the true character of messiahship.”, John L. McKenzie, Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2015), 9; “The focus of the story, as of each part of Matthew’s introductory section, is on the Old Testament. There are implied parallels between Jesus’ experience and that of Moses (see on vv. 2,8) and Elijah (see on vv. 2, 11); and Psalm 91, quoted by Satan in v. 5, is probably echoed again in v. 11, while its theme of humble expectation of God’s protection underlies much of the account. But the primary focus is on Deuteronomy 6-8, three times quoted by Jesus in answer to Satan’s suggestions (v. 4 = Dt. 8:3; v.7 = Dt. 6:16; v.10 = Dt. 6:13). It is a description of the lessons God put before the Israelites in the wilderness before their mission of conquest of the promised land, when he tested them (Dt. 8:2) as a man disciplines his son (Dt. 8:5). Israel failed to learn its lessons, but now the true son of God, at the outset of his mission, faces the same tests in the wilderness and succeeds. The conception of Jesus as the true Israel, already affirmed by Matthew in 2:15, here comes to fuller expression.”, R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1985), 97; “Matthew’s Temptation, therefore, has rightly been called a “haggadic exegesis of Deuteronomy”9 and an “early christian midrash,”10 in which Jesus functions as the archetypal obedient son who follows God’s commands and succeeds in every area in which Israel failed.”, Margaret E. Ramey, The Quest for the Fictional Jesus: Gospel Rewrites, Gospel (Re)Interpretation, and Christological Portraits within Jesus Novels (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2013), 113. []
  14. Robert H. Stein, Luke (vol. 24; The New American Commentary; Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), 144. []
  15. Joel Kennedy, The Recapitulation of Israel: Use of Israel’s History in Matthew 1:1-4:11 (Mohr Siebeck, 2008), 185-186. []
  16. H. A. Kelly, The Devil, Demonology, and Witchcraft: Christian Beliefs in Evil Spirits (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 16 []
  17. I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: a Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 168. []
  18. R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007), 131. []
  19. ‘The temptation story is told as a visionary experience’, Graham H. Twelftree, “Temptation of Jesus,” inDictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (ed. Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight, and I. Howard. Marshall; Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1992), 822; ‘At least two features suggest that the temptations were some kind of visionary or inward, spiritual experience’, Craig L. Blomberg, “The Temptation of Jesus,” in The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ed. Geoffrey William. Bromiley; revised.; Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1979-1988), 785; ‘goes from having a close encounter with God to having a close encounter with Satan, both in the form of visions’, Ben Witherington III, On the Road with Jesus: Birth and Ministry(Abingdon Press, 2010); ‘visionary experience or sequence of experiences’, Marcus J Borg, “The Course of Jesus’ Ministry: A Person of Spirit,” in The Historical Jesus in Recent Research (ed. James D. G. Dunn and Scot. McKnight; Winona Lake, Ind.: Eisenbrauns, 2005), 206; ‘this transportation was not physical but visionary’, R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Pub., 2007), 131; ‘Finally, we may inquire into the nature of Jesus’ actual experience. Does the temptation story reflect a historical, observable event? Or, was it, as some scholars have maintained (Leaney, p. 115), a vision or a parabolic illustration of the devil-inspired opposition to Jesus’ ministry? It is not easy to decide, for problems attend all of these interpretations. But the one that seems the most plausible is the view that Jesus’ temptations were visionary. The context for the temptation would suggest this interpretation.’, Craig A. Evans, Luke (Understanding the Bible Commentary Series; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1990), 68. []
  20. ‘some scholars take the account as a symbol of the struggle with Satan and the forces of evil which is characteristic of Jesus’ entire ministry’, Collins, “Temptation of Christ,” in The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary (ed. David Freedman; The Anchor Bible Reference Library; Yale University Press, 1992), 382; ‘[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’’, James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 380; ‘The ‘wilderness’ is generally taken to be symbolic rather than ‘real’’, Ernest Best, The Temptation and the Passion: The Markan Soteriology (Cambridge University Press, 2005), xvii; ‘So Meier (1994: 272) notes that a withdrawal into the wilderness is not impossible, but that the story could be ‘symbolic representation of the apocalyptic struggle between God and the devil which was prophesied for the last days’: this note is his only reference in 3 volumes’, Judith M. Lieu, “Reading Jesus In the Wilderness,” in Wilderness: Essays in Honour of Frances Young (ed. Frances Margaret Young and R. S. Sugirtharajah; A&C Black, 2005), 93. []
  21. ‘An impression made by Jesus, perhaps through his whole mission, is dramatically represented in this story form’, James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 381; ‘Crossan does not refer to them in his narrative, while in his analysis of the strata of the tradition and its attestation he does identify the temptation narratives as ‘a dramatic historicization of something that took place over a much longer period’ (1991:440).’, Judith M. Lieu, “Reading Jesus In the Wilderness,” in Wilderness: Essays in Honour of Frances Young (ed. Frances Margaret Young and R. S. Sugirtharajah; A&C Black, 2005), 93; ‘Jesus certainly took for granted the reality of Satan and spoke about him, sometimes in a poetic manner (10:18). It is, therefore, possible that he described his inward experience of temptation in dramatic form, as here.’, I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: a Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 168. []
  22. ” From additional sources, we can show that this is a developed anthropological model presenting the evil yetzer as an entity independent from men, despite its residence within their bodies.”, Ishay Rosen-Zvi, “Refuting the Yetzer: The Evil Inclination and the Limits of Rabbinic Discourse,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 17, no. 2 (2009): 121. []
  23. Ishay Rosen-Zvi, “Refuting the Yetzer: The Evil Inclination and the Limits of Rabbinic Discourse,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 17, no. 2 (2009): 120. []
  24. Ishay Rosen-Zvi, “Refuting the Yetzer: The Evil Inclination and the Limits of Rabbinic Discourse,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 17, no. 2 (2009): 120. []
  25. Talmud Babylon, y. Ned. 1:1, V.2.D, Jacob Neusner, The Babylonian Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Hendrickson Publishers, electronic ed. 2011); the Jerusalem Talmud contains essentially the same story, ‘“I said to him, ‘Evil one! You should not take pride in something that does not belong to you, in something that is going to turn into dust, worms, and corruption. Lo, I take it upon myself to shave you off for the sake of heaven.’, y. Naz. 1:5, II.1.P, Jacob Neusner, The Jerusalem Talmud: A Translation and Commentary (Hendrickson Publishers, electronic ed. 2008). []
  26. Ishay Rosen-Zvi, “Refuting the Yetzer: The Evil Inclination and the Limits of Rabbinic Discourse,” The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 17, no. 2 (2009): 120. []
  27. I Rosen-Zvi, “Sexualising the Evil Inclination: Rabbinic `Yetzer’ and Modern Scholarship,” Journal of Jewish Studies 60, no. 2 (2009): 272. []
  28. I. Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke: a Commentary on the Greek Text (New International Greek Testament Commentary; Exeter: Paternoster Press, 1978), 168. []
  29. Dupont (1956-57, 1966), Bultmann (1966), Gerhardsson (1966), Davies and Allison (1988), Hagner (1993), Curzon (1995), Gibson (1995), Birmingham (1999), Dunn (1970, 2010), Bovon (2003), Osborne (2010), Kennedy (2008), Focant (2012), Ramey (2013). []
  30. Marshall (1978), Fitzmyer (1981), Blomberg (1988), Evans (1990), Crossan (1991), Collins (1992), Twelftree (1992), Meier (1994),Dunn (2003), Best (2005), Borg (2005), France (2007), Witherington (2010). []
  31. Marshall (1978), Crossan (1991), Hagner (1998), Dale (2002), Dunn (2003), Twelftree (2004), Blomberg (2009), Hare (2009). []
  32. ‘Second, the confrontation with Satan could be seen as Jesus’ struggle with himself and overcoming the yezer hara, the evil inclination, part of all men, and which is externalized in the literature by the figure of Satan.’, Samuel Tobias Lachs, A Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament: The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (KTAV Publishing House, Inc., 1987), 50; ‘Jesus himself was most likely the source of his trials in the wilderness, translated into figurative language.’, Veselin Kesich, Formation and Struggles: The Church, A.D. 33-450 (St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2007), 12. []
  33. ‘Some scholars have suggested that the various “temptations” may be issues with which Jesus dealt with [sic] throughout his public life (desire for physical pleasure, celebrity, and power), and that the biblical accounts represent an imaginative portrayal or dramatization of his longstanding and recurrent experiences.’, S. J. J. Harrington, Historical Dictionary of Jesus (Scarecrow Press, 2010), 158; ‘Some commentators have remarked that aside from the temptations in the wilderness the opposition that Christ meets with in his public life is due to the direct activity of human adversaries, even though these people are often linked to the devil in some way. And it has been suggested that since the temptation in the desert was not a witnessed event, as the gospel episodes purport to be, the accounts of Matthew and Luke are a dramatic theological expansion of events recorded elsewhere in the gospels, especially three closely related episodes in John (Jn. 6-7). We read there that Jesus fled an offered kingship, that on the next day he rebuked the people’s implicit desire for more bread, and that his relatives urged him to go to Judea for the feast of tabernacles to manifest his works. This hypothesis of the non-historical or meta-historical, character of the temptation in the desert is further strengthened by the presence of formal elements and literary conventions in the account, some of which we have just seen.’, H. A. Kelly, The Devil, Demonology, and Witchcraft: Christian Beliefs in Evil Spirits (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2004), 16. []

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