Satanological terminology in the Synoptics: the tempter

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series The Yetzer in the Wilderness: Jesus and the Evil Inclination

The term ‘the tempter’ (ho peirazwn), has no pre-Christian witness in the intertestamental or Qumran literature at all.

The term appears in History of the Rechabites 2:9;1 4:1-2,2 but only in the Greek text belonging to the Christian era; it is absent from the Syriac. It is also absent from the Apostolic Fathers, appearing in Christian texts later in the second century.

The textual evidence therefore leads directly to the conclusion that the terms ‘the evil one’ and ‘the tempter’ were not used of any evil supernatural evil being in the pre-Christian literature, and only later became established terms for Satan among Christians (perhaps by the end of the first century), from which time they were added by Christian scribes to earlier Jewish works which did not originally use them.

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  1. ‘καὶ εἶπεν ἡ νεφέλη· Ζώσιμε, ἄνθρωπε τοῦ θεοῦ, διʼ ἐμοῦ οὐ διέρχεται πετεινὸν ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου τούτου, οὐδὲ πνοὴ ἀνέμου οὐδὲ αὐτὸς ὁ ἥλιος, οὐδὲ ὁ πειράζων ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ δύναται διελθεῖν διʼ ἐμοῦ.’, Ken Penner and Michael S. Heiser, Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, electronic ed. 2008). []
  2. ‘Καὶ εἶδον ἐκεῖ ἄνθρωπον γυμνὸν καθήμενον καὶ εἶπον ἐν ἑαυτῷ· Ἄρα μὴ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ πειράζων; 2 καὶ ἐμνήσθην τῆς φωνῆς τῆς νεφέλης ὅτι εἶπέν μοι ὅτι Οὐ διέρχεται διʼ ἐμοῦ οὔτε αὐτὸς ὁ πειράζων ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ.’, Ken Penner and Michael S. Heiser, Old Testament Greek Pseudepigrapha with Morphology (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, electronic ed. 2008). []

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