Luke's Temptation Narrative

It is clear in both Matthew and Luke's accounts that in resisting the devil's temptation in the wilderness and remaining faithful to YHWH, Jesus is fulfilling Israel's failed vocation (forty years / forty days; allusions to manna, idolatry, mixing with other nations; the quotations from Deuteronomy; etc.) In his person, he is bringing Israel out of exile through faithful obedience and right relationship to his Father.

But one of my students helped me notice another really interesting possibility as well in Luke's telling.

The first temptation involves turning stones to bread on the spot "in the wilderness," so to speak. For the second temptation, the devil takes Jesus "up on a high mountain" and shows him all the kingdoms of the world over which he has been given authority. Finally the devil brings Jesus to the "pinnacle of the temple" and tempts him to throw himself off, relying upon the angels to bear him up.

There is certainly a physical ascent implied - from the earth to a high place and from a high place to pinnacle of the temple (the cosmologically highest point in Israel). But there is also a corresponding metaphysical or cosmological ascent - from the 'earthly' (stones and bread) to the 'kingdoms of the world' and from the 'kingdoms of this world' to the 'heavenly realms' (temple and angels).

Implications? I'm not sure, but I think it might bear upon how we would read the construction of Luke's gospel as a movement towards Jerusalem and finally towards the temple. It might also impact the reading of the Transfiguration and certainly the scene before his betrayal on the Mount of Olives (which has interesting parallels to the earlier temptation narrative). Most interestingly, I think it has huge implications for the revelation of the Son of God as the Son of Man in Luke's gospel.

(Use a concordance sometime to look at the "Son of Man" versus "Son of God" revelations in Luke. I use the search features at The Blue Letter Bible is pretty good, too, as is

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That's a really interesting insight. One of the neatest things about being a teacher is getting to spend time discovering things like that.