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Friday 27 December 2013

The devil's demand of worship from Jesus

In the previous two posts we looked at the setting of the third of Jesus' wilderness temptations (second in Luke's ordering) and then more specifically at the devil's offer of world power to Jesus. We now turn our attention to what the devil tempted Jesus to do. Our main objective is again to assess the Christadelphian interpretation that the temptation narratives are figurative representations of an internal struggle, in which ho diabolos (the devil) is a personification of the evil inclination (Hebrew yetzer hara) within Jesus' heart.

Our focus is again on the third temptation (second in Luke's ordering) because it is the most problematic for Christadelphians:
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Matthew 4:8-10 NRSV)
5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5-8 NRSV)
Anthony Buzzard succinctly stated the difficulty that the Christadelphian interpretation faces here: "It is most unnatural to think that Jesus invited himself to fall down before himself and worship himself!".1 To this, Christadelphian apologist Jonathan Burke responded:
It is not argued that Jesus 'invited himself to fall down before himself and worship himself'. It is argued that the narrative represents the internal struggle in Christ using the language of personification.2
In this response, Burke does not say what Jesus was actually tempted to do. Following on the precedent of the other two temptations, it stands to reason that Jesus was actually tempted to do something concrete, and the text tells us what it was: to fall down and worship the devil (ho diabolos). Burke, however, proposes a figurative interpretation of what Jesus was tempted to do:
"The temptation represents Christ as the one having power to elevate himself, and self-worship, rather than the worship of God, is both the requirement and result."3
Thus, although Burke denies that Jesus was tempted to fall down before himself and worship himself, he affirms that Jesus was tempted to self-worship (i.e. worship himself!) The only difference between what he denies and what he affirms is the 'falling down' part. Thus it appears that Burke believes Jesus was tempted to worship himself in mental attitude and not in a physical act of obeisance. The problem is that the text of Matthew says "fall down and worship me". That this is a demand for a physical act of worship is even clearer in the Greek than in the English.

The Greek verb translated "worship" in both Matt. 4:9 and Luke 4:7 is proskuneo. The most respected lexicon of ancient Greek defines this verb thus: "to express in attitude or gesture one’s complete dependence on or submission to a high authority figure, (fall down and) worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to, welcome respectfully".4 While Christadelphians might seize on the words "in attitude", it is plain from the list of synonyms that even this refers to an outwardly expressed attitude and not merely a mental state.5

There is no known evidence that proskuneo was ever used as a reflexive verb (i.e. in relation to oneself) in ancient Greek. The only known use of this verb with an abstract direct object is a reference to worship of wealth by Philo, in which he explicitly stated he was using "figurative language".6

Greeven further emphasizes the "concreteness" of the term, observing that, as used in the New Testament, "Proskynesis demands visible majesty before which the worshipper bows".7Thus, in order to take proskuneo in the sense of figurative self-worship instead of physical other-worship, one must give it an unprecedented meaning.

Furthermore, although the mere use of the word proskuneo virtually settles the matter, both Matthew and Luke qualify it with another word which makes the physicality of the worship even more explicit. In Matthew, the qualifier is the participial form of the verb pipto, which means "to move with relative rapidity in a downward direction, fall".8 It usually has a literal sense, and one of the lexical meanings is "fall down, throw oneself to the groundas a sign of devotion or humility, before high-ranking persons or divine beings".

There are also figurative meanings of pipto which include to fall in a transcendent or moral sense. It might be argued that Jesus' evil impulse tempted him to fall (morally) and elevate himself in self-worship. However, this would again be an utterly unprecedented meaning. The words proskuneo and pipto modify each other in two passages of the LXX and eleven other passages in the New Testament, and in every single instance they clearly denote a physical act of worship (2 Chr. 20:18 LXX; Dan. 3:4-15 LXX; Matt. 2:11; Matt. 18:26; Acts 10:25; 1 Cor. 14:25; Rev. 4:10; 5:14; 7:11; 11:16; 19:4; 19:10; 22:8). Particularly noteworthy are the two other Matthean texts:
"On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down (pipto) and paid him homage (proskuneo). Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matt. 2:11)
"So the slave fell to the ground (pipto) and prostrated himself (proskuneo) before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’" (Matt. 18:26)
Thus, when used together, pipto and proskuneo depict a physical act of homage. It is all but certain that this is what the devil demanded of Jesus in Matt. 4:9; this is undoubtedly how most readers in the first century would have understood the narrative. To take this text as a temptation to figuratively worship oneself requires abandoning the usual lexical and syntactical meaning of these words and giving them a sense which is foreign to Matthew, to the New Testament, and to the ancient Greek language!

The verb pipto does not appear in Luke's parallel account. Nevertheless, while most Bible translations render the key phrase in Luke 4:7 simply as "if you worship me", there is also a qualifying word in the Greek here which makes the physical nature of the temptation explicit. This is the adverb/preposition enopion, which primarily means "before; in the sight of; in the presence of".9 Thus a more literal translation of this phrase in Luke 4:7 is, as the NASB has it, "if you worship before me" (the NASB has 'bow down before me' as a marginal rendering; Young's Literal Translation also translates 'bow before me'). This makes it clear that the worship was to take place in front of or in the presence of some external party. This word is superfluous if the temptation refers to self-worship.

Once again, if we look at other occurrences of proskuneo with enopion in Scripture, we find that it always denotes a physical act of worship (2 Kings 18:22 LXX; Ps. 22:27-29 LXX; Ps. 86:9 LXX; Isa. 66:23 LXX; Rev. 3:9; 15:4). Typical is Rev. 15:4b: "All nations will come and worship before you, for your judgments have been revealed".

Responding to Buzzard's analysis of the verb proserchomai in Matthew 4:3 (also problematic for Christadelphians), Burke writes that Buzzard
"deliberately over translates the Greek...in order to create the sense of a greater distinction between Christ and the satan, giving the false impression that the text wishes us to understand that Christ and the satan are two separate individual beings".10
Regardless of whether or not Burke's statement is accurate with regard to Matt. 4:3, we have seen that the Greek text of Matt. 4:9 and Luke 4:7 unmistakably create a distinction between Christ and the devil/Satan, demonstrating that they are two separate individual beings. Given that Matthew and Luke use the language of physical worship, it simply is not plausible that Jesus was tempted to engage in an act of obeisance either to himself, or to his personified 'evil inclination'.

We can say with certainty, then, that the text indicates Jesus was tempted to physically bow down before the devil. In view of this, the only way to sustain the Christadelphian 'internal struggle' interpretation is to take the temptation narrative figuratively at a more fundamental level. That is, none of the temptations actually happened as such; instead, they use vivid pictures to portray Jesus' battle with his evil inclination.

The problem with this approach is that the other two temptations are clearly concrete: Jesus was literally in the wilderness, was literally hungry and was literally tempted to turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. Similarly, Jesus was literally placed atop the temple pinnacle and tempted to throw himself down to test God's providential care. Neither 'turning stones into bread' nor 'throwing himself down' can be understood metaphorically. Consistency thus dictates that we take the temptation narratives at face value as concrete events in the life of Jesus. The idea that ho diabolos refers to a personification of an abstract entity is grammatically impossible and must be rejected. Jesus was tempted to physically worship a concrete personal being external to himself.

In fact, this conclusion brings Christadelphians back to the interpretations of the founders of their movement, John Thomas and Robert Roberts, both of whom identified ho diabolos in the temptation narratives as an unknown human tempter.11 12 This earlier interpretation makes better grammatical sense, but is also fraught with difficulties. It fails to account for the definite article: the tempter as opposed to a tempter. It also fails to account for the reappearance of ho diabolos/ho satanas elsewhere in the Gospels, and indeed, the prominence of this theological term throughout the New Testament.

If we attempt to ascertain the identity of ho diabolos just from what the temptation narratives tell us, we can infer that the tempter (a) knew Jesus' identity at the outset of his ministry (as the demons also did), (b) had the supernatural power needed to place him atop the pinnacle of the temple or induce a visionary experience, and (c) could make a credible claim to absolute temporal power. As there was no human being external to Christ who met these three criteria, we are left with only one possibility: ho diabolos refers to a supernatural personal being.

1 Buzzard, Anthony F. Satan, the Personal Devil. http://focusonthekingdom.org/articles/satan.htm
2 Burke, Jonathan. 2007. Satan and Demons: A Reply to Anthony Buzzard. Can be downloaded from https://sites.google.com/a/dianoigo.com/dianoigo/Jonathan_Burke_Satan_and_Demons.pdf, p. 40.
3 Burke, Jonathan. op. cit., p. 181.
4 Arndt, W., Danker, F.W. and Bauer, W. 2000. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, p. 882.
5 See, for instance, the first definition of 'attitude' at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/attitude
6 Philo of Alexandria. Delineation of the Mosaic Legislation for non-Jews, Book 27, IV.25.
7 Greeven, H. 1968. proskuneo. In Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. 6. ed. Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich, tr. Geoffrey Bromiley. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 765.
8 Arndt, W., Danker, F.W. and Bauer, W. op. cit., p. 815.
9 Arndt, W., Danker, F.W. and Bauer, W. op. cit., p. 342.
10 Burke, Jonathan. op. cit., p. 37.
11 Thomas, John. 1867. Elpis Israel: Being an Exposition of the Kingdom of God; with Reference to the Time of the End, and the Age to Come. 4th edition, p. 78.
12 Roberts, Robert. 1880. Seasons of Comfort at the Table of the Lord: Being Fifty-two Addresses, Etc. Birmingham, No. 51.

Saturday 21 December 2013

The devil's offer of the world to Jesus

This is the second part of a trilogy on the wilderness temptation narrative recorded in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. More specifically the series is examining the third temptation (second in Luke's ordering) and evaluating the Christadelphian view that the temptations were an internal struggle in Jesus' mind, with ho diabolos (the devil) being a personification of the evil inclination (in Hebrew, the yetzer hara). The previous installment looked at the setting of this temptation. Now we will examine the devil's offer to Jesus. In this case we will follow Luke's account because it offers more detail:
Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Luke 4:5-8 NRSV)
A key feature of the Lucan narrative that must be explained is the devil's claim to exercise power over the kingdoms of the world and give it to whomever he pleases. Under the Christadelphian interpretation this statement comes from the personified yetzer hara, representing the dark side of Jesus' thought process which is opposed to the will of God. It is attempting to persuade Jesus to take a wrong course of action. If this is really what this passage conveys, it does so in very odd language.

We discussed in the previous post how a figurative dialogue between a person and a personification is quite foreign to the genre of the Gospels. Yet even if we allow the possibility of internal temptations being narrated in this way, it makes little sense for the personified yetzer hara to base its offer on a grandiose claim to temporal power. Notice that the other two temptations begin, "If you are the Son of God..." and thus use Jesus' privileged status as their jumping-off point. Why does the narrative deviate from that formula in this case? An appeal to Jesus' Messianic prerogative would be even more persuasive here. If this temptation consists of an urge from within to usurp temporal political power, it might have been phrased something like this:
"If you are the Son of God, march into Jerusalem and declare yourself king, for that is your right, as it is written, ‘Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom.’"
Instead, the tempter makes no reference to Jesus' right to rule but instead asserts his own! Christadelphians need to provide an explanation for why the introductory formula is so different for this temptation. Furthermore, if this dialogue is strictly internal and involves no third party, then what does "I give it to anyone I please" mean? To whom might Jesus' yetzer hara even hypothetically give authority over the kingdoms of the world other than himself?

It is apparent, then, that the way the devil phrases his offer to Jesus in Luke's account presents serious difficulties for the Christadelphian view. However, Christadelphians have suggested that to be a temptation must be plausible in order to truly tempt,NUM1 and a claim to absolute political power from a fallen angel is not plausible. Let us then assume for the sake of argument that ho diabolos in this passage is an angelic being, and assess the plausibility of the claim and offer he made to Jesus.

We may first observe that, within the narrative, it is not necessarily the case that Jesus was aware from the beginning who his interlocutor was. Elsewhere in the New Testament we read that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light (2 Cor. 11:14), so it is not impossible that the devil presented himself to Jesus as an angel. The devil does not introduce himself to Jesus; it is the narrator who makes the reader of the Gospel aware who the tempter was. In Matthew's account, after the final temptation Jesus says, "Away with you, Satan!" which makes it possible that the offer of illicit political power and the demand for worship gave away the tempter's identity. However, this is only a conjecture, and perhaps not a likely one given Jesus' remarkable powers of discernment (Matt. 9:4; Luke 9:47; John 1:48; 2:24; 6:64).

If we judge that Jesus knew who stood before him, would this then render the temptation a "sham" as Christadelphian writer Thomas Williams put it?2 Scholars have identified the devil's statement in Luke 4:6 as an allusion to God’s claims in Jeremiah 34(27E):5 LXX and Daniel 4:31LXX, and as such “Luke pictures Satan as usurping God’s prerogative to confer authority on whomever God wishes.”3 Does this mean the devil's offer was implausible? Yamazaki-Ransom provides useful insights on this point:
“In the Lukan temptation narrative, Satan claims to be the lord of the world. Is he telling the truth? The answer is both yes and no. On the one hand, although Satan is not a reliable character in the narrative, the implied reader is expected to take Satan’s claim at face value. First, Jesus does not deny Satan’s claim. Second, Paul later describes his ministry as opening the eyes of the people ‘so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power (exousia) of Satan to God’ (Acts 26.18). This assumes the reality of Satan’s exousia over people, although it is undermined by God through Paul’s ministry. Thus Satan’s power over the world is a real, not an illusory, one. On the other hand, as was just shown, he is not the true lord who deserves worship. For Luke the true Lord is God and Jesus, but not Satan. Thus Satan’s lordship over the world is a real but illegitimate one, one that is to be dismantled. The reality of diabolic authority over the world, and Jesus’ refusal to receive this authority from Satan, has great significance in Luke’s narrative.”4
Indeed, there are numerous New Testament passages which state or imply that the devil or Satan possesses power. Importantly, some of these texts are in Luke's writings (Luke 10:19; Acts 26:18). In John's Gospel, Jesus himself refers to the devil as "the ruler of this world" (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11),5 and in John's first epistle he writes that "the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" (1 John 5:19).6 Paul too describes Satan as a powerful ruler (Eph. 2:2; 6:11-12). Finally, in Revelation the dragon (symbolic of the devil) gives power and authority to the beast (symbolic of an earthly empire) (Rev. 13:2 cf. 12:9). In this last case the devil's power is explicitly political in nature.7 Hence, as one commentator writes concerning the devil's claim to Jesus, “In a way clearly parallel to the scenario painted in Revelation 13, we discover that the world of humanity is actually ruled by the devil.”8

Where did this notion of the devil possessing political power come from? Behind it lies "the idea of angelic beings ruling over earthly kingdoms" which "has a long tradition, both before and after the New Testament."9 Several Old Testament texts develop this idea, most notably Daniel 10, and while it is not prominent in the New Testament, it is found in Revelation 12-17 and may be presupposed in other New Testament texts such as Luke 10:1, Acts 16:9, 1 Cor. 4:9, 6:3 and 1 Tim. 3:16.10

Therefore, far from being preposterous we find that the devil's claim here is consistent with the overall testimony of the New Testament. The devil did have some basis for claiming to wield great political power, and as such his offer to confer this power on Jesus in exchange for worship was at least plausible. It is to this demand for worship that we shall turn our attention in the next post.

1 See the entry on the temptations of Jesus in the Wrested Scripture resource at http://www.wrestedscriptures.com/b07satan/matthew4v1-11.html
2 Williams, Thomas. The Devil: His Origin and End. See under The Devil that Tempted Christ at http://www.republic-christadelphians.org/files/The_Devil_-_His_Origin_and_End.htm
3 Carroll, John T. 2012. Luke: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press, p. 103.
4 Yamazaki-Ransom, Kazuhiko. 2010. The Roman Empire in Luke’s Narrative. Continuum, pp. 95-96.
5 For an important study of this title in John, see Kovacs, Judith L. 1995. "Now shall the Ruler of this world be driven out": Jesus' death as cosmic battle in John 12:20-36. Journal of Biblical Literature 114(2): 227-247.
6 That 'the evil one', 'the devil' and 'Satan' are synonyms can be seen by comparing the three parallel accounts of the parable of the sower in Matt. 13:19, Mark 4:15 and Luke 8:12; cf. Matt. 13:38-39. That John also uses the term in this way is apparent from comparing the similar language in 1 John 3:12 and John 8:44.
7 See comments in Morris, Leon. 1988. Luke: An Introduction and Commentary. Eerdmans, p. 113.
8 Green, Joel B. 1997. The Gospel of Luke. Eerdmans, p. 194.
9 Yamazaki-Ransom. op. cit., p. 93.
10 Wink, Walter. 1984. Naming the Powers: The Language of Power in the New Testament. Fortress Press, pp. 34-35.

Saturday 14 December 2013

Was Jesus tempted atop a mental mountain?

Christadelphians have a unique understanding of the accounts of Jesus' temptations in the wilderness found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13. While these passages read like a dialogue between Jesus and a personal being called the devil (ho diabolos in Greek), Christadelphians believe that the Gospel writers were figuratively describing an internal struggle within Jesus' mind. According to this interpretation no external being was present; 'the devil' is a personification of the evil impulse, the carnal mind (known in Judaism as the yetzer hara).

One of the main exegetical arguments put forward by Christadelphians in support of their interpretation concerns the "very high mountain" referred to by Matthew in his account of the third temptation:
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (Matt. 4:8-10 NRSV)
Christadelphians have observed that there exists no very high mountain from which all the kingdoms of the world can be seen. Thus Jesus didn't really ascend a mountain; he imagined himself atop a mountain looking at the kingdoms of the world. This indicates that the whole account is not literal but figurative. Christadelphian resource Wrested Scripture makes this argument, as does Christadelphian apologist Duncan Heaster. The same argument was made by Phipps, the only modern, non-Christadelphian biblical scholar (as far as I know) who has defended the 'internal struggle' interpretation in print.1 But is the argument convincing?

Read in its historical context, it is likely that 'all the kingdoms of the world' refers only to the then-known world, i.e. the Roman Empire. However, even if we reduce the scope of this phrase to the limits of the Roman Empire, the premise still holds that there is no mountain from which the entire Roman Empire can be seen with the natural sense of sight. Yet this does not necessarily mean that the mountain is figurative. Let us consider two alternatives:
  • The statement "showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor" could be hyperbolic. That is, Jesus was literally looking out from the top of a high mountain in all directions but didn't literally see the entire Roman Empire.
  • Jesus may been taken up a literal mountain and then experienced a supernatural vision which enabled him to see all the kingdoms of the world.
Which of these possibilities is most plausible?

It may be observed that in at least two other texts (Ezek. 40:2 and Rev. 21:10), a prophet of God is taken up to a very high mountain to be shown places. In both cases the text states that this was a visionary experience and not a physical trip. Ezekiel says, "In visions of God he brought me to the land of Israel, and set me down on a very high mountain", and John says, "And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain." Furthermore, in both texts the place seen by the prophet did not literally exist in space-time (the future temple in Ezekiel's case, and new Jerusalem in John's case).

These texts provide a possible template for understanding the third temptation account (in Matthew's ordering) as a visionary experience. However, important differences should be noted: the temptation account does not explicitly describe the mountain trip as visionary, and the places shown to Jesus did literally exist in space-time. Besides this, it should be noted that both Ezekiel and John's mountain visions were initiated by external beings (God in Ezekiel, and an angel in Revelation). Thus we do not have a precedent for understanding the third temptation as something Jesus conjured up in his own mind (as the Christadelphians' internal interpretation of the devil requires).

Besides this, even if we take the 'mountain' as part of a visionary experience, there is no justification for taking the whole temptation account figuratively. These passages are found in the Gospels, whose genre is narrative. There is no other event in the life of Jesus recorded in the Gospels which the writers intended to be taken figuratively (and the temptations cannot be parables, since they involve Jesus rather than being spoken by Jesus). By way of comparison, other events involving mountains in Matthew are obviously literal: the sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:1ff), the transfiguration (Matt. 17:1ff) and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:16-20). The transfiguration is especially noteworthy since, like the temptations, it involved a visionary experience atop an unspecified "high mountain" but in which the mountain is obviously literal (cf. Mark 9:1; 2 Peter 1:18).

Furthermore, the reference to the devil taking Jesus up follows (or, in Luke, is followed by) a reference to the devil 'taking' Jesus to Jerusalem and 'placing' him on the pinnacle of the temple. This location must be taken literally, since it is very specific and the temptation itself involved throwing himself down from a great height, which is possible only if Jesus was physically located at a great height! Thus we have a precedent in the immediate context for Jesus being literally relocated by the devil for the purpose of temptation.

Additional light is shed on the temptation accounts when they are read against their literary-historical background. Scholars widely agree that Deuteronomy 34 lies behind Matthew's and Luke's accounts.2 This text reads as follows:
"1 Then Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the Lord showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain—that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees—as far as Zoar. The Lord said to him, “This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I will give it to your descendants’; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.” (Deut. 34:1-4 NRSV)
The similarities are obvious between this narrative (which itself likely draws on Genesis 13:14-15) and the temptation narratives. Indeed, the temptation accounts as a whole draw extensive typology from Deuteronomy, showing Jesus to be the true Israel. Jesus' forty days in the wilderness are typified by Israel's forty years in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-2 cp. Deut. 8:2). Jesus' three responses to the temptations all quote from Deuteronomy (Deut. 8:3; 6:16; 6:13-14).

In Deuteronomy 34 it is clear that Moses was shown the whole land by God from atop a literal mountain. However, commentators have pointed out that several of the places mentioned (such as the Mediterranean Sea, Dan and Zoar) cannot be seen from the mountain believed to be Mt. Nebo.4 5 6 While liberal scholars might take this as a geographical inaccuracy, some commentators have interpreted it as hyperbole.7 8 Others have understood it in terms of a "supernatural vision" which nonetheless involved Moses literally climbing the mountain.9

That the account was read in ancient times as a supernatural vision is apparent from the tendency of later Jewish writers to expand the scope of Moses' view to include the land of Egypt, or "all the regions from Egypt to the Euphrates".10 Moreover, the Jewish apocalyptic work 2 Baruch (probably written in the late first or early second century) likely draws on Deut. 34 when it depicts Baruch as instructed by God to go to the top of a mountain, "and there shall pass before you all the regions of that land, and the figure of the inhabited world" (2 Baruch 76:3).

Thus Deuteronomy 34 and its treatment in later Judaism supports the plausibility of understanding the third temptation to be a supernatural visionary experience atop a literal mountain. The notion of a supernatural vision receives further support from Luke's temptation account, which omits any reference to a mountain and adds the phrase "in an instant." As Yamazaki-Ransom points out, this serves to emphasise the "supernatural character of the event".11

In summary, the third temptation begins with a supernatural visionary experience in which Jesus is shown all the kingdoms of the world. Stein writes that this temptation is "visionary in nature" but that "It is unclear whether a specific mountain is meant or whether this is to be understood as part of the vision".12 Whether Jesus was literally taken up a mountain is of no great importance to the account, since Matthew neglects to name the mountain and Luke omits it altogether. However, the key insight is that the impossibility of seeing all the kingdoms of the world with natural vision from atop a literal mountain in no way undermines the natural reading of Matthew 4 and Luke 4 as a dialogue and series of events which actually, objectively took place. As Stein writes:
"Were the temptations primarily psychological or visionary in nature? Were they entirely subjective? To understand the temptations in this manner would not make them any less real. Yet the general impression from reading the accounts is that they were objective and involved external events: a real place (the wilderness and the temple in Jerusalem) and real, if symbolic, time (forty days and forty nights)...This argues against seeing the temptations as entirely subjective visions or experiences."13
The crucial question in evaluating the Christadelphian view of the temptation accounts is whether the whole account (and particularly the devil, ho diabolos) is literal. What is apparent from this brief study is that the reference to the "very high mountain", whether literal or figurative, does not justify a figurative approach to the entire narrative. In the next post we will consider whether the devil's offer of absolute political power had any credibility.

1 Phipps, William E. 1993. The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus, p. 38
2 Pao & Schnabel. 2007. Luke. In Commentary on the New Testament use of the Old Testament, p. 287
3 Yamazaki-Ransom, Kazuhiko. 2010. The Roman Empire in Luke's Narrative, p. 88
4 Lundbom, Jack R. 2013. Deuteronomy: A Commentary, pp. 943-945
5 Walton, John H. et al. 2000. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, p. 208
6 Work, Telford. 2009. Deuteronomy. Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible, digital version (not paginated)
7 Driver, Samuel R. 1902. Deuteronomy: a critical and exegetical commentary, p. 419
8 Smith, George A. 1918. The Book of Deuteronomy, p. 379
9 Work, Telford. op. cit.
10 Yamazaki-Ransom, op. cit., p. 89
11 Yamazaki-Ransom, op. cit., p. 90
12 Stein, Robert H. 1996. Jesus the Messiah: a Survey of the Life of Christ, pp. 106-108
13 Stein, Robert H. op. cit., p. 104