dianoigo blog
Showing posts with label Matthew. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew. Show all posts

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Simon Peter, Chief Steward of the King's Household: An Exposition of Matthew 16:17-19

Note: this article is not as long as it looks. Most of the space is taken up by footnotes!

Matthew 16:18-19 has been called one of the most controversial passages in all of Scripture.1 Certainly this has been true since the Reformation, with Catholics touting this dominical saying as a proof text for the papacy and Protestants denying that it is anything of the kind. Over the past few decades, however, biblical scholars have managed to clear away much of the polemical haze that previously clouded interpretation of this passage. There is now a broad consensus among both Protestant and Catholic scholars on certain aspects of the saying's meaning. The purpose of this article is to explore this fascinating saying in light of recent biblical research and then to reflect briefly on its ecclesiological implications.

Although I find "hostile witness" arguments in theological discourse to be objectionable,2 I do note that most of the scholars I will be citing in this article are Protestant, only to emphasise that I am not merely presenting a Catholic-biased perspective on this passage.

1. The saying in context
2. The immediate context
3. You are Peter, and upon this rock I will construct my Community
4. The gates of Hades will not be able to defeat it
5. I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven
6. Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven
7. The priestly aspect of Peter's role
8. The polemical dimension to the saying
9. Summary of exegetical findings
10. Ecclesiological implications: papacy or no papacy?

1. The saying in context

What follows is my translation of Matt. 16:13-20, following the NA28 Greek critical text:
13 And Jesus, having come into the region of Caesarea Philippi, put a question to his disciples, saying, "Whom do men claim the Son of Man to be?" 14 And they said, "Some say it is John the Baptizer, others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "And you (plural)? Who do you claim me to be? 16 And Simon Peter said in reply, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus said to him in reply, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I, for my part, tell you that you are Peter (Greek: petros), and upon this rock (Greek: petra) I will construct my Community (or, Church), and the gates of Hades will not be able to defeat it. 19 And I will give to you (singular) the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you (singular) bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you (singular) loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven. 20 Then he ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah.
If you don't want to rely on my translation skills (and you probably shouldn't), feel free to mouse over the following links to read the passage in the NRSV or NABRE.

2. The immediate context

The conversation between Jesus and his disciples at Caesarea Philippi runs thus. First, Jesus puts a question to his disciples collectively, which they answer collectively. Second, Jesus puts another question to his disciples collectively, which Simon Peter answers individually with a direct assertion about Jesus: "You are the Messiah..." Third, Jesus pronounces a blessing upon Simon Peter individually. The blessing begins with a declaration that Simon's statement was a revelation from God in heaven, and continues by reciprocating with a direct assertion about Simon: "You are Peter, and..."3 The meaning of this latter assertion in verses 18-19 is our primary concern here.

Simon Peter plays a prominent role in the wider Matthean narrative.4 He is given much more attention than than any other disciple of Jesus. He is the first disciple Jesus calls (4:18), and he is explicitly "first" in the list of the twelve apostles (10:2). However, things are not all rosy for Simon Peter. His faith falters when he walks on water (14:25-31). Immediately after Jesus's blessing of Peter in Caesarea Philippi, we find the account of Jesus's stern rebuke of Peter, "Get behind me, Satan!" when he fails to understand Jesus's saying about the cross (16:21-23). When Jesus finds his disciples asleep in Gethsemane, he directs the collective rebuke "to Peter" (26:40), as though he were responsible for the collective failure. Most famously of all, Matthew records Peter's threefold denial of Jesus in painstaking detail (26:33-35, 58, 69-75). Thus the Matthean Peter is a vitally important but deeply flawed character. (Space will not allow us to discuss the portrayal of Peter in Acts and other parts of the NT.)5

In saying, "You are Peter," Jesus is giving Simon Barjona a new name of great significance. Davies and Allison correctly observe that this moment stands in the grand tradition of important biblical figures receiving new names from God at pivotal moments (e.g., Abram becoming Abraham, Sarai becoming Sarah, Jacob becoming Israel).6 In this sense, Peter is being likened to an eschatological patriarch.

The sharpest Protestant-Catholic debate over this passage has concerned the referent of "this rock." It is unfortunate that in many sermons and popular-level discussions this debate continues, because it is largely resolved at the scholarly level. The rock is Peter. This is clear in the Greek from wordplay that is unfortunately lost in translation. The wordplay survives in French: "Et moi, je te le déclare, tu es Pierre et sur cette pierre je construirai mon église..."7 A rough English translation that preserves it might be, "You are Rocky, and on this rock..." The Greek reads, su ei Petros, kai epi tautē tē petra... The Greek word petra means "rock," while petros has a slightly different nuance, closer to "stone." If wordplay is intended, why is it not exact? Why is Simon named Petros and not Petra? The answer is simple: petra is a feminine word, so it has been modified in the nickname into a (relatively rare) masculine word, petros, of similar meaning. Actually, though, it is Matthew or his source who has encountered and resolved this little Greek linguistic problem. The saying was probably originally transmitted in Aramaic,8 where the word for "rock" (כפא, kephaʾ) is masculine, so no gender modification was required. Hence, in Aramaic terms Jesus would have said, "You are kephaʾ, and on this kephaʾ..." Originally, then, the wordplay was exact.9 For this reason, nearly all scholars today agree that Peter himself is "this rock [on which] I will construct my Community".10 Commentators also have some sharp words for those who, driven by theological bias, continue to propagate speculative interpretations of the rock, such as that it is Peter's faith, or Peter's confession in v. 16, or that it is Jesus.11

Most translations render this clause along the lines of, "You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church." I have translated, "construct my Community." "Construct" because Jesus is using a building construction metaphor here. Rock or stone is suitable as a building foundation (cf. Matt. 7:24-25; 21:42), and every other occurrence of the verb oikodomeō in Matthew refers to physical construction (7:24-26; 21:33; 21:42; 23:29; 26:61; 27:40). As most scholars agree, Jesus is likening his Community to a building, more specifically the Temple (an ecclesiological metaphor used elsewhere in the NT; cf. 1 Cor. 3:9-17; Eph. 2:19-21; 1 Pet. 2:5-8; Rev. 3:12).12 Matt. 16:18 is one of only two places in the Gospels where the word ekklēsia (usually translated "church") occurs (the other being Matt. 18:17). Jesus was foretelling that he would found the eschatological community that we today know as the Church. Perhaps Matthew's readers would have already understood ekklēsia as a technical term like "church," but in the original saying it would have come across as "my (Messianic) Community."13

To summarise, in this clause Jesus promises to make Simon Peter personally the foundation of his eschatological Community, which we know as the Church. Verse 19 elaborates on Simon Peter's role, but first we must touch on the last part of v. 18.

There is considerable debate about the meaning of "the gates of Hades," but this need not detain us much here. In the cosmology of the context, heaven is the realm of God, earth is the realm of humankind, and Hades is the realm of darkness and death. Its depiction as having "gates" heightens the cosmological image. Syntactically speaking, the feminine pronoun "it" (autēs) could refer to the petra (rock) or the ekklēsia (Community); the latter seems more likely. The promise, then, is that as the eschatological Community extends the reign of God on earth (which has arrived in the ministry of Jesus; cf. Matt. 4:17; 12:28), the powers of evil, darkness and death will be unable to stop it.14 As this promise is sandwiched between assertions about Simon Peter, it appears that his role is instrumental to the success and survival of the eschatological Community.

5. I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven

"You" here is singular in Greek (soi), so Jesus is still addressing Peter individually in v. 19. Before going further, we need to excise the popular picture of St. Peter standing at the pearly gates admitting souls into heaven.15 The second part of the verse makes it clear that Jesus is talking about Peter's activity "on earth." The "kingdom of heaven" in Matthew is not about sending people from earth to heaven, but releasing heaven on earth. The kingdom of heaven entails God's will being done "on earth, as it is in heaven" (Matt. 6:10). This occurs provisionally through the mission of Jesus and his eschatological Community (Matt. 28:18-20), and consummately at "the end of the age" when the Son of Man comes and removes all evil "out of his kingdom," so that "the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father" (Matt. 13:40-43).

The keys are universally recognized by scholars to denote authority.16 However, a more specific understanding of this metaphor is possible once we recognize, as numerous scholars have, that Matt. 16:19 alludes to Isa. 22:15-25.17 There, Isaiah speaks an oracle on behalf of Yahweh to "that official, Shebna, master of the palace" (v. 15). After condemning Shebna as a disgrace, Yahweh declares,
19 I will thrust you from your office and pull you down from your station. 20 On that day I will summon my servant Eliakim, son of Hilkiah; 21 I will clothe him with your robe, gird him with your sash, confer on him your authority. He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place the key of the House of David on his shoulder; what he opens, no one will shut, what he shuts, no one will open. 23 I will fix him as a peg in a firm place, a seat of honor for his ancestral house; 24 On him shall hang all the glory of his ancestral house: descendants and offspring, all the little dishes, from bowls to jugs. (Isa. 22:19-24 NABRE)
Here, then, we have an account of an "office" that comes with "authority," including being the bearer of "the key of the House of David." The imagery of opening and shutting irrevocably strikingly parallels that of binding and loosing with the backing of heaven in Matt. 16:19 (language that is discussed further below). Also corroborating the parallel is the reference to the "house of David," since in Matthew 16 Peter has just confessed Jesus to be the Messiah, the Son of God, which in Matthean parlance means the eschatological Davidic king (cf. Matt. 1:1 etc.).

One person (Shebna) is deposed from this office and another (Eliakim) is appointed in his place. Drawing extensively on biblical and archaeological research, Willis describes for us the status of "high government official under consideration here":18
סכן in Isa. 22.15 means 'substitute' (for the king), 'prefect', 'governor', 'steward', or 'deputy', that is, the person responsible for the care of the royal palace and of the people, thus the highest official in the land under the king... occurrences of the title אשר על הבית, '(he) who (is) over the house(hold)'... suggest that... it referred to a high governmental official who was in charge of the royal palace and its inhabitants, and later to one who held the highest post in the nation under the king and was over the entire royal estate. Accordingly, he held a governmental position similar to that of the 'chief steward' in Egypt and a high official in Canaanite city states. The contexts in which the Hebrew word אב 'father' (or its equivalent) appears as a term for a high governmental official in... indicate this individual was 'second in command' under the king, with very widespread administrative responsibilities. 'The key of the house of David' which which Yahweh says he will place on Eliakim’s shoulder (which, apparently, had been on Shebna’s shoulder) evidently refers to an actual large wooden key which the royal ‘steward’ carried on his shoulder to lock and unlock doors to various public buildings and offices, whose locks were large (cf. Judg. 3.25; 1 Chron. 9.27). Thus is signified his extensive authority in the Judean governmental administration. He was in charge of the governmental offices and royal chambers, and permitted or refused people to go in to the king. From the central governmental complex in the royal capital, he exercised supreme authority over the entire country.19
To summarise, we have in Isaiah 22 a description of a high office, the chief steward of the royal household, who is called a "father" to the house of Judah and is second-in-command in the kingdom, effectively a substitute for the king himself. Within the oracular narrative, one person (Shebna) is to be deposed from this office and another (Eliakim) appointed.20

Before discussing what all this might mean for our interpretation of Matt. 16:19, it is crucial to note that this is not the only NT passage to draw on Isa. 22:15-25. In Jesus's letter to the church in Philadelphia in Revelation, he describes himself as "The holy one, the true, who holds the key of David, who opens and no one shall close, who closes and no one shall open" (Rev. 3:7 NABRE). This is an almost word-for-word quotation of Isa. 22:22. However, here Jesus places himself in the office of chief steward of the king's household, the holder of the keys (cf. also Rev. 1:18). Implicitly, God is the king here and Jesus is his second-in-command.21 That Jesus could construe himself as the occupant of the office described in Isa. 22:15-25 shows just how lofty and important this office was. It also shows that this oracle was being interpreted eschatologically in the early church.

Back then to Matt. 16:19 with this information in hand. Here, Jesus is cast in the role of king (16:16) and appoints Peter as his second-in-command, his chief steward over the royal household. Alternatively, one might argue that God is the ultimate king, that he will delegate absolute authority to his Messiah, and that the Messiah will in turn delegate this authority (symbolized by the keys) to Peter. The risen Jesus declares, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matt. 28:18). However, because he will not physically exercise this authority "on earth" after ascending to heaven, he delegates it to his eschatological Community, his royal household—and ultimately, to Peter, the chief steward over the royal household.

In light of this Isaianic background to Matt. 16:19, commentators have variously described Peter as "the major domo of [Jesus's] kingdom,"22 "the chief steward, the major domus, in the Kingdom,"23 "the steward (the chief administrative officer) in the kingdom of heaven,"24 having "the same authority as that vested in the vizier, the master of the house, the chamberlain, of the royal household in ancient Israel,"25 "a sort of supreme rabbi or prime minister of the kingdom,"26 "the primary custodian and guarantor of the tradition of the teaching of Jesus."27

6. Whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven

Jesus's appointment of Peter as his chief steward who will oversee his royal household is backed up with an additional promise. The second-person verbs are singular in Greek, so the addressee is still Peter individually. The "binding and loosing" metaphor is a subject of extensive debate that actually merits a separate article. At least two other verses come into play here: Matt. 18:18, where a similar promise is made to the Community collectively (with plural verbs) and John 20:23, where the risen Jesus tells the disciples (i.e. apostles), "Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained." Via a linguistic argument that we cannot reproduce here, some scholars have concluded that these are all modified versions of an original Aramaic saying that followed Isa. 22:22, along these lines: "whatever you open is opened (by God); whatever you shut is shut (by God)."28 John 20:23 interprets/applies the saying specifically to the matter of forgiveness of sins. Matt. 18:18 applies it to the matter of disciplining (and ultimately excommunicating) a sinning member.29 In Matt. 16:19, most scholars agree that the scope of binding and loosing is broader and more general, comprising halakhic authority (authority over religious law, i.e. determining dos and don'ts for community members) and/or doctrinal authority.30 This is, of course, closely related to forgiveness of sins and community discipline, because before a sinner can be forgiven or disciplined it is necessary to determine what is and is not sin.31

Therefore, this saying most likely assumes that Peter has the authority to make rulings on what is permitted and what is forbidden in the community. What is more, Jesus asserts that when Peter makes rulings on earth, these rulings "will have been" made in heaven. Most scholars believe that the rare verb tense (future perfect passive) used here should be taken seriously.32 Hence, Jesus is not saying that heaven will ratify Peter's rulings, but that whatever rulings Peter makes will already have been ratified in heaven. This does not, as Turner claims, diminish the weight of delegated earthly authority;33 rather, it properly relates it to divine authority. Peter's rulings still carry divine authority, but he cannot preempt God. Rather, God makes a ruling and then communicates it to the Community through Peter.

Ganzel notes that the office described in Isa. 22:15-25 is not only political but has a religious dimension: Eliakim is "garbed in sacerdotal vestments," which implies that "another aspect of his role was to protect the sanctity of the holy places... the preservation of the status of the palace, the Temple, and Jerusalem."34 Barber goes further, noting that in early Jewish tradition there are "several indications that Isaiah 22 was understood as describing Eliakim as a priestly figure."35 Accordingly, several scholars have come to the conclusion that Peter in Matt. 16:17-19 is depicted in a priestly role, perhaps even as high priest in the eschatological Community.36 This finds support in John 20:23 where, as already noted, a similar saying has been explicitly interpreted in terms of the priestly function of forgiving and retaining sins.

Thus, if we give full weight to the Isaianic background of Matt. 16:17-19, it is apparent that Jesus is appointing Peter to a high office with halakhic, doctrinal and priestly scope, second in kingdom authority only to King Jesus himself.

Scholars have observed that by describing Peter as the rock on which his spiritual House (Temple) is built, by making him the chief steward of the royal household and by delegating to him heaven-backed halakhic authority, Jesus is implicitly denying these prerogatives to the existing Jewish religious system.37 "The scribes and Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses," says Jesus (Matt. 23:2), which is regarded by many scholars as a description of teaching authority (whether arrogated or real).38 The Pharisees "tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people's shoulders, but they will not lift a finger to move them" (Matt. 23:4)—a failure of their "binding and loosing" responsibilities.39 The scribes and Pharisees "lock the kingdom of heaven before human beings" (Matt. 23:13), and so their authority over the kingdom is taken away (Matt. 21:43) and the keys given to Peter instead. The Jerusalem Temple will be destroyed (Matt. 24:2), but "something greater than the temple" has come (Matt. 12:6); Jesus is building a new, spiritual Temple and founding it on Peter the rock.

Within the context of this polemic, one must consider Jesus's words in Matt. 23:8-12. After excoriating the scribes and Pharisees for their self-aggrandizement, Jesus declares,
8 As for you, do not be called 'Rabbi.' You have but one teacher, and you are all brothers. 9 Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven. 10 Do not be called 'Master'; you have but one master, the Messiah. 11 The greatest among you must be your servant. 12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (NABRE)
How can we to square this with the notion that Jesus has appointed Peter as something akin to Chief Rabbi, an office that in Isaiah is called "master of the palace" and "father"? The answer is not to water down the saying in Matt. 16:17-19 and conclude that Matthew envisions a democratically egalitarian community without hierarchy.40 Rather, as verses 11-12 emphasize, authority in the kingdom of heaven is subject to the higher principle of service. It is not authority that is the problem, it is how the authority is exercised: whether in a domineering way like the Gentile rulers (Matt. 20:25), a fame-loving way like the scribes and Pharisees (Matt. 23:7), or a serving, sacrificial way like the Son of Man (Matt. 20:28). Moreover, even Peter as chief steward of the royal household is but the first among servants, among disciples—the distance between his rank and that of his fellow disciples is tiny compared to the distance between his rank and those of God and his Messiah.

In response to Simon Barjona's confession of faith in his Messiahship at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus gave him a new name, Peter, symbolizing his pivotal position as the rock on which the new Temple, the Messianic Community, will be founded (v. 18). We can sum up our findings on v. 19 thus:
the major opinion of modern exegetes… has it that Peter, as a sort of supreme rabbi or prime minister of the kingdom, is in 16.19 given teaching authority, given that is the power to declare what is permitted...and what is not permitted...Peter can decide by doctrinal decision what Christians must and must not do. This is the traditional Roman Catholic understanding, with the proviso that Peter had successors.41

The above summary identifies the point at which an exegetical argument for the papacy from Matt. 16:17-19 breaks down: no successors to Peter are mentioned.42 I have elsewhere offered historical evidence for apostolic succession; I will close this article by arguing that this saying, interpreted theologically in its wider Matthean context, logically necessitates a papacy. By "a" papacy, I mean a perpetual line of individual successors to Peter who continue his office as holder of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. It cannot be proven from Matthew that the Roman Catholic bishops of Rome are this line of successors, though I know of no rival claim that has any historical credibility.

First, the observation that Matt. 16:17-19 does not mention Peter's successors is an argument from silence. Matthew construes these words as spoken to Peter during Jesus's earthly ministry; their scope is the church's earliest beginnings and not the full sweep of ecclesiastical history. Matthew's Gospel, like most of the New Testament, shows little explicit concern with the problem of post-apostolic church order. Although the writers did not know the day or the hour of the Son of Man's coming (cf. Matt. 24:36), they expected it to come soon (cf. e.g., Phil. 4:5; Jas 5:8; Rev. 22:20) and thus did not anticipate a long post-apostolic era. Nevertheless, since Peter was almost certainly dead by the time Matthew's Gospel was written, the prominence given to Peter suggests that his authority retained ongoing relevance for the Matthean community.43 While Matthew does not spell out in what form Petrine authority might still exist after Peter's death, he also does not mention any cessation of Petrine authority (nor does he even have Jesus foretell Peter's death, as John does [21:18-19]). Furthermore, if Matthew understood Peter's office as analogous to the Jewish priesthood or high priesthood, this would have contributed to the idea that the office was transferable. The argument from silence cuts both ways and is finally inconclusive.

At the close of Matthew's Gospel, Jesus gives the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20). He declares that "all authority in heaven and on earth" has been given to him, and on that basis ("Go therefore") he sends the Eleven out on their global mission of baptizing and teaching. This command is accompanied by a promise, "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age." In Matthean parlance, "the end of the age" corresponds to the coming of the Son of Man and the final judgment (13:39-43; 13:49; 24:3). So, Jesus's commission to the Eleven, rooted in Jesus's absolute authority over heaven and earth, remains in force and has the full backing of Jesus's authority and presence, until the Second Coming. It therefore remains in force today. However, "the Eleven" (28:16), to whom these words were explicitly spoken, are all long dead. We are therefore bound to concede that, although Matthew is silent on how this delegated authority to baptize and teach might continue after the Eleven died, it did and does continue.

Now, in Matt. 16:17-19 we have a specific and concrete instance of Jesus's delegation of some of his "all authority in heaven and on earth." He founds his Community on an individual, earthly "chief steward," Simon Peter, who receives an earthly commission with heavenly backing. Do the words, "I am with you always, until the end of the age" not apply as much to Peter's individual commission as to the Eleven's collective commission in 28:19? Both flow out of Jesus's absolute, undying authority over heaven and earth. We can as easily argue that the Great Commission died with the Eleven as that the keys died with Peter. Both events would contradict the promise, "I am with you always" as well as the promise, "and the gates of Hades shall not be able to defeat it." As is clear from the Isaianic background, the keys given to Peter symbolize an office (one that has two successive occupants within the background narrative itself). I suggest, then, that if Jesus still has "all authority in heaven and on earth," and is still "with" his Community, the keys of the kingdom of heaven that he gave to Peter must still be held by someone.

A final note concerns the ecclesiological benefits of a unitary, visible head of the Community, a doctrinal and halakhic authority whose rulings are final, backed by heaven. As Cardinal Newman explained in his classic Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine, the full authority of the papacy took centuries to be acknowledged and asserted. Nevertheless, if one considers the collective "binding and loosing" authority of Matt. 18:18 without the individual "binding and loosing" authority of Matt. 16:19, the problem arises, what if members or factions within the Community cannot agree on a doctrinal or halakhic matter? What if two factions mutually excommunicate each other, both declaring their ruling to be backed up by heaven? What is to be done in such cases? Sadly, church history reminds us that these questions are not merely hypothetical. But an individual holder of the keys, a chief steward of the king's household, seated on the chair of St. Peter, offers an unambiguous resolution of such conundrums. If Jesus saw fit to found his Community with an individual chief steward in charge—who happened to be a deeply flawed person, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit—why should an individual chief steward subsequently become a bad idea for the Community?


  • 1 W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Gospel According to St. Matthew (3 vols.; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1988-1991), 2:623.
  • 2 A hostile witness argument entails citing scholars from an opposing ecclesiastical camp against their own theological position. The idea is something like, "Even some of your own admit that your theology is wrong! If even your own scholars are not convinced by your arguments, what makes you think I will be?" I have two objections to this line of reasoning. First, as discussed here, when an ecclesiastical tradition is willing to host debate on theological issues and to allow its scholars to air dissenting exegetical viewpoints, this is a sign of intellectual maturity and not weakness. Second, the post-Vatican II climate in biblical scholarship has been strongly ecumenical, and in keeping with this new ethos, some scholars are eager to show themselves more self-critical than polemical. To use this hard-fought openness in exegetical and theological dialogue to score polemical points is, in my view, not in good taste.
  • 3 "The Greek phrasing of this declaration, when compared with that of v. 16, conveys a reciprocity which can be rendered in English only by heavy overtranslation. Simon has declared, ‘You are the Messiah,’ to which Jesus now responds, ‘And I in my turn have a declaration for you: You are Peter.’" (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007], 620)
  • 4 "Matthew has made it clear in 10:2 that Peter comes ‘first’ among the Twelve. Throughout the gospel he is mentioned far more often than any other disciple, and he regularly takes the lead." (France, Gospel of Matthew, 622)
  • 5 We can just note Bauckham's assessment concerning Acts: "Up to chapter 11, it is unquestionably Peter who is pre-eminent among the leaders of the church, and Luke’s first reference to James (12:17) is designed to suggest that James’ rise to eminence coincided with Peter’s relinquishing of permanent leadership in Jerusalem... in chapter 12 the narrative has reached the point where leadership at the centre in Jerusalem can no longer be combined with personal leadership in the missionary movement out from the centre. Peter, who had combined these roles, steps out of the narrative. James steps in, as the wise and statesmanlike leader at the centre, while Paul assumes the leading role in at least one movement of the gospel further and further out from the centre. However, the issue in chapter 12 is not only the succession to Peter himself. Peter has appeared in the earlier chapters of Acts not simply as an individual leader, but as the leading member of the Twelve." (Richard J. Bauckham, "James and the Jerusalem Church", in The Book of Acts in its First Century Setting, vol. 4, ed. Richard J. Bauckham [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995], 432, 436).
  • 6 Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:623-24; cf. France, Gospel of Matthew, 620.
  • 7 Pierre Bonnard, L’Évangile selon Saint Matthieu, 2nd edn (Paris: Delachaux & Niestlé, 1970), 241
  • 8 Two lines of evidence support this conclusion. First, two other NT writers preserve a Greek transliteration of Peter's Aramaic name, Kēphas Kephaʾ (John 1:42; 1 Cor. 1:12; Gal. 1:18; etc.). John 1:42 explicitly tells us that Petros is a translation of Kephaʾ. Secondly, Jesus's saying in Matt. 16:17-19 contains at least two other Semitisms: the name Simon Barjona (the prefix "Bar" being Aramaic for "son of") and the Semitic idiom "flesh and blood," which denotes mere mortals in contrast to God and angels.
  • 9 On the wordplay issue, see Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:627; Donald A. Hagner, Matthew (2 vols.; Dallas: Word Books, 1993, 1995), 2:470; France, Gospel according to Matthew, 621.
  • 10 "A majority of exegetes from all denominations therefore support the view that Peter is the petra: the rock or foundation stone on which Jesus will build his church" (Hans Kvalbein, "The Authorization of Peter in Matthew 16:17-19: A Reconsideration of the Power to Bind and Loose", in The Formation of the Early Church, ed. Jostein Ådna [Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2005], 153); "Although some Protestants disagree (see esp. Caragounis 1989), Jesus plays on the nickname Peter in speaking of him (as spokesman for the disciples) as the foundation of the nascent church (cf. Eph. 2:20; Rev. 21:14). This more natural understanding of Jesus’s words is preferable other views that take the rock to be Jesus or Peter’s confession of Jesus" (David L. Turner, Matthew [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008], 404-405).
  • 11 "καὶ ἐπὶ ταύτῃ τῇ πέτρᾳ has been the object of much heated debate and much wasted ingenuity. ‘This rock’ has been identified variously with Peter’s faith or confession, with Peter’s preaching office, with the truth revealed to Peter, with the twelve apostles, with Jesus, with Jesus’ teaching, and even with God himself. All this is special pleading. The most natural interpretation is that of Roman Catholic tradition: the rock is Peter." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:627); "The frequent attempts that have been made, largely in the past, to deny [that it is Peter who is the rock upon which the church is to be built] in favor of the view that the confession itself is the rock (e.g., most recently Caragounis) seem to be largely motivated by Protestant prejudice against a passage that is used by the Roman Catholics to justify the papacy. Not infrequently these attempts reveal the improper influence of passages such as 1 Cor 3:11 and Eph 2:20. But to allow this passage its natural meaning, that Peter is the rock upon which the church is built, is by no means either to affirm the papacy or to deny that the church, like the apostles, rests upon Jesus as the bedrock of its existence." (Hagner, Matthew, 2:470); "A second escape route, beloved especially by those who wish to refute the claims of the Roman Catholic Church based on the primacy of Peter as the first pope, is to assert that the foundation rock is not Peter himself, but the faith in Jesus as Messiah which he has just declared. If that was what Jesus intended, he has chosen his words badly, as the wordplay points decisively toward Peter, to whom personally he has just given the name, as the rock, and there is nothing in his statement to suggest otherwise. Even more bizarre is the supposition that Jesus, having declared Simon to be Petros, then pointed instead to himself when he said the words ‘this rock.’ This would be consonant would subsequent NT language about Jesus as the foundation stone (see below), but in regard to this passage it is the exegesis of desperation; if such an abrupt change of subject were intended, it would surely require a ‘but’ rather than an ‘and,’ and could hardly be picked up by the reader without some ‘stage direction’ (as in 9:6) to indicate the new reference." (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 622)
  • 12 "que cette parole du Christ matthéen est moins isolée qu’on l’a dit puisque, dans son fond, comme l’a remarqué Cullmann, elle correspond à sa déclaration sur la construction ou reconstruction du Temple, parole diversement recueillie par la tradition évangélique (Mc. 14.57 s; Jn. 2.19) et qui doit avoir joué un rôle décisif au procès de Jésus" (Bonnard, L'Évangile selon saint Mathieu, 245); "Lampe (v) seems to assume that it would be awkward to speak of building upon a stone instead of a rock; but the image behind Mt 16.18 is of a temple being constructed, and in Judaism the temple was founded not upon a rock but upon a (foundation) stone" (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:626); "The metaphorical use of ‘build’ (οἰκοδομήσω) is appropriate to a community conceived of as a spiritual ‘house’ or ‘temple’ (cf. ‘house of Israel’ and note the description of the church as ‘God’s building’ in 1 Cor 3:9; cf. Eph 2:19-21)." (Hagner, Matthew, 2:471); "The metaphors of (foundation) rock and of building go together, and the latter will be used frequently in the NT for the development of the church, often linked with the idea of a new temple to replace the old one in Jerusalem (e.g., Mark 14:58; 1 Cor 3:9-17; Eph 2:19-22; 1 Pet 2:5); the metaphor of a new temple has already been introduced by Matthew in the reference to ‘something greater than the temple’ in 12:6, and will underlie much of the language about the destruction of the temple in ch. 24 and the charge that Jesus planned to destroy and rebuild the temple in 26:61; 27:40." (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 623); "Jesus' response to Peter that he will "build" the church thus appears connected to the Davidic imagery already evoked by the apostles confession; that is, as the "son of David" he will build the eschatological temple, here identified as the church." (Michael Patrick Barber, "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder and Peter’s Priestly Role in Matthew 16:16-19," Journal of Biblical Literature 132 [2013]: 941)
  • 13 "When Matthew uses the Greek word ekklēsia for the community to be built by Jesus on the rock of Peter, he is most certainly not putting a later development of Christian self-organisation back into the earlier gospel context. The translation of the word here and in 18:17 as ‘church’ is perhaps slightly unfortunate and at any rate, Peter himself cannot have understood it thus, in the acquired sense of this term. His idea of ekklēsia was the one given in the Old Testament: it was God’s congregation, originally the people of Israel, a usage of the Greek word preserved in the New Testament by Stephen in his speech (Acts 7:38) and by the writer of Hebrews (2:12). For Peter therefore, Jesus did not speak of ‘my church’, but of ‘my congregation’—it was the new community to be established by Jesus, through the new covenant, that was meant, and the stress is quite clearly on the possessive pronoun. If we want to go on using ‘church’ in this passage, we can do so only provided we keep in mind that the meaning of the word as used in that dialogue between Jesus and Peter was quite different from what we have become accustomed to see in it. This does not preclude a measure of development, or the existence of certain structures within this ekklēsia, even in New Testament times: Paul in 1 Cor. 12:38 uses the word in the context of a primitive organisational hierarchy. But wherever we look, in Acts (8:3, 15:41, 20:28) and in Paul’s own letters (e.g. 1 Cor. 7:17, 14:33, 16:19; and particularly in Rom. 16:5, 16:16), the term refers to the mere body of Christians, the congregation as such. Whatever may have happened to this congregation, and to Peter within it, after the Ascension, in Jerusalem, Antioch, Rome and elsewhere, when Jesus uses the word in Mt. 16:17 it is in a Messianic reinterpretation of the Old Testament concept—a reinterpretation, however, that puts Peter unmistakably in a key position." (Carsten P. Thiede, Simon Peter: From Galilee to Rome [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988], 39-40)
  • 14 "Contrary to the usual interpretation of our passage, the locus of this revelation, the church, will not be a vestibule into the kingdom of heaven conceived as a realm, a domain which human beings enter to escape from the assaults of Hades. The church will rather be the site of the battle between the powers of Hades and the power of heaven. In the age inaugurated by Jesus' death and resurrection, the gates of the underworld will swing open and the horrors of the pit will erupt onto the earth with a roar, attacking everything on it—including the church—with unbridled fury. In the midst of this peril, however, Peter will be given the keys that unlock the gates of heaven. Those gates, too, will swing open, and the kingly power of God (basileia tōn ouranōn) will break forth from heaven to enter the arena against the demons. Hades will not prevail against the church because God will be powerfully at work in it, revealing his purposes for it and imparting the heavenly power to fulfill those purposes, so that his will is done on earth as it is in heaven (6:10)." (Joel Marcus, "The Gates of Hades and the Keys of the Kingdom (Matt 16:18-19)", Catholic Biblical Quarterly 50 [1988]: 455); "It is possible that there is a mythological background to the imagery of the rock. ‘My church’, interpreted in the light of 2 Sam 7 (see p. 603), evokes the idea of a temple, and the conception of the people of God as a temple was well known in both Judaism and early Christianity. This is important because in Jewish tradition the rock at the base of the temple on Zion, the so-called ʾeben setiyya, is at the centre of the world. It links heaven and the underworld, being the gate to the former as well as the portal to Hades, the realm of the dead. Note that in 16.18c mention is made of the ‘gates of Hades’. Perhaps, then, the informed reader should imagine the church at the centre of the cosmos, sitting on top of the powers of evil.” (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:627-28). Davies and Allison take the gates of Hades to refer "not to the realm of the dead but to the ungodly powers of the underworld which will assail the church... The promise is that even the full fury of the underworld’s demonic forces will not overcome the church” (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:632-33). Differently, France: "The ‘gates’ thus represent the imprisoning power of death: death will not be able to imprison and hold the church of the living God. The metaphor, when seen against its OT background, does not therefore encourage the suggestion of some interpreters that ‘Hades’ represents not death but the demonic powers of the underworld, which are then pictured as making an eschatological assault on the church. Still less does it support the romantic imagery, sometimes derived from the traditional but incorrect translation ‘gates of hell,’ of the church as a victorious army storming the citadel of the devil. The imagery is rather of death being unable to swallow up the new community which Jesus is building. It will never be destroyed." (Gospel according to Matthew, 624-25)
  • 15 "Peter will act on Christ’s behalf after the Ascension, not in heaven (it is in blatant contradiction to the text if Christian folk myth sees Peter standing at the gates of heaven), but here on earth (Mt. 16:19). He will have to open the doors of the kingdom of heaven to those who have accepted the risen Christ as their Lord, and to shut them to those who have not." (Thiede, Simon Peter, 41); "The traditional portrayal of Peter as porter at the pearly gates depends on misunderstanding ‘the kingdom of heaven’ here as a designation of the afterlife rather than denoting God’s rule among his people on earth." (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 625)
  • 16 "The giving of keys manifestly means the bestowing of authority; to have keys means to have power, to be in control (cf. Rev 1.18; 2 En. 40.9-11; b. Sanh. 113a)." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:635)
  • 17 "The first line recalls the words spoken of Eliakim (self-applied to Jesus in Rev. 3:7) in Isa. xxii. 22: 'And the key of the house of David will I lay upon his shoulder' (cp. Rev. iii. 7). Here the key symbolizes a particular office which is held by an individual; similarly, Matt. xvi. 19 is addressed to an individual" (J. A. Emerton, "Binding and Loosing—Forgiving and Retaining," Journal of Theological Studies 13 [1962]: 325); "Matthew’s description of Peter’s great confession of Christ and then opposition to his announcement that he would go to Jerusalem and be crucified there (Mt. 16.13-23) assumes that his readers knew the Old Testament passage concerning Shebna and Eliakim in Isa. 22.15-25. There are three critical issues in this Matthean pericope, the solution to each of which may be illuminated by recognizing the way this Isaianic text provides a background for it." (John T. Willis, "An Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25 and its Function in the New Testament," in Early Christian Interpretation of the Scriptures of Israel: Investigations and Proposals, ed. Craig A. Evans and James A. Sanders [Sheffield: Sheffield Academic, 1997], 344); "As many scholars have noted, Jesus bestowal of the "keys of the kingdom" on Peter in Matt 16:19 appears to draw on Isa 22:22, where the "key of the house of David" is given to Eliakim, a figure given the position of "chief steward."" (Barber, "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder," 944); "the giving of the keys of the Kingdom of heaven to Peter has its closest OT parallel in Isa 22.22… Although this verse does not appear to have received a messianic interpretation in Judaism, ‘the house of David’ did have messianic associations, and the text—which is applied to Jesus in Rev 3.7—is about the activity of a man second only to the king. That it lies behind Mt 18.19 is altogether likely (cf. Emerton (v))." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:603); Hagner acknowledges "the links between v 19 and Isa 22:22," though he does not discuss them in detail (Matthew, 2:472); "Taking up the imagery of Isa 22:20-22, Jesus declares Peter to be the steward (the chief administrative officer) in the kingdom of heaven, who will hold the keys, so that, like Eliakim, the new steward (cf. Isa 22:15) in the kingdom of David, ‘he will open, and no one shall shut; he will shut, and no one shall open.’" (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 625).
  • 18 Willis, "Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25," 337
  • 19 Willis, "Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25," 337-38. Similarly, Ganzel describes the position described in this passage as "one of the highest offices in the land, second only to the king, and comparable to the medieval majordomo. It has even been suggested that Shebna's authority exceeded that of the king" (Tova Ganzel, "Isaiah’s Critique of Sheba’s Trespass: A Reconsideration of Isaiah 22.15-25," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 39 [2015]: 471). Again, "The description of Eliakim’s function ‘as a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem’ is not an expansion of his spheres of responsibility, but rather details the expectations of the person who will now carry out the second-most-important office in the land" (Ganzel, "Israel's Critique of Shebna's Trespass," 483)
  • 20 Verse 25 may indicate that Eliakim himself would ultimately also fail in this office and be deposed, although Ganzel regards this verse as recapitulating what was to happen to Shebna, so that "regarding Eliakim, the oracle concludes on an optimistic note" ("Israel's Critique of Shebna's Trespass," 486).
  • 21 "In the context of Isa. 22.15-25, the king is Hezekiah and, first Shebna, then Eliakim is his major domo; and, essentially parallel to this, in Rev. 3.7, God is the king and Christ is his major domo. Under God’s appointment to this position, Christ has complete authority over God’s kingdom; he has the key of David, and he allows or forbids people to enter that kingdom." (Willis, "Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25," 350).
  • 22 Willis, "Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25," 351.
  • 23 Alan Hugh McNeile, The Gospel according to Matthew (London: Macmillan, 1915), 243.
  • 24 France, Gospel according to Matthew, 625.
  • 25 W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary (New York: Doubleday, 1971), 196-97.
  • 26 Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:638.
  • 27 Hagner, Matthew, 2:473.
  • 28 Cf. Emerton, "Binding and Loosing," 328-31; Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:640-41.
  • 29 "the halakhic decisions of the community have the authority of heaven itself. In context the reference is to the church’s verdict on the behaviour of an individual Christian." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:787)
  • 30 "it is probable that the practice to which the Matthean ‘binding and loosing’ refers is the interpretation of the Scriptures and the determination of an appropriate Christian way of life" (Raymond F. Collins, “Binding and Loosing,” in Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, 6 vols. [New York: Doubleday, 1992], 1:743-45.744); "the major opinion of modern exegetes… has it that Peter, as a sort of supreme rabbi or prime minister of the kingdom, is in 16.19 given teaching authority, given that is the power to declare what is permitted (cf. the rabbinic sere/sera’) and what is not permitted (cf. the rabbinic ’asar/’asar). Peter can decide by doctrinal decision what Christians must and must not do...This interpretation of binding and loosing in terms of teaching authority seems to us to be correct" (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:638); "Peter has the authority to ‘bind’ and ‘loose’ by issuing authoritative halakhah" (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:787); "In its primary meaning, the phrase ‘binding and loosing’ refers to the allowing and disallowing of certain conduct, based on an interpretation of the commandments of the Torah, and thus it concerns the issue of whether or not one is in proper relationship to the will of God (contrast the reference to the Pharisees’ misuse of their authority [note implied keys!] in 23:13)… Matthew may have in mind the teaching office of Peter and the apostles (for whom the power of binding and loosing is also assumed in the plural verbs of 18.18 in the discourse on ‘church discipline’)." (Hagner, Matthew, 2:473); "The metaphor of ‘tying up’ and ‘untying’ also speaks of administrative authority. The terms are used in rabbinic literature for declaring what is and is not permitted. When the same commission is given to the whole disciple group in 18:18, it will be specifically in the context of dealing with sin within their community (see comments there). Such authority to declare what is and is not permissible will of course have personal consequences for the person judged to have sinned, but it is the prior judgment in principle which is the focus of the ‘tying’ metaphor, and there, as here, the objects of both verbs will be expressed in the neuter, not the masculine; it is things, issues, which are being untied, not people as such. The historical role of Peter in Acts well illustrates the metaphor, as it was to him that the responsibility fell of declaring that Gentiles might be accepted as members of the new ekklēsia (10:1-11:18), though of course the exercise of his disciplinary authority could also have dire personal consequences for those who stepped over the mark (Acts 5:1-11; cf. 8:20-24)." (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 626); "Matthew may have intended his authorization to encompass not only matters of doctrine but also excommunication, and even determination of the ultimate destiny of church members." (Richard H. Hiers, "‘Binding’ and ‘Loosing’: The Matthean Authorizations," Journal of Biblical Literature 104 [1985]: 249); "Therefore, it seems best to side with those exegetes who interpret "binding and loosing" in Matt 16:19 as declaring forbidden or permitted, i.e., promulgation of authoritative halakah. Our passage speaks of the revelation to Peter in the earthly sphere of the interpretation of the law that has been decided in heaven. He is given total power on earth to distinguish valid from invalid prohibitions, "binding" upon human beings the observance of certain of them—even some not explicit in the Mosaic torah—and "loosing" them from the observance of others of them—even some enjoined by Moses" (Marcus, "Gates of Hades," 452).
  • 31 "The three most popular interpretive options relate the imagery of "binding" and "loosing" to (1) teaching authority, (2) authority over social boundaries, and (3) forgiveness of sins. As I shall explain, however, these three options appear to involve conceptual overlap, making it difficult to insist that any one meaning is exclusively in view." (Barber, "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder," 947)
  • 32 "The Greek expressions ἔσται δεδεμένον (δεδεμένα) and ἔσται λελυμένον (λελυμένα) are future perfect periphrastics. Since this syntactical form is rare in the New Testament, the force of its meaning must be respected here. Hence, the statements in which these periphrastics appear in Mt. 16.19 and 18.18 should be rendered: ‘Whatever you shall bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven; and whatever you shall loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven’ (so also the Vg.). ‘It is the Church on earth carrying out heaven’s decisions, communicated by the Spirit, and not heaven ratifying the Church’s decisions.’" (Willis, "Interpretation of Isaiah 22.15-25," 348-49); "It seems likely, therefore that these repeated future perfects are there for a reason. They change the sequence of actions. With simple futures, Peter would take the initiative and heaven would follow. But with future perfects the impression is that when Peter makes his decision it will be found to have been already made in heaven, making him not the initiator of new directions for the church, but the faithful steward of God’s prior decisions. In this syntactical form the saying becomes a promise not of divine endorsement, but of divine guidance to enable Peter to decide in accordance with God’s already determined purpose." (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 627)
  • 33 Cf. Turner, Matthew, 405.
  • 34 Ganzel, "Israel's Critique of Shebna's Trespass," 485.
  • 35 Barber, "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder," 944.
  • 36 "Jesus is the Davidic messiah, who, like the son of David, will build a temple, understood as the community. Given that the community is described as a temple, it is no wonder that Jesus describes Peter s leadership role over it in terms of priestly authority; as God appointed the priestly Eliakim in Isaiah, Jesus establishes Peter as a priestly figure over the temple community." (Barber, "Jesus as the Davidic Temple Builder," 953); "In the material which was used by the final redactor Peter was looked upon as a counterpart to the high priest. He is the highest representative for the people of God, for a church metaphorically said to be built on the temple mount. Thus the frames of reference for this tradition are priestly. This influences our interpretation of the contrasting words "bind" and "loose" in v 19. If this verse is to be interpreted in the light of the priestly frames of reference which we have found in the Enoch-Levi-tradition, it deals with binding in and loosing from sin, i.e. a priestly function given to Peter instead of to the temple priests under the high priest." (Tord Fornberg, "Peter—the High Priest of the new covenant?" East Asia Journal of Theology 4 [1986]: 116)
  • 37 "We have already remarked on our preference for interpretation (x): Peter is the authoritative teacher without peer. This harmonizes with the dominant rabbinic usage and, more importantly, with 23.13: ‘But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because you shut the kingdom of Heaven against men; for you neither enter yourselves, nor allow those who would enter to go in.’ Here, as the context proves, the scribes shut the door to the kingdom by issuing false doctrine. The image is closely related to 16.19, and the inference lies near to hand that just as the kingdom itself is taken from the Jewish leaders and given to the church (21.43), so are the keys of the kingdom taken from the scribes and Pharisees and given to Peter. Supportive of this is the broader context of Peter’s confession. In the immediately preceding 16.5-12 Jesus warns: ‘Beware of the leaven of the scribes and Pharisees’. Matthew takes this to be about the teaching of the scribes and Pharisees. It would make good sense for the evangelist, in the very next paragraph, to tell a story in which Jesus replaces the Jewish academy with his own ‘chief rabbi’." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:639); “In Matthew we find two scribal "schools" opposing each other, the Matthean one and the Pharisaic one. This situation is mirrored in two pericopes preceeding our text, Matt 15:1-20 and 16:5-12, where v12 explicitly warns the reader for the teaching (didache) of the Pharisees and Sadducees. In these two texts Matthew makes Jesus repudiate the Jewish magisterium. This prepares the way for our pericope about the Petrine magisterium.” (Fornberg, "Peter—the High Priest of the new covenant?", 116)
  • 38 "The ‘teaching chair’ is not, as was consistently thought in the church’s interpretation, a pure metaphor; there is archaeological evidence for it from various ancient synagogues—of course, without the designation ‘seat of Moses.’ It was a marble seat near the Torah shrine on which the learned man sat and taught facing the people. Such teaching chairs were probably just coming into use in the first century CE. The ‘teaching chair’ in the synagogue is probably associated with the idea of Moses’ authority that came down to the scribes by way of elders and prophets (m. ʾAbot. 1.1). Thus the archaeological-realistic and the metaphorical meanings of the term belong together. The aorist ‘sat’ (ἐκάθισαν) can definitely be understood literally. The scribes and Pharisees put themselves on the seat of Moses. That is, in the time to which Matthew looks back, they appropriated for themselves the teaching authority in the synagogues." (Ulrich Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, 3 vols. [trans. James E. Crouch; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2001-2007], 3:99); "‘Moses’ seat’ can be taken in four different ways, between which it is impossible to decide. (i) Old synagogues at Chorazin, Delos, Dura Europos and elsewhere contained not only stone benches but isolated stone seats. These have been identified as chairs for synagogue presidents and so connected with our text. The difficulty, however, is that the said synagogues were all built several centuries after Matthew. Further, there is no inscriptional support for the identification. Still, καθέδρα was used by the rabbis (qetidra’), and late texts know the expression, ‘cathedra of Moses’; so we do not have here an originally Christian formulation. (ii) ‘Seat of Moses’ may be a metaphor for teaching authority (cf. ex cathedra and the professor’s ‘chair’): the scribes and Pharisees teach with Moses’ authority (cf. m. ’Abot. 1.1). In other words, they run his ‘school’. Certainly the name ‘Moses’ connotes authority; and the image of Moses sitting on Sinai was well known in ancient Judaism (cf. the Moses typology in Mt 5.1-2). Maybe the contrast between the plural subject, ‘scribes and Pharisees’, and the singular, ‘seat’, favours the non-literal interpretation. Note, however, that interpretation (ii) is contained within (i); for one who sat on a special seat named after Moses would obviously be an authority of some sort (cf. again ex cathedra: churches have literal chairs or thrones for bishops). (iii) Roth (as in n. 13) suggested that ‘Moses’ seat’ be identified with the receptacle of the Torah scroll. (iv) Perhaps ‘Moses’ seat’ had a precise reference which time has lost. Viviano (v), p. 11, discerns ‘a veiled allusion to the early rabbinic session at Jamnia’." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 3:268)
  • 39 One should note however that the tying up metaphor here is not the same as the binding and loosing metaphor. "The verb ‘to bind, to tie’ (δεσμεύω) is intended to make one think of binding sheaves and bundles rather than of ‘binding’ (δέω) in the sense of doctrine or of the legal decisions of the rabbis as in 16:19; 18:18." (Luz, Matthew: A Commentary, 3:102)
  • 40 Contra Luz, who states, "A church without higher and lower members, a church of serving, a church of equals, of sisters and brothers in solidarity—this is what Matthew has in mind. The exclusive fatherhood of God in the church excludes not only other gods; it also excludes human patriarchs. The exclusivity of Christ as master excludes other, human teachers and masters. In Christ’s church there may be no hierarchy, thus no sacred rule, because there may be no archy of any kind, no rule of brothers and sisters over brothers and sisters. There may be only reciprocal service...Thus from Matthew’s perspective a hierarchical church of the Catholic type or an institutional church of the Protestant type are a fundamental denial of the faith" (Matthew: A Commentary, 3:110-11). Luz seems to assume here that reciprocal service is antithetical to hierarchy, but even Jesus, the Master himself, participates in reciprocal service (Matt. 20:28)!
  • 41 Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:638.
  • 42 "cette promesse ou prophétie du Christ matthéen ne s’adresse strictement qu’à Pierre, sans la moindre allusion à des «successeurs» éventuels" (Bonnard, L'Évangile selon saint Mathieu, 245); "All such apologetic rewritings of the passage are in any case beside the point, since there is nothing in this passage about any successors to Peter. It is Simon Peter himself, in his historical role, who is the foundation rock. Any link between the personal role of Peter and the subsequent papacy is a matter of later ecclesiology, not of exegesis of this passage." (France, Gospel according to Matthew, 622); "Peter is not just a representative disciple, as so many Protestant exegetes have been anxious to maintain. Nor is he obviously the first holder of an office others will someday hold, as Roman Catholic tradition has so steadfastly maintained." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:643); "a similar majority from all confessions, including Roman Catholic scholars, do not support the traditional Roman Catholic view that this text introduces the idea of an apostolic succession pointing to the primacy of Peter as the first bishop of Rome" (Kvalbein, "The Authorization of Peter in Matthew 16:17-19," 153).
  • 43 "But is there more to Peter’s pre-eminence than his special status in salvation-history? We consider this likely. One should seriously entertain the notion that Matthew conceived of Peter as an authoritative link, perhaps the authoritative link, between Jesus on the one hand and the Matthean community on the other. If the First Gospel was composed in Antioch it is not implausible that some of the book’s special material (M) was thought of—whether rightly or wrongly—as stemming from Peter. Moreover, if Matthew, like Papias after him, believed that Peter was in some sense a source for the Gospel of Mark, then in view of his adoption of most of that gospel our evangelist could have thought of his own composition as depending in no small way upon the great apostle. There is thus some reason to infer that the office of key-holder (16.19) may have included the passing down of tradition. Also not impossible is the suggestion that Peter was thought of as holding some type of ‘office’ which others held after him. This would certainly go a long way towards explaining Matthew’s interest in one who was, after all, long since dead. Further, shortly after Matthew penned his gospel, Ignatius of Antioch expounded a fairly developed view of the episcopal office. Was Peter perhaps already perceived by Matthew and his readers as having some relationship to that emerging institution? Unfortunately, we cannot address the issue with great conviction. We know far too little about Matthew’s church and its concrete situation to make confident assertions about either possible historical links to Peter or the relationship (if any) between that church’s authorities or ‘offices’ and Jesus’ chief apostle. But of a few things we can be reasonably sure. Peter was not simply a representative disciple for Matthew, and he was not just the first disciple to be called. He was the pre-eminent apostle, which meant he held a significance and authority the other disciples did not hold. His rôle in salvation-history was pivotal, and probably his authority continued to make itself felt in the living tradition of Matthew’s community." (Davies and Allison, Gospel According to St. Matthew, 2:651-52)
  • I 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.
  • II 13 When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter said in reply, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus said to him in reply, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. 18 And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” 20 Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.

Saturday 8 October 2016

A further reply to Jonathan Burke on the devil in the Gospel temptation stories

1. Idiosyncrasies and Scholarly Consensus
2. History of Religions
3. Genre and Form
4. Matthew's Mountain
5. Alleged Rabbinic Parallels
6. Conclusion

In this article I respond to Jonathan Burke's article in an ongoing online dialogue over the interpretation of ὁ διάβολος in the temptation stories (TS) in Matthew 4, Luke 4 and Mark 1. My original exegetical works, which interacted with Christadelphian interpretations of the TS, can be found here and here; a summary of the findings of both of these studies is here. Burke critiqued my studies here (part of a larger series responding to various other articles of mine). I responded to Burke's critique with a series of four blog posts (1234), and Burke's latest article (actually over a year old by now) is what I am addressing now.1

In the interest of conciseness and time management, I will not be referring to academic literature to support every claim - particularly claims for which I have done so in previous installments in this series. Any reader who shares Burke's conviction that I have a 'complete lack of familiarity with the relevant scholarship' is encouraged to consult the bibliography and supplementary online materials pertaining to my two co-authored studies on New Testament Satanology recently published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament.2 Instead of replying point-by-point I will make observations on some of the key issues that have been raised. I will also try to follow my self-imposed rules of engagement for online theological discussions, including avoidance of a discussion about the discussion. I would ask Burke to do the same if he opts to carry the discussion further.

1. Idiosyncrasies and Scholarly Consensus

First, I want to comment on the issue of 'idiosyncratic' interpretations. Burke brought this term into the discussion, labelling my interpretation of the TS as idiosyncratic. Well, my interpretation of one small aspect of one of the TS may be idiosyncratic (namely, how Jesus was able to see all the kingdoms of the world from atop a very high mountain in Matthew's version). However, the main point of contention (the meaning of ὁ διάβολος/ὁ σατανᾶς in the TS) does not rest on the validity of my interpretation of this detail. This is obvious since, despite not sharing my 'idiosyncratic' interpretation of the mountaintop experience, the vast majority of scholars share my view on the meaning of ὁ διάβολος.

Thus, when it comes to weighing the scholarly support for Burke's position and mine, the most important point is that Burke's interpretation of the term ὁ διάβολος itself (namely, that it refers to a personification of the yetzer hara, the evil inclination in human nature, and not to a personal being) has very little support in either the academy or the church. Burke admits this: he says that 'the declared aim of my article is to challenge the existing consensus that the temptation account is mythological'. He also admits, 'my view that Jesus was tempted by his own desires is marginal within scholarship', but avers that it is 'certainly not idiosyncratic', citing two scholars in support of this interpretation. One is Kesich, who in a work on early church history devotes all of three sentences to the TS.3 While Kesich says that the TS have been 'translated into figurative language', he does not state that the devil in the TS is a figurative way of referring to Jesus' own desires.4 The other is Lachs, who agrees more closely with Burke's interpretation but still not exactly.5 It is worth noting the language with which Lachs introduces this interpretation, which indicates a speculative suggestion rather than a firm claim: 'the confrontation with Satan could be seen as Jesus’ struggle with himself and overcoming the yezer hara'. Moreover, the only scholarly review of Lachs' Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament of which I am aware pans his work for its 'sloppy editing', 'errors of fact and interpretation', 'outdated scholarship' and 'uncritical methodology'.6

Leaving aside these three sources of questionable academic weight,7 one finds virtually no support for the ὁ διάβολος = yetzer hara interpretation of the TS in relevant monographs and exegetical journal articles on the TS or technical commentaries on the Synoptic Gospels. Thus, 'marginal' is an apt adjective to use for the status of Burke's interpretation (this seems to be one of the few areas of agreement between Burke and myself on the TS). Since Burke is challenging a near-unanimous scholarly consensus, my recommendation would be that he submit his exegesis of the TS to a peer-reviewed biblical studies journal so that it can be tried in the court of scholarly opinion, rather than limiting himself to blog posts. Furthermore, Burke needs to provide detailed commentary on the Matthaean and Lucan TS to explain what every clause would mean under his interpretation of ὁ διάβολος and show why this interpretation has, overall, more explanatory power than the standard view down to the level of syntax. To my knowledge, despite writing extensively on the TS he has yet to do this.

2. History of Religions

One of Burke's three arguments against the scholarly consensus that ὁ διάβολος in the TS refers to a cosmic foe is a history of religions argument:
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.
More specifically, Burke claims:
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 and never as a proper name.
I have so far not responded in detail to these religion-historical claims, partly because I intend to make a study of the origins of early Christian Satanology against the background of Second Temple Judaism the topic of my Honours dissertation over the next year. So I hope in due course to address these issues in detail. For now, I will limit myself to five observations.

1) The term ὁ δίαβολος is used in Job 1-2 LXX and Zech. 3:1-2 LXX. In both cases, ὁ δίαβολος refers to a cosmic being, and in the first case, ὁ δίαβολος has a testing function: he solicits God to bring calamity into Job's life because he believes this will induce Job to sin ('stretch out your hand and touch all that he has, and he will curse you to your face' - Job 1:11; cf. 2:5).8 If I have understood Burke correctly, he regards these texts as irrelevant to the interpretation of the TS because ὁ δίαβολος may be an obedient servant of God rather than an enemy of God (as is widely believed for הַשָּׂטָן in Job and Zechariah MT). However, this feature does not derail the significance of the parallel, because the notion of Satan as God's servant (and prosecutor) continues even in the New Testament. After surveying the evidence, Page concludes:
The Bible portrays Satan as an implacable enemy of God, whose designs on humanity are malicious; however, it does not represent Satan as God’s equal or as one who acts independently of divine control. In the prologue of Job, the oldest text that speaks of a celestial Satan figure, he is clearly pictured as one who is subordinate to God and who operates only within the parameters that God sets for him. Although there is incontrovertible evidence of change and development in the concept of Satan in the biblical literature, this basic notion that Satan is under divine control appears repeatedly. This motif may stand in a certain degree of tension with the conception of Satan as a hostile force, but it is a persistent theme in the biblical record. Satan is an enemy of God, but he is also a servant of God.9
Moreover, we have pre-Christian evidence for the devil as an unambiguously evil being. There is a Jewish pseudepigraphon referred to by some as the Assumption of Moses, by others as the Testament of Moses, and by still others as the Moses fragment because of its uncertain identification with either of these two lost works. It is extant only in a Latin translation from Greek, which was probably the original language.10 It 'dates from the early years of the first century C.E.';11 Grierson estimates the terminus ad quem (latest possible date) at 30 C.E.12 The text contains the following apocalyptic prediction:
And then his (i.e. God's) kingdom will appear in his entire creation. And then the devil will come to an end, and sadness will be carried away together with him. (Testament of Moses 10.1)13
The Latin word translated 'devil' here is zabulus, which is an 'orthographic variant' of diabolus,14 the Latin transliteration of διάβολος. Because Latin lacks the definite article, we cannot be certain whether the Greek read ὁ διάβολος or just διάβολος. However, it seems clear that an individual being is in view, and that he is evil since he will come to an end.15 It is also worth noting that the ending of this document, which is lost but presumably contained an account of Moses' death, is widely regarded by scholars as the source of the allusion in Jude 9 to a quarrel between Michael and the devil over Moses' body.16

2) For similar reasons, הַשָּׂטָן in Job 1-2 and Zech. 3:1-2 is relevant to the interpretation of ὁ σατανᾶς in Mark 1:13 and Matt. 4:10. There are numerous other occurrences of the term 'satan' in Second Temple literature that support a cosmic referent in the TS. I will leave discussion of these for a later date once I've completed my dissertation, but for now I would draw attention to one obvious instance: Paul's assertion in 2 Cor. 11:14 that 'even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light'. Even apart from Paul's identity as a Christian, this is a relevant reference to ὁ σατανᾶς in a Second Temple Jewish text which predates the Gospels by only a few years (Mark) or decades (Matthew), and clearly places Satan in a cosmic, rather than anthropological, context. Earlier in the same epistle, Paul uses the term 'Beliar' (2 Cor. 6:15), which Burke recognizes (as Belial) among the 'established Second Temple terms for supernatural Satan figures' (my emphasis). Moreover, this text ticks all the boxes for the definition of cosmological dualism that Burke uses: 'the world is divided into two opposing forces of good and evil, darkness and light'. 2 Cor. 6:15 explicitly draws an antithesis between 'righteousness and lawlessness', 'darkness and light', and 'Christ' (supernatural, personal leader of the forces of light) and 'Beliar'.17 Burke does not mention any New Testament texts (even those that pre-date the Gospels) in his survey of the background to the Satanological terminology in the Synoptic Gospels.

Is 'satan' a proper name in Second Temple Jewish literature outside the New Testament? Burke says no:
The term satan, whether in Greek (satanaV), or Hebrew (śāṭān), is used rarely in pre-Christian literature and never as a proper name. Consequently, Laato notes that ‘we lack an established tradition whereby the name of the personal Evil or the leader of demons is Satan’.
The link-word 'Consequently' leaves the reader with the impression that Laato agrees with the judgment that 'satan' is never used in pre-Christian literature as a proper name. In fact, he suggests in the same article that שָׂטָן may have transitioned to a proper name ‘already in the Old Testament’, that ‘there is no obstacle to regarding Satan in 1 Chronicles 21 as a proper name’, and that the word could, linguistically speaking, function as a proper name in Job 1-2 and Zechariah 3 despite the presence of the definite article.18

In fact, however, the question of whether 'satan' functions as a proper name in the Old Testament, Second Temple Jewish literature or the New Testament is not of decisive importance. Stokes, for instance, does not see evidence of early use of 'Satan' as a proper name. Nevertheless, he sees clear evidence for the emergence of an individualized Satan figure:
Two passages in the Hebrew Scriptures speak of a superhuman figure not simply as a satan, but as the Satan (Zech 3; Job 1-2). The definite article on the noun (הַשָּׂטָן) suggests the notion of a particular figure who holds the office of "Attacker/Executioner" in the divine court... The Hebrew Scriptures contain several different kinds of satans. They speak of humans in the capacity of attackers or executioners as satans. They speak of heavenly satans, serving the Deity as executioners of the wicked. They also speak of a particular satan, the Satan, who serves God as attacker or executioner of the wicked and, in the case of Job, as attacker of a righteous person. While it was this individual, the Satan, who especially piqued the imaginations of earlier interpreters and who would become the best known of the satans, early Jewish literature would continue to speak of other satans as well.19
After surveying Second Temple literature, he concludes:
In the Hebrew Scriptures and early Jewish writings, "satan" refers generically to an attacker or executioner. And many kinds of attackers/executioners could be called a satan. Some are human; others are superhuman. Some of them are something akin to evil spirits or demons. One of them is the Satan.20
Against this background, it does not really matter whether we consider ὁ σατανᾶς in the New Testament to be a 'personal name' or a 'definite title'.21 What matters is that it is not a common noun but the designation of a particular superhuman individual, which could be rendered in English either with 'Satan' (if understood as a personal name) or 'the Satan' (if understood as a definite title).

3) In his history-of-religions survey of Satanological terminology in the Synoptic Gospels, Burke restricts his attention to 'pre-Christian literature'. This is a serious methodological shortcoming for two reasons. (1) Christian literature that pre-dates the Synoptic Gospels (especially the Pauline epistles) is arguably the most relevant background data of all (see above). (2) Ancient texts which are likely to post-date the Synoptic Gospels are not irrelevant, especially if the temporal proximity is close. Although they obviously do not carry the same weight as sources that pre-date the Synoptic Gospels, they still help to fill in the religion-historical milieu in which the Synoptic evangelists wrote. Burke can hardly dispute this since he introduces much later rabbinic texts as the closest literary parallels to his interpretation of the devil in the TS.

4) In discussing the background to the term 'the evil one' Burke has inadequately represented his key source. Burke cites Black's discussion of Matt. 6:13b to support his claim that 'the evil one' (ὁ πονηρὸς) 'has no Second Temple pre-Christian witness as a reference to a supernatural evil being'. He summarizes Black's point thus:
Summarizing the lexicographical evidence, Black notes ‘this term or designation for Satan is, outside the New Testament and dependent patristic writings, nowhere attested in classical, Hellenistic, or Jewish Greek sources’, which he gives as the reason against reading it as ‘the evil one’ even in Matthew.
However, while Black was summarizing previous scholars' conclusions about the background to the term ὁ πονηρὸς, Black himself proceeds to dispute this summary, discussing two Jewish texts, one of which is a pre-Christian Second Temple text that, in his view, uses the term 'the evil one' (in Hebrew) for Satan. These texts are 4Q Amramb, 4Q280, 286 (287) and Targum of Isa. 11.4. Black's own conclusion is as follows:
these two sets of texts...are the only passages in Jewish literature where the designations רשיעא/הרשע are used for Satan or a manifestation of Satan. The designation, however seems almost an inevitable one for the Prince of Darkness, so that it may well have been in more frequent use in Judaism than its extremely rare occurrence suggests? Was it perhaps dropped by the Synagogue when it was adopted by the early Church, in its almost literal Greek equivalent ὁ πονηρὸς? Such a term would no doubt commend itself widely as a general concept, immediately intelligible in the Hellenistic world, whereas the Hebrew/Aramaic terminology for Satan must have sounded strange and foreign in Greek ears.22
Hence, Black not only presents evidence (including a pre-Christian Second Temple text) for the use of 'the evil one' for a supernatural being, but also does not think that the paucity of evidence is particularly problematic. We are dealing with a low standard of research when one cites a source to support an argument from silence without reporting that the same source counters both the silence and the argument! Unfortunately, Burke repeats the same omission in his recent peer-reviewed publication when arguing that ὁ πονηρὸς does not refer to a supernatural evil being in Didache 8.2.23 Perhaps Burke would claim in his defense that he was interested only in the Greek term ὁ πονηρὸς and not its Hebrew equivalent; but this would be inexplicable since in the very same paragraph he shows concern for usage of 'satan' 'whether in Hebrew or Greek'.

Moreover, Burke's background survey inexplicably excludes the fairly widespread use of ὁ πονηρὸς for Satan in other early Christian texts, some of which may predate Matthew (Eph. 6:16; 2 Thess. 3:3; John 17:15; 1 John 2:13-14; 3:12; 5:18-19; Barnabas 2.10; 21.3; cf. 4.13). While Burke would no doubt dispute that 'the evil one' refers to a supernatural being in any of the New Testament texts, he concedes elsewhere that this is the case in the Epistle of Barnabas. Hence, despite the extremely rare use of 'the evil one' for a supernatural being in Second Temple literature, it is historically certain that this term was in Christian use as a designation for a supernatural Satan within a few decades of the destruction of the temple. The question is when, not whether, the designation entered the Christian vocabulary; and the burden of proof lies with Burke to show that Pseudo-Barnabas understands the term differently than the various NT writers.

5) I previously (following Kelly) identified four parallels to the TS which consisted of a righteous man being tempted by a supernatural being: Abraham being tempted by an unclean bird identified as Azazel in the Apocalypse of Abraham, Mastema's request to tempt Abraham in Jubilees, stories about the Angel of Death and Moses, and Beliar's three nets in the Damascus Document. Burke did not regard this evidence as a problem for his interpretation because:
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.
In all these texts, as in the standard interpretation of the TS, we have a supernatural tempter tempting a righteous man. This is a striking parallel, and it is not clear why Burke dismisses it on the grounds that these tempters have a better relationship with God than the devil in the TS (which is itself debatable.24) A possibly different moral disposition of the supernatural tempter does not imply that 'There are no Old Testament or Second Temple parallels to the temptation accounts'! Again, it is not clear how the parallel is invalidated simply because the supernatural tempter has a different name in each of these stories. Burke himself refers to Mastema, Belial and Azazel as 'supernatural Satan figures'.

3. Genre and Form

Burke accuses me of an internally inconsistent 'hermeneutic of convenience' in that I object to classifying the TS as haggadic midrash and yet appeal to midrashic parallels. Rather, my argument runs as follows:

(1) It is debatable whether the TS can be classified form-critically as haggadic midrash.
(2) Even if we classify the TS form-critically as haggadic midrash, it is debatable how helpful this category is for understanding the TS in their canonical form.
(3) Even if we classify the TS form-critically as haggadic midrash, this supports rather than undermines mythological interpretation of the tempter, since the closest midrashic parallels involve supernatural tempters.

Hence, my argument was that regardless of the position we take on the 'haggadic midrash' issue, we do not have grounds for rejecting a mythological interpretation of ὁ διάβολος. (Hence why a 'haggadic midrash' view of the TS has considerable support but the ὁ διάβολος = yetzer hara view does not.)

I reiterate that Burke does not adequately distinguish between the form of the TS tradition and the final literary products of Matthew and Luke. Even if the temptation dialogue in Q originated as an invented midrash based loosely on trials Jesus faced (a view I reject), it is obviously neither Matthew nor Luke who composed it. Hence, Burke needs to show not merely that the TS was understood as midrash rather than historical narrative at some pre-canonical stage of development; he needs to show that Matthew and Luke so understood it.25 This requires close attention to how Matthew and Luke incorporate the tradition into their wider narrative. This is where narrative criticism comes in - a methodology that Burke has heretofore ignored, despite his protest to the contrary.26 This is also why the syntactic features that I stressed in my original study remain decisive: they show that the events and dialogue are narrated in a way typical of the Gospels' stories. Although the differences between Matthew's and Luke's TS show that at least one of them has redacted rather freely, neither evangelist gives any indication of a shift in genre. It should also be noted that even if the pre-canonical TS underwent dramatic theological expansion, we can be quite certain that the term ὁ διάβολος is not dramatic theological expansion but was part of the story before this expansion occurred, since the synonymous term ὁ σατανᾶς is present in Mark's version of the TS, which is independent of Q and lacks its (alleged) 'dramatic expansion'.

I reiterate that Burke has not adequately interacted with the notion of myth as a literary genre or category in Gospel interpretation. His discussion of myth is limited to his claim that the Synoptic Gospels do not reflect cosmological dualism and that the Synoptic Satan/devil is not a cosmological figure. He describes the following as a 'line of evidence' against reading the TS mythologically:
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.
This, however, is simply an assertion of his conclusion; it is not evidence. And if we turn to Burke's article on dualism in the Synoptics where we might expect to find this point argued in detail, we simply find a definition of three kinds of dualism, and no evidence or argumentation that ethical and psychological dualism is dominant in the Synoptics while cosmological dualism is absent. One would certainly expect to find an extensive discussion of texts such as the Beelzebul Controversy, the parable of the strong man, the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Matt. 25:31, 41 and Luke 10:18-19 as part of any claim that cosmological dualism is lacking in the Synoptic Gospels.

4. Matthew's Mountain

The issue of the 'very high mountain' in Matt. 4:8 has long been the cornerstone of Christadelphian interpretation of the TS.27 There is no mountain on earth from which one can see all the kingdoms of the world, and this point is used to rule out a literal reading of the entire TS, justifying a figurative interpretation even of ὁ διάβολος. However, Matthew's mountain is not nearly the exegetical trump card that Christadelphians make it out to be.

Moreover, it is not true, as Burke claims, that I acknowledge 'that the description of the satan [sic] taking Jesus to a mountain high enough to see all the kingdoms of the world is impossible to read literally, and (resort) to describing this experience as a supernatural experience'. Rather, I argue that the description is possible to take literally precisely because it is a supernatural experience. My own suggestion is that Jesus was transported to the top of a literal mountain where he had a mystical experience. Burke describes this interpretation, with some justification, as idiosyncratic. However, for the purposes of this discussion, I do not need to prove conclusively that it is correct. Indeed, I do not even need it to be correct. To neutralize the 'mountain problem rules out historical narrative' argument, I only need to show that there are plausible ways to understand the mountain within an 'historical narrative' reading of the TS. And several such ways can be found in the scholarly literature. Accordingly I would make the following observations.

1) Classifying a pericope as historical narrative does not commit the exegete to a woodenly literal interpretation of every last detail. For instance, I do not, by virtue of my approach to the TS, feel compelled to infer from Matt. 4:4 that Matthew thought God to have a literal mouth (though he may have done). That said, I see no reason to doubt that Matthew had a literal mountain in mind (whether a known mountain in Israel, a cosmic mountain or a heavenly mountain).

2) Since Matthew and Luke differ on the mountain detail, it is uncertain whether the mountain was in Q and dropped by Luke, or whether the mountain was introduced by Matthew. Seemingly, the majority of scholars favour the first option,28 but there is also considerable support for the second.29 Let us consider the implications of both possibilities.

a. What if the mountain was present in Q, and omitted by Luke? This suggests that the mountain was part of the story very early. The words 'very' and/or 'high' may be redactional in Matthew even if 'mountain' is not.30 If the TS is regarded as authentic history, then one possibility is that the devil took Jesus to the top of an actual mountain in Israel. This finds support in the identification of Mount Tabor as the mountain of temptation in the Gospel of the Hebrews.31 (The identification of a specific, literal mountain suggests that the author of the Gospel of the Hebrews understood the account literally.) How could Jesus have seen 'all the kingdoms of the world' from the top of Mount Tabor or another mountain in Israel? He couldn't have, naturally - just as Moses couldn't have naturally seen all the places that Deut. 34:1-4 says he saw from the top of Mount Nebo. So, as noted previously, the TS, like Deuteronomy, implies some kind of supernatural, mystical experience atop the mountain. This is not a particularly radical suggestion given that Matthew records a supernatural, mystical experience in his only other reference to a high mountain (Matt. 17:1ff).

The second issue, if the mountain was present in Q, is why Luke omitted it. Luke simply has the devil 'take Jesus up'. This is significant because Luke's TS must be interpreted in its own right and not simply harmonized with Matthew's: it is possible that Luke and Matthew understood the TS differently. Thus, whatever the implications of the 'mountain problem', the exegete must still deal with Luke, where this problem is absent. Scholars have made several suggestions as to why Luke may have chosen to omit the mountain. One popular suggestion is that Luke is concerned to emphasise the temporal aspect of the panorama ('at a moment of time') than the spatial aspect ('to a very high  mountain').32 Others think Luke was embarrassed by the idea of Jesus seeing all the kingdoms of the world from a very high mountain because he knew no such mountain existed.33 Hence, his redaction serves to depict this temptation as 'visionary or imaginary',34 or alternatively as a heavenly journey,35 whether of the body36 or (less plausibly in my view) the soul.37 Whatever the case, Luke is explicitly concerned with ensuring his account is believable as historical narrative.38 If the whole episode were a dramatic theological expansion, we would not expect such historiographical concern.

b. What if the mountain was added by Matthew? (As noted above, a separate possibility is that the mountain was present in Q but 'very high' was added by Matthew.) Given the important theological role that mountains play in Matthew's narrative (cf. Matt. 5:1; 17:1; 28:16), this would presumably have been done to add a theological flourish to the story. If so, then if the TS basically recounts authentic historical events, the 'very high mountain' is not part of that authentic history and we can call back the Sherpas from the search for it. The actual historical events might then have included a heavenly journey (as Luke seems to imply), 'whether in the body or out of the body'. There remains the question of how Matthew understood the 'very high mountain' that he added to the story. This has been discussed in a previous article: possibly Matthew and his earliest readers understood it literally à la Donaldson's 'cosmic mountain' motif. They might well have believed that such a mountain existed. That it does not in fact exist means we must read the narrative critically, not figuratively. Alternatively, Matthew may have envisioned the mountain as a heavenly mountain as per Orlov's suggestion.

3) I reiterate that understanding the TS as a mystical experience is consistent with it being a historical narrative. Even if the TS were to be interpreted as an imaginary or dream-like experience, this would not imply that ὁ διάβολος lacked external existence any more than appearances of angels in dreams (Matt. 1:20; 2:13; 2:19) imply that those angels lacked external existence. However, while I am willing to allow for a mystical aspect to the temptations (i.e. a heavenly journey in Luke and a mountaintop visionary experience in Matthew), I think the TS clearly describe a physical bodily experience. 2 Cor. 12:2-4 shows that Second Temple Jews could conceive of mystical experiences as being either physical or non-physical. More importantly, all three temptations entail the involvement of Jesus' body (eating, leaping, prostrating). A temptation to throw oneself off a high building is meaningless if imaginary: it could not really be acted upon (and Jesus would be able to mount a robust defense against any claim that he was morally responsible for an act he performed within a dream). When actually standing at the top of a high building peering over the edge, it is a different matter.

4) I reiterate that, in a first century Jewish or Roman context, 'all the kingdoms of the world' does not mean 'every inch of the earth known since the Copernican revolution to be spherical'. It means all the kingdoms of 'a flat earth limited to the Mediterranean world'.39 We should not infer that, if the TS are historical narrative, Jesus must have gazed upon New Guinea, Cape Horn and the Kamchatka Peninsula. In insisting that 'the Roman Empire and its environs' is 'a poor temptation for a man who was promised rulership of the entire world by God', Burke is imposing a theological reading that is far removed from the first century context. In any case, I readily concede that it is not possible with natural human vision to see the whole Mediterranean world from any mountain in the Mediterranean world. However, Jesus' companion is explicitly capable of transporting him great distances to great elevations, and Luke's ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου makes the supernatural character of the 'showing' unmistakable. Within such a narrative context, it makes little sense to limit the range of Jesus' eyesight on the mountaintop to what would be naturally possible.

As is evident from the above, there are several plausible ways of explaining Matthew's 'very high mountain' which do not conclude either (a) that he intended the entire TS to be read figuratively, including ὁ διάβολος; or (b) that there must be a stupendous physical mountain somewhere on earth from which the entire globe is visible.

5. Alleged Rabbinic Parallels

Burke introduces new evidence in the form of four rabbinic texts. The first two texts, in Burke's words, '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'.

Now in terms of the admissibility of this evidence, it is noteworthy Burke here uses rabbinic texts written centuries after the New Testament, and deems them relevant to the exegesis of the TS, whereas in his history-of-religions survey of Synoptic Satanological terminology, he is only prepared to place significant weight on pre-Christian Second Temple Jewish texts. For instance, concerning the Testament of Job, he judges that 'its very uncertain date precludes its use as a reliable source of contextual data for the New Testament.' However, the latest date in the range usually assigned to the Testament of Job is still earlier than the rabbinic literature cited by Burke, to which he does appeal as a reliable source of contextual data for the New Testament. This is a clear methodological inconsistency. Moreover, Burke certainly overstates things when he concludes based on these texts that a particular literary device 'was well established in Judaism at least as early as the Tannaitic period.' For one of the texts he cites (Sifre Numbers), the final redaction may be dated in the 'mid to late-third century', 'towards the end of the tannaitic period'.40 For the other texts, from the Babylonian Talmud, the final redaction may be dated to 'between the fifth and the seventh centuries'.41 One of them is paralleled in the Palestinian Talmud, the final redaction of which is dated by most scholars to the first half of the fifth century.42 Hence, Burke provides only one text that can be dated toward the end of the Tannaitic period - still about two centuries after the Gospels were written. If Burke wants to claim that the traditions within these rabbinic texts go back much earlier than the date of redaction, he will have to support this with historical-critical analysis, which he has not done. Neusner's famous dictum, 'What we cannot show, we do not know' is relevant at this point.43

Nevertheless, let us proceed with caution to consider the significance of the parallels. My overall assessment is that they are helpful in illustrating the contrast between 'a highly anthropomorphized yetzer ha ra' and the tempter in the Gospel TS. The key distinction is expressed by Burke himself: 'in these texts the yetzer is 'personified to the point that it is depicted as an independent being, even while being identified as an internal impulse to sin'. In both texts cited by Burke, the yetzer hara is explicitly identified as suchIndeed, while Burke states that Rosen-Zvi notes 'that this temptation is not depicted as a mere impulse, but as an independent person arguing cogently with Boaz', the sentences immediately prior to his supporting quotation show that for Rosen-Zvi, the identification of the yetzer hara signals the internal nature of the temptation:
The appearance of the yetzer moves the venue from the interpersonal sphere to the inner arena of the protagonist's desires and proclivities: the sexual drama here is one of thoughts and reflections no less than of actions. The dangers lurking for man are internal, not external.44
By contrast, in the TS the tempter is designated only with personal nouns and is not identified as the yetzer hara. We do not have 'the appearance of the yetzer' to move 'the venue from the interpersonal sphere to the inner arena of the protagonist's desires and proclivities'; the TS remain in the interpersonal sphere.

In the second text, the internal nature of the temptation receives further explicit emphasis: 'my evil impulse grew proud within me'. By contrast, in the TS the tempter is never described using internalizing language. Finally, nothing in these rabbinic 'parallels' approaches the self-awareness of the tempter in the TS. In the Boaz midrash, the yetzer only speaks to Boaz about Boaz and not about itself. In the Nazirite tale, the yetzer's words are not recorded but it merely beseeches the Nazirite. By contrast, in the Lucan TS the tempter makes elaborate claims about his prerogatives using a divine passive: 'it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will' (Luke 4:6). In both Matthew and Luke the tempter demands a physical act of worship from Jesus, which is simply impossible if the tempter is internal to him. This would make the very temptation itself - which is no incidental detail but a key part of the story - nonsensical. Burke has never yet offered a satisfactory explanation for these features of the TS.

The other two rabbinic texts cited by Burke are cases where he says the Rabbis 'identified the yetzer in Old Testament passages which were speaking plainly of human beings', showing that they 'had anthropomorphized the yetzer to the extent that it was now natural to depict it as an individual separate from humans'. Again, these rabbinic texts involve explicit assertions made about the yetzer, whereas the Gospel TS do not mention the yetzer. Moreover, in the case of Micah 7:5, Rosen-Zvi notes a specific feature of the Hebrew text that made the yetzer interpretation possible: 'The homilist (in a typically midrashic move) reads רֵע (friend) as רַע (evil)'.45 Without the vowel points (which were added to the text by the Masoretes, probably after this midrash was developed),46 the words 'friend' and 'evil' are identical in Hebrew. The second text into which the rabbis read the yetzer is 2 Sam. 12:4 (incorrectly cited by Rosen-Zvi and Burke as 2 Sam. 2:12). Here, the yetzer is identified with the traveler who came to the rich man in an allegorical parable told by Nathan to David. It is surely the allegorical nature of the passage which prompted this identification. Nathan tells David that he is the rich man in the story. The poor man is obviously Uriah the Hittite and the ewe lamb Bathsheba, but what is the referent of the traveler? One can hardly imagine the rabbinic imagination concluding that it lacks an allegorical referent. Thus, as in Micah 7:5, the biblical text itself supplies the basis for the midrashic elaboration. That the rabbis chose to interpret this human character as the yetzer remains impressive, but as Rosen-Zvi states concerning the whole passage:
Taken together, these three homilies present a yetzer more developed than anything we find in the earlier Tannaitic literature: a sophisticated, dynamic, and demonic enemy.47
Thus, in Rosen-Zvi's judgment, far from demonstrating that such a highly anthropomorphized yetzer 'was well established...at least as early as the Tannaitic period', this text represents a development beyond anything found in the earlier Tannaitic literature. Thus, any attempt to use this text as contextual data for interpreting the Gospel TS is historically suspect.

6. Conclusion

I will conclude by listing features within the TS that support a literal interpretation of ὁ διάβολος / ὁ σατανᾶς as a supernatural personal being.
  • Only personal nouns are used for the tempter, and there is no explicit identification as yetzer or explicit internalization of the tempter (as seen in the alleged rabbinic parallels)
  • The tempter 'comes' at the beginning of the story, and 'leaves' at the end, just as angels 'come' at the end (in Matthew)
  • The tempter demands a physical act of worship from Jesus: 'fall down and worship me' (Matt. 4:9); 'worship before me' (Luke 4:7), which makes sense only if the tempter is an external person
  • The tempter demonstrates strong self-awareness independent of Jesus (in Luke): 'To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.' (Luke 4:6)
  • The statement, 'I give it to whom I will' simply does not make sense if it is Jesus' yetzer speaking. To whom, other than Jesus, might Jesus' yetzer possibly envision giving the kingdoms of the world?
  • Understood in the context of Roman law, showing Jesus the kingdoms of the world represents a proposed property transaction, which implies the presence of a distinct seller and buyer. This feature of the narrative is inexplicable if the seller and buyer are the same person, since then no transaction would be necessary
  • Whatever the tradition-history of the Q TS, both Matthew and Luke weave it seamlessly into their narrative, offering no indication that it should be read less literally than other events in the life of Jesus
  • As narrative critics argue, Satan/the devil features as a distinct character in the plot of each of the Synoptic Gospels
  • The identification of the tempter as Satan/the devil is common to both independently transmitted versions of the TS, those of Mark and Q. Consequently, the externality of the tempter cannot be attributed to a progressive theological dramatization of the Q TS known from Matthew and Luke
  • If the Q TS is identified as haggadic midrash, we should make recourse to the closest religion-historical parallels from this genre, which all feature the testing of a righteous man by a supernatural being (in fact, the contours of this motif are visible already in Job). The testing of a righteous man by his yetzer, depicted as an external person capable of speech, is first attested in the mid to late third century C.E. (according to evidence presented by Burke)
  • There are plausible explanations of Matthew's 'very high mountain' within a broadly literal reading of his TS, so this detail is no justification for proposing a figurative reading of the entire pericope. Moreover, the 'mountain' detail is found only in Matthew and so is irrelevant to the interpretation of the Marcan TS. It affects interpretation of the Lucan TS only in terms of the need to explain Luke's omission of the mountain (if it was present in the Q TS).
  • New research concerning the devil's use of Psalm 91 (an apotropaic48 psalm) in the TS has helped to 'situate Satan's invocation of the psalm within the larger context of early Jewish demonological tradition'.49
For these reasons, I believe the scholarly and traditional consensus that ὁ διάβολος / ὁ σατανᾶς in the Gospel TS refers to a supernatural being remains well-founded and secure despite the arguments raised in Burke's online writings. And I reiterate my observation that Burke has yet to offer a blow-by-blow commentary on the TS.


  • 1 I already addressed it briefly in some comments at the bottom of my last blog post; this is a more detailed response.
  • 2 Farrar, Thomas J. & Williams, Guy J. (2016). Diabolical Data: A Critical Inventory of New Testament Satanology. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 39(1), 40-71; Farrar, Thomas J. & Williams, Guy J. (2016). Talk of the Devil: Unpacking the Language of New Testament Satanology. Journal for the Study of the New Testament, 39(1), 72-96.
  • 3 Kesich, Veselin (2007). Formation and Struggles: The Church, AD 33-450 (Vol. 1). Crestwood: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, p. 12.
  • 4 The comment that Burke cites specifically concerns the 'historicity of the temptations'. Kesich suggests that 'Jesus himself was most likely the source of his trials in the wilderness, translated into figurative language'. What Kesich means by Jesus being the source of his trials is not that they were strictly internal but that Jesus was the historical source for the TS - since he was the only human being present, only he could have transmitted the story to his disciples (if in fact it is rooted in historical events). Burke infers from 'translated into figurative language' that Kesich interprets ὁ διάβολος as referring to Jesus' own desires, but Kesich himself does not say so.
  • 5 When Lachs says that the yetzer hara 'is externalized in the literature by the figure of Satan', it is unclear whether he thinks that Satan is an external figure in the literature or is just an apparently external figure in the literature. In rabbinic literature, Satan is an external figure.
  • 6 'To sum up, Lachs's Rabbinic Commentary is marred by sloppy editing, errors of fact and interpretation, and outdated scholarship. It is fatally flawed, however, by its uncritical methodology coupled with a lack of serious reflection on the implications of such a commentary for understanding New Testament literary history.' (Visotzky, Burton L. (1988). Review: Lachs' "Rabbinic Commentary on the New Testament". The Jewish Quarterly Review, 78(3/4), 340-343, here p. 343.)
  • 7 The third, as both Burke and I have noted previously, being Phipps, William E. (1993). The Wisdom and Wit of Rabbi Jesus. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, p. 38.
  • 8 The verb in both the MT and LXX literally means 'bless', but this should be understood as a euphemism, similar to the famous tannaitic birkat ha-minim ('blessing on heretics'). See Mangan, Celine (2002). Blessing and Cursing in the Prologue of Targum Job. In Paul V.M. Flesher (Ed.), Targum and Scripture: Studies in Aramaic Translations and Interpretation in Memory of Ernest G. Clarke (pp. 225-230). Leiden: Brill, p. 226.
  • 9 Page, Sydney H.T. (2007). Satan: God's Servant. Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 50(3), 449-465; here p. 465.
  • 10 'It is undisputed that the Latin of the Moses fragment was translated from Greek...as there is no strong evidence for the Moses fragment having existed in a Semitic language, there is no need to look beyond a Greek original for a Hebrew text' (Grierson, Fiona (2008). The Testament of Moses. Journal for the Study of the Pseudepigrapha, 17(4), 265-280; here p. 275.)
  • 11 Collins, John J. (2016). The Apocalyptic Imagination: An Introduction to Jewish Apocalyptic Literature. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 160.
  • 12 Grierson, op. cit., p. 276.
  • 13 Translation: Tromp, Johannes (1993). The Assumption of Moses: A Critical Edition with Commentary. Leiden: Brill, p. 19.
  • 14 Tromp, op. cit., p. 229. Tromp suggests the text refers to the devil being barred from the heavenly council or, more likely, is a less concrete reference to the demise of satanic forces similar to what we find in other apocalyptic literature of the period.
  • 15 Tromp, op. cit., p. 229, notes the similarity to Jesus' statement in Mark 3:26 that Satan 'has an end'.
  • 16 See discussion in my article on this subject; also Tromp, op. cit., pp. 271f. Grierson takes a more conservative approach. She thinks either the Assumption of Moses or the Testament of Moses was the source of Jude's allusion, and 'cautiously assert[s] that it was the ToM'. However, because she finds that 'there is not enough evidence in the text itself or in external sources to identify the Moses fragment with either ToM or AoM, she concludes 'that no direct connection can be made between the Moses fragment and Jude 9' (Grierson, op. cit., p. 279).
  • 17 Cf. 2 Cor. 4:4, where 'the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God' is contrasted with 'the god of this age' who 'has blinded the minds of the unbelievers'.
  • 18 Laato, Antti (2013). The Devil in the Old Testament. In I. Fröhlich & E. Koskenniemi (Eds.), Evil and the Devil (pp. 1-22). London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, pp. 4-5, 20-21.
  • 19 Stokes, Ryan E. (2016). What is a Demon, What is an Evil Spirit, and What is a Satan? In J. Dochhorn, S. Rudnig-Zelt & B. Wold (Eds.), Das Böse, der Teufel und Dämonen (pp. 259-272). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 268-69.
  • 20 Stokes, op. cit., p. 271.
  • 21 These are the two possibilities raised concerning ὁ σατανᾶς in the Pauline epistles by Williams, Guy (2009). The Spirit World in the Letters of Paul the Apostle: A Critical Examination of the Role of Spiritual Beings in the Authentic Pauline Epistles. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, p. 88.
  • 22 Black, Matthew (1990). The Doxology to the Pater Noster with a Note on Matthew 6.13b. In Davies, P.R. & White, R.T. (Eds.), A Tribute to Geza Vermes: Essays on Jewish and Christian Literature and History. (pp. 327-338). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, p. 336.
  • 23 Burke, Jonathan (2016). Satan and Demons in the Apostolic Fathers: A Minority Report. Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok, 81, 127-168. On p. 137, n. 56, Burke cites Black as support for his claim that the use of ὁ πονηρὸς for a supernatural being 'has no pre-Christian witness'.
  • 24 Matt. 4:1 says that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil, which implies divine complicity in allowing the devil to tempt Jesus.
  • 25 For Christian readers, it is the final, canonical form of the TS that is authoritative for constructing theology.
  • 26 In his latest article, Burke writes, 'Farrar wrongly claims I ignore narrative criticism'. However, not only does he then neglect to provide any evidence of his previous interaction with narrative criticism; he does not rectify the omission by interacting with any of the narrative critics I had cited.
  • 27 See Christadelphian writings cited in my The Devil in the Wilderness, p. 9.
  • 28 See the various opinions summarized in Carruth, Shawn & Robinson, James M. (1996). Q 4:1-13, 16: The Temptations of Jesus - Nazara. Reconstructions of Q Through Two Centuries of Gospel Research: Excerpted, Sorted and Evaluated. Leuven: Peeters, pp. 264-272. After surveying previous research, four evaluators (Carruth, Hartin, Chang and Robinson) pass judgment and all four agree that ὄρος was in the Q source. Similarly, 'Most scholars believe that Matthew took εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν from Q; only rarely does one encounter the opposite opinion. The fact that specific settings (desert, temple) are given for the other two temptations, points in the former direction, for it leads one to expect that a setting for the third temptation would be specified as well. Moreover, Luke's version of this temptation shows signs of extensive editorial revision. In particular, the verb ἀνάγω, which appears in Lk. 4.5 in place of the mountain reference, is a characteristically Lukan word, and the omission of a mountain setting along with the addition of ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου can be seen as the result of Luke's desire to clarify the purely visionary nature of this temptation. Thus both the form of the narrative and certain features characteristic of Luke's redactional style favour the view that the mountain reference was originally part of the Q account.' (Donaldson, Terence (1987). Jesus on the Mountain: A Study in Matthew. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 87-88).
  • 29 'The third temptation, according to the redaction of 4:8, occurs on "a very high mountain." Luke's version (4:5) simply reads, "And leading him up..."' (Waetjen, Herman C. (1976). The Origin and Destiny of Humanness: An Interpretation of the Gospel According to Matthew. San Rafel: Crystal Press, p. 76); 'This is probably redactional. There is no parallel in Luke. Matthew will add a mountain in 5.1; 8.1; 15.29; and 28.16; and he likes λίαν. For ὑψηλός (Mt: 2; Mk: 1; Lk: 1) with ὄρος (Mt 16; Mk: 11; Lk: 12) see 17.1 (from Mark; cf. Gen 7.19-20; Deut 12.2; Jth 7.4; Isa 2.14; 14.13; Jer 3.6; Ezek 40.2).' (Davies, W.D. & Allison, Dale C., Jr. (1988). A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on The Gospel according to Saint Matthew (Vol. 1). London: T&T Clark, p. 369); 'To be the object of εἰς, the evangelist adds ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν, "an exceedingly high mountain," i.e., higher yet, since according to Matthew's version Jesus has already been led up (v 1). ὑψηλὸν anticipates the description of the Mount of Transfiguration (17:1), and ὄρος and λίαν belong to Matthew's favorite vocabulary (6,1; 3,1). Above all, the added phrase carries forward the parallel between Jesus and Moses: Jesus views all the kingdoms of the world from a mountain just as Moses viewed not only all the land of Canaan (Deut 34:1-4), but also "the west and north and south and east" (Deut 3:27), from Mount Pisgah, or Nebo.' (Gundry, Robert Horton. (1994). Matthew: A Commentary on His Handbook for a Mixed Church Under Persecution (2nd edn). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 57.); 'Matthew may have added ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λιάν to his mountain motif. Though the absence in Luke of a location is irregular, perhaps "mountain" is to be understood, or perhaps the journey was not of an earthly, but rather cosmic, even apocalyptic sort. This is an attractive idea, since it would resolve the logistics problem of viewing all the kingdoms from a mountain in the first place. Wherever this "mountain" is, it too is a mythic reference, and woulud be a logical addition by Matthew. Vaage's retention of ὄρος is logical, still allowing ὑψηλὸν λίαν to be a Matthean embellishment. This would give Matthew some credit for mountain-top elaboration, and at the same time preserve (or add) some of the parallelism and balance to the scenes. It doesn't explain Luke's ommission however. I would retain ἀνάγειν and assume the most logical location for such a viewing: the sky, adding an element of an apocalyptic sort, but it seems inevitable. "In a moment of time" is the mythological duration of the panoramic viewing; appropriate if the location is the sky, inappropriate on a mountain.' (Robbins, C. Michael (2007). The Testing of Jesus in Q. New York: Peter  Lang, p. 149); At Matt 4:8 the expression "to a very high mountain" (ὄρος ὑψηλὸν λίαν) may be redactional, since it is not in the corresponding passage at Luke 4:5; on the other hand, Luke may have chosen to omit it. In any case, it seems entirely likely that Matthew intends us to see the mountain at 4:8 as corresponding to the mountain at 28:16' (Bryan, Christopher. (2011). The Resurrection of the Messiah. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p. 297 n. 51.); 'Matthew has followed his source, which has Jerusalem (= Matthew's "holy city") and the temple in the source of this narrative, sandwiched by desert on the one side, and Matthew's redactional "an exceedingly high mountain," on the other side... Matthew has modified Q's third temptation - "Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world" - by situating it on a mountain.' (Cohen, Akiva. (2016). Matthew and the Mishnah. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 227).
  • 30 See discussion in Carruth & Robinson pp. 274-79.
  • 31 As noted by Edwards, Origen and Jerome quote from the Gospel of the Hebrews in a way that appears to indicate its identification of Mount Tabor as the mount of temptation (Edwards, James R. (2015). The Gospel According to Luke. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 128 n. 101). For example, 'But if someone accepts the Gospel according to the Hebrews, where the Savior himself says, "My mother, the Holy Spirit, took me just now by one of my hairs and carried me off to the great mountain Thabor"...' (Origen, Commentary on John 2.12.87, in Heine, Ronald E., trans. (1989). Origen, Commentary on the Gospel of John, Books 1-10. Washington: Catholic University of America Press, p. 116).
  • 32 '[Luke's] shift from a local to a temporal scene can account for his omission of the mountain in the source (Loisy, Vogels, Creed, Vosté, Morgenthaler, Dupont, Kruse, Fitzmyer, Sevenich-Bax).' (Carruth, in Carruth & Robinson, op. cit., p. 271).
  • 33 'That no such mountain exists from which one can view the whole earth provides the key to explaining Luke's omission of this phrase.' (Hartin, in Carruth & Robinson, op. cit., p. 271); 'It is unclear to what extent Luke would have been influenced by pragmatic considerations: Even with a flat earth limited to the Mediterranean world, no mountain is high enough. (The limitation is actually that of eyesight, not of altitude.)' (Robinson, in Carruth & Robinson, op. cit., pp. 271-72).
  • 34 'The omission of the setting on "a very high mountain" (see Matt 4:8), and especially the reference to "in an instant" (Gk. lit. "in a moment of time"), implies something visionary or imaginary. It is thus more spiritual than the physical version of the temptation in Matt 4:8-9.' (Edwards, op. cit., p. 128).
  • 35 See Robbins, op. cit., p. 149 (quoted above).
  • 36 'There may also be a heightened mythological component: "Leading him up" may imply an ascent through the air, e.g. somewhat like what may be meant in Acts 8:39: πνεῦμα κυρίου ἥρτασεν τὸν Φίλιππον. Luke also refers to visible descents from above: ἐθεώρουν τὸν σατανᾶν ὡς ἀστραπὴν ἐκ τοῦ οὐρανοῦ πεσόντα (Luke 10:18, a saying only in Luke); καὶ καταβῆναι τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον σωματικῷ εἴδει ὡς περιστερὰν ἐπ’ αὐτόν (Luke 3:22-the bodiliness is only in Luke). Jesus' own final ascension would then be a kind of inclusio (note the recurring prefix ἀνα-): Acts 1:2: ἀνελήμφθη; Luke 24:51: διέσθη ἀπ’ αὐτῶν καὶ ἀναφέρετο εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν, anticipated already in Luke 9:51: ἀνάλημψις.' (Robinson, in Carruth & Robinson, op. cit., pp. 271-72).
  • 37 'The temptation story also gives a description of a soul flight, where Jesus is transported from one place to another, from the wilderness to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. Then, in another soul journey, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain, where he is shown all the kingdoms of the earth.' (Gagné, André. (2016). Narrative Depictions of Altered States of Consciousness in 1 Enoch and the Synoptic Tradition. In Loren T. Stuckenbruck & Gabriele Boccaccini (Eds.), Enoch and the Synoptic Gospels: Reminiscences, Allusions, Intertextuality (pp. 19-30). Atlanta: SBL Press, p. 27).
  • 38 'As Fitzmyer says (1980, 507) Luke makes "minor modifications in the story (which) reveal a Lucan concern to present the temptations in a plausible form"' (Hartin, in Carruth & Robinson, op. cit., p. 271); 'How can we explain Luke's redaction?... Luke substitutes a temporal expression ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου for Q's spatial expression εἰς ὄρος ὑψηλὸν out of a concern for verisimilitude. He realizes that no mountain, however high it might reach, could furnish a vantage point from which to survey all the kingdoms of the world. A similar concern for verisimilitude surfaced in the first temptation where Luke switched to a single stone to avoid having the landscape strewn with loaves of bread. Instead of the spatial image, Luke substitutes a temporal expression which refers to the instantaneous vision that unfolds before Jesus. Luke thus frames the temptation as no ordinary occurrence but rather as a visionary experience.' (Fleddermann, H.T. (2005). Q: A Reconstruction and Commentary. Leuven: Peeters, p. 249.)
  • 39 (Robinson, in Carruth & Robinson, op. cit., p. 271).
  • 40 Gruschcow, Lisa (2006). Writing the Wayward Wife: Rabbinic Interpretations of Sotah. Leiden: Brill, p. 5.
  • 41 Zellentin, Holger M. (2011). Rabbinic Parodies of Jewish and Christian Literature. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 10 n. 33.
  • 42 Stemberger, Günter (1996). Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (2nd edn). Edinburgh: T&T Clark, p. 171: 'Most scholars...would accept a later date for the last named teachers in PT, thereby inferring a date of redaction in the first half of the fifth century.'
  • 43 Neusner argues at length that historical criticism must be used in the study of rabbinic literature, just as in the study of the Gospels. The burden of proof is on the one who claims a particular saying is early enough to be relevant to New Testament research. If this cannot be shown, it is not known. See Neusner, Jacob (1994). Rabbinic Literature and the New Testament: What We Cannot Show, We Do Not Know. Eugene: Wipf & Stock, esp. pp. 1-17.
  • 44 Rosen-Zvi, Ishay (2009). Refuting the Yetzer: The Evil Inclination and the Limits of Rabbinic Discourse. Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, 17(2), 117-141. Here p. 121.
  • 45 Rosen-Zvi, op. cit., p. 131 n. 39.
  • 46 'From about A.D. 500 to 800 the Masoretes added vowel points, accents and the Masorahs (to help safeguard the text from error) as well as many scribal corrections.' (Wegner, Paul D. (2006). A Student's Guide to Textual Criticism of the Bible: Its History, Methods and Results. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, p. 77.)
  • 47 Rosen-Zvi, Ishay (2009). Sexualising the Evil Inclination: Rabbinic 'Yetzer' and Modern Scholarship. Journal of Jewish Studies, 60(2), 264-281. Here p. 272; emphasis added.
  • 48 'Apotropaic' activity refers to 'preventative measures...taken, via petition or incantation, to ensure safety from future demonic harm', in contrast to exorcistic activity which cures people from current demonic affliction (Morris, Michael (2016). Apotropaic Inversion in the Temptation and at Qumran. In J. Dochhorn, S. Rudnig-Zelt & B. Wold (Eds.), Das Böse, der Teufel und Dämonen (pp. 93-100). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, p. 93.
  • 49 Morris, op. cit., p. 93. Morris concludes that the TS portrays 'an aggressive manipulation in which the Devil mocks the apotropaic efficacy of Psalm 91 in order to intimidate Jesus' (p. 99). This, of course, makes little narrative sense if there is no demonic element to the temptation.