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Showing posts with label New Testament studies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Testament studies. Show all posts

Monday 8 September 2014

The Son of Man, the Parables of Enoch, and New Testament Christology

In J.D.G. Dunn's monumental study Christology in the Making,1 he argued that incarnational Christology (that is, a Christology which views Christ as a pre-existent divine being who assumed humanity) can be found in the New Testament only in the Gospel of John. One of the premises that led him to this conclusion was his assessment that there was no precedent in Judaism for such a Christology.

Some scholars prior to Dunn had believed the title 'Son of Man', used by Jesus as a self-referent in all four Gospels, already conveyed the idea of a pre-existent divine being.2 This they regarded as derived either directly from Daniel 7:13 or from an apocalyptic Jewish text known as the Parables of Enoch (sometimes known as the Similitudes of Enoch). This text comprises chapters 37-71 of the work known today as 1 Enoch or Ethiopic Enoch. Dunn denies that a pre-existent heavenly individual is a plausible interpretation of the "one like a son of man" in Daniel 7:13, but he does acknowledge that "it would almost certainly seem to be the case that in the Similitudes the Son of Man is thought of as pre-existent. Note particularly 48.2-6 and 62.6-7."3 He is referring to personal pre-existence here: "a pre-existent heavenly individual."

The passages from the Parables of Enoch referred to by Dunn read as follows (R.H. Charles' translation):
48:2 And at that hour that Son of Man was named In the presence of the Lord of Spirits, And his name before the Head of Days. 3 Yea, before the sun and the signs were created, Before the stars of the heaven were made, His name was named before the Lord of Spirits. 4 He shall be a staff to the righteous whereon to stay themselves and not fall, And he shall be the light of the Gentiles, And the hope of those who are troubled of heart. 5 All who dwell on earth shall fall down and worship before him, And will praise and bless and celebrate with song the Lord of Spirits. 6 And for this reason hath he been chosen and hidden before Him, Before the creation of the world and for evermore.
62:6 And the kings and the mighty and all who possess the earth shall bless and glorify and extol him who rules over all, who was hidden. 7 For from the beginning the Son of Man was hidden, And the Most High preserved him in the presence of His might, And revealed him to the elect.
Now, not all exegetes have shared Dunn's view that the Son of Man in the Parables is depicted as a pre-existent heavenly being. For instance, VanderKam,4 following the earlier analysis of Manson,5 regards the Parables as describing the Son of Man only as a predestined being. However, the predestination view has been ably criticized by Collins,6 Knibband Reynolds. Given that 1 Enoch 48:2-3 refers specifically to the name of the Messianic Son of Man, we may note the oft-quoted statement of eminent Jewish scholar E. Urbach that "there are no grounds...for a distinction between the pre-existence of [the Messiah's] name and the pre-existence of his personality."

If Dunn acknowledged that the Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch is a pre-existent heavenly individual, why did he insist that this view of the Son of Man could not have influenced the historical Jesus or the Gospel writers? The reason is simply that he dates the Parables to the post-70 AD period. On this basis he reasons that "so far as 1 Enoch is concerned the Son of Man as a pre-existent heavenly individual cannot be traced back within Jewish (non-Christian) circles to a pre-70 date."10

Soon after Dunn published his study, Holladay noted:
"It is far more crucial for him to determine whether the Son of Man was ever conceived in pre-Christian Judaism as a heavenly (pre-existent) figure who would appear as a Messianic figure to redeem the people of God. Since the clearest expression of this occurs in the Similitudes of Enoch, their date becomes crucial."11
After cautiously allowing the possibility of a late date for the Similitudes (Parables), Holladay went on to say,
Dunn errs on the side of chronological overprecision, so much so that if any genuine conceptual or historical analogue were to be found prior to the Christian formulation of the doctrine of the incarnation, the whole thesis would collapse.12
In the ensuing three decades since Dunn wrote, Holladay's warning has been vindicated. The consensus about the date of the Parables of Enoch has changed. Hence Charlesworth writes, "Dating the Parables of Enoch to the time of Herod the Great and the Herodians has become conclusive."13 Walck notes that dating the Parables around the time of Herod (late first century BC or early first century AD) "was confirmed by a broad consensus of scholars at the Third Enoch Seminar in Camaldoli, Italy in June 2005."14

In other words, Dunn's view that the Son of Man as a pre-existent heavenly individual appears too late in Judaism to have influenced Jesus and the early church can no longer be maintained. This truly represents a paradigm shift in early Christian studies, as the name of a recent collection of essays implies: Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift.15 

The implication of the new consensus on the date of the Parables is stated by Walck: 
"This widely accepted consensus means that the Parables of Enoch are pre-Christian and need to be considered for possible influence on the writings of the New Testament."16
Of course, if the Parables are pre-Christian then their importance for New Testament scholarship does not require any direct influence of the Parables upon the New Testament writers (though this possibility needs to be explored, and Walck himself thinks Matthew shows literary dependence on the Parables17 ). It simply means that the view of the Son of Man reflected in the Parables already existed in Judaism when Jesus used the term as a self-referent and thus provides important tradition-historical background for interpreting Jesus' (and the Gospel writers') use of this term. The importance is only heightened if Charlesworth is correct that the Parables were written in Galilee.18 

Gathercole's case that Jesus' "I have come..." and "The Son of man came..." statements in the Synoptic Gospels imply pre-existence is strengthened by the early date of the Parables (in his monograph on the subject he claimed only that the Parables are "roughly contemporary with the Synoptic Gospels."19 ) Reynolds contends that Jesus' sayings about the descent of the Son of Man in John (3:13 cf. 6:62) are to be interpreted as paralleling the pre-existence of the Son of Man in the Parables.20 Boyarin argues that the Parables of Enoch provide a precedent for the early church's 'high Christology': 
All of the elements of Christology are essentially in place then in the Similitudes. We have a pre-existent heavenly figure, identified as well with Wisdom, who is the Son of Man. We have an earthly life, a human sage exalted into heaven at the end of an earthly career, enthroned in heaven at the right side of the Ancient of Days as the pre-existing and forever reigning Son of Man.21
Boyarin proceeds to argue on this basis that the only great innovation of the Gospels is to declare that this Son of Man has already come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. "The insistence in the Gospels that Jesus referred to himself as the Son of Man is thus critical and probative of high Christology as essential to the Gospels." 22 Similarly, Talbert wrote concerning the Christology of Revelation,
Of all the particular sources of the idea of a second figure associated with the throne of God, 1 En. 37-71 is the closest to Revelation. Here, the pre-existence of the Elect One/Son of man/Messiah is assumed; a human, Enoch, is identified with this heavenly one; he sits on the throne of glory; he functions for God at the last judgment; he dwells with God's people forever thereafter. An auditor would have sensed that Revelation was speaking about Christ in these terms.23
The dust has yet to settle from this paradigm shift concerning the date of the Parables of Enoch, and it remains to be seen what enduring effect it might have upon New Testament scholarship. Certainly, "the origin and meaning of the 'Son of Man' in the Jesus traditions remains a question that deserves focus and more development,"24 and the idea that a pre-existence Christology could only have arisen in a late, Gentile setting has received a significant challenge.

1 Dunn, J.D.G. (1980). Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation. London: SCM Press.
2 See, for example, Marshall, I.H. (1966). The Synoptic Son of Man Sayings in Recent Discussion. New Testament Studies 12(4): 327-351, esp. pp. 328, 332.
3 Dunn, op. cit., p. 75.
4 VanderKam, J.C. Righteous One, Messiah, Chosen One, and Son of Man in 1 Enoch 37-71. In J.H. Charlesworth (Ed.), The Messiah: Developments in Earliest Judaism and Christianity (169-191). Minneapolis: Fortress.
5 Manson, T.W. (1949-50). The Son of Man in Daniel, Enoch, and the Gospels. Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 23: 171-193.
6 Collins, J.J. (1992). The Son of Man in First-Century Judaism. New Testament Studies 38(3): 448-466. See pp. 454-455.
7 Knibb, M.A. (1995). Messianism in the Pseudepigrapha in the Light of the Scrolls. Dead Sea Discoveries 2(2): 165-184. See pp. 171-172.
8 Reynolds, B.E. (2013). The Enochic Son of Man and the Apocalyptic Background of the Son of Man Sayings in John’s Gospel. In D.L. Bock & J.H. Charlesworth (Eds.), Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift. (294-314). London: T&T Clark, p. 300.
9 Urbach, E.E. (1987). The Sages, Their Concepts and Beliefs, Vol. 1. Harvard University Press, p. 685.
10 Dunn, op. cit., p. 78.
11 Holladay, C.R. (1983). New Testament Christology: Some Considerations of Method. Novum Testamentum, 25(3): 257-278. p. 273.
12 Holladay, op. cit., p. 275.
13 Charlesworth, J.H. (2007). Can We Discern the Composition Date of the Parables of Enoch? In G. Boccaccini (Ed.), Enoch and the Messiah Son of Man: Revisiting the Book of Parables (450-469), p. 467.
14 Walck, L.W. (2011). The Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch and in Matthew. London: T&T Clark, p. 23.
15 Bock, D.L. & Charlesworth, J.H.(Eds.). (2013). Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift. London: T&T Clark.
16 Walck, op. cit., p. 251.
17 Walck, op. cit., p. 251. Note that Dunn still maintains the Son of Man traditions in the Parables of Enoch have not influenced the Gospel of Mark at least (Dunn, J.D.G. (2013). The Son of Man in Mark. In D.L. Bock & J.H. Charlesworth (Eds.), Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift. (18-34). London: T&T Clark)
18 Charlesworth, J.H. (Ed.) (2013). Parables of Enoch: A Paradigm Shift. London: T&T Clark, p. xiii.
19 Gathercole, S.J. (2006). The Pre-existent Son: Recovering the Christologies of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, p. 268.
20 Reynolds, op. cit., p. 305f.
21 Boyarin, 
D. (2013). Enoch, Ezra, and the Jewishness of 'High Christology'. In M. Henze & G. Boccaccini (Eds.), Fourth Ezra and Second Baruch: Reconstruction after the Fall (337-362). Leiden: BRILL, p. 348.
22 Boyarin, op. cit., p. 353.
23 Talbert, C.H. (1999). The Christology of the Apocalypse. In M.A. Powell and D.R. Bauer (Eds.), Who do you say that I am? Essays on Christology. (165-184). Westminster John Knox Press, p. 178. At the time of his writing, Talbert noted that a consensus had formed dating the Parables of Enoch to the first part of the first century C.E. He does not claim literary dependence of Revelation on the Parables of Enoch, but only a similar type of thought.
24 Bock & Charlesworth, op. cit., p. 365.

Wednesday 9 July 2014

The Devil in the General Epistles: A Series

Over the past few days I have uploaded a series of four papers to my website which collectively address the subject of the devil in the 'general epistles'. There are five such epistles which mention the devil: Hebrews (traditionally grouped with the Pauline epistles but no longer), James, 1 Peter, 1 John, and Jude. James and 1 Peter are discussed in a single paper because of the common tradition or literary dependence between their references to the devil.

The purpose of this series is to give a detailed, scholarly study of the texts in these epistles which shed light on the early church's understanding of ho diabolos, the devil. At the same time, the intention was to survey and critique Christadelphian exegesis of these passages. Christadelphian literature on the devil which was consulted for this purpose included Robert Roberts' Christendom Astray, Peter Watkins' The Devil - the Great Deceiver, Jonathan Burke's Satan and Demons: A Reply to Anthony Buzzard, Duncan Heaster's The Real Devil, Harry Tennant's What the Bible Teaches, Fred Pearce's Do you believe in a Devil?, and Alan Hayward's The Real Devil.

Below is a brief synopsis of each of the papers, with a PDF download link. Alternatively you can go to http://www.dianoigo.com/publications.html

Whether you are a Christadelphian or anyone else interested in what the earliest Christian communities believed about the devil, I hope you will find these papers enlightening and that they will spur you to further reflection on this important biblical topic.

The Devil in the General Epistles, Part 1: Hebrews

July 2014
A study of the single reference to the devil in the Epistle to the Hebrews, as well as the testimony of this epistle concerning Jesus' experience of temptation. Particular attention is paid to Christadelphian interpretations of these texts, since they are used as proof texts for the Christadelphians' figurative understanding of the biblical devil.
Key biblical texts: Hebrews 2:14Hebrews 2:18Hebrews 4:15

The Devil in the General Epistles, Part 2: James and 1 Peter

July 2014
A study of the two closely related references to the devil in the Epistle of James and the First Epistle of Peter respectively. Particular attention is paid to Christadelphian interpretations of these texts and showing why they are best understood to refer to a personal supernatural being. This paper also discusses James 1:13-15 since Christadelphians infer from this passage that James could not have believed in a personal devil.
Key biblical texts: James 1:13-15James 4:71 Peter 5:8

The Devil in the General Epistles, Part 3: 1 John

July 2014
A study of the texts in the First Epistle of John which refer to the devil, reading them in the context of early Christian satanology as well as the apocalyptic Jewish worldview characterized by modified dualism and cosmic conflict. The conclusion reached is that the writer understood the devil to be a personal supernatural being.
Key biblical texts: 1 John 2:13-141 John 3:8-121 John 4:41 John 5:18-19

The Devil in the General Epistles, Part 4: Jude

July 2014
A study of the puzzling reference to the devil in Jude 9. Zechariah 3:1-2 is also studied as part of the literary background to this text. An investigation of the source of Jude's allusion is undertaken, which provides the key to identifying the meaning of 'the devil' in this text. Christadelphian interpretations of this passage are described and critiqued.
Key biblical texts: Zechariah 3:1-2Jude 9

Friday 27 December 2013

The devil's demand of worship from Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday 21 December 2013

The devil's offer of the world to Jesus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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