Beginning with Temptation

RublevRublev Shipmate
Stetson recently commented that the baptism of Jesus is never really explained in the Bible.

The same thing could be said about the Temptations in the wilderness - another significant event that is in all the synoptic gospels.

As it is Lent it might be interesting to consider why the first thing that happens in Jesus' public ministry is the Temptations?

Comments

  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    I read a while ago somewhere (I can't remember where) that the whole thing is picture language and the temptations in the story represent particular points in his life. I'm not sure I can explain and connect the dots now, but it made sense at the time.
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    Stetson recently commented that the baptism of Jesus is never really explained in the Bible.

    The same thing could be said about the Temptations in the wilderness - another significant event that is in all the synoptic gospels.

    A difference would be, though, that baptism is something that contemporary readers are accustomed to thinking about being practiced on a regular basis, by groups of Christians. So, we're left to wonder what group would have been baptizing people even before the start of Jesus' ministry, and why they were doing that.

    Temptation, on the other hand, seems to have been something that Satan liked doing, with the Fall as a precedent right at the beginning of the OT. So there's a bit more context for understanding his later temptation of Jesus.

    (And yes, I'm aware that Genesis does not actually state that the snake was the devil, but at the very least, his characteristics are later overlaid onto Satan by the writers of the Bible.)
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    In Orthodox understanding Jesus' baptism is an intentional reversal of the meaning of baptism. By going down into the water, the water didn't cleanse or sanctify him. He imparted sanctification to the water, and by implication (and physically by the way the water cycle works) to all water. It's why on Theophany, the feast of Jesus' baptism, we find some stream or lake or pond or bay and hold a service blessing the water, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    edited March 9
    mousethief wrote: »
    In Orthodox understanding Jesus' baptism is an intentional reversal of the meaning of baptism. By going down into the water, the water didn't cleanse or sanctify him. He imparted sanctification to the water, and by implication (and physically by the way the water cycle works) to all water. It's why on Theophany, the feast of Jesus' baptism, we find some stream or lake or pond or bay and hold a service blessing the water, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    I like of idea of God as disinfectant. That's quite opposite to many of the ideas in Western Christianity (previously discussed here lots of times IIRC).
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    John Milton starts Paradise Regained with the Temptations. Although he had written poems about the Nativity too.
  • stetson wrote: »
    Rublev wrote: »
    Stetson recently commented that the baptism of Jesus is never really explained in the Bible.

    The same thing could be said about the Temptations in the wilderness - another significant event that is in all the synoptic gospels.

    A difference would be, though, that baptism is something that contemporary readers are accustomed to thinking about being practiced on a regular basis, by groups of Christians. So, we're left to wonder what group would have been baptizing people even before the start of Jesus' ministry, and why they were doing that.

    Temptation, on the other hand, seems to have been something that Satan liked doing, with the Fall as a precedent right at the beginning of the OT. So there's a bit more context for understanding his later temptation of Jesus.

    (And yes, I'm aware that Genesis does not actually state that the snake was the devil, but at the very least, his characteristics are later overlaid onto Satan by the writers of the Bible.)

    Baptism is an initiatory ritual that predates Christianity. For instance, the cult of Mithras practised the tauroboleum - baptism in the blood of a bull.

    In the case of John the "Baptist" it's reasonable to assume that since he was a Hebrew, he was presiding over the ritual bath of the mikvah in the river Jordan. A mikvah is a full immersion ritual bath that Hebrew men must undertake prior to entering the temple (or synagogue in later years). The water of the mikvah bath must be "connected to the source" - ("living water") and so the river is a natural mikvah.

    To my way of thinking, it was just an ordinary Friday afternoon for people on their way into the shabbos weekend. Hey, there's a dude named John who is performing a mikvah in the Jordan if you need to go ...

    And Jesus shows up for the weekly ritual and bam the heavens open and the Christ enters him, and he's like "Whoah dude, what just happened?" And the Christ in Jesus is like "Whoah dude what just happened?" and together they take off into the wilderness to try and get their head around what it means to be a godlike being embodied on earth.

    And to my way of thinking this is why Jesus' ministry begins with the temptations, because until that point, the Luciferic powers weren't interested in him. They only went on alert when the Christ came into him, and their first order of business was to test the Creation because that's what they do.

    Yes, I'm aware of the docetic heresy BTW. But it's the only way any of this makes any sense to me.

    AFF
  • stetsonstetson Shipmate
    Feminine Force:

    Thanks for that analysis. How established would say that theory is, ie. Jesus' baptism was a mikvah?

    And why didn't the authors of the gospels identify it as such?
  • A Feminine ForceA Feminine Force Shipmate
    edited March 9
    stetson wrote: »
    Feminine Force:

    Thanks for that analysis. How established would say that theory is, ie. Jesus' baptism was a mikvah?

    And why didn't the authors of the gospels identify it as such?

    I don't think the authors of the Gospels were Hebrews or immersed in the ritual tradition of Jesus' people. I think the later Gospel writers were trying to make sense of cultural references that they were unfamiliar with.

    Like after the transfiguration when the disciples ask Jesus "How many booths do we build here? One for each of you?" Later translations use the word "tabernacles" - which is another word for "tent" though it's hardly ever used in that context anymore.

    This to me is a direct reference to the celebtration of Sukkoth, when the Hebrews build tents and eat their meals outdoors. It seems to me that it would be a perfectly reasonable question "Hey, I see we have two more for tonight's celebration, are Eliahu and Moshe going to want their own tents? How many tents do you want us to put up?"

    The Last Supper IMO is a perfect example of this kind of void in cultural understanding. The second night of Pesach is the "last supper". There are two seder meals. The breaking of the bread and the pouring of the wine are essential parts of the ritual portion of the meal.

    After chug a lugging four big glasses of wine on an empty stomach, after fasting for two days of nothing but matzoh, its no wonder the disciples passed out in the Garden.

    I think some of these things are quite literally lost in cultural translation.

    AFF

  • Raptor EyeRaptor Eye Shipmate
    I wonder whether it is the natural reaction of evil to flood us with temptation to try to reclaim us, once by our own free will we have given ourselves over to God's will. Jesus was here to show us the way. He must therefore go through it too - although in his case I think it would be to try to claim, rather than to reclaim him.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Of course one can see John's baptism as a mikvah without being an adoptionist.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    That's an interesting point - except that there were Jews in the early church would could/would have piped up when the gospels were read and said "hang on a second, chaps, this sounds like a really bad description of Sukkoth.." (or whatever).

    Your thesis would only work if the Jews were entirely pushed out of the early church within a small number of generations - or if cultural norms were totally and rapidly forgotten.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Were the Jews pushed out of the church, or the Christians out of the synagogue? I've heard it both ways.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    Perhaps they did a swap?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Like India and Pakistan?
  • ChoristerChorister Shipmate
    I haven't really questioned it since, but it was explained to me in A level RE that Jesus was being tempted to take a short cut to power, without having to do the whole misunderstood ministry, violent death stuff. Going straight to GO and collecting your £200 at the first move. Would have saved a whole lot of trouble, over the next 3 years....
  • RossweisseRossweisse Shipmate, 8th Day Host
    mousethief wrote: »
    Were the Jews pushed out of the church, or the Christians out of the synagogue? I've heard it both ways.
    The Christians were pushed out of the synagogue. (Many Jews were among the early Christians, though.) That's where all that "the Jews" business in John comes from: there was persecution. Unfortunately, that's been paid back a thousand-fold.


  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    In Orthodox understanding Jesus' baptism is an intentional reversal of the meaning of baptism. By going down into the water, the water didn't cleanse or sanctify him. He imparted sanctification to the water, and by implication (and physically by the way the water cycle works) to all water. It's why on Theophany, the feast of Jesus' baptism, we find some stream or lake or pond or bay and hold a service blessing the water, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

    That's beautiful.
  • edited March 10
    At the risk of stating something simplistic or obvious - isn't the record of Jesus' temptation part of our assurance of His full humanity? We're tempted, so He must have been too. And the way the temptations work - 'body' sins, then pride - seem to me to encapsulate the dimensions of error, albeit with a bit less resolution than that offered by the seven deadlies. And the way they come - one based on seeing something with our eyes (stones / bread), one in imagination (power over all we survey), and the third temptation itself based on the defence which has so far worked to defeat the first two ('it is written'...). It's a great passage; it really encompasses the ways the sh*t is going to come at (generic) you.

    And He defeats them at the outset. His ministry is uncorrupted.
  • Gramps49Gramps49 Shipmate
    When I read the story of the Baptism of Jesus, I am reminded of the Hebrew people going through the parted Red, or is it Reed?, sea. When I hear that Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days, I am reminded of the Hebrews wandering in the wilderness for forty days. There are even parallels with the people complaining about having to eat mana all the time and Satan telling Jesus he can turn the stones into bread. The third temptation can be seen in the Hebrews deciding to make a golden calf.

    Admittedly, I have not found a parallel between the second temptation and the desert wanderings of the Hebrew people.

    There is also some parallels between Jesus, the second Adam, and the first Adam.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Robert Graves explained them in his King Jesus as a progression in temptation. Stone to bread is a temptation to satisfy a basic human need. Command of all the earth is a temptation to exercise of power. Throwing himself from the temple roof is a much greater temptation, that of tempting God himself. I'd move from there to say that the first was of Jesus in His humanity, the second in His divinity, but the third in the relationships within the trinity itself. A different way of looking at the series.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 11
    I think the Temptations of Christ are a trial run for the Passion of Christ. And they are both such traumatic ordeals to the humanity of Christ that angels come and minister to Him after the Temptations and at Gethsemane (Matt 4: 11; Luke 22: 43)

    In the Temptations He endures hunger, in the crucifixion He endures thirst. Because Jesus lived out His mission incarnationally and suffered.

    In the Temptations He is asked to worship satan, at Gethsemane and on the cross He prays to God, recites psalms and commits His spirit to Him.

    In the Temptations He is challenged to call angels to His assistance. At His arrest He says that He could have summoned 12 legions of angels to His aid (Matt 4: 5-7; 26: 53-54).

    But God's plan of salvation is incarnational not supernatural. Jesus could have saved Himself. But then the world would not have been saved.
  • Going back to “Jesus as disinfectant”, I like this idea a lot, and I think it shows up in other places, especially in respect of Jewish purity laws. Take the woman with the flow of blood; according to the Law she ought to make Jesus unclean when she touches him, but instead, he heals her without corrupting himself. After that he goes off and touches a dead body (Jairus’ daughter) and instead of himself becoming unclean, he restores the little girl to life.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    Yes, I like that idea too. We instinctively think we have to protect God from being polluted, but it's the other way round. That's one of the many wonderful things that incarnation is about. To people of that era, and many people in the world today, the thought that the incarnate Son of God should be born of the womb of a woman and pass through her birth canal is an impossible idea, but it happened. The holy child is not contaminated by being born, but rather makes everything and everyone he comes into contact with, holy.

    It's my view, for what it's worth, that it is giving birth to Jesus that makes the blessed Theotokos so special and holy, rather than that she was already special and holy.

    I could go on and say much more, but I'll stop for now.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 11
    @Gramps49

    There is undoubtedly a parallel between Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and nights and Israel's 40 years of wandering in the desert. And there are links between Jesus obedience to God in the three Temptations and the disobedience of the Hebrews in the desert (your point about the restoration of the second Adam).

    (1) The Hebrews lamented after the flesh pots of Egypt so God sent them manna in the desert (Ex 16: 15).

    (2) The Hebrews continually put God to the test by complaining in the desert because they had been brought out of Egypt and they doubted God's care and provision (Ex 17: 5).

    (3) The Hebrews followed alien gods and set up a golden calf for worship (Ex 32: 4).

    Matthew portrays Jesus as the new Moses and teacher of Israel who presents 5 blocks of teaching like the 5 books of the Pentateuch (Matt 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 23-25).

    In Matthew's gospel Jesus, like the infant Moses, is saved from a murderous ruler in His infancy. Jesus travels out of Egypt into Israel like Moses. He also passes through the waters in His baptism. Instead of the ten plagues upon the people of Egypt Jesus brings 18 miraculous healings to the people of Israel (Matt 8-9). The Bible is full of parallels and it is not accidental. They are there to tell us something important.
  • EnochEnoch Shipmate
    ... I don't think the authors of the Gospels were Hebrews or immersed in the ritual tradition of Jesus' people. I think the later Gospel writers were trying to make sense of cultural references that they were unfamiliar with. ...
    I really don't agree with you on this. That hypothesis would seem to me to depend on what @BroJames described recently on another thread as " "a very strong hermeneutic of suspicion".

    As far as we know, Luke was a Gentile. A person would be hard pushed to persuade me that either Matthew or John (whatever hypothesis one is following as to who they were) was not both Jewish and a first language speaker of either Hebrew or Aramaic. And although I'd be equally suspicious of any argument that the writer of Mark wasn't Jewish, he goes at such a pace and sticks so much to the action, without much explanation, that it's not really an issue whether he's explaining cultural references or not.

    Besides, Paul was both Jewish and deeply familiar with the entire Jewish cultural world. It's difficult to believe that even Luke wouldn't have picked up some understanding of that as he travelled around with Paul. What did they talk about as they trudged the road or sat, probably a bit bored, on ships. There really isn't much else to do if you're a passenger on a ship.
  • Enoch wrote: »
    I really don't agree with you on this. That hypothesis would seem to me to depend on what @BroJames described recently on another thread as " "a very strong hermeneutic of suspicion".

    As far as we know, Luke was a Gentile. A person would be hard pushed to persuade me that either Matthew or John (whatever hypothesis one is following as to who they were) was not both Jewish and a first language speaker of either Hebrew or Aramaic. And although I'd be equally suspicious of any argument that the writer of Mark wasn't Jewish, he goes at such a pace and sticks so much to the action, without much explanation, that it's not really an issue whether he's explaining cultural references or not.

    Besides, Paul was both Jewish and deeply familiar with the entire Jewish cultural world. It's difficult to believe that even Luke wouldn't have picked up some understanding of that as he travelled around with Paul. What did they talk about as they trudged the road or sat, probably a bit bored, on ships. There really isn't much else to do if you're a passenger on a ship.

    Well if they were Hebrews immersed in the cultural tradition of Jesus' people, IMO they write like they have no cultural context.

    But perhaps what we have inherited is the cultural cluelessness of later copyists, editors, compilers and preachers.

    There's always that possibility.

    Or perhaps on the other hand, they are referring to customs and rituals that were so well understood by their Hebrew audience that they required no exegesis, and it's only the departure of the church from its Hebrew roots that has created the void in understanding.

    AFF


  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Or perhaps on the other hand, they are referring to customs and rituals that were so well understood by their Hebrew audience that they required no exegesis, and it's only the departure of the church from its Hebrew roots that has created the void in understanding.

    I think this is strongly in play. It's why we get things like The Annotated Alice in Wonderland, and that was written less than 200 years ago.
  • edited March 14
    40 years, 40 days etc. Isn't this a way of saying "a whole hell of lot" or umpteen? A truckload.

    I also really wonder how we get the 40 days of temptation written down. Who was listening in? Who'd JC told it to? And then there's the not giving into the devilish offer and a different ending than the Genesis story it recapitulates, glossed with 40 day / years of Moses in the desert. It all looks like literary and story telling device to me.

    God as disinfectant? Don't like it. At all. But I'm not a believer in original sin anymore. There's plenty of one's own bad acts and thoughts to not require inheriting it as well. Which ain't reasonable anyway if God really is a good god.
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    I don't believe in original sin either, at least in the Augustine/Anselm/Protestant sense. What does that have to do with the reverse baptism theory?
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    @Gramps49

    There is undoubtedly a parallel between Jesus fasting in the wilderness for 40 days and nights and Israel's 40 years of wandering in the desert. And there are links between Jesus obedience to God in the three Temptations and the disobedience of the Hebrews in the desert (your point about the restoration of the second Adam).

    And 40 days from birth to the Presentation, and Simeon's departure in peace (and faith, the first we know of to die with the faith that the Infant was the salvation). Then 40 days from the day of the crucifixion to that of Ascension.

  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 14
    @NOprophet_NØprofit

    Well of course it looks like literary and story telling device - because it is. The Bible is a meta narrative containing a collection of mini narratives which interconnect and parallel each other. We are listening in to their conversations about the story of God. But it doesn't mean that the story of the Temptations is not conveying a deep truth to us.

    Looks like someone else wants to debate What is True in the Bible.

    PS Jesus was sent to give us a different ending.
  • DonLogan2DonLogan2 Shipmate
    For me it is simpler than a lot of the above.
    Jesus is about to start the main part of his ministry, the big push, he is consecrated (not needed but it was a sign to all) and as with any work for God the tempter comes along and tries to get the plan off track.
  • RublevRublev Shipmate
    edited March 14
    Yes, that is a completely accurate reading as well. Satan leaves Him until a more opportune moment - which is St Peter's rebuke against Jesus' declaration of His mission to Jerusalem to die and then Judases betrayal at the Last Supper - 'and it was night.' The Book of Acts can be read as a story of spiritual warfare as the gospel message pushes back the frontiers of the pagan world.

    The Temptations is such a profound text that it can be read at multiple levels and interpreted from a variety of perspectives.

    What is very interesting is that the gospel authors do not give any explanation about it themselves. Is that because they thought it was obvious? Or because they wanted their readers to draw their own parallels and reach their own conclusions about what they thought it meant?
  • mousethiefmousethief Shipmate
    Rublev wrote: »
    Well of course it looks like literary and story telling device - because it is. The Bible is a meta narrative containing a collection of mini narratives which interconnect and parallel each other.

    Is the Bible a metanarrative? Or do we impose a metanarrative upon the books we call the Bible?
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    mousethief wrote: »
    Rublev wrote: »
    Well of course it looks like literary and story telling device - because it is. The Bible is a meta narrative containing a collection of mini narratives which interconnect and parallel each other.

    Is the Bible a metanarrative? Or do we impose a metanarrative upon the books we call the Bible?

    Or both, I guess. Layers of it, buttered on top of one another.
  • NenyaNenya Shipmate
    God as disinfectant? Don't like it. At all. But I'm not a believer in original sin anymore.

    I don't believe in original sin either and I didn't take the disinfectant idea from mousethief's explanation. I see it more as the presence of Christ in the water sanctifying it and pervading it, as with all things. Like that sentence in one of the offices for Good Friday - "Christ at this evening hour lay in the tomb and so hallowed the grave to be a bed of hope."
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Another 40 day period was, I think, the presentation in the temple 40 days after his birth.

    Luke 2:22, I just looked it up.

    I wonder if that's a deliberate narrative link, the temptation passage is in Luke 4.

  • Nick TamenNick Tamen Shipmate
    40 years, 40 days etc. Isn't this a way of saying "a whole hell of lot" or umpteen? A truckload.
    My understanding is that in traditional Jewish thought, 40 days/years indicates a period of transition, change, the start of something new or renewal.

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Another 40 day period was, I think, the presentation in the temple 40 days after his birth.

    Luke 2:22, I just looked it up.

    I wonder if that's a deliberate narrative link, the temptation passage is in Luke 4.

    Yes = I noted that above and also the 40 days between the day of execution and the day of Ascension.
  • mr cheesymr cheesy Shipmate
    Gee D wrote: »
    mr cheesy wrote: »
    Another 40 day period was, I think, the presentation in the temple 40 days after his birth.

    Luke 2:22, I just looked it up.

    I wonder if that's a deliberate narrative link, the temptation passage is in Luke 4.

    Yes = I noted that above and also the 40 days between the day of execution and the day of Ascension.

    Sorry I missed that you'd mentioned it before.
  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    A whole lot of interesting avenues to explore in all of these. For example, Simeon saw the 40 day old Jesus, and was able to depart in peace, knowing that his eyes had seen the salvation. Similarly, Jesus's words of comfort to the good thief allowed him to die in peace also (we're not told that, it's not much of an assumption though) with the 40 day gap before the Ascension to follow.
Sign In or Register to comment.