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Mahlon H Smith,
Rutgers University

      Mark 1:13:  καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ῇρήμῳ...πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ...;
      Luke 4:1-2: καὶ ἤγετο... ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ...πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου;
      Matt 4:1:     ἀνήχθη εἰς τὴν ἔρημον... πειρασθῆναι ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου./1/

This study retraces the origin of the gospel references to Jesus going into the wilderness to be tested.  Though the written narratives are  admittedly stylized "fiction," it is argued that they are not purely imaginary fabrications but rather products of historical controversy over the spiritual source of Jesus' behavior.

Part 1 examines and rejects the plausibility of Mark, Q or Matthew being the original source of these reports.   

Part 2 examines three rationales for the formation of the temptation accounts in oral tradition: ethical model, biographical reminiscence and dialectical rebuttal. While the first two have left some imprint on the information in the temptation narratives, the case is made that the reason for reporting Jesus' ordeal in the first place was to refute opponents' charges that Jesus' lifestyle was demonic.

The argument proceeds cautiously in the manner of scholastic disputation, exposing the inadequacy of traditional explanations before laying out a thesis that is uncommon and provocative.  Those who are already convinced that the tradition of Jesus' temptation antedates any written text are invited to go directly to part 2; but be warned that many of the more common interpretations of the passages are disposed of in part 1.  

The historical significance of the temptation narratives is summarized in part 3 and six theses proposed to test consensus on relevant issues.

 

Historical analysis of the synoptic accounts of Jesus' ordeal in the wilderness has to begin by granting that they have all the marks of fiction.  Some scholars have tried to make sense of these passages in terms of Jesus' personal experience./2/  But most interpret them as a myth or midrash that some early Christian fabricated to typify Jesus./3/

Surface details tend to favor the latter.  Jesus is the sole human to witness this scene.  Since there are no hints that he informed others of his experience, it is easy to conclude that some story-teller made the whole thing up.  The narrators' words recall Judaic scripture, indicating they were more interested in relating Jesus to Israel's heroic lore than in recounting his own immediate experience.  Creative license is further evident in the selection (or invention) of details and manipulation of plot. Each gospel tailors the "facts" to fit its own narrative web.

But who probably got what from where?  No fiction is self-spinning; so  something led somebody to produce this story in the first place.  While  story-tellers may be free to construct any plot they wish, their data  is often based on experience.  In trying to identify an author's sources, the historical critic has to distinguish fabricated patterns from any that may reflect a real situation.  Simply to cast the synoptists' reports that Jesus spent time "in the wilderness...being tested by the Accuser" into the wastebasket without first testing the evidence would be uncritical. The variants, at least, demand a plausible tradition history.

Since the synoptic stories were not spun in splendid isolation, a claim that information was invented by one writer must be measured by the coherence of the alleged author's plan of composition and the pattern of redaction by the others.  But the relation of Mark 1:12-13 to Matt 4:1-11 //Luke 4:1-13 resists explanation by any literary source theory.  Thus, Jesus' wilderness ordeal was not concocted by Mark or Matthew or Q.

1.1. Cryptic Summary (Mark 1:12-13)

The critical consensus that Mark gives the earliest form of a synoptic narrative is less firm here than anywhere else. This two verse interlude between Mark's accounts of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan and his Galilean mission is better characterized as a transition than a story.  But unlike other Markan summaries of Jesus' sorties into a new setting, this passage is not explained as a sketch of the hero's typical behavior./4/  And the few motifs invoked here are contradicted by Mark's own later characterization of Jesus' place in history.

Prophetic paradigm? "The wilderness" (ἡ ἔρημος, nominative with article) is the stage from which model Israelite prophets---Moses, Elijah, and John the Baptist---were said to have launched campaigns of nationalistic purification./5/  To send Jesus alone into such a setting for "forty days" seems designed to recall similar retreats by Moses or Elijah./6/  Another parallel to the latter may be found in the fact that Mark insists that Jesus was "served" by angels./7/   But to see prophetic typology in these few words, one has to be either a pious Jew rehearsed in haggadic lore or a Christian scholar like Matthew (and many of us), seeking any parallel to OT paradigms. Mark gives ample evidence that these are not probable profiles either for himself or for his intended audience.

Among the canonical gospels, only Matthew and John's signs source consistently stress motifs that portray Jesus as a figure like Moses or Elijah (or the Baptist, for that matter).  Mark, for his part, devotes considerable energy and space to deconstructing such impressions that, he notes, were popular among Jews and Jewish Christians./8/  Elsewhere, when he has Jesus retreat into the wild, he is careful to describe it as only "a deserted spot" (ἔρημος τόπος; anarthous adjectival construction)./9/ And if a scene contains other elements that can possibly be interpreted as a prophetic sign (e.g., gathering 12 baskets of remnants), Mark refocuses it to shift the significance elsewhere./10/  But he was hardly apt to focus this passage on its current conclusion (angels serving Jesus), since later (10:45) he has Jesus himself correct some of his earliest companions by stressing that he did not "come to be served."

Moreover, if Mark meant to suggest a prophetic mission here, he should have provided his reader with clearer clues.  Biblical reports directed Moses' and Elijah's retreats to "the mountain" (not "the wilderness") and clocked each as staying "forty days and forty nights."/11/  While Matthew cites the correct duration (4:2) and location (4:8) for a traditional prophetic typology, Mark misses both.

Alternate prototypes. One can find a prophetic prototype in Mark 1:13 only if one imports information Mark does not mention and ignores other details.  Key words in this verse have generated suggestions that Mark had some other mythic model in mind.  But these also fail to pass the test of coherence.

(1) Israel. Moses' and Elijah's 40 day retreats to Mount Horeb were to  encounter YHWH, not to be tested.  But Deut 8:2 claims God himself led Israel into the wilderness for 40 years, "testing" its obedience to his commands.  This experience was further justified by the model of parental discipline: "as a man disciplines his son" (8:5).  Since Israel was traditionally regarded as a corporate personality, this filial metaphor came to be treated as an ontological fact.  So God could be characterized as referring to Israel as "my son" (Hos 11:1).  This equation was regarded as reversible; and what was true of the corporate person characterized the individual.  Thus, as a true Israelite, Jesus could be portrayed as "son of God"; and as "son of God," he could be portrayed as Israel.  If God led one into the wilderness for testing, the same had to be said of the other.  So, as soon as God addresses Jesus as "my son" (Mark 1:11), it follows "directly" (εὐθὺς) that Jesus had to be sent into the wilderness to be tested (1:12-13).

Such a logical process could have led Mark to link the baptism and temptation pericopes.  But it provides an imperfect explanation of the central motifs in either passage.  Unlike Israel, which always was portrayed as crossing the sea (and river) "on dry ground," Jesus came to the Jordan to be (totally) "immersed" (ἐβαπτίσθη) and so has to ascend  "out of the water" (1:10).  Similarly, Jewish scripture sides with the parental pedagogue, insisting that God himself proctored Israel's tests, out of concern that his son had learned the lessons needed for survival in the face of overwhelming opposition.  Mark, however, adopts a child's perspective on testing, insisting that the examination was set by "the adversary" or "accuser," who obviously intended Jesus to fail.  Mark could hardly have been thinking of Deut 8:5 when he identified Jesus' examiner as ὁ Σατανᾶς.  So it is unlikely that the preceding verses inspired the composition of Mark 1:12-13.

Deut 8:2-5 certainly influenced the development of the dialogue between Jesus and the devil in the other synoptists' story of Jesus' temptations. But, unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not make the "son of God" motif the focus of Jesus' ordeal; which is odd, if this was his pretext for creating a parallel between the experience of Jesus and Israel at this point.  Elsewhere, Mark cites acts that seem to make Jesus revive national solidarity: delegation of twelve representatives and collection of twelve baskets./12/  But he sets these in a narrative frame which radically challenges those who thought that Jesus' main concern was to restore Israel.  So it is hardly likely that an Israel typology inspired Mark to invent this allusion to Jesus being "tested in the wilderness."

(2) Son of Adam. The failure of nationalistic paradigms to account for the content of Mark 1:12-13 has led some scholars to find allusions to a universal Adamic typology in these verses.  Mark's Jesus regularly characterizes himself as "son of The Human" (ὁ υἵος τοῦ ἀνθρώπου). And the Markan son of man(kind) sayings often allude to OT passages about the cosmic status of the human being, ranging from the creation stories of Genesis to the apocalyptic visions of Daniel./13/  But, though these polar scenarios are better able to account for the Markan attribution of Jesus' ordeal to "the Adversary," they provide far from perfect prototypes for the rest of his description of this incident.

Judaic anthropology was rooted in the conviction that God granted the Human (Adam or ben Adam) authority over every wild beast (Gen 1:26, Ps 8:6-8) until he succombed to temptation by the serpent, which was  identified as the original "adversary" of humankind./14/  So, Jewish and Christian apocalypticists envisioned the restoration of proper political order in God's cosmos as an ordeal in which bestial adversaries are once again subjected to humanizing forces aided by heaven./15/

Since this is clearly the matrix of Mark's own image of Jesus, he might well have introduced either paradigm into his script.  But while Mark 1:12-13 provides the proper scene (temptation/trial) and cast (Satan, beasts, angels), it fails to develop the plot of either the primordial or eschatological dramas.

If the author of this gospel meant to suggest a restaging of either the creation or judgment myth, he confused his sets and omitted key props. For example, if Mark really had Gen 3 in mind, one would expect mention of a garden or at least a tree./16/  If, on the other hand, he was thinking of Dan 7, he might better have sent Jesus to "the sea," as he so often does. "The wilderness," which he mentions here twice in two verses, is found in neither OT script./17/   Moreover, Mark locates this incident forty-two verses and eleven scenes before he introduces Jesus' first reference to "the son of man," which is odd if any Adamic image inspired the composition of Mark 1:12-13.  Certainly, it is a stretch of the imagination to find an allusion to the grotesque monsters of Dan 7 in Mark's bland observation: "and he was with the beasts."/18/ Indeed, if Mark's reference to Jesus' wilderness ordeal is based on any classic myth, then he has given it a totally demythologized setting.  After all, the Judean and Jordanian wildernesses were and are the habitat of all kinds of wildlife (cf. Isa 30:6).  Given such a crisp realistic description of a relatively bare stage, it is better to keep one's speculation on Mark's characterization of Jesus' performance there also rather Spartan.

(Un)intended digression?

(1) Realism. Mark's temporal and spatial markers for the scene after Jesus' baptism in the Jordan are inherently realistic, as is his description of the experience itself.  Much of the region around the Jordan is really badlands, unable to support permanent human settlement but---like any desert region---home to wild creatures who shun human   companionship.  Nevertheless, humans---either individually or in small groups---could and do survive in this inhospitable setting for extended periods.  For Jews "forty days" was not primarily a biblical phrase with connotations of the flood or exodus, as it came to be in later Christian circles.  Rather it was as common a reference to a relatively long period of time as "month" is to us.  In casual conversation events are said to last this long without concern for precedent or precise calculation. Survival in the desert for such an extended period is a real "test" for any person.  Those who endure the dangers to human existence posed by the region are often regarded as extraordinary heroes./19/

(2) Performance.  Finding a good explanation of the stark staging of Mark 1:12-13 is no problem.  Comprehending the author's apparent lack of direction in blocking the action between his personae, however, is.  The only inherently mythic motifs in Mark's report are his allusions to "Σατανᾶς" and "ἄγγελοι."  Jesus is sent offstage to meet "the Accuser"; "messengers" (from God) come to his aid.  But what happened is left up to the audience's imagination.  When Jesus reappears in Mark's next scene (1:14-15), it is in another region and his baptizer is in prison. The reason for the latter circumstance is clarified in a later flashback (Mark 6:17-29).  But Mark never alludes to Jesus' wilderness ordeal again.  So it is odd that he thought it necessary to begin his report of Jesus' exploits with an inexplicit allusion to an inherently dramatic encounter.

Classic folklore focuses attention on exaggerated accounts of the hero's ordeals, because these initial triumphs are essential to convince the audience that this is not just an average human.  Mark tells readers that Jesus "was tested," but neglects to recount his performance.  Mark's subsequent claims that Jesus' behavior was "essentially extraordinary" (κατ' ἐξουσίαν) make the omission of a description of his inaugural ordeal  all the more strange, especially when his narrative amply dramatizes Jesus' ability to defeat "accusers" in any arena.

(3) Plot. There are four possible narratological reasons for Mark's failure to recount the content and outcome of Jesus' wilderness ordeal: lack of interest, lack of information, lack of agreement, or lack of skill.  The first three make sense only if Mark did not invent this incident.  People do not fabricate fantasies to treat them as unimportant. Ineptness in recounting a story, however, can plague anyone in the chain of transmission.  Authors often leave traces of fuzzy ideas that editors excise or expand, while auditors (and readers) generally get only a partial grasp of something they have been told.  Is the lack of plot development in Mark 1:12-13 the sign of a false start or indication that Mark is reporting information that he did not fabricate?

These two verses have been characterized as "an aimless conjunction... which dulls the potentially dramatic effect" of the scene./20/  While this critique is severe, it is not easily dismissed.  Mark's construction  is somewhat clumsy. His grammar is unpolished, his seams between scenes rough, and his story-telling somewhat awkward.  His draft gospel gives Matthew and Luke plenty of material to "improve."

But careful analysis of Mark's narrative syntax shows that his conjunction of elements is hardly "aimless."/21/  He selects, sandwiches, and deconstructs narrative segments with a sophistication that intensifies suspense.  The really clumsy story-teller, anticipates the outcome by putting the punch line first.  Mark 1:12-13 hardly does that.  The author sets the stage, but leaves the audience waiting.  The drama does not occur where and when one expects it.  Main characters appear but flee into the wings without clear contact.  Hints of conflict are heard.  All the markers point to a really important contest.  The name of the winner is revealed (1:1), but the character of the game is not.  To find out what is at stake, one has to watch, recall, and watch again (13:5,37).

Mark is a radical apocalypticist, whose point is precisely that "seeing" the true victory remains "potential" even after an apparent loss (8:35). The "dramatic effect" of Jesus' ordeal---his return with the angels (13:26-27)---is not to be seen in the beginning, nor in the middle (8:38), but may be seen in the end (16:7).  Some, but not all, will recognize Jesus as a winner (9:1), if they are not deluded in thinking that the ordeal has past (13:5-6,21-23).  Mark shows his audience that Jesus passed his tests, but only to tell them that theirs are next (13:11).  Jesus gives his word that the Accuser---theirs as well as his---"has an end" (3:26), but Satan is still able to make them forget this (4:15).  Fear or denial of desertion are twin threats to their safe passage./22/  They must stay alert, if they are not to fail their own "testing" (14:38).

Mark's aim is not to illustrate Jesus' exploits but to prepare readers to face their own trials alone.  He stresses that Jesus was not the typical  hero that others expected.  Jesus does not bind the adversary for them.  But as a seasoned competitor, he coaches others to have enough confidence to overcome any obstacle on their own./23/  Mark imitates myth only to undermine it.  His Jesus is the ultimate non-hero.

(4) Location A survey of Mark shows that his failure to recount Jesus' confrontation with Satan conforms to the rest of his narrative agenda.  But it does not explain why he has "the spirit cast [Jesus] out into the desert" (1:12).  If Mark were totally free to create his own scenario, he could have Jesus encounter Satan at any spot in a typical itinerary through an inhabited region---like Caesarea Philippi (8:33). Mark knew that the wilderness was associated with ascetic Jewish heroes like the Baptist.  But his Jesus faces accusers precisely because he did not conform to that role (2:15-20, 8:27-33).  The fact that Mark insists on beginning Jesus' public career with this uncharacteristic digression indicates that he did not invent this incident.

1.2. Biblical rebuttal (Matt 4:1-11//Luke 4:1-13)

Mark's cursory reference to Jesus' wilderness ordeal has led many to conclude that he got his information from another source./24/  So, the possibility that he knew Matthew and Luke's longer version needs testing.

The plot consists of Jesus being offered occasions to act in his own interest, which he rejects with a string of quotes from Deuteronomy./25/  Hence, the test involves Jesus' handling of multiple choices.  He passes because he proves that he knows and obeys the teaching of Moses.  Here is a well-composed series of scenes that offers a self-contained mini-myth in which Jesus wins a war of wits with "the devil."  It is so coherent, in fact, that it tends to control one's reading of Mark 1:12-13.  Once one has heard the longer account, it automatically provides markers for measuring the shorter.  Yet, is it likely that Mark heard or read it? And can an author be positively identified?  Jesus' wilderness ordeal can be treated as a literary fiction only if the answer to both critical questions is "yes."  The texts themselves, however, make "no" a better response to each.

(a) Censorship? Early Jewish and Christian texts offer ample evidence that scribes felt free to reconstruct even written tradition to insure a "correct" interpretation.  So, in principle, Mark could have reported a censored version of this legend./26/  He might not have repeated it in full because it focuses on a personal victory for Jesus which makes him conform to a Mosaic model.  This does not fit Mark's portrait of Jesus as an independent spirit who came into conflict with other Jews because he departed from traditional Jewish piety.  Mark stresses that Jesus amazes and disturbs people precisely because his teaching is unique (κατ' ἐξουσίαν).  In Matt 4:1-11//Luke 4:1-13 Jesus emerges from his oral examination without uttering a single original word.  A person who can quote biblical texts applicable to every occasion might well earn a reputation as a pious and learned scholar, but he would hardly cause the kind of controversy that provides much of the plot in Mark and the other synoptics.

In this instance, however, a theory of Markan redaction is implausible, since the dialogue he omits advances his own characterization of Jesus in many respects.  Though Mark obviously did not regard Jesus as an orthodox rabbi, he did portray him as capable of citing scripture and identifying verses that a professional scribe would consider most important./27/  The passages from Deuteronomy that Jesus cites in the longer temptation account actually aid Mark's emphasis on Jesus' subordination of his physical welfare to undivided devotion and obedience to God./28/  Also, tests in which Jesus rejects political power and does not perform miracles on demand are the core of scenes at the heart of Mark's gospel./29/  And Mark's focus on the "son of God" motif in the baptism and transfiguration scenes and Jesus' later encounters with "unclean spirits" makes it hard to envision him deliberately eliminating or forgetting verses in which "the devil" identifies Jesus as such./30/  If Mark dropped the core of the longer temptation story and kept the frame, he would have suppressed material that is typical of his portrait of Jesus while preserving information that is not.  So, a suggestion that Mark knew the temptation dialogue of Matthew and Luke but cut it from his script makes editorial nonsense.

(b) Script in search of an author. Even if Mark was not fully familiar with the other synoptics' account of Jesus' three temptations, their version could be a literary fiction. The extent of verbal agreement between Matthew and Luke and the verbatim quotes from the LXX point in this direction.  The hypothesis of an original text, however, requires a reasonably obvious redaction history to account for the minor differences between Matthew and Luke, and the absence of the dialogue in Mark.  Two patterns are theoretically possible:

(1) Expansion of Mark.  The longer account may be a scribal attempt to "improve" Mark's cryptic reference to Jesus' wilderness test by supplying a transcript to show what Mark neglects to mention: that Jesus passed this examination.  In this case, the author-editor has to be identified as either Matthew or Luke, or the composer of a common source, who was also familiar with Mark.  In either case this scribe would be a secondary tradant, and thus could not be credited with creating the report of Jesus' wilderness ordeal.

(2) Mark knew text indirectly.  In theory, Matthew or the anonymous author of his non-Markan source (Q) might have invented this story to bolster his personal impression of Jesus.  Then, while Luke (and Matthew) copied this account with minor revisions, Mark got only the gist of the story through the oral grapevine.  Yet, while such a scenario would justify viewing Jesus' encounter with the devil as a typical fictional hero's ordeal, it does not explain why Mark missed the climax: the devil's departure.

The main problem with both of these theories is that neither Matthew nor Q is likely to have fabricated this particular passage.

Q is the least likely source.  In fact, Matt 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13 have proven to be "something of an embarrassment" to Q scholars./31/  The non-Markan verbal parallels in Jesus' dialogue with the devil make it a strong candidate for inclusion in this primitive sayings gospel. But its mythic plot and representation of Jesus as a Deuteronomic scholar are even less at home in Q than in Mark (which omits it).  Stratification of the Q material by type---wisdom sayings, prophetic judgments---leaves this passage isolated.  It may have been inserted by an editor (Q3?) in a belated attempt to characterize the Q community and its founder as the true Israel./32/  But there is no evidence that it was composed as part of a larger narrative frame for the sayings collection.  According to Q, it is not Jesus but the Jewish people who went "out to the wilderness" to find the Baptist (Matt 11:7//Luke 7:24).  Q, in fact, contrasts Jesus' lifestyle with that of John (Matt 11:18-19//Luke 7:33-34).  Q's Jesus was hardly known for a 40 day fast!  Moreover, elsewhere in Q, it is not Jesus but John who is the prophet who upholds the Mosaic Torah./33/  An editor of Q who wanted to portray Jesus as a law-abiding Jew, might better suppress such sayings than fabricate Jesus' dialogue with the devil.  The apparent absence of a Q baptismal scene makes it just as unlikely that the author of this passage knew Mark.  Therefore, if the story of Jesus' wilderness ordeal was in Q, it probably was swept into that collection as an independent unit, along with other oral debris.

The case against Matthean authorship is less obvious.  For, unlike other  gospel writers, Matthew makes a point of characterizing Jesus as a law-abiding Jew who appears in the mold of Moses.  The mountain motif in Matt 4:8 is typical of this gospel and the dialogue about worship and world dominion (4:9-10) is related to its concluding scene (28:16-18).  But though the motifs of the temptation pericope are more at home in Matthew than in any other gospel, there are syntactical signs that it did not originate here.

In wording and sentence grammar Luke 4:1-2 is closer to Mark 1:12-13 than to Matt 4:1./34/  Mark, therefore, offers a better base text for synoptic editors than Matthew.  To hold that Matthew's version is original, one has to presuppose one of two implausible redactional patterns.  Either Mark made a condensed paraphrase of Matthew (substituting Σατανᾶς for διαβόλος), which Luke only partially reconstituted (restoring Matthew's διαβόλος and dialogue). Or Luke made a grammatically awkward revision of Matt 4:1-2 which Mark summarized./35/  Either scenario is made even less plausible by the conclusion of these passages.  If Luke combined the Markan and Matthean versions of Jesus' wilderness ordeal, he dropped the ending of both: Jesus being "served" by angels.  On the other hand, to hold that Mark's version is derivative, one has to claim he took an inconsequential statement from Matthew's ending, appended it to a summary of Luke's opening and omitted or altered every verbal parallel in their scripts. It is more likely that Matthew and Luke independently "improved" an ambiguous passage in Mark by inserting a temptation dialogue that each found in Q.  But since neither Mark nor Q is apt to have invented this scene, its origin has to be sought in an oral source.

Though Mark and Q apparently knew different versions of Jesus' wilderness ordeal, these probably come from a single oral report.  The original cannot be reconstructed exactly, since a story may be sketched or stretched in alternate performances.  But the extant texts set parameters for the prototype.  The question of whether the initial core was closer to Mark's sketch or to Q's dramatic dialogue can be resolved only if one is able to identify the circumstances that led to its formation.

Three rationales have been suggested for early Christian interest in recounting Jesus' confrontation with "the Adversary": biography, paradigm and polemic.  All probably contributed to the oral development and preservation of this scene.  But one needs to assess the probable priority of interests to decide if this report originated in some situation within  Jesus' own experience or as just one of the many fictions spun in the folklore of his followers.

2.1. Exemplary Behavior

A major factor in forming early Christian interest in stories about Jesus was the need for models to orient one's life.  As a founder figure, Jesus was the prime person with whom Christians were invited to identify./36/ Such idolization, however, affects the collective memory of the leader. Later advocates of social solidarity and discipline tend to make him the model of any virtue they deem necessary, as present crises reshape recollection of the past.  The recounting of Jesus' arrest and execution was obviously influenced by the later persecution of his followers.  So, the trials of later Christians would have sparked interest in a story of Jesus tested by the "Accuser" (Σατανᾶς) or "Slanderer" (διάβολος).  After all, the author of Hebrews bases Jesus' ability to represent others before God on claims that he "has been tested in everything, just like us" (Heb 4:15; cf. 2:18).  The question is, however, whether the need to reassure a congregation confronting its own adversaries provides sufficient cause for creating the gist of the synoptic accounts of Jesus' ordeal. The answer is "probably not."

(a) With beasts and angels.  In Mark 1:13 Jesus is not tested in total isolation.  Rather, he is surrounded by "beasts" on one hand and "angels" on the other.  Paul refers to both in describing his own trials (1 Cor 4:9, 15:32).  So it is possible that a Christian audience exposed to hostile charges would take comfort from Mark's picture of Jesus' wilderness ordeal.  In response to such situations, Jesus urges followers to let the spirit guide them (Mark 13:9-11), which is just how he acts in this scene.

But neither Mark nor Paul call judicial prosecution "testing" (πειράσθαι or πειράσμος)./37/  Unlike Paul, Jesus is not described as "fighting" with the beasts.  And when Paul refers to "being tested by Satan," it is to warn couples of the dangers of prolonged separation from sexual contact (1 Cor 7:5).  Such talk would hardly have generated Mark's description of Jesus' wilderness ordeal!

(b) The model child. In Q's dialogue, the devil twice invites Jesus to prove he is God's "son" (Matt 4:3,6//Luke 4:3,9).  Early Christians claimed such status not just for Jesus but for also themselves, because they also were "led by the spirit."/38/  Several Q sayings that are probably based on something Jesus said, invite hearers to view themselves as childen of God./39/  Matthew incorporated these into Jesus' opening sermon, which he scheduled soon after Jesus' dialogue with the devil.  Two of these sayings are embedded in passages that address a hungry people worried about starvation./40/  One argues that no real father would offer his child a "stone" instead of "bread."/41/  And the other concludes with advice to seek the Father's "kingdom" before worrying about food./42/

This advice, in fact, reflects the order of the petitions in the prayer that Q credits to Jesus: "Father...establish your kingdom...give us our daily bread" (Matt 6:9-11//Luke 11:2-3).  And this prayer probably concluded with the plaintive plea of children who do not want to be led "to a test" (εἰς πειρασμόν; Matt 6:13a=Luke 11:4b).  So Q's (original?) audience would be well prepared to identify with many motifs in the dialogue between Jesus and the tempter.  In Q's social context, Jesus could be seen as an older brother taking his siblings' tests for them.

But while such parallels help explain the inclusion of the temptation story in Q, they do not account for the scenario itself.  In this story Jesus does not follow the advice he gives the Q community: namely, ask the Father for bread.  And though Q may have originally opened with Jesus announcing that the poor could claim God's kingdom, it probably contained no hint that this might be taken to mean world dominion for Jesus, much less for his audience (cf. Matt 4:8-9//Luke 4:5-7).  At a later date, the persecuted Q community might have found itself constrained to worship "the devil" (=Roman emperor?).  But it probably never was in a position to interpret the invitation to jump off the temple existentially.  Nor were early Christians apt to imagine that they could change stones into  bread.  So, the Q temptation narrative is more easily read as a cautionary tale against exaggerating Jesus' uniqueness, than as a paradigm for the average person's predicament. 

(c) Not like the wilderness.  The major problem with the hypothesis that the gospel reports of Jesus' ordeal originated as a paradigm for early Christians is with the setting.  A period of testing in the wilderness would have existential significance only to an audience which identified itself as Israel.  While neither Mark nor Q appeal to a sense of national solidarity, Hebrews does.  Yet the author of this work does not link his claim that Jesus was tested "like us" to the wilderness.  On the contrary, in 3:8-10 he quotes the warning in Ps 95:8-10 for Israel not to test God as their ancestors did in the wilderness.  Hebrews associates "the wilderness" with rebellion, sin and death (3:16-17), which is hardly why Jesus was sent there in the incident in Mark or Q.  So, the writer of Hebrews was probably not directly familiar with any version of the gospel accounts of Jesus' temptations.  Nor does his logic provide a good pretext for inventing a report that Jesus spent time in the wilderness.

The fact that Hebrews appears to be totally independent of the synoptic trajectory makes it clear that the tradition that Jesus was thoroughly "tested" was not invented by Mark or Q.  But it also shows that the synoptic accounts of Jesus' ordeal in the wilderness were not apt to have been invented to show Jesus' solidarity with his people.  The Q version in particular presupposes the difference between Jesus and Israel. By claiming that Jesus declined to repeat the sins ascribed to Israel's ancestors, the Q dialogue challenges the traditional connotations of the wilderness motif./43/  Both Mark and Q admit that Jesus spent some time in a region which Jews generally associated with apostasy from the true God.  But each tries to make it clear that his performance there was not like that of their common ancestors.  Therefore, biographical and/or polemical concerns probably took precedence over paradigmatic interests in the formation of reports that the Adversary tested Jesus in the wilderness.

2.2 Recollected Experience

From the perspective of narratology, Mark's report of Jesus' wilderness retreat acts as the defocalizer needed to conclude his account of Jesus'  baptismal experience.  Jesus sees the spirit focus on him (Mark 1:10) which leads him to leave the company of Jews who were focusing on John (1:5,9).  John made his initial appearance "in the wilderness" (1:4), so Jesus disappears into the same setting (1:12).

Many elements of this report are historically plausible.  It is a fact that a man named John who advocated baptism attracted the attention for many Jews for a period during Herod Antipas' tenure./44/  It is also reasonably certain that the tradition that Jesus was baptized by this John was not a later fabrication./45/  The probable locus of John's activity was the Jordan valley; and most of this region was devoid of permanent human habitation.  To get to and from John, Jesus would have had to pass through "wilderness."  And the gospels give ample evidence that he did not stay one of John's followers./46/  Therefore, only the gospels' chronology and characterization of the purpose of Jesus' wilderness venture as a period of testing are really historical problems.

(a) Prolonged retreat. The primary reason for interest in Jesus' trip into the wilderness appears to be its duration.  Mark had no narratological reason for inventing a forty-day stop-over for Jesus in that region./47/ Under normal conditions, it would take a person a mere tenth of that time to journey between the lower Jordan and Galilee.  And, given the dangers, travelers did not usually make the trek alone.  While Mark often portrays Jesus as seeking solitude, he mentions a prolonged period only here./48/  Forty days in an inhospitable desert region justifies characterizing this retreat as a "test."  Mark would not have to mention what happened during the interim, since mere survival in such a setting would test anyone's wits and fortune./49/  However, in Judaic culture any mention of "forty days in the wilderness" invites traditional connotations.  So, reference to Jesus' prolonged absence from human contact in a stock Semitic temporal idiom provided a logical stimulus to interpret the initial report of Jesus' retreat in terms of biblical stories of the wilderness.  Q's hyperbolic insistence that Jesus "ate nothing" and suggestion that he turn "stone" into "bread" betrays an attempt to portray Jesus' experience as a reflection of Moses' (second) retreat to record the words of God in stone./50/  And   these motifs in turn suggest citation of Deut 8:3b. Thus, the evident trajectory in the oral evolution of the account of Jesus' temptation was to increase the parallels to scripture.  The fact that the parallels are not perfect is a clear sign that the report itself was not invented.  So, Mark's one line report is probably more primitive than Q's dramatic dialogue.

Though Q's version of Jesus' temptation developed in a literate Greek context---verbatim quotes from the LXX and use of διάβολος instead of Σατανᾶς make that fairly obvious---, its logic is clearly that of Jewish midrash rather than Hellenic myth. Midrash, however, presupposes a difficult report that needs adequate explanation.  Neither Q nor the original author of its temptation dialogue was probably dependent on the written text of Mark.  But the pretext for its description of Jesus' war of wits was at least an oral report that Jesus spent forty days in the wilderness confronting "the adversary."  This provides the only logical difficulty that needed---and still needs---explanation.

(b) Trial period?  Both Mark and Q make it sound as if Jesus went into  the desert deliberately to wage spiritual conflict.  "The spirit" leads him to confront "the opponent" in a war of wits.  Such spiritual dualism is a hallmark of the mythic cosmology of Qumran.  "The God of Knowledge" was credited with preparing humankind to dominate a world order in which he retained ultimate control.  To train people for their role God scheduled matches between "the spirit of truth," which obeyed every divine command and "the spirit of error" which disregarded God's regulations (1QS 3.15-20).  Such determinism left no room for private initiative, since the battle between spirits subject to the powers of Light and Darkness was waged in every human heart (1QS 4.23).  A person proved to be a "son of righteousness" (or "light") or a "son of error" (or "darkness") by the type of response to a community discipline regarded as "the wisdom of the sons of Heaven" (1QS 4.22).  Members were expected to obey the Torah of Moses completely; those who violated any word were subject to discipline or excommunication (1QS 8.21-24).  Because the world outside the community did not follow this code, it was deemed to be under the dominion of Belial (1QS 1.18).  Therefore, the community responded to Isaiah's call to "prepare the way into the wilderness" (Isa 40.3) by training people to leave and live in isolation from a society in which the spirit of Error ruled (1QS 9.20-21).

It is tempting to interpret the accounts of Jesus' wilderness ordeal as an initiation into such a puritanical movement.  The report of Jesus' baptism by John, the initiation doctrine of the early church, a few sayings ascribed to Jesus, and the rhetoric of writings ascribed to Paul and John have too many parallels to the spiritual dualism of the Dead Sea scrolls to deny the impact of this type of ethical ideology on the evolution of Christianity./51/ 

It is even probable that the author of the oral report behind Mark 1:12-13 and parallels thought that Jesus, like other humans, was a mere pawn in God's cosmic plan, driven by one spirit into conflict with its opposite.  But, apart from a few passages in the fourth gospel, there is little to indicate that Jesus or John thought this way.

There is even less justification for taking the temptation narratives as recollection of the standard procedure for inducting someone into the social movement around the Baptist. The focus on spiritual separation at Qumran and in John's preaching was to purge people from contact with spirits that tempted people to disobey the Torah of Moses, not expose them to danger from "the Opponent."/52/  A person's moral fiber was tested before the water ritual of initiation into such communities./53/ Moreover, there is no evidence that Jesus returned to John after the testing period.  And given Jesus' reputation for not fasting, as John and his disciples did, and associating with sinners it is doubtful that he ever submitted to John's discipline./54/  In Q Jesus reminds his fellow Jews that they followed John "into the wilderness" (Matt 11:7//Luke 7:24), without including himself among them.  Like the fourth gospel, Q did not mention Jesus' baptism and avoided any suggestion that he was initiated into John's movement by citing sayings that radically contrast the two.  Only reading Mark (or Matthew) as history could create the impression that Jesus was put through a spiritual ordeal as a direct consequence of his baptism.

It is theoretically possible that Jesus left the Baptist's movement and radically changed his lifestyle at some later date.  But then one would expect evidence of the ill-will and ostracism that usually affects both sides in the case of a defector.  Instead, the gospels make Jesus the agent to promote John's reputation./55/  So it is hardly likely that the report of Jesus' testing by "the Opponent" in the wilderness originated as a mythic representation of conflict between him and John.  Nevertheless, since conflict is integral to the structure of this scene it must be rooted in some controversy involving Jesus.

2.3. Shield against Slander

The names used for Jesus' opponent in the Markan and Q versions of his wilderness ordeal presuppose that he was subject to attack by an enemy.  "Satan" (challenger) and "devil" (liar) are not primarily proper names, much less neutral descriptions, of a particular persona.  Rather, they are characterizations---even caricatures---that one pins on an opponent in situations that cause intense stress (e.g., Mark 8:33; John 6:70).  So, the presence of "Satan" or "the devil" is not a matter-of-fact observation by a casual bystander.  Rather, it is an intensely personal assessment of a threat to one's well-being arising from almost anything: passing thoughts, arguments, destructive behavior, cataclysmic events, or a general existential malaise.  In any case, the situation is seen as not-self-initiated.  By identifying the source as "Satan" or "the devil," a person claims that something is not as it ought to be.  Things seem to have gone out of control or, worse, to be controlled by an unfriendly force (at least for the time being).

Jesus certainly experienced opposition and severe challenges on many occasions.  And it is more than likely that, as a first-century Jew, he called the source of his distress "σατανᾶς" or "διάβολος" more than once.  Whether what he encountered on such occasions was really Satan---as personified in pious imaginations---is a question that historical research cannot resolve.  And whether Jesus himself believed that a single malevolent spirit caused human distress, cannot be demonstrated from his sayings.  In fact, his paradoxical affirmation of the immanent βασιλεία of a benign Father in situations of deprivation that distressed others virtually precludes the possibility that he reported that "Satan" challenged him during a prolonged trek through the wilderness./56/ 

Thus, the logical link that led a rather matter-of-fact report that Jesus spent a long time in the wilderness to be interpreted as an encounter with a malevolent and slanderous accuser probably came from a challenger he met after his return from his jaunt to join John.  After all, events are put in perspective by hindsight, so that an after-the-fact interpretation is usually reported as what really happened.

(a) Home of beasts, madmen, and demons. The main problem with symbolic    interpretations of Jesus' forty day stay in the wild is that they come from modern civilized scholars with a romantic image of wilderness.  In pre-modern societies, however, wilderness represented real deprivation and threats to life./57/  Human settlements were easily devastated and reduced to the habitat of beasts.  Travelers through open spaces often fell prey to attacks by predators, human and inhuman.  Those who left the protection provided by town life might be respected as hardy survivors. But they were just as apt to be regarded as deranged: madmen who chose to expose themselves to the dangers of wild animals rather than live with their own families.

What led someone to choose such an uncivilized lifestyle?  The answer often given was "a demon."  Philostratus tells of an Indian woman who begs Apollonius of Tyana to free her son from a demon./58/  When asked for evidence that he is possessed, she begins by claiming that he had abandoned the routine of ordinary civilized youth (school, sports, staying home) and was moved to stay in "deserted spots" (τὰ ἔρημα τῶν χωρίων). Conversely, the story of the wild man of Gerasa who lived out in the tombs ends with Jesus sending him back home (Mark 5:19).  He obeys because he is now "being sensible" (σωφρονοῦντα; Mark 5:15).

In the Dionysiac cults of Thrace and Chios, the μαινάδες (literally "mad" women) and βάκχοι ("drunken" males) roamed the hills, clad in animal skins, in wild abandonment to the impulses of the god of nature./59/  In the scheme of classic Hellenic theology, Dionysus was not really a "god" (θεός) but a "demon" (δαιμῶν), a sub-celestial force who was more volatile than the Olympian immortals.  So, the characterization of his worshippers as "god-filled" implied demon possession./60/

The social impact of the Dionysiac surrender to the call of the wild was not restricted to its centers of origin.  In fact, an important shrine to Dionysus' demi-bestial colleague Pan was located at the headwaters of the Jordan, near the northern border of Galilee, in Caesaea Philippi (Banias in modern Arabic).  And Pan---or his devotees who roamed freely in goat-skins terrorizing town-dwellers---is the model for the Judeo-Christian image of the devil as a horned, cloven-hoofed promoter of licentious behavior.

(b) The critics' perspective. The point in painting this pan-orama is not to suggest that Jesus was an initiate into the Dionysian mysteries, but rather to show that this is the background that makes sense out of opposition to both Jesus and John the Baptist by city-dwelling Jews. Both Mark and Q agree that John acted as a magnet drawing hordes of    people into the wilderness./61/  His dress was uncivilized and his food wild./62/  Those who followed him regarded him as a prophet, perhaps Elijah./63/  But most, if not all, of the urban religious establishment--- priests and scholars, Sadducees and Pharisees alike---apparently did not share that estimate./64/  Some, at least, claimed that John was not an agent of religious renewal but of social chaos inspired by a δαιμῶν (Matt 11:18//Luke 7:33)---Pan perhaps?

Descriptions of Jesus' life-style contrast sharply with that of John.  Yet he had some association with John and apparently also spent a prolonged period away from home.  There is no evidence that he returned to family and job after his baptism.  Instead he probably remained a homeless wanderer accepting lodging wherever and from whomever it was offered./65/  He gained a reputation of carousing with sinners./66/  His lack of concern about where the next meal was coming from made his family think he'd gone mad./67/  And his total lack of discrimination in what he ate and with whom he ate it was interpreted as a sign of self-indulgence.  Some, at least, accused him of Dionysian excess: gluttony and drunkenness (Matt 11:19//Luke 7:34).  To Jews concerned with chaste company and meal regulations Jesus appeared to be a βάκχος---an embodiment of libertine irresponsibility---and therefore a threat to religious observance of the Torah.  The  inspiration for such wild behavior, they concluded could not be the God of Moses.  So, Jesus' critics claimed, he too must be possessed by an alien δαιμῶν---in fact, a demon worse than John's.  Because Jesus' lifestyle directly challenged the ordinary conservative Jewish values of home and family, he was regarded as a threat to society itself.  He talked about letting God take control (βασιλεία τοῦ θεοῦ).  But the question was: which "god" is he talking about?  Conservative scholars and priests saw little to distinguish the pattern of Jesus' behavior from wild cults of the pagan nature gods, like the Canaanite Ba'al, that had often weakened the fabric of an organized society based on rational Torah observance.   Hence, the religious establishment became Jesus' chief accuser (σατανᾶς), spreading the slander (διάβολη) that he was compelled to cast out traditional values by the principle δαιμῶν: "Beel-zebul," whose current cultural mask happened to be Dionysus./68/

(c) Dialectical logic. The fact that the gospels locate Jesus' encounter with Satan in the wilderness and report it before any public accusation against him is due to debate logic rather than the actual order of events.  Narrative sequence is never a reliable indicator of historical chronology, since people tend to present information in an order that bolsters their own after-the-fact perspective.  Oral memory follows motif, rather than causal logic./69/  And reporters shuffle information for the optimum desired effect.  In court, the best strategy for the defense is to focus the jury's attention on a favorable exhibit before reminding them of the prosecution's argument.  So, both Mark and Q anticipate the actual slander that human accusers circulated about Jesus by reporting his encounter with the archetypal Challenger first.

In both cases the narrator defending Jesus describes the scene in terms designed to disarm the prosecutor's claim that Jesus' behavior was inspired by alien influences.  Mark shows the reader Jesus being "cast out" into the wilderness by the holy spirit he received in baptism by John who appeared in direct fulfillment of sacred Hebrew scripture. Therefore, Mark's audience is innoculated against accepting the claims of Jewish scholars (3:22) that Jesus acted like devotees of a pagan δαιμῶν. It is not Beelzebul but the voice of the God who told Israel to "prepare the way into the wilderness" (Mark 1:3=Isa 40:3) that is seen "casting" both John and Jesus out there.

Mark 1:12-13 deliberately anticipates the language of the Beelzebul controversy to prevent the accusations of Jesus' opponents from being taken seriously.  Jesus responds to these charges by asking: "How can Satan cast out Satan?" (Mark 3:23).  Mark illustrates the obvious conclusion of that riddle with an enacted παραβολή in which "the (Holy) Spirit" casts Jesus out "into the wilderness" to encounter Satan.

In Q's version the temptation scene's rhetorical links to the exorcism idiom of the Beelzebul controversy have been replaced by concern to show that Jesus knew the Torah and obeyed the God of Moses better than any Jewish scholar.  But the question of the character of his charisma remains central to the scene, since "the Slanderer" (διαβόλος) presents Jesus opportunities to act out his human critics' accusations which he turns down.  He does not think only of his belly; he does not exhibit self-destructive tendencies; he does not copy secular rulers in submitting to impulses other than those of the one supreme God./70/  In short, Jesus' behavior out in the wild, is shown in sharp contrast to the lifestyle of a βάκχος.  So, Q prepares its audience to be skeptical of slander from urban critics---children of the agora---that Jesus was a "glutton and a drunk" (Matt 11:19//Luke 7:34).  Q admits that both Jesus and John were led "into the wilderness," but interprets this as the behavior of prophets and sages---children of wisdom (Luke 7:35)---not wild men who have lost their senses.

The reports of Jesus' temptations are not based on any reliable recollection of what happened to him between his baptism in the Jordan and his public reappearance in Galilee.  But neither are they "pure" fabrications.  Rather, they are products of the public debate generated by his abandonment of a settled "civilized" lifestyle that began with his journey to join John and continued after his return to Galilee.  As such, they are not without historical value.  But they have to be read backwards, holding them up to the mirror of Jesus' opponents' attempts to defame him. 

3.1. Facts

These facts are based on real events and are, therefore, properly "historical":

(a) Jesus spent a long time as a homeless vagabond in "the wilderness";
(b) more than once he encountered an opponent who slandered his behavior as alien and even demonic;
(c) he countered such "testing" with arguments that linked his lifestyle to dependence on God;
(d) an anonymous partisan of Jesus---perhaps someone who also left home to follow him---(con)fused these elements in reporting that God sent Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by Satan or the devil.

Mark 1:12-13 and Q (Matt 4:1-11//Luke 4:1-13) preserve independent versions of an oral tradition that is the logical offspring of the Beelzebul controversy, which is certainly rooted in the experience of Jesus himself.

3.2. Interpretation

Q's account of Jesus' three temptations is not autobiographical and, therefore, is virtually worthless as evidence of Jesus' own spiritual state.  Mark's brief notice is a stylized explanation of a period in which Jesus lived outside human settlements, "with the beasts."  Both accounts are important reflections of challenges that Jesus and his followers faced from flesh-and-blood adversaries.  Both versions of the report of Jesus' temptation are more rebuttal than fiction.  So their primary value is in interpreting the stress that his followers felt by public slander of the one whom they regarded as a son of the one true God.

3.3 Theses and Recommendations

1. The gospel temptation scenes recount Jesus' experience "for 40 days in the wilderness"     black  [improbable]

Reason: no eye-witnesses or evidence of autobiographic report.

2. The gospel temptation scenes are the product of oral debates about the source of Jesus' inspiration
    pink  [probable]

Reason: story structure (Jesus encounters the Accuser or Slanderer);
               Markan and Q versions independent and atypical of source.

3. Jesus lived outdoors "in the wilderness" for at least one prolonged period:
   
red   [certain]

Reason: independently attested by Mark, Q, and John
              indirectly supported by various allusions to his lifestyle.

4. Jesus spoke of Satan:
    pink  [probable]

Reason: rhetorical references in Beelzebul controversy and other sayings.

5. Jesus believed in a supernatural Satan:
    grey  [uncertain]

Reason: no unambiguous statement; common view among first-century Jews
               but inconsistent with genuine Jesus sayings about God's kingdom.

6. Jesus spoke with Satan:
    black [improbable]

Reason: mentioned only in mythic Q temptation scene;
               not included in opponents' accusations.

/1/ Mark transliterates the Hebrew ha satan, indicating any opponent who  instigated a challenge (1 Kings 14:23; 1 Chron 21:1; Job 1-2) or charged another with offenses (Ps 109:4,6; Zech 3:1).  The other synoptics prefer the Greek word for "attacker" that was generally used in cases of verbal abuse: i.e., "slanderer." "Satan" entered the vocabulary of Jewish theodicy to avoid attributing evil directly to God.  But Christian writers were largely responsible for making "devil" (English corruption of diabolos) a synonym for evil  personified [e.g., Eph 4:11, 1 John 3:8-10, Rev 12:9,20:2].

/2/ E.g., a brief break in a Galilean Jew's Passover journey, after an unexpected encounter with the Baptist (A. Schweitzer, Quest, 350); a Jew's retreat to choose an appropriate course of action for a post-baptismal obsession with messianic mission (J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth, 253-4); a normal stage in the progress of a visionary newly initiated into the "world of Spirit" (M. Borg, New Vision, 42-3).

/3/ R. Bultmann favored myths of "Paradisal Man" or "temptations of the saint" over nature myths about conflicts between cosmic forces (History of the Synoptic Tradition, 253-4).  Most other scholars prefer paradigms from Israel's own past (see 1.1 below).

/4/ Compare Mark 1:32-34,39; 2:13; 3:7-12; 4:1; 5:21; 6:53-56; 9:30; 10:1.

/5/ Exod 3:1, 4:27, 5:1; 1 Kings 19:4; Mark 1:3-4, 11:32 (cf. Matt 11:7-9//Luke 7:24-26).

/6/ Exod 24:18, 34:28; Deut 9:9-25, 10:10; 1 Kings 19:8.

/7/ Cf. 1 Kings 19:5-8. diakonein often carries connotations of serving food in Christian writings [Matt 25:44; Luke 10:40, 12:37; Acts 6:2].

/8/ See especially Mark 6:14-29, 8:27-30, 9:2-13.

/9/ Mark 1:35,45 and 6:31-32.  Lohmeyer noted this grammatical difference, but (wrongly) interpreted it as a sign of a separate written source for Mark's prologue (Marxsen, Mark, 31-32).

/10/ Cf. Mark 6:31-44.  Mark goes out of his way to stress that at first Jesus' "disciples" (i.e., the "twelve") did not really understand this incident (8:17-21).

/11/ See note 4 above.

/12/ Jacob (= Israel; Gen 35:10) sent his sons to tend his flocks (37:12) and fetch food (42:1-2).  But such parallels are inexact, since these stories stress that the twelve did not act in concert.

/13/ Mark 8:38, 13:26 and 14:62 clearly echo Dan 7:13; Gen 1:26-2:3 and Ps 8:4-6 provide less obvious precedent for Mark 2:10, 27-28.

/14/ Gen 3:1-7,15.  Christian texts equate the serpent with Satan (Rev 12:9, 20:2); but Jewish haggada tended to see it only as his agent (cf. Pokorny, "Temptation Stories," 121).

/15/ E.g., Dan 7, Rev 13-14.

/16/ It is John, not the synoptics, that sets Jesus' confrontation with an agent of "Satan" (Judas) in a "garden" (cf. John 13:27, 18:1-2). Despite J. M. Robinson, Mark does not "parallel" Testament of Levi 18:10-11: "And he shall open the gates of paradise, and shall remove the threatening sword against Adam.  And he shall give to the saints to eat from the tree of life..." (Problem of History, 27 n.1).

/17/ In Jewish legend, after expulsion from paradise the devil again tempts Eve, while Adam is fasting for forty days. But this is when both are up to their necks in water, she in the Tigris and he in the Jordan (Life of Adam and Eve 6-11//Apocalypse of Moses 29).  While this fantasy may have been known to first century Jews, these are not the "elements" of Mark 1:12-13 (despite Pokorny, "Temptation Stories," 121).

/18/ If an OT source is needed for that observation, a better match is to be found in Daniel's description of Nebuchadnezzar gone mad (Dan 4:25,32). But Mark hardly intended that parallel! 

/19/ A good modern example is T. E. Lawrence who won the admiration of even the hardy Bedouin by traversing the Arabian desert.  An illustration of the risk in such a venture is found in the tragic death of American Episcopal bishop James Pike on a visit to the lower Jordan valley in quest of the historical Jesus.

/20/ J. Meagher, Clumsy Construction, 41 (italics mine).

/21/ C. Myers, Binding the Strongman, 91-136 and B.L. Mack, Myth of Innocence, 315-349 provide compelling if contrasting assessments of Mark's intricate narrative web.

/22/ Cf. Mark 4:38-39, 6:48-50, 8:31-38, 13:9-13, 14:27-31.

/23/ Cf. especially Mark 12:22-24, but also 5:34, 7:29-30, 10:52.

/24/ Mark 1:12-13 has been described as "the rudiments of an originally detailed legend" (Bultmann, History, 253); "an enigmatic fragment of an early, otherwise unknown haggada" (Gerhardssen, Testing,10);  "a condensation of some...more pointedly  meaningful account of the event" (Meagher, Clumsy Construction, 41); or an incident that was "already firmly established in the tradition" of Jesus' baptism before Mark (V. Taylor, St. Mark, 162-3).

/25/ Matt 4:4b,7b,10c//Luke 4:4b,12b,8b=Deut 8:3b,6:16,6:13 LXX.

/26/ B. Mack suggests overlaps between Mark and Q (like the temptation?)are instances of intertextual "creative borrowing" in which Mark has "resignified" the Q material ("Q and the Gospel of Mark," 24-25).

/27/ Mark 2:25-27, 7:6-13, 10:5-8,18-19, 11:17, 12:10-11,24-36.

/28/ Cf. Mark 8:33-34, 10:45, 12:28-30, 14:36.

/29/ E.g., Mark 8:10-12, 10:35-45.

/30/ Matt 4:3,5//Luke 4:3,9; cf. Mark 3:11, 5:7 as well as 1:10b and 9:7c.

/31/ J. Kloppenborg, Formation of Q, 256.

/32/ The temptation dialogue demonstrates "the trustworthiness of the sage"(Kloppenborg, Formation, 327) only if the audience identified with those "Moses" addresses in Deuteronomy. Cf. Matt 19:28//Luke 22:28-30.

/33/ Cf. Luke 11:26-28, 16:16-18//Matt 11:9-13, 5:18,32.  The Lukan version of these sayings is probably more original.

/34/ Compare quotes at the beginning of this study.

/35/ Luke's double reference to "the spirit," repetition of the same preposition (ἐν) for two different functions (condition and location) and participial clause are clumsy and meandering.  Compare Matthew's clear concise descriptions of action (using εἰς for direction; ὑπὸ for agent; and passive infinitive for purpose) and duration.

/36/ E.g., Mark 8:34//Matt 16:24//Luke 9:23.  Cf. Gal 2:20, 3:27; Heb 2:10; 1 Pet 2:21-24.

/37/ John of Patmos, however, warns the church at Ephesus: "Don't fear what you are going to suffer.  See, the devil (διάβολος) is going to throw some of you into jail so that you may be tested.  And you will have trouble for ten days" (Rev 2:10).

/38/ Cf. Rom 8:14-16; Gal 3:26-4:7.

/39/ Matt 5:45,48//Luke 6:35-36; Matt 6:9//Luke 11:2; Matt 6:32//Luke 12:30; Matt 7:11//Luke 11:13.

/40/ Matt 6:25-33, 7:7-11//Luke 12:22-31, 11:9-13.

/41/ Matt 7:9.  The Q wording is questionable since Luke (11:12) has "scorpion" and "egg" instead.  Cf. Matt 4:3//Luke 4:3.

/42/ Matt 6:32-33//Luke 12:30-31.  Cf. Matt 4:8//Luke 4:5.

/43/ Cf. Exod 16:3-4, 17:2-7, 32:1-8; Num 25:1-5.

/44/ Josephus (Antiquities 18.106-119), Mark (1:4-8, 6:14-29, 11:32), Q (Matt 11:2-11//Luke 7:18-28, 16:16) and Thomas (46:1) independently confirm John's political prominence.

/45/ Cf. Jesus Seminar records for Oct 91.  Agreement that Jesus was baptized by John was distributed as follows: certain - 44%, probable - 40%, possible - 16%, improbable - 0.

/46/ Mark (1:14, 2:18-19), Q (Matt 11:2-19//Luke 7:18-34) and John (1:35-37, 3:22-26) presuppose Jesus' activity was distinct from John's before the Baptist's execution.

/47/ See 1.1 (a), n.9 above.

/48/ Cf. Mark 1:35, 4:35-36, 6:31, 9:2, 14:32-35.

/49/ See 1.1 (c) (1) above.

/50/ Matt and Luke 4:2-3; cf. Exod 34:27-29, Deut 9:9-10.  The parallels are most obvious in Matthew's version.

/51/ Cf. Mark 1:3,9-11; Luke 16:8b; John 1:1-13, 8:12-47, 12:35-36, 16:7-15; Rom 8:14-16,26-30; 1 Cor 12:13; 2 Cor 6:14-15; Eph 5:6-11, 6:10-13; Col 1:12-13; 1 Thess 5:4-5; 1 John 1:5-7, 3:1-10.

/52/ Cf. 1QS 1.1-11,3.5-12 and Matt 3:8-12//Luke 3:8-9,16-17.

/53/ So Josephus on John: "Even baptism appeared acceptable to him, not to petition for some sin they had done, but for purifying even as the soul had been previously cleansed by justice" (Ant 18.117); and on the Essenes: "There is no immediate initiation for those who are eager to join the party.  Rather, they...put him under discipline for one whole year while he remains outside.  And if during this examination period he gives evidence of his self-control, they lead him nearer to their discipline, letting him participate in cleaner waters for purification" (Jewish War 2.137-138).

/54/ Cf. Mark 2:15-19, Matt 11:18-19//Luke 7:33-34.

/55/ Matt 11:9-11//Luke 7:26-28; Thom 46.  The pseudo-Clementines claim the Baptist's followers tried to exploit such sayings (Recognitions 1.60.1-4), but as friendly rivals.

/56/ The so-called "beatitudes"  for instance pronounce the poor, hungry and persecuted "blissful" (μακάριος; Luke 6:20-22//Thom 54,69).  The great majority of the Jesus Seminar accepted the first two formulae as genuine Jesus sayings and thought that at least the central idea of the third could be traced to him.  Cf. also Matt 6:25-33//Luke 12:22-31.

/57/ E.g., Exod 14:11, 16:3; 2 Sam 17:29; Ezek 29:5; 2 Cor 11:26; Heb 3:17.

/58/ Life of Apollonius 3.38 [See Fourth R 5,3 (May 1992): 11].

/59/ Oesterreich, Possession, 336-341; Nugent, Masks of Satan, 25-28.

/60/ Cf. scholia of Euripides Hippolytus 144 (Oesterreich, Possession, 340).

/61/ Mark 1:5 par; Matt 11:7//Luke 7:24.

/62/ Mark 1:6 par; Matt 11:18//Luke 7:33.

/63/ Mark 11:32, par; Matt 11:9-10//Luke 7:26-27; John 1:21.  Cf. my paper "Casting John as Prophet" presented to the Jesus Seminar, Feb 1992.

/64/ Mark 11:30-33 par; John 1:19.  The claims in Matt 3:7 and GEbion 3 that Pharisees and Sadducees sought baptism from John have to be taken with a grain of salt, since Josephus (himself a priest and a Pharisee) does not report a protest from the temple hierarchy over Antipas' execution of John (Ant 18.117-119).

/65/ Matt 8:19-20//Luke 9:57-58//Thom 86; Luke 10:5-8//Thom 14:4.

/66/ Mark 2:16 par; Matt 11:19//Luke 7:34; Luke 15:1-2; pOxy 1224.3.

/67/ Mark 3:20-21. Cf. Matt 6:25-33, 7:7-11//Luke 11:9-13, 12:22-31 and Mark 6:31-39.

/68/ Mark 3:22//Matt 12:24//Luke 11:15. Nugent (Masks, 25) notes the phenomenological parallel between the dance of Dionysus and the masochistic frenzy of the Canaanite cult of Baal.

/69/ Mark's opening is a series of mental associations rather than events:
     1:3-8:   wilderness - John - baptism - strong successor - water/spirit;
     1:9-13:  Jesus - baptism  - water/spirit - wilderness - testing.

/70/ The devil's original offer in Q probably concerned only the doxa--- i.e., the external appearance---of secular βασιλεία (Matt 4:8-9//Luke 4:5-6).  The rulers of the Roman cosmos were known for lavish self-indulgent lifestyles and orgies like the bacchanalian revels. Luke's insertion of ἐξουσια makes the temptation more a matter of political power.

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