Jesus’ Temptation and Its Jewish Background

David Flusser[*]

[110] When given a serious reading, the description of Jesus’ temptation in the Gospels (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13; Mark 1:12-13) is truly astounding.[1] Unfortunately, the same cannot always be said of the research articles and commentaries that deal with this pericope. Perhaps, therefore, a fresh examination of the Jewish background against which the drama of Jesus’ temptation took place is not unwarranted, for when this is undertaken this seemingly incredible event will be found to be more believable. The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls is of crucial, albeit indirect, importance for a correct interpretation of Jesus’ temptation. We will examine these and additional sources in the inquiry below.

The Significance of Jesus’ Temptation

At the outset, however, I can not help but make this personal remark: I cannot understand why these days so many respected Christian scholars, some of my own friends among them, discern at the heart of the Gospel temptation narrative a typology based on Israel’s trials in the wilderness. In my opinion, the quotations from Deuteronomy in the pericope are not sufficient to justify this mode of interpretation.[2] I also suspect that the Deuteronomy quotations were not the actual starting point for the typological interpretation, which has become so common today. The aspect of this approach to the temptation narrative that most disturbs me, is the repeated claim that whereas during its trials in the desert Israel failed to prove its worth, Jesus successfully overcame the devil’s temptations in the desert. It would be fascinating to research whether the modern hypothesis is descended from patristic or medieval ecclesiastical exegesis.[2a] The typological interpretation of Jesus’ temptation no longer attracts scholars because it demonstrates Christ’s superiority over Israel’s failure; these days scholars find the typological approach to the temptation narrative because makes it easier to call its historicity into question.

[114] I believe the Gospel narrative is properly understood as demonstrating the perseverance of the Son of God in the midst of temptation.[3] In the first two temptations (according to Matthew’s order) the devil explicitly addresses Jesus as the “Son of God.” In the third temptation this address is missing, since the devil could not possibly have said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, worship me.” But the content of this temptation, in which a godlike Jesus is offered global domination, is essentially the same as that of the other two. In the first two temptations, Jesus, as a divine being, is able to perform supernatural deeds, and in doing so to rise above threats to natural human existence. Theologically speaking on a cosmic scale, we might say that Jesus, as the Son of God, rejected the temptation to sacrifice his human nature to the ambitions of his divine nature. A similar thought is expressed very differently in the Christological hymn in Philippians:

Although he was God’s image, he did not cling to equality with [115] God, but he emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, and in human form he appeared; behaving like a human being, he humbled himself, obedient to death, even to the death on the cross (Phil. 2:6-8)

Speaking in human terms on the historical level, it appears that the message of the temptation narrative was this: At the beginning of his career there was a real danger that Jesus could have missed his true vocation if he had been seduced by his unusual powers into becoming a superhuman magician, or θεῖος ἀνήρ (“divine man”), as such magicians are said to have been called in the ancient world. For such a problematic option always came at price: An adept who wanted to commit himself to magic had to go over to its dark side: he had, so to speak, to worship the devil.

Where this path would have led Jesus, had he succumbed to the temptations of Satan, is shown by Simon Magus, Jesus’ notorious contemporary and fellow countryman. Simon serves as a kind of ghastly antithesis to Jesus. It makes complete sense, therefore, that in an ancient romantic novel Simon Magus boasts, among other things, that, “…I flew through the air, …I turned stones into bread, I flew from mountain to mountain, I have moved from place to place, upheld by angel’s hands, and landed [safely] on earth. Not only have I accomplished these things [in the past], but I can do them even now, so that I can prove by these very deeds that I am the Son of God” (Pseudo-Clement, Recognitions 3:47).[4] The author of this description mingled elements of the legend of Simon Magus with motifs from Jesus’s temptation. In contrast to Jesus, the superhuman magician Simon supposedly performed the very miracles the devil had proposed to Jesus in order to prove that he, Simon, was the son of God!

What we have stated so far about the nature of Jesus’ temptation is of no little importance. But it is also important to realize that Jesus’ temptation by Satan marks a turning point in the history of evil itself. The temptation of Jesus was not merely a trial, it was also a wicked seduction. Nothing comparable existed earlier in Judaism, nor later, for that matter. Even in the highly dualistic Essene literature from Qumran we merely read that:

With the Angel of Darkness is the error of all Sons of Righteousness, and all their sins and iniquity and their guilt. The wickedness of their deeds is with his (i.e., the devil’s) reign according to the mysteries of God until its end. And all their plagues and periods of distress are with the reign of his malice. And the aim of all the spirits of his lot is to cause the Sons of Light to stumble. (1QS III, 22-24)[5]

The novel twist in the temptation of Jesus is that the devil not only tries to make Jesus stumble, he even attempts to persuade Jesus—as is clear from the third temptation—to join his camp. [116] If Jesus had decided to recognize Satan as his commander-in-chief, then the devil would have given him much in return, namely world-wide domination. As far as I know, no such offer by the personification of evil was ever made to a human before, but from later periods pacts with the devil are well known to us. Take, for example, the notorious black artist Doctor Faustus, who made a deal with the devil. So, the temptation of Jesus opens up a new chapter in the history of evil in the world.[6]

The Jewish Background of the Temptation Narrative in Q

[111] Does the story of Jesus’ temptation have a Jewish background? If it could be shown that the temptation narrative was first composed in Greek, then clearly it must be regarded as a literary creation of the early Church, not as an historical account of an event in Jesus’ life. Some scholars have attempted to settle the question of the origin of the temptation narrative by pointing to the Septuagintal character of the Bible quotations embedded within it. The use of the Septuagint, they claim, proves that Jesus’ temptation was conceived of in Greek. But while it is true that the biblical quotations in the temptation narrative are taken from the Septuagint, not directly from the Hebrew Bible, this fact alone hardly settles the question of the story’s original language. After all, the translator of the Hebrew—or, if you prefer, the Aramaic—original could have lightened his workload by consulting the Greek translation of the biblical verses that appear in the temptation account. But if it could be shown that the quotation from Deuteronomy in Matt. 4:10 and Luke 4:8 was selected because of wording that occurs only in the Septuagint, and not from a Hebrew text, then the temptation narrative would have to be ascribed to the Hellenistic Church. Unfortunately, the importance of this biblical quotation for a correct assessment of the Gospel temptation narrative has rarely been recognized.[7]

According to Matthew and Luke, when Satan told Jesus to worship him Jesus replied:

It is written, You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone [μόνῳ]. (Matt. 4:10; Luke 4:8)

The words Jesus quoted appear twice in Deuteronomy (Deut. 6:13; 10:20).[8] In response to Satan’s proposal, Jesus selected a biblical quotation to justify why a person may not worship anyone other than God. Therefore, Jesus’ answer hinges on the word μόνῳ (monō, “alone”)—but it is precisely this crucial word that is missing in all surviving manuscripts of the Hebrew Bible as well as in the original text of the Septuagint! Anyone who cares to consult a critical edition of the Septuagint, however, will easily discover that there are indeed some Greek manuscripts in which the word μόνῳ (“alone”) does occur in Deut. 6:13 and Deut. 10:20.[9] This minority reading cannot simply be dismissed as reflecting the influence of the Gospels, since apart from this one word, the text of Deut. 6:13 and Deut. 10:20 differs from the way the verse is quoted Gospels. In other words, the indispensable word μόνῳ (“alone”) is an authentic reading in some Septuagint manuscripts.

Must we, then, conclude that the author of the temptation narrative based the story on a Septuagintal reading that has no basis in the Hebrew text? If so, then the story of Jesus’ temptation really was conceived in Greek. The one decisive word μόνῳ (“alone,” in the phrase “and serve him alone”), would have such far-reaching consequences, unless evidence could be produced to show that the word “alone” also occurs in sources independent of the Gospels and the Septuagint.[10] As it turns out, such evidence is readily available, and this evidence gives us insight into the active intellectual life of ancient Judaism.

We turn first to two first-century C.E. Jewish sources. Josephus Flavius, a Jewish historian who wrote in Rome shortly after the destruction of the Temple, defined [112] the first of the Ten Commandments saying, “The first word teaches us that God is one and that he alone must be worshipped [σέβεσθαι μόνον]” (Ant. 3:91; Loeb [adapted]). The second source is the so-called Liber Antiquitatum Biblicarum (“Book of Biblical Antiquities”), which was erroneously attributed to Philo of Alexandria. Although it was originally composed in Hebrew—a fact that is pertinent to our inquiry—this work has only been preserved in an ancient Latin translation. There we read: “The Lord is our God and him alone we will serve” (L.A.B. 23:14).[11] These two ancient Jewish sources are certainly not to be suspected of dependence on the New Testament Gospels!

The most important evidence for the authenticity of the way Jesus worded the biblical quotation in Matt. 4:l0 // Luke 4:8, however, is found in an ancient blessing for the Temple and divine service (Avodah).[12] This blessing was recited in the Temple by both the priests and the lay people who were present in Jerusalem,[13] and was even recited by the high priest himself.[14] Originally the blessing for the Temple and the divine service was confined to the Temple precincts; after the destruction of the Temple, the blessing was incorporated into the familiar Jewish Prayer known as the Eighteen Benedictions. The original conclusion of this blessing stated שאותך לבדך ביראה נעבוד (“…for you alone we will serve in fear”). This formula remained the conclusion to the blessing for the Temple and the divine service in certain ancient Palestinian versions of the Eighteen Benedictions.[15] In most synagogues, however, out of longing for the restoration of God’s Temple, the original blessing was replaced in with a petition to God, “who will restore his glory to Zion.” But the ancient form of the blessing was not completely abandoned;[16] even today, at Mussaf on feast days, the leader of the European rite says, “…for you alone we will serve in fear,” when the priests bless the congregation.[17]

The blessing concluding with “…for you alone we will serve in fear” is a paraphrase of “the LORD your God you shall fear and him you shall serve” (Deut. 6:13; 10:20). Somehow the word “alone” crept into the paraphrase. The sitz im Leben of the blessing for the divine service—including its ancient conclusion—is the Jerusalem Temple. The interpolated “alone” expresses the monotheistic exclusiveness of Jewish worship, which Josephus described in the following manner: “We have but one temple for the one God (for like ever loveth like), common to all as God is common to all” (Apion 2:193; Loeb). And elsewhere: “Let there be one holy city in that place in the Land of Canaan…. And let there be one temple therein, and one altar of stones…. In no other city let there be either altar or temple; for God is one and the Hebrew race is one” (Ant. 4:200-201; Loeb). So, it seems that the blessing was born in the religious atmosphere that stressed the uniqueness of the [113] Temple in Jerusalem: it was the only place where one reverently served God alone.

We have previously cited two Jewish sources (Jos. Ant. 3:91 and L.A.B. 23:14), that explicitly state that one should serve God alone. It is far from certain that these two sources depend on a text of Deut. 6:13 (or Deut. 10:20) in which the word “alone” appeared. Perhaps one can only assume the influence of the well known blessing for these two sources. And as for the Septuagint texts of Deut. 6:13 and 10:20 in which the word “alone” is interpolated, it is probable that the word “alone” crept in from the blessing. After all, the blessing would have been known to almost every Jew who worshipped in the Temple or synagogue, and the blessing itself is a paraphrase of Deut. 6:13 (or Deut. 10:20). This, then, is the origin of the decisive word “alone” in the biblical text.

However, the interpolated word was not in the original text; it is not found in any surviving Hebrew manuscript of the Bible and it was also absent in the vorlage of the Septuagint. Later, however, it found its way into the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy, as is proved both by certain Septuagint manuscripts and by the response of Jesus, who cited it as a written text (“it is written”). Unfortunately, it is impossible to know whether this interpolation existed in the Hebrew Bible of Qumran, since the texts of Deut. 6:13 and 10:20 are not attested.[18] But it seems quite possible that in the Palestinian type of Hebrew Bible it was really written, אֶת יי אֱלֹהֶיךָ תִּירָא וְאֹתוֹ לְבַדּוֹ תַעֲבֹד (“the LORD your God you will fear, and him alone [לְבַדּוֹ] you will serve”). And, most importantly, the biblical text was undoubtedly influenced, directly or indirectly, by Exod. 22:19(20): “The one who sacrifices to gods, except to the LORD alone [לְבַדּוֹ], will be utterly destroyed.”

We have devoted so much space to the little word “alone” in Jesus’ Scripture quotation because this single word may determine whether or not it is necessary to suppose that the account of Jesus’ temptation was composed in Hellenistic Christian circles. Our investigation has shown that this very word, μόνῳ (“alone”), may actually point to a Hebrew origin of the temptation story. It was in the land of Israel, and especially in Jerusalem’s Temple, where it was deliberately emphasized that God alone is to be served. Once again, knowledge of Jewish sources proves essential for a correct understanding of the New Testament.

The Relationship of Mark 1:12-13 to the Temptation Narrative in Q

Scholars have correctly perceived that the version of Jesus’ temptation as reported in Mark (Mark 1:12-13) and that which appears in Matthew and Luke (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13) are two fundamentally different accounts.[19] [114] The version of Jesus temptation given in the First and the Third Gospels represents an earlier written source. This source is now usually referred to as the Spruchquelle (“Sayings Source”), or “Q.” By the way, this source was available to the authors of Matthew and Luke in a Greek translation.[20] Below I have presented the two versions of the temptation narrative separately. To represent the sayings source we will mainly follow Matthew, but I have no intention of attempting to present a precise reconstruction here. First, however, let us turn to Mark’s version of the temptation narrative:

And immediately the Spirit drove him into the wilderness, and in the wilderness Satan tempted Jesus for forty days and Jesus was with the animals, and the angels served him. (Mark 1:12-13)

And now for the version from Q:

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. For forty days and forty nights he ate nothing and was tempted by the devil, after which, he was hungry. Then the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, say to this stone[21] that it should become bread.” But he answered and said, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone.” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, jump down, for it is written, He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up on their hands so that your foot does not hit a stone.” But Jesus said to him, “It is written, You must not test the Lord your God.”[22] And he led him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, and said to him, “All this I will give you, if you worship me.” But Jesus answered and said to him, “It is written, You must fear[23] the Lord your God and serve him alone.” So the Devil departed from him. (Matt. 4:1-11 // Luke 4:1-13)

[116] Unfortunately, we cannot spare the reader from a brief discussion of the Synoptic Problem as it pertains to the temptation narrative.[24] We have already pointed out that there are two fundamentally different accounts of the temptation of Jesus: that in Mark, and the parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke. The temptation narrative confirms our thesis that Luke’s version is pre-Markan; in other words, the author of Luke did not utilize the Gospel of Mark. The same does not apply to Matthew’s version: the author of Matthew combined the account in Q with the report in Mark.[25] The Markan influence on Matthew is assured by the appended mention of the angels at the end of the story: “And behold, angels came to him [i.e., to Jesus] and ministered to him” (Matt. 4:11; cf. Mark 1:13). Further on our investigation will show how historically important the triad of Satan, wild animals, and angels is in Mark. The author of Matthew knew and used Mark’s Gospel, and it is my opinion that he simply forgot to mention the animals in his version of the temptation narrative—the author of Matthew was frequently prone to such inaccuracies. As for the author of Luke, he did not mention the wild animals or the angels because his version was completely independent of Mark’s.

The Jewish Background of Mark 1:12-13

So now on to Mark’s temptation account! One researcher correctly stated that Mark does not say anything about the content of the temptation, “…and the silence is even more conspicuous given the scribal debate [between Jesus and the devil] in Matthew and Luke. Nor can this silence be explained by the theory that the author of Mark presupposed a prior knowledge of these things among his readers, so that he could intentionally omit the longer story; for Mark’s words convey a literary background different from that of Matthew and Luke. Thus Mark followed another tradition, one that knew only the fact of Jesus’ temptation and therefore embellished it with new details.”[26]

Duccio di Buoninsegna, “The Temptation of Christ on the Mountain.” The depiction combines elements from the Markan and Q versions of the temptation narrative. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Whether or not the author of Mark knew the circumstances of Jesus’ temptation as described in Q is difficult to say. He certainly knew more than he let on. Mark’s version merely says that Jesus was tempted in the desert for forty days. [117] It does not even mention that Jesus withstood the temptation, which would have been self-evident to the author of Mark and his readers. Mark’s version of the temptation narrative is silent regarding Jesus’ fasting during the forty days of his trial. Jesus’ fasting is reported in Matthew and Luke, and Mark certainly knew of it, for the forty-day fasting of Jesus corresponds to the fasting of Moses on Mount Sinai before and after the sin of the golden calf.[27] But apart from these omissions, everything recorded in Mark 1:12-13a is also attested to in Matthew and Luke: the Spirit drove Jesus into the desert, and he was tempted by Satan for forty days. As in Matthew and Luke, Mark’s temptation narrative is a continuation of the baptismal event, and the Spirit that leads Jesus into the desert is the same Spirit that was bestowed upon Jesus at his baptism. Superficially, the only thing new about Mark’s account is what we learn in Mark 1:13b, namely that Jesus was with the wild animals and that angels served him. That the author of Mark was prepared to summarize his sources is not unknown. But what we observe here is much more drastic: as we will see, in his abbreviated version (albeit supplemented with new details), the author of Mark shows an interest that is fundamentally different from the temptation accounts in Matthew and Luke. The actual temptation of Jesus becomes a secondary consideration in Mark; the main concern in Mark’s version is to depict the radical consequences baptism has for a baptized individual, and what power that person gains after and through baptism.[28]

Let us now introduce the most obvious parallel to the account in Mark 1:12-13. This parallel has long been known, but prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls its importance for our topic could not be properly assessed.[29] The so-called Testaments of the Patriarchs[30] are a Jewish document written in Greek from the Second Temple period. They purport to contain the last words of the twelve sons of the patriarch Jacob. In the Testament of Naphtali we read:

If you do what is good, my children, both men and angels will bless you;… and the devil will flee from you, and the wild animals will be afraid of you, and the Lord will love you, and the angels will keep close to you…. But who does not do what is good—men and angels will curse him; …and the devil will use him as his own peculiar instrument, and every wild animal will gain the mastery over him, and the Lord will hate him. (T. Naphtali 8:4, 6 [trans., de Jonge, 571-572])[30a]

This is the most complete parallel to the Markan account in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. What we read in the Testament of Issachar belongs to the same cluster of ideas:

Do these things [i.e., love God and neighbor] too, my children, and every spirit of Beliar will turn and run, and nothing that wicked men can do will prevail against you; and you will gain the mastery over every wild beast, [118] since you have with you the God of heaven, sharing men’s company, in simplicity of heart. (T. Issachar 7:7 [trans., de Jonge, 555])[31]

Unlike T. Naphtali,[32] in T. Issachar only the consequences of the right action, but not the consequences of wrong action, are described. Also T. Issachar omits angels from the triad of demons, angels, and wild animals which we encounter in T. Naphtali and Mark. In the Testament of Danwe read only of the devil’s flight:

So keep, my children, the Lord’s commands and observe his law; and turn from anger and hate falsehood, that the Lord may dwell in you and Beliar may flee from you. (T. Dan 5:1 [trans., de Jonge, 564])

Incidentally, we also find similar teaching in the New Testament, in the Epistle to James:

Submit yourselves, therefore, to God. But resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Approach God, and he will approach you. (James 4:7-8a)

The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs were written in Greek and belongs to a semi-Essene environment, as does the Jewish source known as the “Two Ways, which stands behind the early Christian work known as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles or Didache,[33] although neither of these two writings are themselves Essene. A Hebrew fragment of the Testament of Naphtali (4QTNaph [4Q215]) and Aramaic fragments of the Testament of Levi (1QTLevi ar [1Q21]; 4QTLevia [4Q213]; 4QTLevib [4Q214]), which are not identical to the Greek Testaments, but which served as sources for the Greek Testaments, have been found discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.[34] It will be seen that the semi-Essene origins of the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the origins of their Hebrew and Aramaic sources from the Essene world will be of crucial importance. The Essenes were known to be a baptistic sect, and the baptism of John was ideologically identical to the Essene ritual immersion.[35] It is not insignificant that the Markan account of Jesus’ temptation has important parallels in semi-Essene sources.

It is certainly no coincidence that, in addition to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, motifs found in Mark 1:12-13 also appear in a work known as the Shepherd of Hermas.[36] This early Christian document was written in Greek around 100 C.E. After the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it became clear that the author of the Hermas was influenced by Essene dualism and pneumatology (i.e., beliefs concerning spirits). The Shepherd of Hermas is closely related in this respect to the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, both in terms of content and inner structure. The similarity seems to go so far as to suggest that the author of Hermas knew and used documents written in the community that produced the Greek Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. The flow from Judaism to Christianity via Esseneism seems to have been fairly smooth in such circles. [119] This is shown, among other things, by the Christian interpolations in the Greek Testaments themselves.

In the Shepherd of Hermas we often encounter the notion that the devil must flee from the one who adheres to God, and the reasoning behind this concept is instructive.[37] Such explanations almost exclusively occur in Hermas’ Twelfth Mandate (§44-49).[38] Thus, the reader is instructed:

But put on the desire of righteousness, and resist them [i.e., evil desires], being armed with the fear of the Lord. For the fear of God dwells in the desire which is good. If the evil desire see you armed with the fear of God, and resisting it, it will flee far from you and will no longer be seen by you, for fear of your weapons. (Hermas, 12 Mand. 2:4 [45:4] [ed. Lake, 2:127-128])[38a]

This is even clearer in the following exhortation:

Be converted, you who walk in the commandments of the devil, which are difficult and bitter and cruel and foul, and do not fear the devil, for there is no power in him against you. For I, the angel of repentance who masters him, will be with you. The devil can only cause fear, but fear of him has no force. Therefore do not fear him and he will fly from you. (Hermas, 12 Mand. 4:6-7 [47:6-7] [ed. Lake, 132-133])

To fully understand this concept, we shall cite one additional parenetic passage:

He [i.e., the devil] cannot…oppress the servants of the Lord who hope in him with all their heart. The devil can wrestle with them, but he cannot throw them down. If then you ‘resist him’ he will be conquered and ‘fly from you’ in shame. But as many…as are empty fear the devil as though he had power. When a man fills very many pots with good wine, and among those pots a few are half empty, he comes to the pots, and does not consider those which are full, for he knows that they are full, but he looks at those which are half empty, fearing that they have gone sour, for empty pots quickly go sour, and the flavour of the wine is spoilt. So also the devil comes to all the servants of God, tempting them;[39] as many therefore as are full of faith withstand him powerfully, and he departs from them,[40] having no room by which to enter. Then, therefore, he comes to those who are half empty and finding room he enters into them, and does what he will in them, and they become his servants.[41] (Hermas, 12 Mand. 5:2-4 [48:2-4] [ed. Lake, 134-135])

I hope the attentive reader has noticed that this entire complex of ideas is not only related to Jesus’ by the devil, but also contributes much to the understanding of Jesus’ saying on the return of an evil spirit (Matt. 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26). We were also able to see that the pneumatic doctrine in question, in whole or in part, is primarily reflected in the Essene or Essene-influenced Jewish and early Christian writings. Since this doctrine [120] has a strong dualistic tendency, it is not surprising to learn that it was almost certainly inherited from Persian religion. In a recently published Persian source,[42] which belongs to a later period but contains ancient ideas, we find this pneumatic doctrine in two sections. The one section,[43] although having some difficulties in its present form, sheds new light on Jesus’ saying on the return of an evil spirit:

When a man disciplines (his adherence to) the law by action and puts it into practice, the [evil] demon who formerly committed sins departs from his body. It carries (the sin) off, rushes to the spiritual [i.e., good] demon and stands in front of him, and turns from there towards the man from whose body he rushed, calls to him, cries, and shows (the following:) “Renounce what you have done, and do not do it henceforth, for you ought to act deceitfully”. Or he shows (as follows:) “Act in the same way as you acted (before)”. If the man renounces that which he has done and which he desires to do, the [evil] demon rushes back to the body and spoils and corrupts it more than it was before.[44] If the man does not desist from the things of the gods when (the [evil] demon) calls him, the [evil] demon is snatched by the same spiritual demon and is smashed, destroyed and annihilated. (Dēnkard 6:315 [trans. Shaked, 125])

In another section[45] of the same Persian work we read:

For as long as the man thinks good deeds and righteousness the gods stay in his body and the demons are made powerless and depart, and when he thinks sinful things, the demons rush into his body” (Dēnkard 6:236 [trans. Shaked, 93]).[46]

We have tried to shed light on a whole world of ideas from the realm of demonic pneumatology, and have moved from Hermas and the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs to Zoroastrianism. Our main purpose in this odyssey has been to better understand the Markan account of Jesus’ temptation. If we interpret Mark 1:12-13 with the help of the Testament of Naphtali (8:4-6),[47] then it becomes clear what the author of Mark wanted to communicate: Since Jesus was without sin, the devil could not harm him. Satan was forced to retreat, and even the wild beasts were subject to Jesus, who was able live among them unharmed, while the angels cared for him and served him. The entire scene lacks authenticity. Those who deny an historical event behind the Q account of Jesus’ trial will at least have to admit that the story is spiritually true. It has now been shown that Mark’s version does not even have spiritual veracity, it is an entirely literary creation. My experience suggests that it is by no means impossible that the author of Mark knew and even made use of the Q version [121] of Jesus’ temptation; but he only took the essential details and so the original character of the temptation narrative in Q disappeared altogether. In that case, the triad of devils, animals and angels appears both in Mark and in the Testament of Naphtali for the same symbolic purpose. The most probable explanation for this agreement is that the author of Mark had read somewhere that a devout person cannot be harmed by the devil or wild animals and that the angels are at his service, and he wanted to connect this idea to the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. Mark’s source for this idea, must have been quite similar to the Testament of Naphtali, both literarily and intellectually, but was certainly not identical with it. In any case, this unknown source was the inspiration behind Mark’s version of the temptation of Jesus.

Assessing Mark’s Version of the Temptation Narrative

Shall we conclude, then, that the Markan account of Jesus’ temptation is completely worthless? I think not. Mark’s version of Jesus’ temptation has two points that certainly are of value. First, both according to the Markan (Mark 1:12-13) and the Q (Matt. 4:1ff.; Luke 4:1ff.) versions of the temptation narrative, Jesus’ temptations follow his baptism—and not just chronologically. Mark and Q agree that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert where the devil tested him. It is possible, of course, that the author of Mark drew this detail as an excerpt from Q (or from the tradition that underlies it). In any case, the report that the Spirit led Jesus to face the trial seems to form a genuine link between baptism and temptation narratives: it was the very Spirit that was given to Jesus at baptism that led him into the desert to be tested.[48] It is also of great significance that the heavenly voice at Jesus’ baptism refers to Jesus as the Son of God, and that Jesus is then tempted by the devil as the Son of God. But this link between the two accounts is only present in the Q version.

But there is also a second, different connection between baptism and the appearance of the devil. We have been able to cite the Testament of Naphtali (8:4-6) as the closest parallel to the Markan version of the temptation narrative, and have noted additional parallels from the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. We have already stated that these Testaments originated in the context of Essenism.[49] Certainly John the Baptist belonged to this broader Essene movement.[50] Although baptism is never explicitly mentioned in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs, it does not preclude that this document was written in a baptistic group close to the Essenes. I assume readers are aware that both John and the Essenes practiced ritual immersions; [122] that the ideology behind John’s baptism was identical with Essene views of ritual immersion, I have attempted to show elsewhere.[51] Both the Essenes and John the Baptist were convinced that for anyone who truly repents immersion will purify him from all his sins by means of the Holy Spirit. Although the Essenes immersed themselves frequently, their initial immersion was certainly regarded as particularly important, since only full members of the sect were admitted to their ritual baths.[52] It seems—though this is not certain—that the baptism of John was unique as a baptism of repentance for the redemption of sins. So it was no stretch of the imagination for someone to suppose that the devil would flee from the person whose sins have been eradicated by baptism, and that the wild beasts fear that person and that the angels would assist him. At any rate, that is what the author of Mark imagined, and in that sense he depicted Jesus’ temptation in the desert. The parallels—without which this point could not have been fully comprehended—have shown that of the triad consisting of the devil, the wild animals, and the angels, the devil is actually the most important. Moreover, it became a deep-rooted Christian belief that at baptism a person is freed from the realm of Satan, which is why exorcism soon became part of the baptismal rite.[53]

We have yet to cite an actual Essene source for the devil’s retreat from the righteous. In the Damascus Document, the work of an Essene sister community, we read:

וביום אשר יקום (יקים) האיש על נפשו לשוב אל תורת משה יסור מלאך המשטמה מאחריו אם יקים את דבריו על כן נימול {ב}אברהם ביום דעתו

And on the day that a man resolves in his soul to return to the Torah of Moses, the angel Mastemah will turn aside from behind him if his words are resolute. That is why Abraham was circumcised on the day of his knowledge. (CD-A XVI, 4-6)

Jewish tradition regards Abraham’s circumcision as the means of his entry into the covenant. That is why the circumcision of Abraham is compared with entry into the “new covenant” of the Essene community.[54] Upon entering the covenant the new Essene initiates gained access to ritual immersion, and it was believed that the angel Mastemah (i.e., the devil) had to depart from him. In this baptistic sect, ritual immersion was associated with abolishing the devil’s hold over a person and with his flight, so it is probably safe to assume that the followers of John the Baptist likewise believed that the devil and his entourage could no longer harm a baptized individual.

There can hardly be any doubt, from an historical point of view, that there was a direct connection between Jesus’ baptism and his temptation by the devil. This connection—probably inspired by something the author of Mark had read (presumably in Greek) in document in which the devil’s flight, the taming of wild animals, and the assistance of the angels were joined as they are in the Testament Naphtali—led to the story we find in Mark 1:12-13, which the author of Mark told in place of the actual temptation narrative which he knew from traditional sources. But even in the actual story of Jesus’ temptation found in Q (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13), the temptation was a sequel to Jesus’ baptism.[55] Factually, the temptation also relates [123] to the preceding baptism: 1) the Spirit, which Jesus had received at baptism, drove him into the wilderness; 2) the heavenly voice at the baptism recognized Jesus God’s son, while in the temptation narrative the devil attempts to seduce Jesus into drawing dangerous conclusions based on his divine sonship. But the connection between the temptation of Jesus and baptism is much simpler in Q than in Mark. The author of Mark wanted to present the defeat of the devil as resulting from the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.[56] He wanted to depict the supernatural abilities a human being obtains when he has become a servant of God in the fullest sense! Although the temptation logically follows baptism, the temptation of Jesus according to Q is at once autonomous: the temptation is that of the Son of God by the devil, and the choices of the man Jesus against the satanic temptations determine the path of career, ultimately leading to the cross.


With deep reverence, we have attempted to shed some light on the events reported about Jesus’ temptation by Satan. We have examined the details from their Jewish context(s). This is how one ought always to proceed when interpreting the New Testament. One should also take the different movements within ancient Judaism into consideration. In the present case we have seen how important the discovery of the scrolls of Qumran has been for understanding the distinctions between these groups. The weight of hebraica veritas for New Testament exegesis has been demonstrated by our examination of the Jewish pre-history of the word “alone” in Matt. 4:10 and Luke 4:8. “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him alone”—this obligation, which has cost the Jewish people a great deal of blood, should also warn Christians against temptation.

Click here to read the Whole Stones blog.


My thanks to Hiromu Nagahara and Pieter Lechner, without whose help this translation would not have been possible.—JNT

[*] This article originally appeared as “Die Versuchung Jesu und ihr jüdischer Hintergrund,” Judaica: Beiträge zum Verstehen des Judentums 45 (1989): 110-128. I have slightly rearranged the paragraph order for better logical organization. I have therefore marked original page numbers at approximate breaking points in brackets like this: [110].

[1] See especially Ulrich Luz, Das Evangelium nach Matthäus (Neukirchen, 1985), 1:158-167 (bibliography on 158) [= idem, Matthew: A Commentary (Hermeneia; 3 vols.; trans. James E. Crouch; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2007), 1:147-155 (bibliography on 147)—JNT]; Jacques Dupont, Les tentations de Jesus au desert (Bruges, 1967); E. Lohmeyer, Das Evangelium des Markus (Gottingen, 1963), 28; E. Klostermann, Das Matthausevangelium (Tübingen, 1971), 26-29; idem, Das Lukasevangelium (Tübingen 1975), 58-61; V. Taylor, The Gospel According to St. Mark (London, 1952), 162-164; Heinz Schürmann, Das Lukasevangelium (Freiburg i.Br., 1969), 1:204-220 (bibliography on 204f.).

[2] Thus according to David Friedrich Strauss, Das Leben Jesu (Tübingen, 1935), but not in Christian literature until Origen. See M. Schneider, La tentation de Jesus (Paris, 1962).

[2a] Luz (Matthew, 1:150 n. 20) pointed out that Tertullian (On Baptism §20) espoused the view that Jesus recapitulates Israel’s trials in the wilderness.—JNT

[3] See Luz (above, n. 1), 158.

[4] See Bernhard Rehm, ed., Die Pseudoklementirren: II. Rekognitionen (Berlin, 1965), 128. [The Greek Apocalypse of Ezra similarly records that the Anti-Christ claimed, “I am the son of God and he who made stones bread and water wine” (4:27).—JNT]

[5] Compare the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs and the Book of Jubilees 10:5-9.

[6] Perhaps, in human terms, in Judaism there were already related ideas concerning the field of black magic. Jesus was suspected of exorcising demons with the help of Beelzebul, the prince of demons (Luke 11:15). So there were contemporaries of Jesus who believed that black artists used a spiritus familiaris in the style of Mephisto.

[7] On the biblical quotation (Deut. 6:13; 10:20) in our pericope and in ancient Judaism, see my extensive article, “‘But Who Can Detect Their Errors?’ (Ps. 19:13): On Some Biblical Readings in the Second Temple Period,” in David Flusser, Judaism of the Second Temple Period (2 vols.; trans. Azzan Yadin; Jerusalem: Magnes; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2007-2009), 2:162-171, esp.166-169.

[8] In both the Hebrew Bible and the LXX it reads, “You must fear the Lord your God and serve him.” “You must fear” was certainly the reading in the original Hebrew account of the temptation of Jesus. The Greek translator of Jesus’ biography changed this and wrote: “You must worship the Lord your God…,” adapting the biblical quotation to the words of the devil, who had prompted Jesus to worship him. The Greek manuscript Alexandrinus has in the two verses (Deut. 6:13; 10:20): “You must worship” instead of “fear,” and also inserts the word “alone.” Alexandrinus, therefore, has harmonized the verse with the wording of the Gospels (Matt. 4:10; cf. Luke 4:8) and thus turns out not to be an independent witness. Dupont (15) failed to notice this (above, n. 1).

[9] This excludes Codex Alexandrinus, on which, see the previous note.

[10] We have seen that in some LXX manuscripts of Deuteronomy the word “alone” was interpolated at the two parallel passages (Deut. 6:13; 10:20). This probably happened because the writer found the word in a Hebrew manuscript of Deuteronomy and missed it in his Greek vorlage. Such cases, in which LXX MSS were secondarily influenced by a Hebrew text, are known to scholars.

[11] Les Antiquités Bibliques (ed. C. Perrot and P. M. Bogaert (Paris, 1976), 190: dominus est Deus noster, et ipsi soli serviemus.

[12] See I. Elbogen, Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History (trans. Raymond P. Scheindlin; New York and Philadelphia, 1993), 51; J. Mann, “Geniza Fragments of the Palestinian Order of Service,” Hebrew Union College Annual 2 (1925): 309f. See also the excellent note by Seligman Isaac Baer, ​​Awodat Israel, 98.

[13] See m. Tamid 5:l.

[14] See y. Yom. 7:1 (44b); y. Sot. 7:6 (22a). In the latter the blessing reads: “…for you alone we will serve in fear” while in the former the word “alone” does not appear since the wording was adapted to conform to the two Bible verses (Deut. 6:13; 10:20), where the word “alone” is absent. The same applies to the two texts of the Eighteen Benedictions according to the old Palestinian rite, which J. Mann (see above, n. 12) published from the Geniza manuscripts. According to the text on page 310, the blessing is complete, while in the first text (on page 309) the word “alone” is missing; yet another adaptation to the Masoretic text. For the wording of the blessing after the Palestinian rite, Yalkut Shim‘oni 2 §80 (on 1 Sam. 2:1) is especially important, where it is logical to say: “…for you alone we will serve in fear.” The source is the ancient Midrash Yelamdenu. On this midrash see H. L. Strack and G. Sternberger, Einleitung in Talmud und Midrasch (Munich, 1982), 279-282.

[15] See above, n. 12 and n. 14.

[16] As far as I know, it was replaced by the new eulogy in the Sephardic rite on all occasions and in the Ashkenazi rite in Israel.

[17] See Michael Sachs Festgebete der israeliten: Bd. 7, Pessachfest, 190. Sachs translates: “Blessed are you, O Eternal, whom alone we revere.” Perhaps his interpretation is better than mine.

[18] As reported by Frank M. Cross, under whose care are the Bible fragments from Qumran. He also suggested after our conversation that the word “alone” must have been in the Palestinian text of the time.

[19] See Dupont (above, n. 1), 91; Lohmeyer (above, n. 1), 28; Taylor (above, n. 1), 162f.; Schürmann (above, n. 1), 218.

[20] See above, n. 8.

[21] So Luke, which is biblical (cf. Num. 20:8!), and acceptable in Hebrew (or Aramaic). But on the other hand, perhaps Matthew’s version is correct which speaks—in the plural—of “these stones.”

[22] This verse (Deut. 6:16) and the previous one (Ps. 91:11f.) has been translated according to the Hebrew text.

[23] We did the same thing here, and see above, n. 8.

[24] Hopefully the results in this case will also confirm my synoptic hypothesis. See D. Flusser, Die rabbinischen Gleichnisse und der Gleichniserzähler Jesus (Berne, 1981), 195-197. Even those who disagree with my remarks will be able to draw almost the same benefit from my examination for an understanding of this pericope.

[25] See H. Schürmann (above, n. 1), 218 and n. 230.

[26] E. Lohmeyer (above, n. 1).

[27] The former fast is mentioned in Deut. 9:9.

[28] If one reads Mark 1:12-13 in conjunction the “Magic Flute” of Schikaneder and Mozart surprising parallels emerge. In the “Magic Flute,” as in Mark’s temptation narrative, the new initiate to a sacred order dwells unscathed among wild beasts (I, 15 and II, 19), the three angelic boys serve him and the power of evil vanishes. The parallel to Mark l:12-13 is therefore instructive, in that a genuine relationship with a fairy-tale archetype comes to light, for which we were otherwise completely unprepared. The additional ancient Jewish sources will confirm our impression.

[29] See C. Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels (2 vols.; 2d ed.; London: Macmillan, 1927), 1:9.

[30] See the critical edition of the Greek text: The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (ed. M. de Jonge; Leiden, 1978), and his English translation with introduction and bibliography in: The Apocryphal Old Testament (ed. H. F. D. Sparks: Oxford, 1984), 505-600. See the German translation by E. Kautzsch, Die Apokryphen und Pseudepigraphen: 2. Bd. Die Pseudepigraphen (Darmstadt, 1962), 458ff.; introduction and translation by F. Schnapp. The Testament of Naphtali is also included my article “Naphtali, Testament of,” in Encyclopaedia Judaica (EJ), (1971), 12:821f.; see also my other articles: “Patriarchs, Testaments of the Twelve,” EJ, 13:184-186; “Levi, Testament of,” EJ, 11:88; “Midrash Va-Yissa’u,” EJ 11:1520f.

[31] Although one manuscript indicates that the conclusion (“walking together with men in singleness of heart”) may be a Christian interpolation, I am not convinced. As the title of the Testament lssachar claims, this testament is about simplicity. For the words themselves, see Gen 5:22-24; 6:9; 17:1.

[32] For my EJ contributions, see above n. 30. See also, D. Flusser, “A New Sensitivity in Judaism and the Christian Message,” in, idem, Judaism and the Origins of Christianity (Jerusalem: Magness, 1988), 469-489.

[33] For the time being, see K. Wengst, Didache, etc., (Darmstadt, 1984), 20-22; W. Rordorf and A. Tuilier, eds., La doctrine des douze Apôtres (Paris, 1978), 22-34. A critical edition of the Latin translation of this originally Jewish source can be found there (203-210). [And see now, David Flusser and Huub van de Sandt, The Didache: Its Jewish Sources and its Place in Early Judaism and Christianity (CRINT III.5; Minneapolis: Fortress, 2002).—JNT]

[34] Apparently among the Qumran fragments a testament Judah has also been found. I have long suspected that there was such a “Qumran” source for the Greek Testament of Judah.

[35] See D. Flusser, “The Baptism of John and the Dead Sea Sect,” in idem, Jewish Sources in Early Christianity: Studies and Essays (Tel Aviv: Sifriat Poalim, 1979 [in Hebrew]), 81-112.

[36] See Hermas, Le pasteur (ed. R. Joly; Paris, 1968); Der Hirt des Hermas, explained by Martin Dibelius (Tübingen, 1923). On the Essene aspects of the work, see J. P. Audet, “Affinités littéraires et doctrinales du Manuel de Discipline,” Revue Biblique 60 (1953): 43-82; and also Joly, Hermas, Le pasteur, 44-47.

[37] Indispensable for the understanding of the whole is the excursus in Dibelius (above, n. 36), 517-519. On page 517 he rightly mentioned the connection between this motif and Jesus’ saying on an evil spirit’s return (Matt. 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26). I hope to have the opportunity to discuss this issue more fully.

[38] This commonplace can also be found in Mand. 7:2 (37:2): “Thou shalt not fear the devil. For if you fear the Lord, you will become master of the devil, for he has no power.” The most important passages in the twelfth mandate are: 12:2 (45:2-5); 12:4 (47:6-7); 12:5 (48:2-4); 12:6 (49:1-5).

[38a] English translation according to Kirsopp Lake, trans., The Apostolic Fathers (2 vols.; Loeb; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1912-1913).

[39] The Greek term is ἐκπειράζων (ekpeirazōn), which also means “try.” The verb is the same as πειράζειν (peirazein, “to test,” “to tempt”) which in Jesus’ temptation. In terms of content, our section is noteworthy in this regard. Cf. 1 Peter 5:8f.

[40] The Greek phrase is ἀποχωρεῖ ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν (apochōrei ap’ avtōn). It is also possible to translate this as: “it moves away from them.”

[41] See especially Hermas 33:2-6 and 34:5-7. In addition to the passages from Hermas, which Dibelius (above, n. 36) discussed in his excursus (517-519), see also Audet (above, n. 36), 62f., especially 64-66; O. Betz, Offenbarung und Schriftdeutung in der Qumransekte (Tübingen, 1960), 126-135; and the Damascus Document (CD) V, 11; VIII, 3-4; XII, 11; Wis. Sol. 1:3-5 and Eph. 4:30. The whole complex deserves a detailed treatment, as stated above in n. 37. Neither should it be forgotten that the same pneumatic concept is found in the apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon (1:3-5), and that in the Greek Testament of Naphtali (1:2-4) a related concept is at play. In the Essene Damascus Document (V, 11; VII, 3-5) there is talk of the defilement of their Holy Spirit (‏את רוח קדשיהם טמאו). This unusual Hebrew phrase, which stands for the Holy Spirit in both passages of the Damascus Document, is of special significance for the biblical origin of the whole complex of ideas in Judaism and early Christianity. In Isa. 63:10 it says, “But they rebelled and grieved his holy spirit.” In the Masoretic text we read רוּחַ קָדְשׁוֹ (rūaḥ qodshō, “the spirit of his holiness”), but in the Isaiah scroll from Qumran, the reading is רוח קדשיו (rūaḥ qodāshāv, “the spirit of his holy ones”; 1QIsaa LI, 6) (the following verse with “his Holy Spirit,” Isa. 63:11, reads the same in the Isaiah scroll as in the MT). This reading was also available to the author of the Damascus Document, which is important. In this way, we learn that the biblical foundations for our range of ideas were already found in Isa. 63:10. If someone grieves the Spirit of Holiness that God has put into the interior of a person, then that person will be endangered by fate. See also Eph. 4:30 and D. Flusser, “Ich habe die Erde wie Nebel verdeckt”, in: Entschluss, (Wien, 1987/6): 8f.

[42] Shaul Shaked, trans. The Wisdom of the Sasanian Sages [Dēnkard VI]) (Persian Heritage Series No. 34; Boulder, Colo.: Westview, 1979).

[43] Paragraph 315, p. 125.

[44] Cf. Matt. 12:45 and Luke 11:26: “And that person ends up worse than he was at first.”

[45] Paragraph 236, p. 93.

[46] I hope the striking examples from this—probably originally Persian—cluster of ideas have shown that Jesus, in his saying on an evil spirit’s return (Matt. 12:43-45; Luke 11:24-26), drew his ideas from these demonological concepts. For factual considerations I would not claim that these widespread demonological concepts originated with the saying of Jesus. Jesus inherited the concept of the vacant space within human beings (see Hermas 48:2-4 and the vessel inhabited by the devil = the body in the T. Naphtali 8:6). Prior to Jesus—and contemporaneously with him—the moral conclusion to be drawn from this idea was that one should attach oneself to God, for then the devil has nowhere in a person to inhabit and consequently the devil must flee; but when the Holy Spirit “forsakes the person in whom he dwells, that person becomes empty of the righteous spirit, and henceforth is filled with evil spirits” (Hermas 34:7). Jesus reshaped this image, greatly weakening its dualistic aspect. A person is no longer forsaken by the divine Spirit, but by an impure spirit, which resumes occupation after having found the house empty. Of importance to Jesus’ new understanding is that the returning impure spirit not only finds the space vacated, but also scrubbed and furnished. Obviously, the person was confident that he was free of the evil spirit, and in his complacency did nothing to fill his inner emptiness with positive values—and this inevitably led to the person’s new and worse entrapment. Luke’s version is more correct than Matthew’s, when he makes the saying on an evil spirit’s return follow directly on Jesus’ defense against the accusation that he was in league with the devil.

[47] Perhaps the passage we cited from the Testament of Naphtali is not merely semi-Essene, but comes directly from “Qumran,” since a Hebrew fragment of the Testament of Naphtali was discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

[48] See Matt. 3:16; Mark 1:10; Luke 3:22a. Immediately afterwards the words of the heavenly voice are communicated. That the Spirit as at work in Essene immersions can be seen from the Rule of the Community (1QS II, 26-III, 12). Since John the Baptist’s understanding of ritual immersion was identical to the Essene concept, the Spirit’s effect at John’s baptism was not restricted to Jesus. See my article mentioned above, n. 35.

[49] See above, n. 30 for the text and also n. 32.

[50] See my essay mentioned above (n. 35).

[51] 1QS II, 26-II, 12. See D. Flusser, Jesus (Reinbek, 1968), 25-28. Josephus described John the Baptist in his Antiquities 18:116-119.

[52] See 1QS V, 13f. and J. Light, The Rule Scroll (Jerusalem, 1965), 128f. [in Hebrew].

[53] See, for example, J. Schlecht, Der Exorcismus im altchristlichen Taufritual (Paderborn, 1909). See also J. Ysebaert, Greek Baptismal Terminology: Its Origin and Early Development (Nijmegen, 1962). For further details see D. Flusser and S. Safrai, “Who Sanctified the Beloved in the Womb?” Immanuel 11 (Jerusalem, 1980): 46-55; D. Flusser, “Die Sakramente und das Judentum,” in, idem, Bemerkungen eines Juden zur christlichen Theologie (München, 1984), 71-77 (repr. from: Judaica 39.1 [1983]); K. Traede, in Reallexikon für Ahtike und Christentum 7 (Stuttgart, 1969): 76-85; W. Nagel, in: TRE 10 (1982): 751f.

[54] That this passage deals with entering the Essene covenant becomes clear a few lines earlier in CD XVI, 1-2. On the obligation to “return to the law of Moses” (CD XVI, 1-2, 4-5), see 1QS V, 7-9; see also additional passages in J. Licht, The Rule Scroll (above, n. 52), 131.

[55] Thus according to Matthew. Luke (3:23-38) inserted Jesus’ genealogy here.

[56] Whether the author of Mark was aware of the baptistic background of his source, or whether even the source from which he took his note spoke of a baptism, cannot be said with certainty. It would have been enough if the source had been as secretive in this respect as the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs. Then the author of Mark could have attached the temptation of Jesus to the motif of his source of the flight of the devil from a person who is obedient to God. If the author of Mark really did not know the baptistic character of his source, then he intuitively saw the connection. By the way, if our remarks are correct, it seems that one can justifiably ask whether Mark understood the unique nature of Jesus’ temptation by Satan. Understanding Jesus temptation in terms of the experience of an initiate who has become sinless through baptism is to gloss over the cosmic struggle between Jesus and Satan. If the Q version of the temptation narrative is more original then the story is authentic and one should not deny it an historical kernel.

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