Tags

, , , , , , ,

Who was the tempter?

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. Matthew 4:1 (ESV)

And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. Mark 1:13 (ESV)

for forty days, being tempted by the devil.. Luke 4:2 (ESV)

Matthew and Luke refer to “the devil”; Mark to Satan:

The term devil, employed by Luke and Matthew, comes from diabellein, to spread reports, to slander. Mark employs the word Satan (Hebrew stn, to oppose; Zech. iii.1, 2; Job i.6, etc.). The first of these names is taken from the relation of his beings to men: the second from his relations with God.

Godet, 210.  The difference is merely the choice between two names for the same person.

It is informative to note a further difference: Matthew writes that went “to be tempted by the devil”; while Luke has that he was “tempted by the devil”.  Mark uses the same verb form as Luke and the same tempter as Matthew. This is where academic readers have enormous fun trying to figure who copied whom and why they changed it. So one guy would argue that Mark wrote first and then Luke copied him but changed because Luke like the verb because that was Luke’s style; while Matthew has his own style and likes to use infinitives instead of participles but he also used the word “devil” because devil for some reason that none of know didn’t like Mark’s word Satan.

What makes the arguments so much fun is that it is impossible to prove them wrong. No one knows for certain (despite mountains of academic speculation) whether they knew of the existence of the other Gospel accounts or whether they had read them or whether they had the same thing or what not.

In each instance, the general information is identical, but the precise presentation of the information differs.  Maybe it was the result of a very complicated process of copying and editing. But consider this: What if the story about the temptation existed prior to the writing (which is pretty likely – even if you deny the historicity of the story). When the story was set down in a new language (the earliest followers of Jesus would not have been first language Greek speakers), the basic elements would remain the same, but general aspects of phrasing would change. The only real detail difference between the three accounts is the mention of the “wild beasts” in Mark (Matthew and Luke each share the longer story; Matthew and Mark share a reference to the angels).

Now the differences in phrasing of the story is easily understood by the act of translation. Here are three highly accurate translations Luke 4:2 (ESV, NIV84, NET):

‎‎Lk 4:2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry.

‎‎Lk 4:2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

‎‎Lk 4:2 where for forty days he endured temptations from the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were completed, he was famished.

The basic information is the same in each translation while the phrasing is different. None of that proves that the translators copied each other in part.