E. The Testing of the Son of God (4:1–11)
1 Then Jesus was taken up 1 into the wilderness by the Spirit to be tested 2 by the devil. 2 He went without food for forty days and forty nights, and in the end he was famished. 3 Then the tempter approached him and said, “If you are the Son of God, give orders for these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But Jesus replied, “It is written,
‘A person is not to 3 live on bread alone,
but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
‘He will make his angels
responsible for you,
and they will lift you in their arms
so that you never hit your foot against a stone.’ ”
7 Jesus replied, “It is written also,
‘You are not to put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
8 Again the devil transported him to a very high mountain and showed him all theE. kingdoms of the world in all their glory, E. 9 and said to him, “I will give you all this, if you will bow down and worship me.” 6 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan; for it is written,
‘You are to worship the Lord
he is the only one you are to serve.’ ”
11 Then the devil left him alone, and angels came to him and took care of 7 him.
All three synoptic writers record an experience of Jesus in the wilderness in confrontation with the devil immediately after his baptismal revelation and before his return to Galilee. But while Mark presents only a brief tableau of the opposing forces, Matthew and Luke record a three-point dialogue between the tempter and Jesus which explores more deeply the nature of the “testing” involved, the details of which, if they are not purely imaginary, can only have come from Jesus’ own subsequent recalling of the event.
Matthew and Luke present the second and third elements in the dialogue in a different order. Reasons for preferring each order can be suggested. Luke’s order brings the series to a climax with the devil’s subtlest ploy in that he in his turn offers a scriptural text in support of his proposal. Luke’s special interest in Jerusalem may also have led him to prefer concluding the story there. In Matthew’s account, however, the more subtle suggestions of the first two proposals are succeeded by a blatant challenge to God’s authority when the devil “drops his disguise” (Schweizer, 58) and the central issue is brought into the open. Matthew’s account thus ends on a more decisive note, which he will exploit at the end of his gospel with an allusion to this third temptation in Jesus’ eventual claim to an authority greater than anything the devil could offer (28:18). The escalation of the issues posed is appropriately symbolized by the geographical escalation from the wilderness to a high point in Jerusalem and then to a very high mountain. Matthew’s inclusion of “Away with you, Satan” in Jesus’ third reply suitably brings the confrontation to a close. The majority of recent interpreters think Matthew’s order, which also brings the two “Son of God” temptations together at the beginning, more likely to be original. 8
This incident is traditionally described as “the temptation of Jesus.” But the English language cannot represent the ambivalence of the key Greek verb peirazō and its derivatives. In so far as the devil is portrayed as trying to induce Jesus to act against the will of God, “tempt” is the right meaning, but the same verb frequently means to “test” with no pejorative connotation. Its other uses in Matthew are of human subjects who come to Jesus with hard questions hoping to catch him out or expose him (16:1; 19:3; 22:18, 35); the meaning is in each case pejorative, but the questions involved are not “temptations” to do wrong, but dialogue challenges from Jesus’ enemies. Here the introduction to the pericope indicates that while the “testing/tempting” is to be carried out by the devil, the whole experience takes place under the guidance of the Spirit and therefore according to the purpose of God. Underlying it, as we shall see, is an OT passage which speaks of Israel’s wilderness experiences similarly as a “test” (LXX expeirazō) designed by God “to find out what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commandments.” (Deut 8:2; cf 8:16) In the interpretation that follows I shall try to show that it is primarily concerned with this divine “testing,” rather than the Satanic “tempting” which was its means. The title given by B. Gerhardsson to his illuminating monograph on this pericope, The Testing of God’s Son, seems to me to sum up its thrust admirably.
The focus of the “testing” agenda is indicated by the clause which introduces the devil’s first two suggestions, “If you are the Son of God.” The link with 3:17 is obvious. The special relationship with God which has just been authoritatively declared at the Jordan is now under scrutiny. The following clauses do not cast doubt on this filial relationship, but explore its possible implications: what is the appropriate way for God’s Son to behave in relation to his Father? In what ways might he exploit this relationship to his own advantage? The actions suggested are ones which might be expected to put that relationship under strain. The devil is trying to drive a wedge between the newly-declared Son and his Father.
This understanding of the story leaves little room for the popular notion that what is under scrutiny here is the nature of Jesus’ messianic agenda. The suggestion that turning stones into bread would be a way of attracting a following by the provision of cheap food, and that an uninjured leap from the temple roof would demonstrate the Messiah’s supernatural credentials to a stunned crowd, does not match the way the story is told: the loaves are to satisfy Jesus’ own hunger, and there is no indication of any spectators for the proposed leap from the temple (even if this is understood as an actual physical event, see on v. 5). The third temptation too appeals to Jesus’ own ambition, and does not mention a messianic agenda.
It will be in his passion in Jerusalem (the “holy city,” v. 5) that Jesus’ loyalty to his role as Son of God will be supremely tested, and some features of Matthew’s wording link these two episodes at the beginning and end of his story. The devil’s temptation will be echoed by the crowd who call on Jesus to come down from the cross “if you are the Son of God” (27:40). In 26:53 Jesus will claim, but refuse to exercise, the right to call on legions of angels to deliver him (cf. 4:6). And the final dismissal, “Away with you, Satan,” will be deployed again against Peter when he tries to dissuade Jesus, whom he has just recognized as the Son of God, from going to the cross (16:23).
The most significant key to the understanding of this story is to be found in Jesus’ three scriptural quotations. All come from Deut 6–8, the part of Moses’ address to the Israelites before their entry into Canaan in which he reminds them of their forty years of wilderness experiences. It has been a time of preparation and of proving the faithfulness of their God. He has deliberately put them through a time of privation as an educative process. They have been learning, or should have been learning, what it means to live in trusting obedience to God: “As a father disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.” (Deut 8:5; for Israel as God’s son cf. Exod 4:22; Jer 31:9; Hos 11:1–4) 9 Among the lessons they should now have learned are not to depend on bread alone but rather on God’s word (8:3), not to put God to the test (6:16), and to make God the exclusive object of their worship and obedience (6:13). Now another “Son of God” is in the wilderness, this time for forty days rather than forty years, as a preparation for entering into his divine calling. There in the wilderness he too faces those same tests, and he has learned the lessons which Israel had so imperfectly grasped. His Father is testing him in the school of privation, and his triumphant rebuttal of the devil’s suggestions will ensure that the filial bond can survive in spite of the conflict that lies ahead. Israel’s occupation of the promised land was at best a flawed fulfillment of the hopes with which they came to the Jordan, but this new “Son of God” will not fail and the new Exodus (to which we have seen a number of allusions in ch. 2) will succeed. “Where Israel of old stumbled and fell, Christ the new Israel stood firm.” 10 It is probably also significant that the passage of Deuteronomy from which Jesus’ responses are drawn begins with the Šemaʿ, the text from Deut 6:4–5 recited daily in Jewish worship which requires Israel to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength;” it is precisely that total commitment to God that this wilderness experience is designed to test. 11
The story of the testing in the wilderness 12 is thus an elaborate typological presentation of Jesus as himself the true Israel, the “Son of God” through whom God’s redemptive purpose for his people is now at last to reach its fulfillment. 13
1 The fact that Jesus was taken into the wilderness by the Spirit suggests a deliberate “retreat” away from other people, but the specific area of “wilderness” is no more defined here than it was for John in 3:1. The verb “lead up” (see p. 124, n. 1 ) indicates that it was away from the Jordan, and the story assumes solitude and a lack of food resources, but the mention of a very high mountain in v. 8 cannot determine the overall location since both the mountain and Jerusalem are places to which Jesus needed to be “transported” (see on v. 5). See on 3:1 for the very positive connotations of “wilderness” in Jewish thought at the time; to be in the wilderness was to be prepared for a new beginning with God.
We should not therefore read the presence of the devil as something uniquely appropriate to this area, despite the later monastic tradition of going out into the desert to contend with demons. Indeed to judge by 12:43–45 “waterless places” are the last place a demon wants to be. The devil is present not because this is his domain, but because he has a vital role in the testing which is God’s purpose for this retreat. In this passage we meet the same character under three names, “the devil,” “the tempter” (v. 3) and “Satan” (v. 10). In 12:24 he will appear as “Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons,” and in 13:19 as “the evil one.” The terms “the devil” and “Satan” (which originate respectively from Greek and Hebrew terms for an “accuser” or “opponent”) are virtually interchangeable in the gospel tradition, as throughout the NT. The figure of Satan as an individual spiritual enemy of God and his people is found only rarely in the OT (1 Chr 21:1; Job 1–2; Zech 3:1–2), but by the first century had developed (under a variety of names: Belial, Beliar, Mastema, Azazel, but most commonly Satan) into a standard feature of Jewish belief which the Christian church fully shared. Running through Jewish references to the devil is a tension between his total hostility to God and his people and his operation apparently within and subject to the ultimate sovereignty of God, a tension which Matthew here reflects in that the devil’s intention to “tempt” Jesus to do wrong is subsumed under God’s good purpose to “test” his Son.
2 “Forty days” is used in the Bible as an idiomatic expression for a significant but limited period (e.g. Gen 7:4; Num 13:25; 1 Sam 17:16; Jonah 3:4; Acts 1:3), but Matthew speaks more specifically of “forty days and forty nights,” and in view of his interest elsewhere in Moses and Elijah it is possible that he intends that phrase to recall more specifically either the period spent without food by Moses on Mount Sinai (Exod 24:18; 34:28; Deut 9:9 etc.) 14 or by Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kgs 19:8); the latter would be a particularly suggestive allusion in that Elijah’s hunger during that period was miraculously solved by food provided by an angel (cf. v. 11). But in view of the clear background to this story in the pentateuchal narratives of Israel’s wilderness experience (see above) Jesus’ “forty days and forty nights” more obviously serve as a reminder of Israel’s “forty years” of privation and testing. 15 Matthew gives us no means of knowing whether Jesus’ fast for this period was deliberately self-imposed or simply the result of lack of available food in the wilderness (where, however, both John the Baptist and Bannus seem to have found adequate resources; see on 3:4). Jesus’ fasting is not presented as a model for his followers’ practice; this is an experience unique to the Son of God at the outset of his mission.
3 Having described Jesus’ situation in the wilderness Matthew now introduces the other principal actor in this scene. The only other NT reference to the devil as “the tempter” is in 1 Thess 3:5; in both places it is not so much an independent title as a functional description of his role in the context. The proposal to turn stones into “loaves of bread” 16 is an appeal to the miraculous power assumed to be available to a “son of God.” 17 It is not only beneath the dignity of such an exalted figure to suffer hunger, but also unnecessary since he has the means to create food. In this proposal we already hear an echo of Israel’s wilderness experience of hunger, which was met by God’s supply of manna (picked up from the ground, like stones, Exod 16:14–16); history shows that there is no need for God’s son to be hungry in the wilderness.
4 Jesus’ first reply consists solely of a quotation from LXX Deut 8:3 18 —no further argument is needed. As the first part of Deut 8:3 explains, Israel’s hunger had been a part of the educative process designed by God; it was only after they had experienced hunger that they were fed, in God’s good time not at their own convenience. This was to teach them that there are more important things in life (and especially in the life of God’s people) than material provision. The contrast between “bread” and “every word that comes from the mouth of God” 19 is of course paradoxical: God’s word does not fill the stomach. But it is a question of priority (which Jesus will express in another form in 6:24–33). Obedience to God’s will takes priority over self-gratification, even over apparently essential provision of food. 20 God will provide the food when he is ready—as indeed he will in this case, see v. 11. Jesus’ use of this OT text shows that he understood his experience of hunger as God’s will for him at the time, and therefore not to be evaded by a self-indulgent use of his undoubted power as the Son of God. To do that would be to call in question God’s priorities, and to set himself at odds with his Father’s plan. As God’s Son, Jesus must trustingly and obediently comply with his Father’s purpose (as he has just done at the Jordan, 3:15).
Neither in the devil’s suggestion in v. 3 nor in Jesus’ reply is there any hint of the miraculous provision of bread for others, still less of impressing the crowds by a display of power. In due course Jesus will indeed miraculously provide bread for hungry crowds (14:13–21; 15:32–39), but here there is no crowd, just Jesus alone with the tempter and God. It is Jesus’ filial trust that is under examination, not his messianic agenda.
5 The devil’s first proposal needed no special setting: there in the wilderness Jesus was surrounded by stones. But the remaining two proposals require different settings, and in each case we are told that the devil “transported” 21 Jesus to a new location. The fact that no actual mountain could provide a view of “all the kingdoms of the world” at once suggests that this transportation was not physical but visionary. There in the wilderness Jesus “found himself” first on top of the Jerusalem temple and then on an impossibly high mountain with a view of the whole world. Cf. the visionary visit of Ezekiel to Jerusalem while he was in fact in Babylon (Ezek 8:1–3; 11:24). 22
It is therefore not very important to decide just which part of the actual Herodian temple was meant by Matthew’s term pterygion, “little wing,” which I have translated “high corner” (see p. 125, n. 5 ). 23 Apart from the parallel in Luke (and subsequent Christian references to this passage) the word is not used elsewhere of a building feature, though there are rare uses of it in classical literature for a projecting piece of a coat of armor or of a rudder or other machinery. The context makes it clear only that it is a high part of the temple from which a fall might be expected to be fatal. This might either be a part of the sanctuary building itself (which was some fifty meters high) or perhaps of the temple’s outer portico which on the east overhung the deep Kidron valley. 24 For “the holy city” as a term for Jerusalem see 27:53; Isa 52:1; Dan 9:24; Rev 11:2; 21:2 etc.
6 The devil’s proposal again draws on the assumed privileges of a “son of God.” If Jesus can quote Scripture, so can the devil, and Jesus’ own formula “It is written” is thus deployed against him. The passage quoted from Ps 91:11–12 (in the LXX version, abbreviated) 25 is addressed to all who have chosen to “live in the shelter of the Most High;” 26 how much more can it be expected to apply to God’s special Son? A similar assumption lies behind the later “temptation” to come down from the cross, “if you are the Son of God.” (27:40) The vivid imagery of the psalm envisages some of the hazards which may be expected to confront God’s people, and promises God’s protection for them, but it does not suggest that they should take the initiative in courting such dangers. The devil’s suggestion, however, is to test out the literal truth of God’s promise of protection by deliberately creating a situation in which he will be obliged to act to save his Son’s life. In this way “man may become lord of God, and compel him to act through the power of his faith.” (Schweizer, 63) It would be “to act as if God is there to serve his Son, rather than the reverse.” (Keener, 141)
7 Jesus quotes Scripture against Scripture (his “also,” literally “again,” indicates a counter-text), not because he disputes the validity of God’s promise in Ps 91:11–12 but because he rejects the devil’s use of it to support his proposal of forcing God’s hand. Jesus selects his second Deuteronomy text (6:16, using LXX which straightforwardly translates the Hebrew) in order to draw out the implications of such an act. It would be an attempt to “put God to the test,” 27 and as such would demonstrate a lack of filial trust and a doubt of his Father’s competence or dependability. It would be like the attitude of the Israelites “at Massah,” as Deut 6:16 goes on to specify, using a Hebrew word-play which the Greek cannot capture. 28 The allusion is to Exod 17:1–7, where the Israelites’ thirst in the wilderness drove them to demand a miraculous provision of water, provoking Moses to respond, “Why do you test the Lord?”; and Moses “called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarrelled and tested the Lord, saying ‘Is the Lord among us or not?’ ” It would be that same cynical challenge which would be implied if Jesus were to force God into a physical rescue which he ought to be able to trust in without testing it.
Again, as in vv. 3–4, it is Jesus’ relationship with God which is under scrutiny, and there is no suggestion that any one else would observe the proposed “leap of faith” to use it as a proof of Jesus’ messianic credentials. 29 If, as we have discussed at v. 5, the whole experience was in any case a vision rather than an actual event in Jerusalem, that suggestion becomes even more inappropriate.
8–9 The devil’s third attempt involves another “transportation,” this time to an unspecified mountain, 30 which could be in the wilderness area (though in that case a vision of “all the kingdoms of the world” would be a wild exaggeration), but need not be since Jerusalem, the location of the last visit, was not. The mountain need be no more literal, and the traditional identification of the “Mount of the Temptation” above Jericho has no historical basis. For mountains commanding a view of promised territory cf. Gen 13:14–17; Deut 34:1–4, 31 but now much more than Canaan is in view. 32 “All the kingdoms of the world” form a telling contrast with the single “kingdom of heaven” which Jesus will soon proclaim (v. 17). The mention of the “glory” of the kingdoms of the world 33 confirms that what the devil is offering is not just a sphere for service, but paramount status, as “king of kings.” 34 A universal dominion over all peoples is a theme of some OT hopes for the people of God or their royal Messiah (Pss 2:8; 35 72:8–11; Dan 7:13–14; Zech 9:10), but the proposed route to this goal by prostration before God’s enemy strikes a new and obviously unacceptable note. The change of tone is signaled also by the omission this time of “If you are the Son of God,” which would have been blatantly at odds with this proposal to abandon Jesus’ allegiance to God. When eventually Jesus is able to claim on another mountain (but see n. 30 ) that “all authority has been given to me,” it will be as a result not of kowtowing to Satan but of suffering in obedience to God’s purpose, and then it will be all authority not only on earth but also in heaven, an authority which the devil was not able to offer (28:18).
There is not much subtlety in this temptation: it is a simple choice of allegiance. It is an offer of the right end by the wrong means—if indeed even the end is right, when it is expressed in terms of paramount glory in contrast with the obedient and self-sacrificing role which Jesus will be called to fulfill as God’s chosen servant. We shall meet a similar contrast in 10:35–45, between the human ambition of James and John and the paradoxical role of Jesus the servant who gives his life as a ransom for many.
Should the devil’s offer be read as sheer bluff, or was he understood to have some real authority over “the kingdoms of the world”? Several times in the NT he will be described in such language as “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11; 2 Cor 4:4; Eph 6:11–12; 1 John 5:19; Rev 12:9–17); in 12:26 he has his own “kingship.” As such he is understood to have real power in the present age, 36 though always under the perspective of the ultimate victory of God. And as such he can offer power and glory, but not ultimate fulfillment, still less an authority in accordance with the will of God.
10 There can only be one answer, and again it is drawn from Deuteronomy. The wording of the quotation from Deut 6:13 differs from the LXX in substituting “worship” for “fear” in the first line and in drawing out the point more clearly by the addition of “only” in the second; the first change makes the intention of the OT text clear in the light of the devil’s demand for “worship,” and the second brings into the quotation what immediately follows in Deut 6:14, the prohibition of following any other gods. But this time the quotation is not left to speak for itself, but is prefaced by a curt dismissal of the tempter, showing clearly who is in control. “Away with you” (hypage) is an imperative occurring many times in Matthew, usually in the quite positive sense of sending someone to undertake a task or sending them away with their request granted. In 20:14 it is a brusque dismissal, but here and in 16:23 it carries an even sharper tone with in each case the vocative “Satan” (“Enemy”) added, here literally appropriate but in 16:23 as a remarkably wounding epithet for Peter (see on 16:23 for the similarity between Peter’s comment and the third temptation). Jesus is not just terminating the interview: he is sending his adversary packing.
11 The devil has been defeated and leaves the field. Matthew does not say, as does Luke, that his withdrawal was temporary, but the narrative that follows will contain many further encounters with the demonic, even though not again in a narrative confrontation with the chief demon himself (see however 12:28–29 for the implication of Jesus’ continuing struggle with the “strong man”). Meanwhile Jesus, though victorious, is weak and hungry, and angels provide him with the sustenance he refused in v. 4 to commandeer for himself; compare the experience of Elijah in the wilderness (1 Kgs 19:4–8), though in that case the food was provided at the beginning of the forty days, not at the end. The angels thus fulfill their protective role as it was promised in the devil’s quotation from Ps 91:11. Jesus will later claim to have legions of angels at his call in case of need (26:53), though again he will decline to call on them. For the “caring” role of angels cf. Heb 1:14: they are “ministering spirits sent to care for (diakonia, the same term as here) those who are to inherit salvation,” though it is unlikely that Hebrews was thinking there of the provision of literal food. 37
1 ἀνάγω, to “lead up”, is used only here by Matthew. The “up” element denotes the geographically higher level of the surrounding wilderness as compared with the river bank which has been the setting of 3:1–17. Keener, 137, suggests that Matthew uses ἀνάγω to echo OT descriptions of God “leading” his people in the wilderness at the time of the Exodus.
2 See comments below for the range of meaning of πειράζω and for the essential sense of testing which underlies this story. Note, however, that in v. 3 the participle ὁ πειράζων is used to describe the devil, and there the meaning “tempt” (with malicious intent) is clear.
4 Up to this point all the narrative verbs in this story have been aorist. From here on the tenses are mixed, with παραλαμβάνει here and in v. 8 in the present tense, as are δείκνυσιν (v. 8) and ἀφίησιν (v. 11), while the aorist continues in ἔστησεν (v. 5) and προσῆλθον (v. 11). The verbs of speech are similarly mixed, with the present λέγει in vv. 6 and 10, but the aorist in ἔφη (v. 7) and εἶπεν (v. 9). The historic present perhaps adds a note of immediacy to the narrative, but the inconsistent pattern of its use makes it inappropriate to attempt to render it in translation.
5 πτερύγιον, a “small wing,” is not known elsewhere as the designation of a particular part of the temple buildings. See comments below for possible identifications. It is clear from the context that it is a high point which commands a substantial drop to ground level.
6 The same combination, πέσων προσκυνέω, was translated “prostrated themselves and paid homage to him” in 2:11. The idea of homage to a superior recurs here, but the supernatural character of the one making the demand, and the contrasting demand to worship God in v. 10, indicate that the more specifically religious terminology is in place here.
7 After the mixed aorist and present tenses of the rest of the narrative (see above n. 4) this imperfect tense conveys the sense of a settled continuing care in place of the rapid succession of testing and response. The sense of practical, even domestic, service which is often inherent in διακονέω is particularly appropriate in this context of Jesus’ extreme hunger.
8 The arguments are well set out by T. L. Donaldson, Jesus 88–90, 97–98 (Donaldson himself argues tentatively for the originality of the Lucan order). A further argument in favor of Matthew’s order may be derived from the suggestion that it corresponds to the order of the three elements of the Šemaʿ: see n. 11 below.
11 The link between the temptation narrative and the Šemaʿ is explored by B. Gerhardsson, Testing 71–79, with the conclusion that the three temptations (in their Matthean order) represents the three elements of Deut 6:5, “heart,” “soul” and “strength,” as they are expounded in m.Ber. 9:5. The first and third (the suppression of the evil inclination and the use of “mamon”) can be made to fit the equation quite well, but the second depends on the “soul” being understood in relation to martyrdom, and this is less easy to relate to the second temptation which is precisely not about God calling Jesus to lose his life.
12 While the whole pericope is set in “the wilderness,” Donaldson, Jesus 95–97, rightly points out that the transportation of Jesus to the temple and the mountain creates in fact a series of three locations. Donaldson argues that each of these (wilderness, temple, mountain) “was a place where eschatological events were expected to occur;” they were thus “entirely appropriate settings for the testing of the Son and his vocation.”
13 For this understanding of Matt 4:1–11 see my Jesus and the OT 50–53, with references to several earlier accounts, notably B. Gerhardsson, Testing, who describes the pericope as “an example of an early Christian midrash” (p. 11) based primarily on Deut 6–8. Gerhardsson’s study provides rich comparative material from the OT and later Judaism for the midrashic nature of this pericope.
14 D. C. Allison, Moses 165–169, argues for an intentional allusion to Moses here, though not all his points are equally persuasive. He acknowledges that the typology of Israel in the wilderness is primary but attributes this to the Q tradition, which Matthew has “overlaid … with specifically Mosaic motifs.” (166)
15 B. Gerhardsson, Testing 42–43, attempts to bolster this conclusion by observing that in Num 14:34 the forty years in the wilderness are linked to the forty days of the scouts’ mission, and notes that in Ezek 4:6 we find again “the principle that days can correspond to years,” but this is surely to treat the idiom too mechanically. In any case it is unnecessary: given the shared context of wilderness and hunger, the numeral alone suffices to effect the echo.
18 R. H. Gundry, Use 67 (following G. D. Kilpatrick), favors a Western reading omitting ἐκπορευομένῳ διὰ στόματος; such an abbreviation, if accepted, would represent merely a stylistic clarification of the Hebrew idiom, not a change of sense.
19 “Word” is an LXX explanatory addition: the Hebrew simply says “everything that comes out of the mouth of the Lord.” In the Deuteronomy context what came from the mouth of God would be understood primarily as his law communicated to Moses; the phrase does not in itself refer specifically to the written Bible, but in this pericope Jesus does in fact three times use words from the Pentateuch (the written form in which those utterances of God had been passed down) as his guide to living.
20 For a similar sentiment see Wisd. 16:26: “that your sons, whom you love, Lord, may learn that it is not the produce of the crops that nourishes people but it is your word that preserves those who trust in you.”
21 παραλαμβάνει, literally “takes along with him,” the same verb used for Joseph taking the child and his mother on their journeys in 2:13–14, 20–21 and for Jesus taking chosen disciples to be with him on special occasions (17:1; 20:17; 26:37).
22 L. Schiavo, JSNT 25 (2002) 141–164, interprets the whole temptation story as an “ecstatic experience” such as is narrated in some apocalyptic sources; his reading is founded especially on the distinctively Lucan phrase “led in the Spirit” (Luke 4:1), whereas Matthew’s “led up by the Spirit” less clearly suggests mystical experience.
23 Some MSS of the Theodotion translation of the obscure vision of the eschatological abomination in Dan 9:27 use πτερύγιον to represent the enigmatic cānāp, “wing,” of the Hebrew, and M. D. Goulder, Midrash 246, suggests that this passage contributed to Matthew’s wording here. It is not clear, however, that cānāp in Dan 9:27 refers to a part of the temple (that interpretation being usually suggested under the influence of Matthew’s use of πτερύγιον), so that this is to explain obscurum per obscurius.
24 Today’s visitor to Jerusalem can gain a limited impression of this feature by looking down from the top of the Herodian masonry making up the south-east corner of the temple area. But in the first century this was only the base of a huge portico which according to Josephus, Ant. 15.415, rose a further 30 meters above today’s ground level. Josephus’ description of the effect of looking down from the top of the portico well illustrates this passage: “The ravine itself was so deep that no one could bear to lean over and look down to the bottom from above; but above it stood also an immensely high portico, so that anyone who looked down from the top of its roof, with the two heights combined, would become dizzy as he looked into the depths, his eyesight being unable to reach the bottom of such an unfathomable drop.” (Ant. 15.412)
25 The second line of v. 11, “to protect you in all your ways,” is omitted, but this does not affect the sense. LXX ἐπὶ χειρῶν represents the strongly anthropomorphic Hebrew dual ʿal-cappayîm, “on their [two] hands,” but since χείρ is sometimes used for the arm rather than the hand I have translated it by the more natural English idiom, “in their arms.”
26 B. Gerhardsson, Testing 56–58, argues that this psalm is particularly appropriate in this context because it relates to the theme of special divine protection within the temple. He goes on (p. 59) to suggest less plausibly that πτερύγιον (see on v. 5) is used because several such texts speak of protection “under God’s wings.”
28 “Massah” is from the same verbal root as “test”; LXX simply translates it as “the Test,” not as a geographical name.
29 A later example of such an idea occurs in Acts of Peter 31–32 (late second century a.d.?), where Simon Magus flies over the temples and hills of Rome to the amazement of the crowd, but then as a result of Peter’s prayer falls and breaks his leg!
30 T. L. Donaldson, Jesus, has constructed a whole Matthean theology around six references to a “mountain” in this gospel (4:8; 5:1; 15:29; 17:1; 24:3; 28:16), which he takes to indicate a typology of Mount Zion. The only mountain specifically identified, however, is not Mount Zion but the Mount of Olives (24:3), while in three cases (as also in 14:23, which Donaldson does not include in his list) the phrase εἰς τὸ ὄρος is better translated “into the hills” rather than taken as referring to a specific mountain (see on 5:1–2). The two unidentified “high mountains,” here and in 17:1, are in different senses places of vision, but in neither case is there anything in the text to indicate a Zion typology.
31 D. C. Allison, Moses 169–172, finds in this motif a further proof of a Matthean Mosaic typology. See p. 130, n. 14 for his parallel argument with regard to v. 2. The arguments adduced in this case are if anything less convincing, and Allison does not address the improbability of a divine revelation in the OT being used as a model for a Satanic revelation in the NT.
34 M. D. Goulder, Midrash 246–247, draws attention to the prominence of “kingdoms” and “glory” in the stories of Dan 2–6 which focus on the resistance of God’s faithful people to the worship demanded by pagan rulers.
35 T. L. Donaldson, Jesus 94–95, following K. H. Rengstorf, notes that three features of Ps. 2:6–8 find an echo here: the king set on God’s “holy mountain,” the declaration that the king is God’s son, and the promise of a universal dominion. The link is, however, weakened, by the fact that this is the one temptation in which the title “son of God” is not explicit.
36 There is no obvious basis in the text for the more specific deduction that “Satan controls the Roman empire” and thus that Jesus’ refusal “signals his resistance to … Rome,” (Carter 106–107) making this temptation a warning against emperor worship (ibid. 111).
37 B. Gerhardsson, Testing 69–70, is probably right to insist that διακονέω here has a wider connotation than merely the provision of food, but in the narrative context this is naturally taken to be its primary focus.