Order of Jesus' Temptations


Matthew 4:1-11

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple.

"If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me."

Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.


Luke 4:1-13

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, 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.

The devil said to him, "If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Man does not live on bread alone.'"

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

Jesus answered, "It says: `Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.


In his Encylopedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason Archer points out that Matthew uses time-ordering language like "then" (tote) and "again" (palin), whereas Luke simply uses "and," e.g. "Jesus was tempted in this way, and this, and this." To this I would add that Matthew's description of the "worship Satan" temptation makes it clear that it's the last one, for Jesus tells Satan to go away and Satan leaves. Therefore it's reasonable to believe that Matthew's order is the order in which they occurred (though no one claims to know for sure).

Why then does Luke use a different order? Archer suggests it may have been for dramatic effect. Peter Davids argues in Hard Sayings of the Bible that Luke often emphasizes geographical, or directional, order and arranged the temptations accordingly, so that Jesus moves from the wilderness to the mountains of Jerusalem to Jerusalem itself. The main point, however, is that Luke's account doesn't have to be strictly chronological to be true, particularly as his language doesn't suggest that it is strictly chronological.


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