Posted by: chuckbumgardner | October 20, 2015

Kingdoms

I’ve been aware for quite awhile that Matthew and Luke narrate the three temptations of Christ in different orders. Matthew gives them thus: stones to bread, pinnacle of the temple, then the kingdoms of the world; Luke reverses the last two: stones to bread, the kingdoms of the world, then the pinnacle of the temple. I’ve read before that while Matthew orders the temptations chronologically (note τότε as a temporal marker in 4:5), Luke rearranges them in a topical manner, making the pinnacle of the temple temptation the most prominent by putting it last, thus tying in the temptation narrative with his overarching interest in the temple and/or Jerusalem.

This may well be, but I noticed this morning how retaining the chronological order allows Matthew to tie Jesus’s temptation in with one of Matthew’s major emphases: the kingdom of heaven. In Matt 4:8-10, the last of Jesus’s three temptations is set forth, and he successfully overcomes the devil’s offer:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'”

Directly after the narrative of the temptations, Matthew speaks of the beginning of Jesus’s ministry. After setting the stage with a historical note (4:12-13) and an OT connection (4:14-16), he summarizes Jesus’s preaching ministry, which picked up where John had left off (3:1-2; cf. 4:12):

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Of course, one might simply observe that since the kingdom of heaven is a major theme of Matthew’s, wherever the kingdoms of the world temptation was narrated among the three temptations, it would provide a contrast in the context of the Gospel. That is true. It still seems striking to me that in Matthew’s recounting of Jesus’s temptation by Satan, by virtue of the order of the temptations, the repudiation of the kingdoms of the world is juxtaposed with Jesus’s formal embarking on his ministry of proclaiming the kingdom of heaven.

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Responses

  1. Interesting. Thanks


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