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revisions of previous postings on Mt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13

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  • Jeffrey B. Gibson
    I ve done some revision of, and made some additions to, what I ve previously posted on the questions of (1) the sources of Matthew s and Luke s WTS
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 15, 2008
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      I've done some revision of, and made some additions to, what I've
      previously posted on the questions of (1) the sources of Matthew's and
      Luke's WTS (Wilderness "Temptation" Story) and (2) the historicity of
      the event and the origin of the Matthean and Lukan versions of the WTS .

      Trusting that List Members are interested in seeing how I'm working all
      of this out, I'm posting the revisions here.

      Comments and criticisms are welcome.



      The Evangelists' Sources

      Most commentators on Mt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13, and especially those who
      accept the general validity of the "two source/document hypothesis"
      solution to the Synoptic Problem (in which the major sources of the
      Gospels of Matthew and Luke are the Gospel of Mark and a document of
      about 250 verses in length conventionally labeled ["the Sayings Gospel"]
      Q) , agree that both the Matthean and Lukan versions of the Wilderness
      temptation story are independently based upon, and derived from some
      form of "pre-Matthean" and "pre-Lukan" tradition, oral or written. But
      not all. In addition to the majority view that both Matthew's and
      Luke's versions are derived from, and are dependent upon, both Mk.
      1:12-13 and a dialogic narrative of Jesus being tested by the devil that
      Matthew and Luke found independently of one another in a document of
      some kind, we find other positions that break down roughly along these

      Luke's version is primarily derived from Matthew's which is something
      that Matthew himself, using Mk. 1:12-13 as his basis and starting
      point, creatively expanded upon and worked up into an haggadic on the
      Biblical stories of Israel's Wilderness testing (a position advanced
      and argued for by A.Farrer and Michael Goulder and strongly articulated
      and defended by Mark Goodacre, among others).

      Luke's version is wholly derived from Matthew's which in turn is
      dependent only upon a fixed pre-Matthean tradition centering in a
      dialogue between Jesus and the devil and has within it no elements from
      Mk. 1:12-13 (a position taken by J.J. Greisbach, W. Farmer, D. Peabody,
      D, Duncan, T, Longstaff and other "Griesbachians) so called Griemany
      advocates of the Griesbach Hypothesis)

      Luke' version is derived both, and in the main, from Matthew's, which in
      turn is derived from some form of a fixed pre Matthean tradition about
      Jesus being tested by the devil in the wilderness, and, at certain
      points, from Mk. 1:12-13 (a position advocated by B.C. Butler and
      other proponents of the "Augustinian hypothesis")

      Luke's version is derived from Matthew's version which is an haggadic
      midrash on the Biblical stories of Israel's Wilderness testing something
      that Matthew himself worked up without reference to, or use of, Mk.
      1:12-13, even though Matthew was aware of, and elsewhere used material
      from, the Gospel of Mark (a position advocated by W. Wilkens)

      "Die Versuchung Jesu nach Matthäus", NTS 28 (1982) 479–89; ibid.
      "Die Versuchungsgeschichte Lukas 4, 1–13 und die Komposition des
      Evangeliums", TZ 30 (1974) 262–72.

      Matthew's version is derived from Luke's version which in turn is
      dependent upon a pre Lukan midrash on the tradition of Abraham's tenth
      testing that is preserved in Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 89b
      (a position propounded by William Lockton, Robert L. Lindsey, and
      members of the Jerusalem School of Synoptic Research).

      Space forbids a discussion here of which, if any, of these positions is
      correct. But it seems clear that some -- the Griesbachian, Augustinian,
      and Jerusalem School positions in particular -- are less likely than
      others noted above. The Griesbachian and Augustinian views are bound up
      in theories of Synoptic relationships that are based no so much on a
      dispassionate analysis of the literary relationships that exist among
      and between the Synoptic Gospels as they are on acceptance of the
      validity of patristic testimony about Matthean priority and the order of
      Gospel composition, which is, at least to many, highly questionable.
      And the Jerusalem School's view is grounded in presuppositions about the
      date of Luke and the evidentiary value of the data adduced in support of
      the Gospel's early date that are untenable.

      Furthermore, absent having either (a) concrete evidence (a found scroll
      of Q?) for the existence of a discreet pre-Matthean tradition which
      contained a version of the Wilderness temptation whose form and wording
      comports with what advocates of Matthew's and/or Luke's use of it have
      (notably, not always in agreement with one another) postulated it
      possessed, or (b) some trustworthy external testimony that Matthew and
      Luke had available to them, and used, no other version of the story
      than that which is found in at Mk. 1:12-13, the validity even of the
      remaining source critical positions cannot actually be determined.
      Given the limits of our knowledge here, they must remain possibilities.

      The Historicity of the Event and the Origin of the Wilderness
      "Temptation" Story

      There is no compelling reason to doubt the claim of Matthew and Luke
      that prior to engaging in a public ministry (and as a concomitant to his
      baptism), Jesus had some sort of experience in which his resolve to
      follow a particular understanding of faithfulness to the God of Israel
      was "put to the test".

      So E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus (London: Penguin,
      1993) 117; M. Borg, Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and
      Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary (San Francisco: Harper/San
      Francisco, 2006) 124, J. Dupont, "L'origine du récit des tentations
      de Jésus au désert", RB 73 (1966) 30–76; R. Funk and the Jesus
      Seminar, The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of
      Jesus (San Francisco: Polebridge Press, 1998) 43; J.
      Murphy-O'Connor, "Triumph over Temptation. The Historical Core
      Behind the Testing of Jesus" Bible Review 15 (1999) 34-43, 48-49;
      Allison, "Behind the Tempations", 213, and others. The claim that
      the theme of a trial or testing of a hero or a religious founder
      that takes place shortly before their adoption of a commissioned
      vocation or assent to a way of life is one that is prominent in
      fictitious "biographies" of these figures, hardly counts as fatal
      evidence against this, even should it be true that the theme is as
      widespread in such biographies as it is often (but, notably, usually
      by disciples of J.G. Frazier and C. Jung or uncritical adherents to
      the work on heroes of F-R. R. Somerset (Lord) Raglan [The Hero, A
      Study in Tradition, Myth and Drama [New York: Oxford University
      Press, 1937]), asserted to be . On this see N.T. Wright, Jesus and
      the Victory of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1996) 457.

      It may even have taken place both in the particular locale in which,
      according to the Synoptic Evangelists, we are told it occurred,

      I.e, "the wilderness". On the questions of the specific location of
      the "wilderness" identified by Matthew, Mark, and Luke as the locale
      of Jesus' Wilderness "temptation and the historicity of the
      Evangelists' claim that Jesus' went to/was in a wilderness locale
      when he experienced a pre-ministry testing of his resolve to be
      faithful to a particular understanding of "sonship", see Robbins,
      The Testing of Jesus in Q.

      as well as within the context of, or after, and as arising from, a
      period of fasting on Jesus' part. The question, however, is whether
      this experience actually unfolded and transpired with even a minimal
      resemblance to the particular way that we are told by the Evangelists it

      The answer to this must certainly be no, and this apart from the often
      observed facts(a) that Matthew and Luke contradict one another not only
      in the way they set out the order of the event's constituent episodes,
      but with respect to narrative details within them (since conflicting
      accounts of the sequence or of the details of an event do not, in and of
      themselves, falsify the historicity of the event inaccurately reported,
      (b) that a principle character within the story is not an historical
      personage, let alone an ontological reality (since one can encounter, be
      subjected to, and go through, an actual test of faithfulness absent an
      ontologically real "tester)", and (c) that the accounts of the event
      are embellished with patently "mythological" motifs (since the
      function of such embellishment is often to highlight what to the
      reporter is the significance of the event in question).

      What makes the certain the negative answer to the question of the
      historicity of the incidents narrated in Mt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13 is that
      Matthew and Luke themselves do not think that what they relate as having
      happened to Jesus during his time in the wilderness are concrete,
      objectively verifiable, historical events. Rather, they think that what
      they record in Matt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-12 as transpiring between Jesus and
      the Devil and as coming upon Jesus are things that Jesus experienced in
      a vision to which he alone was privy.

      So Twelftree ("Temptations of Jesus" 822) and especially
      B..Witherington who points to the facts that the story as Matthew
      and Luke present it is not only explicitly portrayed as grounded in
      the sort of action that, according to Dan. 9:3; 10:203; 4 Ezra 5:13,
      20; 2 Bar. 9:2, are regularly the occasion, if not the cause, of
      visionary experiences, but also displays the themes of "transport in
      the Spirit, or visionary transport"and the interpreting angel who
      reveals the mysteries of God to those in his charge and who takes
      them up into high places so that they might see things normally
      hidden from the eyes of men, that are prominent in, and key
      features of, Inter-testamental accounts of visionary experiences
      (cf. Witherington, Jesus the Seer: The Progress of Prophecy [Peabody
      Mass.; Hendrikson, 1999] 279-280) .

      But was the vision that Matthew and Luke tell us that Jesus had during
      or after a fast in the wilderness really something that Jesus himself
      actually had. That is to say, is the particular delineation of the
      content of the vision attributed to Jesus by the Evangelists, something
      that is secondary to Jesus, a "church product". Or is it a reproduction
      of a dominical reminiscence? While it is usually assumed that it is the
      former, a number of scholars have argued that it is the latter.

      E.g., Hagner, Twelftree, Allison, Witherington, Wright, and
      (tentatively) Borg, among others. Notably, as V. Keitsch has
      pointed out ("The Antiocheans and the Temptation Story" in F.L.
      Cross [ed.], Studia Patristica 7 [TU 92 Berlin:Akademie Verlag,
      1966] 496-502), so did a number of important Alexandrine and
      Antiochene exegetes.

      In support of this contention, they point out, citing such texts as
      Lk. 10:18; 20:31-32, not only that Jesus was, and knew himself to be,
      a visionary, but that the specific subject of at least two of the
      visions to which he was privy was Satan in action as "the one who tests"
      the elect.

      That this is the subject of the vision Jesus reminisces about in Lk.
      10:18, see U.B. Müller, "Vision und Botschaft: Erwägungen zur
      prophetischen Struktur der Verkündigung Jesus." ZNW 74 (1977) 416–48.

      Thus to rule as impossible the idea that Jesus could have had a vision
      along the lines of the one that Matthew and Luke tell us he had when he
      was on the verge of his public ministry, is unwarranted. Moreover, if
      as other Synoptic texts such as Mt. 12:22-32//Mk. 20-30//Lk.1:14-23 seem
      to indicate, Jesus actually envisaged himself as one who by various
      means was putting into effect an initial victory he had earlier obtained
      over the one who tests faithfulness, it would be surprising if he had
      not had a vision like the one outlined in Mt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13.

      So J. Jeremias, The Parables of Jesus; N.T, Wright, Jesus and the
      Victory of God (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1996) 457-458

      Nor is there any reason to deny the assumption inherent in the claim
      that the vision recounted in Mt. 4:1-11//Lk 4:1-12 is dominical -- i.e.,
      that Jesus would have spoken publicly about it, and thereby set it out
      as a tradition to be remembered and transmitted. Again, Lk. 10:18, not
      to mention, Lk. 20: stands as evidence for this. And it is not
      difficult to imagine plausible scenarios in which Jesus would feel it
      necessary or desirable to recount it.

      E.g, that, as A Feuillet suggests ("Die Versuchungen Jesu",
      Internationale Katholische Zeitschrift Communio 8 [1979] 226-237),
      Jesus reported such an experience to his disciples in the context of
      the rebuke of Peter at Caesarea Philippi (Mark 8:33).

      But the difficulty with all of this is that, even granting that what
      Matthew and Luke report as the content of Jesus' vision was rooted in a
      recitation by Jesus himself of a vision vouchsafed to him in which his
      resolve to be obedient to God was put to the proof by God's tester, we
      have no way of knowing, let alone proving, that what Matthew and Luke
      transmit is an accurate reproduction of the form and wording and
      narrative substance of that recitation.

      In fact, at least one principal feature of Mt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-13
      strongly suggests that what they "transmit" is not, not, namely, the
      style of debate Jesus is depicted as using in the temptation story,
      which has with justification been deemed by many as "thoroughly Rabbinic".

      Cf. B.M. van Iersel, "Der Sohn" in den synoptischen Jesusworten:
      Christusbezeichnung der Gemeinde oder Selbstbezeichnung Jesu?
      (Leiden: Brill, 1964) 166; Bultmann, History, 253–57; Nolland, Luke

      As is indicated by the conflict stories in the Synoptic tradition, this
      is not Jesus' usual manner of argumentation, even with opponents versed
      in Scripture or who use scripture to make their case. Nor can one find
      anywhere else in the Synoptic Traditon a portrait of Jesus issuing
      responses to anything said to him that are entirely made up, as Jesus
      responses in Mt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-13 are, of scriptural citations.

      Mt. 22:41-46//Mk. 12:35-37a//Lk. 20:41-44 notwithstanding, for here
      Jesus is presented not as responding to a question asked of him, let
      alone defending a position he has adopted, but as posing a riddle to
      a passive audience and going on the offensive against a position the
      Pharisees (so Matthew) or the "Scribes" (so Mark and Luke) have taken.

      Moreover, even if Jesus **did **report that in his vision he had found
      himself using and exchanging scriptural quotations with the devil,
      would he have cast his recollection of the quotations he and the devil
      used according to their LXX formulations? And adding to the suspicion
      that Mt. 4:3-11//Lk. 4:3-13 is not a faithful reproduction of a
      dominical report is both (a) the fact, pointed out by Gouder and
      Wilkens, that a significant portion of the vocabulary we find in both
      of the "transmitted" versions of the report is characteristically Matthean.

      Goulder, Midrash and Lection in Matthew, 247; Wilkens, "Die
      Versuchung Jesu nach Matthäus." NTS 28 (1982) 479–89.

      and (b) the consideration that Jesus and the Evangelists never
      elsewhere cast anything he recounts, including, notably, his other
      visions of Satan "falling" and at work in "sifting" God's elect, in
      anything like the form or the genre of haggadic midrash in which the
      "transmitted" report of his Wilderness "temptation" vision is cast.

      So not only must we remain skeptical with respect to the validity of the
      claim that what we have in Mt Lk derives from Jesus himself and embodies
      more than minimally a reminiscence of a vision that is ultimately
      dominical; we must recognize that the affirmation of its validity
      entails the very conclusion that those do affirm it seem reluctant to
      accept, namely, that the report as it is reproduced by Matthew and Luke
      is a "church product".

      But the assertion that Mt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13 is a "church product"
      poses its own problem. It does not answer the question of why it was
      that "the chuch" cast the WTS in the particular form in which Matthew
      and Luke present it, let alone why "the church' endowed it with the
      recapitulation theme and the specific articulation of the content of
      Jesus' "temptations" that it has in their Gospels?

      One answer is that the who ever was responsible for the "the church
      product" presented at Mt..4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13 (an anonymous scribe? [so
      Gerhardsson] the "Q comminity"? [so Klopenborg and others], Matthew
      himself? [so Goulder]) has taken his/her/their cue to do so from Mark
      who had adumbrated in his version of the WTS all that we find in Mt.
      4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13. But this presupposes not only that "the church"
      responsible for creating the Matthean and Lukan WTS knew and used Mk.
      1:12-13, but that within these verses Mark himself presented the content
      of Jesus' WT along the same lines as the Matthean and Lukan versions of
      the WTS do, that is, a test of Jesus' resolve to be faithful to a
      pattern of Sonship that consists in being an eirenhpoioj -- a
      supposition that not all interpreters of Mk. 1:12-13 share, let alone
      think is likely.

      Especially so if one believes, as do E. Best The Temptation and the
      Passion: The Markan Soteriology (Cambridge: CUP, 1965), R. A.
      Guelich, Mark 1–8:26 (Dallas: Word, 1989) 38; J. Gnilka, Das
      Evangelium nach Markus. Vol 1 (Zürich: Benzinger/Neukirchen-Vluyn:
      Neukirchener Verlag, 1978) 58; J. Jeremias," 0Adam", TDNT 1 (1964)
      141; H.G. Leder, "Sündenfallerzählung und Versuchungsgeschichte."
      ZNW 54 (1963) 188–216; Allison ("Behind the Temptations", and
      others, that Mk. 1:12-13 presents Jesus in terms of Adam, not, as I,
      van Henten ("The First Testing of Jesus", 366) and others think,

      And even if this indeed be what Mark presented as the center of Jesus'
      WT, we still do not have the answer we seek, since the matter is not
      actually resolved. It is simply pushed back one remove. On what is
      Mark's presentation based?

      Far more plausible is the claim that the reason we have the story of
      Jesus' WT explicated in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke in the form and
      fashion we do, is that the Matthean and Lukan versions of the WTS are
      grounded in the fact, widely known in, and frequently proclaimed by "the
      church", that during his ministry Jesus was not only subjected by
      "adversaries" who proclaimed true insight into the ways and purposes of
      God to tests of faithfulness, but that these tests always focused in
      some fashion, if not explicitly, on the question of whether God
      actually demands, as Jesus thought and declared he did, that to be a
      true Israelite, one must follow even unto death the path of the
      eirenhpoioj and show mercy and compassion to those his adversaries
      (among whom his disciples sometimes numbered) deemed enemies of Israel.

      For a defense of this contention which, to my knowledge, was first
      mooted by John Howard Yoder (The Politics of Jesus ) see my
      Temptations of Jesus in Early Christiinity, passim..

      Thus, the particular shape that the "church" gave to the source of Matt.
      4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13 is due to the setting out in fixed fashion not some
      unconstrained imaginings of early followers of Jesus about what they
      thought Jesus must done/ undergone when he was lone in the wilderness,

      So Funk, et. al, Deeds of Jesus, 43.

      but a programmatic summary of memories of actual events in Jesus' life.

      On this, see R.E. Brown, "Incidents. that Are Units in the Synoptic
      Gospels but Dispersed in St. John," CBQ 23 (1961), 143–60.

      Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
      1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
      Chicago, Illinois
      e-mail jgibson000@...

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