Re: Justin on the Temptation
- Mark Goodacre wrote:
> Jeffrey and others,
> How far does Justin on the Temptation help or hinder the theory?
> "For this devil, when [Jesus] went up from the river Jordan, at
> the time when the voice spake to Him, `Thou art my Son: this day
> have I begotten Thee,' is recorded in the memoirs of the
> apostles to have come to Him and tempted Him, even so far as to
> say to Him, `Worship me; 'and Christ answered him, `Get thee
> behind me, Satan: thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him
> only shalt thou serve.' For as he had deceived Adam, so he hoped
> that he might contrive some mischief against Christ also."
> (Dialogue with Trypho, 110; ET at
> On one hand, Justin seems to make the close link between the baptism
> + temptation stories that the thesis requires (and it is something
> that is clearly important in the narratives of Matthew, Luke and Q),
> but on the other hand, the role of Satan is one of 'deceit' and
> 'mischief' which does not seem to cohere with the thesis, does it?
> All the best
I see no contradiction whatsoever. Note, first of all, that the
perception that the Devil is a deceiver is something that is not
peculiar to Justin but is one found frequently in early Christian
writings and as well as in Intertestamental and Rabbinic
literature. It stands behind both the Johannine claim at Jn. 8.44
that the Devil `has nothing to do with the truth ... he speaks
according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of
lies' and the warning from Paul in 2 Cor. 11.14 that Satan
disguises himself as an angel of light. It can be seen clearly in
the Marcan story of Peter's `confession' at Caesarea Philippi (Mk
8.27-33) and its parallel in Matthew (where, by virtue of Matthew's
addition of the macarism, the perception is perhaps emphasized even
more strongly than in Mark), as well as in Apoc. Abraham 13 (cf.
esp. vv. 9-13) and The Testament of Job (especially in Chapters
24-27, the dialogue between Sitis and Job) where it is a
fundamental presupposition of the Testament's portrayal of
But note as well that in all of these texts we also find the
perception that the *way* the Devil deceives, that is, gets the
pious whom he "tests" to "see" and accept that what God has
commanded them to do (or put their trust in) cannot possibly be "of
God", is specifically by trading upon his status as one privy to
the divine counsel and who therefore knows what the ways of God
*really* are for the elect.
This is wonderfully illustrated in TB Sanhedrin 89b (a midrash on
the Genesis story of the testing of Abraham) - a text which, by the
way, bears a striking thematic and formal resemblance with Matt.
4:1-11 in that (1) the theme of both stories is the demonstration
of the faithfulness of the pious in and through PEIRASMOS. In both,
the PEIRASMOS is divinely ordained; and (2) in both, it is not God
but the Devil who carries out the `testing'. Moreover, like the
Matthean story, the bulk of the structure of TB Sanhedrin 89b is
shaped around a threefold and ultimately unsuccessful attempt by
the Devil to sway the one he `tests' from obedience to a divine
command. Also, as in Mattahew, each of these attempts is made by
means of an appeal to a shared knowledge of how God works, what his
wishes are for the pious, and what, in light of this, the pious
have a right to expect from God. Likewise each appeal is solemnly
rebuffed. And here, too, each appeal as well as each of the pious
one's responses to it, is grounded directly or allusively in
The text reads:
And it came to pass after these words, that God did
tempt Abraham (Gen. 22.1) What is meant by `after'? -
R. Johanan said on the authority of R. Jose ben Zimra:
After the words of Satan, as it is written, `And the
child grew and it was weaned. [And Abraham made a great
feast the same day the child was weaned' (Gen. 21.8)]
R. Simeon b. Abba said `na' can only denote entreaty.
This may be compared to a king of flesh and blood who
was confronted by many wars which he won by the aid of
a great warrior. Subsequently he was faced with a
severe battle. Thereupon he said to him, `I pray thee,
assist me in battle, that people may not say, there was
no reality in the earlier ones'. So also did the Holy
One, blessed be He, say unto Abraham, `I have tested
thee with may trials and thou didst withstand them all.
Now be firm for my sake in this trial, that men may not
say, there was no reality in the earlier ones.'
[But] I have two sons!
Thine only one.
Each is the only one of his mother.
Whom thou lovest.
I love them both!
And why all this [circumlocution]? - That his mind should
not reel [under the sudden shock].
Thereupon Satan said to the Almighty: `Sovereign of the
Universe! To this old man didst thou graciously
vouchsafe the fruit of the womb at the age of a
hundred, yet of all that banquet which he prepared, he
did not have one turtle dove or pigeon to sacrifice
before thee! Hath he done aught but in honour of his
son?' Replied He: `Yet were I to say to him, `Sacrifice
thy son before Me,' he would do so without hesitation.'
Straightway God did tempt Abraham ... And he said,
Take, I pray thee [na] thy son (Gen. 22:2)... On the
way Satan came towards him and said to him, `If we
assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? ...
Behold thou hast instructed many; and thou hast
strengthened the weak hands. Thy words have upholden
him that was falling and thou hast strengthened the
feeble knees. But now it has come to unto thee and thou
faintest (Job. 4:2-5 on the basis of a verbal link
between nasah in Job and Genesis). He replied, `I will
walk in my integrity' (Ps. 26:2). `But', said [Satan]
to him, `should not thy fear be thy confidence?' (Job.
4:6) `Remember', he retorted, `I pray thee, who ever
perished, being innocent?' (Job 4:6) Seeing that he
would not listen to him, he said to him, `Now a thing
was secretly brought to me' (Job 4:12): thus have I
heard from behind the curtain, `the lamb for a burnt
offering (Job 4:7) but not Isaac for a burnt offering.'
He replied, `It is the penalty of a liar, that should
he even tell the truth, he is not listened to'.
Here, as in Matthew the Devil's ultimate aim ultimate aim in
subjecting a servant of God to PEIRASMOS is to disrupt or destroy
his PISTIS, his faithfulness to, and trust in, God, and thereby
induce in him the seeds, if not the flowering, of disobedience to
covenantal obligations. Here, the Devil is explicitly branded as
a liar. Here, the Devil moves towards his desire by employing a
tactic consonant with his character as both "a liar", namely, using
cunning arguments, grounded in Scripture itself, to persuade the
one whom he "tests" to "see" and accept that what God has commanded
him to do (or put his trust in) cannot possibly be "of God".
So what this says to me is that one need not see a contardiction
between Satan/the Devil as a deceiver and Satan/the devil as one
who "tests" the pious. The roles are comlimentary. Indeed, if TB
Sanhedrin (and also 2 Cor. 11.14; compare Life of Adam and Eve 9.1,
3; 12.11) be taken into account, they are one and the same.
Jeffrey B. Gibson
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626