The Relevance Of Jesus Being Tempted By Satan

Continued from Part 24

Satan’s temptation

If Jesus is God as well as man how could Satan expect to tempt him?  Mark simply states that Jesus was tempted by Satan (1:13) but Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) elaborate the story.  It is claimed that during Jesus’ alleged forty days’ sojourn in the desert following his baptism by John, Satan tempted him with promises of an earthly kingdom if Jesus would only worship him.

If Jesus is part of God, how could he possibly sin, and how could Satan possibly hope to tempt him?  Satan’s words would be meaningless.  Surely, even the earthly Jesus was incapable of committing as sinful an act as the worshiping of Satan.  Indeed, unlike a mere mortal, it was decreed that the Gospels’ Jesus follow exactly the life outlined for his earthly existence by the very deity of which he was an integral part.

In assuming a human body, the Jesus of Christian theology knew what God’s purpose for the future of mankind was and what was expected of him in order to bring this about.  Did Jesus, the perfect god-man, have free will to sin while on earth?  Obviously not!  Had he failed to carry out God’s plan, the entire timetable set forth by the Almighty would have been eternally disrupted.  Lacking free will to do as he pleased, Jesus could not truly have been tempted.

Satan, as one of God’s creations, could not seriously promise the Gospels’ Jesus, who was already divine and in control of the universe, a mere kingdom as a reward for worshiping him.  As puffed up with pride as one might envision Satan to be, he is certainly not stupid.  In the Gospel narrative Satan knew Jesus was not a mere human given to flattery and subject to the temptations of the flesh.  Jesus was not one who would accept worthless promises.

Even if we suppose that Satan did make Jesus the most extravagant of offers, as reported by the Synoptic Gospels, it would not in the least have been a temptation to the divine Jesus of later Christianity.  In view of the claim by Christian commentators that Jesus was offered an earthly kingdom by God, as recorded in Psalm 2:  “Ask of Me, and I will give the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for your possession” (Psalms 2:8), can anyone believe that a member of the Trinity would have difficulty in choosing between the two opposing offers?  Certainly, Satan would not have wasted his time on such a futile endeavor as offering God an earthly kingdom.  It is obvious that the account of Satan’s attempt to tempt Jesus cannot be reconciled with the overall view of Jesus as held by Christians.

Of Jesus it is said:  “For because he himself has suffered and has been tempted, he is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18).  It is also alleged that when Jesus was on earth, he was “tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).  Men need to be strengthened at times of anguish (Luke 22:43) or temptation (Matthew 4:11, Mark 1:13); God does not need any such support.  If Jesus were God in any manner of speaking it would be meaningless to tempt him.  To say that God feels temptation like a human (Matthew 4:11, Mark.1:13) would is absurd.  If Jesus was God as well as man at the time of his alleged temptation by Satan, how are these verses, and indeed the entire temptation episode, to be reconciled with the belief expressed by the author of James?  He states, “Let no one say when he is tempted:  ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13).  If according to James “God cannot be tempted by evil,” then the Jesus who Christians claim is God cannot have been tempted by Satan.  The entire Gospel episode of Satan’s temptation of Jesus must therefore not have occurred.

In contrast to the Christian claims about Jesus, the God of Israel does not need to be tempted and suffer in order to be able to understand and forgive man’s sins because He is the all knowing creator of man.  This is poignantly expressed in the verse:  “And the Lord said:  ‘I have surely seen the affliction of My people that are in Egypt, and I have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; for I know their pains’” (Exodus 3:7). Isaiah reiterates this relationship between God and Israel:  “In all their affliction He was afflicted” (Isaiah 63:9).

© Gerald Sigal