The Temptation of Christ: A Ten Point Idiosyncratic Interpretation

Tom Farrar has written a ten point interpretation of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness, aimed at supporting his personal satanology. The list is idiosyncratic in that it makes various arguments which are unique to Farrar, and which are contradicted or dismissed in the scholarly literature. This article lists and critiques each of Farrar’s points.

This claim is contradicted by the scholarly consensus; the genre is haggagic midrash, not narrative. Despite its superficial appearance as a simple historical record, the Synoptic account of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness¹ has often been interpreted as symbolic or parabolic of Jesus’ experiences, since the early Christian era.² The popularity of this interpretation waxed and waned throughout history; Origen understood the account as a dramatized parable,³ Aquinas opposed those who interpreted the temptations as visionary,⁴ and the view was common among early Reformers, finding its way into the marginal commentary of early printed Bibles.⁵ Current scholarly commentary typically treats the wilderness temptation account as a visionary experience,⁶ symbolic description,⁷ or dramatization of events throughout Jesus’ ministry,⁸ and commentaries advise against reading the account as literally historical.⁹

Rather than being read as historical narrative, the temptation account is generally understood to take the form of haggadic midrash¹⁰ (non-historical commentary used to illustrate interpretations of the sacred text¹¹). Thus the aim of the temptation account is to explicate the relevance of Biblical passages to Jesus’ messianic mission rather than simply recount historical events (though it may do so in the process).

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Author: Jon Burke

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Bible reference(s): Genesis 1:31, Genesis 8:21, Deuteronomy 10:16, 1 Chronicles 21:1, Job 1:6, Job 1:7, Job 1:8, Job 1:9, Job 1:12, Job 2:1, Job 2:2, Job 2:3, Job 2:4, Job 2:6, Job 2:7, Psalms 51:10, Proverbs 25:21, Isaiah 5:18, Isaiah 57:14, Ezekiel 36:26, Joel 2:20, Zechariah 3:1, Matthew 4:1-11, Matthew 6:13, Matthew 12:26, Matthew 16:23, Mark 1:13, Mark 3:23, Mark 3:26, Mark 4:15, Mark 8:33, Luke 4:2-13, Luke 10:18, Luke 11:4, Luke 11:18, Luke 13:16, Luke 22:3, Luke 22:31, John 8:44, John 13:27, Acts 5:3, Acts 26:18, Romans 7:17-24, Romans 16:20, 1 Corinthians 5:5, 1 Corinthians 7:5, 2 Corinthians 12:7, 2 Corinthians 11:14, Galatians 1:4, Ephesians 4:27, Ephesians 6:11, Ephesians 6:16, 1 Thessalonians 2:18, 1 Thessalonians 3:5, 2 Thessalonians 2:9, 1 Timothy 1:20, 1 Timothy 3:6-7, 1 Timothy 5:15, 2 Timothy 2:26, Hebrews 2:14, James 4:7, 1 John 2:13-14, 1 John 3:8, 1 John 3:10, 1 John 3:12, 1 John 5:18-19, Revelation 2:9, Revelation 2:13, Revelation 2:24, Revelation 3:9, Revelation 12:9, Revelation 20:2, Revelation 20:7

Source: “The Temptation of Christ: A Ten Point Idiosyncratic Interpretation,” Berea.

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