Q&A: Correct Order of Jesus' Wilderness Temptations

Correct Order of Jesus' Wilderness Temptations

Question

What is the correct order of Jesus' wilderness temptations?

Answer

Matthew 4:5-10 5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down. For it is written, "'He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered him, "It is also written: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'" Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'"

Luke 4:5-12 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want too. If you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.' The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. "If you are the Son of God," he said, "throw yourself down from here. For it is written: "'He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'" Jesus answered, "It is said: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

Matthew and Luke list the same temptations of Christ. Though turning rocks into bread is the first temptation in both narratives, Matthew and Luke appear to reverse the last two. Why?

First, Luke does not say that his list is chronological. Second, it appears as if Matthew may have listed his chronologically, while Luke topically. I note that Matthew 4:5 begins with the word "then" while Matthew 4:8 begins with the word "again." This word arrangement suggests a more sequential order of events than in Luke who appears to just write a set of facts, not using the Greek words for "then" (tote) or "again" (palin).

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).