CHAPTER 5 - The Temptation In The Wilderness-Was It An Inside Job?
Was Jesus Tempted During Or After The Forty-days?
The specifics given in the Gospels of when exactly the “tempter” came to Yeshua do not allow a conclusion as to if it was at the start, during, or at the end of His forty-day fast. It does seem from the text however, that Yeshua may have completed His forty-day wilderness excursion when the tempting began. Matthew reveals the tempting to have taken place after the forty-days; Mark suggests the tempting took place while Yeshua was in the wilderness, while Luke suggests the wilderness excursion as broken into two periods. According to Luke, Yeshua underwent some testing while in the wilderness and after the forty-days had passed, was then asked by the tester to turn the stones to bread;
And when he had fasted forty-days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
Matthew 4:2 KJV
And he was there in the wilderness forty-days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.
Mark 1:13 KJV
Being forty-days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered. And the devil said unto him, If thou be the Son of God, command this stone that it be made bread.
Luke 4:2-3 KJV
What happened to Yeshua in the wilderness temptation? How many of us have an image that Yeshua was wandering around the dessert, trying to focus in on what the Father wanted Him to hear while some type of a cosmic “satan” was harassing Him with inane attempts to get Yeshua to forfeit His authority by sinning? The thought of Satan hanging around the Messiah trying to get him to submit to his suggestions brings up the image of the two dogs in the old Loony Toons cartoons, Spike and Chester. The big tough bulldog with the spiked collar is proudly walking down the street and the little lap-dog-terrier is bouncing from side to side of the big bull dog, saying “Hey Spike, where ya goin Spike, can I come Spike, can I, can I, what do ya say Spike!!?”
For sure, it is a compelling image to think of the fallen cosmic angel taunting Jesus in the dry sandy dessert, like a little puppy annoying a big dog. And one could impose that picture on this story of which we are given so little detail. However, is that really the way it happened? Was there really an imp like satan harassing the Messiah while he was getting tuned in to the Father? It seems like poor scholarship to read so much specific imagery into a story when the Hebrew Scriptures have not taught us that there even exists a “cosmic satan” as was shown convincingly in Satan Christianity’s Other God –Volume 1.
Where Do The Pictures In Your Mind Come From?
Although it is easier to apply the images that have been painted for us by someone in the past to this story, we often miss receiving the real message and story intended by the account because of those implanted images. Can we try to see this story of the wilderness temptation apart from the mental pictures we have? Might we attempt to view this New Testament outside the box of a lifetime of Christian teaching about it? How unfathomable, that Yeshua, the “Son of God” would even be approached by a being believed to be Satan. Wouldn’t this being be well aware that Yeshua was the incarnation of the Creator Yahweh? Some might claim that Satan was arrogant enough to try to tempt God and that because he was so filled with pride he thought this Yeshua, the representative of God in the flesh, would actually cave in and worship him, theoretically giving Satan control of the entire universe. If there were an actual “satan” being, then it would stand to reason that he would not try to trick the God of the Universe into going against the plan of the God of the Universe. Satan would not be daft nor arrogant enough to challenge the Messiah when he knew how powerful this man in the image of God was. This episode, when understood how it has been traditionally understood, amounts to an encounter between two gods. It is utterly ridiculous to think that “Satan” would put himself in the position of being destroyed by confronting the Creator when supposedly his whole mission is to destroy the Creator and His children. If an actual “Satan” were present in the physical realm, I suggest there is little chance he would even entertain such nonsense as being able to cause the King of the Universe to sin.
Is Satan Stupid Enough To Test God?
Many have ascribed characteristics to Satan that would cause a logical person to have difficulty believing he would be so stupid as to even bother to try to tempt the King of the Universe. One of these alleged characteristics is the ability of having some level of precognition of events and another is an intensely profound ability to influence the nature of man because he knows humans so well. If Satan has these special attributes and was tuned in to what was effective in tempting men, then it is laughable to think that “satan” was trying to get Yeshua to “switch teams” so to speak. How could a creature who is “wiser than Daniel” and knowing the nature of Yahweh because of his former position in the heavens (according to some theories), and knowing that Yeshua was God in the flesh, try to swing Jesus’ vote? If Satan is as brilliant as Christendom claims, then he would have known there is no possible way, for even a moment, that he would be able to get Yeshua, the express image of God, to switch teams.
Moreover, as for Yeshua, why didn’t he just tell Satan to leave Him alone? Was Jesus just humoring this super archfiend of the cosmos? Would Yeshua not have known that Satan was way out of his league and therefore He could have simply just ignored him? If Satan were in fact a spirit being, thus being equated as being a lesser God, the mere presence of Yeshua would have been adequate to eradicate this servile spirit being from His presence. Thinking logically about this tale reveals that there is no logic found in the God of the Universe entertaining the open challenges of a minor god, just so that Yeshua could prove He was strong enough to overcome the temptation games of this peon. Clearly, there is something else going on here.
If The Story Is Not About A Cosmic Satan Then What Is It About?
Now, knowing what we know about the absence of a teaching in the Hebrew Scriptures about a “cosmic satan”, and knowing what we know about the heart of man being “wickedly deceitful above all else,” we can begin to perceive that the tempting in the wilderness came from a different source. Maybe the testing in the wilderness came from a human source and not from a supernatural Satan. With part of man being entirely resistant to the will of Yahweh because of pride, we can then see how the “tempter” or “devil,” spoken of as tempting Yeshua, is more likely a human being or a few human beings. The test was to prove to the men who He was. This type of testing might also be imposed upon an up-and-coming leader such as Jesus, in order to prove convincingly that He was interested in accomplishing the will of the Father. Was this iconic man willing to act in accord with the Father’s plans and not in accord with His or any man’s plan for ascent to greatness? The wicked and proud men who saw Yeshua get baptized by John and honored by John, saw this man was even mightier than John was. They saw the favor of Yahweh on this man. From perceiving how those at the Jordan that day responded to the scene, as well as recognizing the divine authority upon Yeshua, which is symbolically told of by the mention of a dove descending from heaven, there was no question that Yeshua was special. The religious leaders became jealous or at least zealous to see if this man measured up to John’s glowing introduction of Him. Known as the demon priests according to Laurence Gardner in Bloodline of The Holy Grail, this caste of testers subsequently decided to tempt Jesus after His wilderness experience. Remember, the word tempt used at this point is better defined as “test.”
Would A Jealous Scribe Or Pharisee Test A Messiah Candidate?
The Scribes and Pharisees had the political and religious power to take Yeshua to the temple and offer Him power. He would be granted this power if only He would follow their religious system. To follow their religious institution is tantamount to worshipping them. Because their religious system was not in agreement with God’s system, any person who chooses to submit to the request of another and follow that one, would be known as not worshipping “the Lord your God.”
To submit to the corrupt religious leadership of the day would be equated with worshipping those responsible for devising the false religious system. A wise person once told me that the God you serve is the God you worship. Clearly, to serve the leaders of the false religious system was to neglect to worship the God of the Universe in the proper way. Demanding to see a miracle as proof of Yeshua’s identity was to be expected by the Rabbis of the first century, the presence of miraculous power was one of the many criteria the ancient rabbis had established as certain proof
for the Messiah. Therefore, when the “tempter” realized Yeshua was hungry they suggested that He turn some stones to bread. If the test were passed by Yeshua, the rabbis would have satisfied their requirement that the Messiah must be able to perform miracles.
We see an account of these proud and antagonistic religious leaders tempting Yeshua later in the book of Matthew. Periodic testing by the religious leaders is an indication that they very likely were the “tempters” in the early part of Yeshua’s ministry. The use of this word for “testing” in the book of Matthew is always connected to Yeshua being in contact with a man or group of men who are interested in seeing him brought down. Looking into the Gospel of Luke, we see there is a group of people who thought to apply the litmus test to Yeshua and tried to get Him to perform a sign that would identify Him as the Messiah. Notice how it is stated in Luke 11 verse 16. I have crossed out the word tempting and appropriately replaced it with the word testing.
temptingG3985 testing him, soughtG2212 ofG3844 himG846 a signG4592 fromG1537 heaven.G3772
Luke 11:16 KJV
If we look at every occurrence of piradzo, which means, “to test,” we even receive greater indication that the “devil” or “tempter” testing Yeshua was an influential man or group of men and not a cosmic being. The word piradzo is Strong’s word number 3985, highlighted in the example verses below.
Matthew 16:1 (2532) The3588 Pharisees5330 also2532 with the Sadducees4523 came,4334 and
tempting3985 testing desired1905 him846 that he would show1925 them846 a sign4592 from1537 heaven.3772
Matthew 19:3 The3588 Pharisees5330 also2532 came4334 unto him,846
tempting3985 testing him,846 and2532 saying3004 unto him,846, (1487) Is it lawful1832 for a man444 to put away630 his848 wife1135 for2596 every3956 cause?156
Matthew 22:18 But1161 Jesus2424 perceived1097 their846 wickedness,4189 and said,2036 Why5101
tempt3985 test ye me,3165 ye hypocrites?5273
Matthew 22:35 Then2532 one1520 of1537 them,846 which was a lawyer,3544 asked1905 him a question,
tempting3985 testing him,846 and2532 saying,3004
It is in line with the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures to recognize the tempting as coming from men. It is entirely in agreement with the understanding a first century Hebrew believer would have had regarding “ha satan”, the adversary. One who claims to walk in the faith of Messiah would have understood the “tempter” to be a human being who was opposing the plan of God, the plan Yeshua came to bring to fruition. Besides being tested from God as was common throughout Scripture, temptation comes from two potential sources. The possible two modalities of testing are;
- from another human being who is un-submissive to the will of the Creator; or
- from a desire within the heart of man to do or be that which is against the Creator’s desire for that individual.
To put it slightly differently, man’s testing comes through the desires of his own heart or through the actions of other men. The product of this testing is to cause man to assess the desires of his own heart. I am speaking in the male gender here but the process is the same for females. In this instance of testing for Jesus it is an error to say that a cosmic evil entity was testing Him. We are told it was the Spirit that took Yeshua to be tested. Even if it is difficult to attach a human to the role as “tempter”, we are given an undeniably clear statement in each account that the “Holy Spirit” was the one that sent Yeshua into the wilderness to be tested.
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted…. Matthew 4:1
What Does It Mean For The Spirit To Take Jesus Into The Wilderness?
To some, reading about the “Spirit” of God taking someone somewhere means that they are guided by an apparition or that they are directed to the place of testing by a manifest spirit presence. However, to be “led of the Spirit” could also mean God is using other humans to direct someone to go to a place of testing. Consider this; if the Creator decides to use a friend of yours to tell you that you need to go spend some time alone to figure out what to do about an unstable and unfulfilling career, who might we say told you to make a change? Sure, it was a friend who told you to take some time for yourself, but one could reasonably state God did it because we know that God uses people in most instances to encourage other people. Of course in the practical sense it was another person who gave you the information, but in the most technical sense and the spiritual sense, it was the Spirit of Yahweh that has told you to enter a period of pondering. I just don’t think it’s wise to limit this incident of Yeshua being led by “the Spirit”, to being an incident that involved a metaphysical medium. As always with the Creator, a metaphysical manifestation was possible but due to the very scant specifics and due to the fact that Yahweh uses people as the medium for His message almost exclusively, I hope you are able to see that this situation for Yeshua very likely involved other human beings.
The human being involved in this leading to the wilderness though, could have been himself. Jesus quite possibly had an inner prompting to go into the wilderness to ponder. As was the practice of most men in the Aramaic culture Jesus lived in. Perhaps, as is the case for many who are able to identify an inner prompting, this might have been the inner sense that so many of us are deaf to in our lives today. It is sad that our modern culture has so many stimuli bombarding us all the time that we fail to recognize the inner voice that is really the spirit of Yahweh and is trying to guide us. Remember, “the wilderness” to a person in the cultural period of Yeshua is a place where a person would go to contemplate serious life choices. The wilderness was a place of pondering and reflection for men of that culture, so to be “led” into the wilderness would have not been an overly surprising turn of events for a thirty-year old Hebrew man in an Aramaic culture who was about to embark on a serious mission to save the world. I know several people who have been “led by the spirit” to go for a country drive or a walk in the prairies to ponder their near or distant future. So why is it difficult to comprehend Yeshua may have been responding in a very similar fashion as most men of his time would do who could be found in like position? The fact of us being told in the writing that it was “the Spirit” who led Yeshua is most likely the writer’s way of indicating it was the will of Yahweh for Yeshua to embark on this forty-day fast and critical testing. What this boils down to is that the inner knowing of Yeshua or any human, when guided by the Creator’s prompting to go here or go there submits to that inner prompting, is being “led” to participate in the active plan for his or her life. This person will then be credited with walking out the will of God in that specific period. A response to the inner prompting that is man’s heart submitting to Yahweh’s will is called “being led of the Spirit.” Therefore, by Yeshua submitting to the “feeling” He had to go into the wilderness, He was submitting to the Spirit. Moreover, The Spirit that prompted Him to go was a discernable force of goodness and was therefore a force of Yahweh.
Do Men Often Test Other Men?
The apostles were also aware of the fact that men were readily and frequently tested by other human beings. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer speaks of the Messiah’s work and supremacy. The writer knows that we humans are tempted or tested through interaction with other human beings. Understanding that it is via human inter-connectivity that one is tested, the writer of Hebrews informs us that Yeshua our High Priest was tested “like us” and he overcame, to remain without sin. Many who look at the verse in Hebrews, quoted below, seem to think it is saying that we are tempted by the “devil” trying to persuade us to walk outside the will and desire of Yahweh. Yet the record we have in the Hebrew Scriptures teaches very clearly that the testing or tempting from Yahweh, almost always comes through a human vessel or at least via our own heart’s desires. The source of that testing is not a cosmic-taskmaster called “Satan”, using his powers of persuasion to cause one to fall from grace and then become an adversary to another. The source of the “tempting” is God, acting in the lives of his created ones so that they can grow through the temptation to sin, in order to become more firmly grounded on serving and honoring the Father with their lives and choices. The word for tempted in the verse below is the same word used in telling of Yeshua being tempted in the wilderness. That word is the Greek word piradzoandmeans, “test.”
From G3984; to test (objectively), that is, endeavor, scrutinize, entice, discipline: - assay, examine, go about, prove, tempt (-er), try.
Hebrews 4:15 For1063 we have2192 not3756 a high priest749 which cannot1410, 3361 be touched with the feeling of4834 our2257 infirmities;769 but1161 was in2596 all points3956 tempted3985 like as2596, 3665 we are, yet without5565 sin.266
Think for a moment of some of the most difficult tests in your life. If you are like most of us, the tests usually come through humanity in some form or another. Either our hearts are tested to prove what our motives and desires are for a certain situation, such as the desire to cheat on our taxes, or the urge to click on an internet link to pornography when there is no one else in the room. Or perhaps we are given tests by other people, like a mother in law who just doesn’t treat you too kindly, or a co-worker who is competing with you for recognition. Often I find I am tested by other drivers on the road. Sometimes I pass the test but other times I curse the stupid driver out and angrily race on. Who do you know that doesn’t get a little bit of elevated blood pressure when they get cut-off by another driver so they can get ahead of you, only to end up stopped in front of you at the next red light? These are examples of how we are tested by God to determine if we are going to yield to the influence of our evil inclination or if we will yield to the influence of His Spirit in our lives. Messiah, “being tested as we are tested,” is a statement intending to tell us of how the Messiah had to deal with human adversaries and human desires too. In the Greek language, the human adversary is called a “devil” or “satan.” Peter was called “Satan” by Yeshua when Peter told the Messiah that He would surely not die. Peter was more in agreement with the things of man at that point and not the will of the Father, therefore, he was called a “Satan.” Peter was indeed being an adversary. Seeing that the tempting, or testing we go through, comes from the Father’s hand is very simple.
Does God Test Us Sometimes?
If we look into the wording of what is called The Lord’s Prayer, we see how Yeshua is helping us to be aware of where testing comes from. We see testing that may lead us to choose evil comes from the Father. When the Master teaches us how to pray we are told to ask that the Father will not lead us into testing. The wording in the KJV can easily be understood as Jesus telling us to ask that the Father won’t lead us into a period of testing. Thus implying that being led into temptation is from the Father. “Our Father which art in Heaven…and lead us not into temptation…”
Beyond this request, we are also taught to ask the Father to deliver us from “evil.” Interestingly, the KJV does not add the word “one” after the word “evil” as other more recent versions do, leaving the reader with the impression that Yeshua is teaching us to ask the Father to protect us from “satan,” “the evil one.” Tradition has called the cosmic Satan “the evil one” but the text of The Lord’s Prayernever said “evil one” it said “evil.” Yeshua is not teaching us to ask for protection from an entity that His Hebrew Scriptures do not teach as existing. Yeshua is clear on the fact of where testing, interpreted as “temptation,” comes from. It comes from The Father. We are not led to believe, through Yeshua teaching us how to pray, that we have a battle against a cosmic archenemy. We are being taught to ask that the Father does not lead us into testing which might result in us submitting to the evil inclination and therefore being found to do that which is evil. Notice the two versions of the verse below and how the personal and unproven beliefs of the writers of the New International Version crept into the text, which is now considered to be “Gospel.”
Matthew 6:13 KJV
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
Matthew 6:13 NIV
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’
As for who or what it was that tested Jesus in the wilderness, the jealous and scorned leaders scrutinizing the proceedings are the likely candidates who tested Messiah. We need not be forced to ascribe to the belief that the “devil” in this scene of the Messiah’s life is a supernatural being. We must try to base our understanding on the understanding a Hebrew person of the first century would have had. An understanding that the terms “devil” or “satan” are known to be idioms for an adversarial human force. Once we accept the Hebraic understanding of these ideas we can see that the words presented in the English version of the Apostolic Testimony can very well be referring to a human adversarial force bent on testing the man John called the “lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
Whether from another human being or from a place of rebellion inside the human spirit, the probability is high that any testing one undergoes comes from a human source. It is not a stretch to see, that early on in the Messiah’s ministry those who became intense, oppositional forces to Yeshua were already acting in the role of a “devil.” They were the adversarial force that opposed the will of God by trying to persuade Yeshua to do that which was outside the will of the Father. Any person, who attempts to get another to go against the plan of God for their life is a “satan.”
Some Men May Not Have Known Yeshua Was God But Satan Would Have
A cosmic “satan” would have known Yeshua was God incarnate based on the position “Satan” allegedly once held in the court of Heaven. However, a jealous and scorned human being such as the Scribes and Pharisees who persisted to antagonize Yeshua throughout the Apostolic Gospels, would not have recognized that Yeshua is the God of the Universe manifest in fleshly form. They were too focused on their own piety and man-made authority to see true righteousness and authority in Yeshua. As humans, they would have been acting out of their evil inclination and pride, therefore having no trouble treating Yeshua as if He was just another man who was hailed as the Messiah. There were many claims of a man being the messiah in the recent past and now another candidate was on the scene. The culture of the day had already thought John the Baptist could be the Messiah and expectation was palpable not just among the common folk but was apparent in the ultra-religious minded leaders of the day.
There had been others who were put forth in the minds of some as potential Messiah candidates. And some even entertained claims themselves, that they were the Messiah. Around 6 A.D. there was one Judas of Galilee. This alleged potential Messiah was mentioned in Acts 5:37. Historically, Judas of Galilee, also called Judas of Gamala, led a revolt against the Romans because of a census that was imposed on the peoples for tax purposes. Judas of Galilee failed to meet the expectations of the oppressed as he did not restore the Kingdom to Israel but in fact was crushed violently, along with his followers, by the Romans.
Another claimant to the role of the Messiah was a slave of Herod named Simon who rebelled. He too was un-successful in his pursuit to be known as the Messiah of Israel. One other failed “Messiah” was a man named Anthronges. George Fox provides his name in a list of other pseudo-saviors of the period;
While the Christians or Nazarenes immediately after the death of Jesus were much less concern to the Jews than the troubles with both Rome and the pseudo-messiahs. The troubles laid upon Judea after the death of Herod, the robbing and desecration of the Temple; the appearance of pseudo-saviors like Anthronges, Ahba Sakkara, Judas the Galilean, Theudas the Samaritan Messiah, John of Giscala, Eliezar the Zealot, Simon bar Giora and others took the mind of the Jews off any individual who might have appeared earlier and did not succeed.
Wikipedia reports the following about this failed Messiah;
Athronges was a leader of the Jews during the insurrection under Herod Archelaus. A shepherd, in common with his four brothers after proclaiming himself a messiah, Athronges led the rebellion against Archelaus and the Romans. After a protracted struggle Athronges and his brothers were defeated.
Many Men Vied For Power And The Role Of Messiah
We are able to see that persons posturing for the role of Messiah were common before, during, and after the appearance of Yeshua. As far as the oppositional religious leaders were concerned, with Yeshua in the picture and with the expectation of some in the community that this One may be the Messiah, these tempters and “devils” were led to test the Messiah at some point in His wilderness journey. Their modus operandi was to challenge Him to turn stones to bread and to cast Himself down from the Temple, a place where these religious leaders would have access to, in order to bring Yeshua there to fulfill their order of temptation. They also were referencing their own control over the “world” in a narrow sense when they asked Yeshua to bow down and worship someone other than the creator.
A Weak Teachers Uses Weak Words A Strong Teacher Uses Strong Words
Understanding Yeshua’s ability to take a situation and use familiar terms to make a stronger meaning, may help us see that the situation Yeshua was in with the “tempter” did not entail a cosmic creature ordering the Messiah to engage in full worship of him as if he, the cosmic creature, was Yahweh. Notice how Yeshua practiced hyperbole often in such things as telling the sinner to cut out the eye that causes the sin or telling the one who desires to follow Him to hate his mother and brothers. The fact that Yeshua speaks against any worship that is not directed to Yahweh does not have to mean that a supernatural creature was trying to inspire Yeshua to “worship” him. The point however that Yeshua makes, is very clear. And this is so because of the intensity of His response, a response that can neither be convoluted or misunderstood by the tempter, thereby adequately discouraging the tempter from carrying on with such inane requests of a man on a mission from Yahweh. It is probable the “man-devil”, who I submit may have been a group of rabbis, was enticing Yeshua to pay respectful homage to him, by asking Yeshua to “worship” this tempter.
Just to be clear, it seems of course that Yeshua, knowing the reason behind the request of the “tempter”, in true rabbinic style, magnified the self-centered and arrogant request to worship the tempter. The succinct reply to the unacceptable request was done by stating God only is to be worshipped. True obeisance with reverence worthy of Yahweh is different than a respectful homage as is paid to the leaders of a religious institution, yet Yeshua raised the bar by emphasizing the need to direct any “worship” to the Creator. Perhaps it is possible then, that Yeshua was not tempted by a “Satan” who did not exist. At least not according to the Hebraic view of the Yeshua period. Rather it was a man or men called the “devil” in the text, which came to Yeshua after the forty-day wilderness fast experience. During this period of Jewish history, there was a belief that the Messiah was soon coming and was to be able to perform special and unique acts. This belief was well entrenched in the minds of the Scribes and Pharisees.
It has been noted that in rabbinic literature, the Midrash (Pesiqta Rabbati, 162a) plainly states the Jewish belief that Messiah would manifest himself standing on the roof of the temple. The reference is not to just any roof but "the" roof. The identification of the particular roof the Messiah will stand on is stated in the “New Testament” using the phrase, "the pinnacle.” The pinnacle was a place where the Priest would ascend to oversee the land and deliver the announcement to commence the sacrifices of the day when dawn was witnessed. It is not at all odd to think Jesus was taken up to this grand viewing point by a Temple official where one might allude to seeing all the kingdoms of the world. Josephus remarks at the import of this particular precipice;
"This cloister deserves to be mentioned better than any other under the sun; for, while the valley was very deep, and its bottom could not be seen if you looked from above into the depth, this farther vastly high elevation of the cloister stood upon that height, insomuch that if any one looked down from the top of the battlements, or down both those altitudes, he would be giddy, while his sight could not reach to such an immense depth." -Antiquities, Book 15, Chap.11:5
The Temple was run by appointed officials and indeed both Pharisees and Sadducees had access to it. Seeing the presence of a rabbinic quest to prove whether a unique individual was the Messiah or not, somewhat substantiates the fact that members of this religious group saw the need to “test” the so called Messiah. One test the ancient Rabbis were inclined to perform was to have the Messiah cast Himself from the pinnacle of the Temple. It was understood that the one who survives this test is the real Messiah. This is clear from rabbinic literature and from the Apostolic Testimony. If we choose to understand and believe the teachings of the Hebrew Scriptures then we should be able to see how a man or a group of men likely tempted the Messiah. Men are famous for testing others who they want to prove to be worth less than the common belief about the testee suggests. A cosmic “satan” was not a consideration by the earliest hearers of this “testing”. Messiah was likely tested by humans in the Wilderness Temptation story just as He was tested by human Scribes and Pharisees throughout the Gospels.
Is There Another Possible Tempting Force To Consider?
If it is not the case that the Messiah was tempted by a human, then we do have yet another possibility of where the tempting came from. As I have stated before, I want to provide another option and in some cases two or three other options, for understanding passages about “satan.” Here then, is another option for how Yeshua was tested in the wilderness.
The potential does exist for the yetzer hara that was in the man Yeshua, to have reared its ugly head. The evil inclination in man quite possibly drew Yeshua to exalt Himself in ways and manners which were not in line with the intended plan. Please allow me to explain.
We find it was said of Yeshua He was fully God and fully man.
For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily
If this were true then He would have had desires that are common to man. Part of the plan in Yeshua coming as the Redeemer was that He would be a being of flesh and learn to refuse the evil and choose the good as well as learn obedience by the things He suffered. If as we discussed earlier in this book series, God created man with a potential to choose evil, then Yeshua being “fully man,” would also have the potential to choose evil. As one in the form of a man he would have the same tendencies that a man would have.
It is often said our worst enemy is our self. This is true in the sense that every human being must overcome their own selfish desires that can manifest in a multitude of ways. Saying everyone has their own “demons” to deal with is an easily understood metaphor for referencing the inner struggle we all have over doing the right thing. James taught us that we are “tempted/tested” when we are drawn away by our own lusts. James has told us that the desires we have inside us, in our hearts, are those things that cause us to be tempted.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
James 1:14-15 KJVA
If it is true Yeshua was a man, as the Apostles testify Him to having been, He would have had to make choices like you and I. Therefore, Yeshua had “lust” which had the ability to tempt Him. It is then possible to see the “tempter” who came to Yeshua after He was hungry was His own “inner demons” of greed, desire for comfort, and desire for power. Typical desires that any man would have. I doubt Jesus was inclined to follow his inner desire to sin but it is imperative to understand that if someone can be tempted then they do indeed have inner desires that make the tempting possible. If I don’t drive a car I can’t be tempted to speed. We might do well to concede that Yeshua was tested, therefore He must have had the potential for choosing sin just as every human does. Note this passage again in Hebrews that speaks of Him being tempted in all things;
For we do not have a high priest who does not have the power to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One Who has been tempted in all things as we are, separate from sin.
Hebrews 4:15 MRC
Consider this, on the most base level of humanity it stands to reason that if someone is hungry and they have the ability to get themselves fed then why wouldn’t they think to “turn stones to bread” in order to satisfy their hunger and restore themself to comfort? It stands to reason, that if one has the ability to short cut His path to having a loyal group of followers, he might consider taking the shortcut to enjoy the power and prestige that comes with having followers. Was the scenario we see of Yeshua having a party of twelve follow Him around such an unusual situation? No. There were many great teachers in the first century and they were often seen to have a group of about twelve “disciples” with them. Rabbis all over the land of Israel would seek to have a group of disciples following them. Yeshua however was balanced enough to wait for proper validation of His mission and to not accept the opportunity for a following before the appointed time.
What if Jesus threw Himself off a tall building and lived? Would it not carry a lot of weight with potential followers to know the one they are considering following was able to survive a fall from the pinnacle of the Temple? It was said in the first century that one would surely acquire a following of unparalleled loyalty and dedication if he were to defeat death in a fantastic manner such as would happen by launching himself from a high point of the Temple and walking away unscathed. Is it entirely impossible that Yeshua was battling the internal “demon” of wanting to take a shortcut? Why wouldn’t it have crossed His mind that a shortcut would work to acquire the followers that would have lent credibility to his position and ministry?
Being fully human and fully God would also leave room for a man like Yeshua to take hold of the kingdoms of the political world in His own time as opposed to waiting to become the leader He was called to be, according to the plan of the Creator of the universe. What we may be seeing in the story of the temptation of Christ is a metaphorical reference to the evil inclination that is placed in every human being. Calling it “devil” is to use a commonly understood metaphor for the potential to choose evil or the internal struggle that influences a person to yield to evil instead of righteousness. Yeshua was provided the opportunity to prove His worthiness to Himself by wresting the human desires that were tempting Him. Desires that almost moved Him to hastily advance the plan for His ascent to power, much faster than He was supposed to advance.
Have any of us ever seen an opportunity to cheat on our taxes and spent more than a couple of minutes considering how simple it would be to fool the government and benefit financially in the process? All the while understanding that cheating, while not the best way to get ahead, would get us ahead at least for the short term. Is there anyone you know who has ever been less than completely honest on a resume for a choice job they are pursuing? I’m not talking about embellishing positive attributes through creative writing and clever wording. I’m talking about actually placing false information about work history or credentials on the resume. Are these examples at all like those we see of Yeshua struggling within Himself when He was embarking on His ministry after receiving the baptism from John and being sent into the wilderness by the Spirit? Is it possible that Yeshua who was tested in all ways like us, but did not sin, was met with the dilemma of overcoming the evil desire for power, prestige, and comfort? Is it possible that just as you and I are created to overcome the desires of the flesh, so too did Yeshua have desires of the flesh that He had to overcome? Desires that spawned a subtle penchant for immediate gratification and had to be overcome by denying the desires of the flesh? Paul struggled in the flesh and we are told we shall struggle in the flesh until we are perfected at some future time, it is likely that Yeshua too was tempted in these ways. This testing can be called “tempted of the devil.”
There is a far more reasonable explanation for who or what tested Yeshua than to accept a “cosmic Satan” came to hang out with Him and harass Him in the desert. If we accept that then Satan would have to have been ignorant of Yeshua’s deity. The probability of who or what tested Yeshua in the wilderness would be one of the following;
- the actions of a man or group of men spoken of as the “devil”; or
- the potential to choose evil, a potential that is present inside every human being including the Messiah,.
Moreover, it is improbable this account of the temptation of Christ is an encounter with an actual “Satan” because there is no Satan doctrine in the Hebrew Scriptures. It would not have even been considered as a probability in the period Yeshua walked the desert in preparation of His Earth shattering mission. I recommend y0u look at this account again in all four of the gospel writings and examine it in its context. You may see how one can see the concept of “devil” that is closer to the teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures when we realize the Hebrew Scripture is used as the standard for understanding what is going on in the Apostolic Testimony. “New Testament” writings cannot be understood apart from the correct understanding of related issues in the “Old Testament.” In addition, Satan cannot be understood apart from the facts we find in the Old Testament that show what the satan is.
 See Jeremiah 17:9
 Bloodline Of The Holy Grail, Laurence Gardner, Fairwinds 2002
 The Holy Bible, New International Version. Pradis CD-ROM:Mt 6:13.
 Act 5:37 After this man rose up, Judas of Galilee,.... Of whom Josephus thus says:
"there was a man of Galilee, by name Judas, who led his countrymen into rebellion, declaring it an evil, should they suffer tribute to be paid to the Romans, and introduce mortal rulers after God.''
And not unlike this is what another Jewish writer says of Judas the Galilean, and his party:
"these were the cause of the Jews rebelling against the Romans, for they said, it was not fit that any should rule over men but God alone; and that no one should be called Lord, but the blessed God.'' –John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible
 Early Jewish Attitudes toward Jesus, Christians, and Christianity, G. George Fox pg. 83
 Yetzer ha ra is the evil inclination in man
 The Greek word for tempted is better interpreted as “tested.”
Now for a sneak peek at . . .
CHAPTER 6 -
Be Gone In The Name Of Jesus (A Sneak Peek)
Does The Name “Jesus” Magically Remove A Demon?
In Yeshua’s world, there were always religious men and healers who went about gathering disciples and sharing a message of encouragement and hope. Jesus wasn’t the only popular preacher who travelled the area. We see mention of these self-styled religious teachers in Mark chapter 9;
38 And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us.
39 But Jesus said, Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
40 For he that is not against us is on our part.
See commentary on Luke 9:49-50 for more on this story.
Many of these men would not and did not recognize Yeshua and they certainly did not see the need to walk in accord with the Messiah. If in fact Jesus was the Messiah, then He properly expounded on the Torah. These men who John saw as not following their group were likely not expressing their faith the same way the Disciples were, yet they still shared truths that were from the Scriptures. So what could be meant by the charge that they were “casting out devils?”
(To read more of this chapter, request your copy of Who's the Devil Jesus Knew?)
evil Jesus Knew?)
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