Is the temptation of Jesus in wilderness during his 40 days of fasting a symbolic narration of his personal spiritual struggle and contemplation? Has it been interpreted that way before? Did Matthew 4 and Luke 4 accounts extend the symbolic short note of Mark 1:12-13 into a parable?


Mark 1:12-13 differs from the accounts in Matthew not only in its brevity but in that its principal theme is one of fulfilling the Old Testament while undergoing a personal spiritual struggle with Satan. In Mark 1:13, the story of Jesus going into the wilderness, where he was ministered by angels is an allusion to Elijah (1 Kings 19:5-7) who was ministered by an angel and in the wilderness forty days. There is no actual suggestion that Jesus fasted for this time, but those familiar with the story of Elijah are likely to have assumed he did do so, and this would be made explicit in Matthew and Luke. This brings into play another allusion, to Moses when (Exodus 34:28) he fasted for 40 days while he wrote the words of the Ten Commandments on tablets.

Of the expanded accounts in Matthew 4:1-13 and Luke 4:1-11 ('Q' Source), Dale C. Allison Jr. ('How to Marginalize the Traditional Criteria of Authenticity', published in Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus, Volume 1, edited by Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter - page 14) says:

Most modern scholars have rightly judged this to be unhistorical, an haggadic fiction produced through reflection on scripture. Yet whoever composed it clearly did so in the knowledge that Jesus was (a) a miracle worker who (b) sometimes refused to give signs, (c) thought himself victorious over demonic forces, (d) was steeped in the scriptures, (e) had great faith in God, and (f) was a person of the Spirit. So what we seem to have in Q 4:1-13 is an illustration of the obvious fact that historical fiction can inform us about history. The story, which narrates events that probably never happened, nonetheless catches Jesus in several respects. Here the inauthentic incorporates the authentic.

In this way, the expanded accounts can indeed be regarded as a parable - "a short allegorical story designed to illustrate or teach some truth, religious principle, or moral lesson." It is one of the most powerful stories found anywhere in the gospels, depicting the inevitable victory of Jesus over Satan.

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