In the desert when Jesus was being tempted while fasting, is there any significance to the writer referring to Satan as the tempter the first time and the Devil the other two times?

Matt 4:3 - The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

Matt 4:5 - Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple.

Matt 4:8 - Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

Matt 4:10 - “Away from Me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.’”

Matt 4:11 - Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him.

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The narrative in Matt 4:1-11 perfectly illustrates some of the various titles of Satan. In this passage we have three titles:

  • tempter
  • devil
  • Satan

In Rev 12:9 we have a similar phenomenon:

And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

In this passages, we have five titles for the same person:

  • great dragon
  • ancient serpent (an allusion to Gen 3)
  • devil
  • Satan (a Hebrew word meaning "accuser" or "adversary", see 1 Chron 21:1, Job 1:6, 7, 8, 9, 12, 2:1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, Zech 3:1)
  • deceiver

This is clearly done to emphasize the evil nature and character of Satan as the great tempter, accuser, and deceiver of the world, who is a devil.


Then, Jesus was led up into the wilderness, by the Spirit, to be tempted (πειρασθῆναι) by the adversary (διαβόλου) ...

And, coming near, the tempter (πειράζων) said to him ...

Then, the adversary (διάβολος) taketh him with him ...

Jesus said to him, Again, it is written,––Thou shalt not put to the test (ἐκπειράσεις), the Lord thy God.

Again, the adversary (διάβολος) taketh him with him ...

Then saith Jesus unto him, Withdraw, Satan (Σατανᾶ)! for it is written ...

Then, the adversary (διάβολος) leaveth him ...

Matthew 4:1,3,5,7,8,10,11 Rotherham

There is some consistency.
Obviously these terms are synonymous, 'satan' and 'the devil' being hebrew and greek equivalents, 'the tempter' also being an acceptable substitute as referring to the actor by its action.

Both occurrences of 'tempted' and 'tempter' are πειράζω (peirazó). When Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, 'test', in verse 7, the greek is ekpeirazó, from the same peirazó. Not surprisingly, this is the LXX rendering throughout that verse :

οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις (ekpeirazō) κύριον τὸν θεόν σου ὃν τρόπον ἐξεπειράσασθε (ekpeirazō) ἐν τῷ Πειρασμῷ (peirasmos)

Deuteronomy 6:16 LXX

In the singular instance where Jesus directly addresses the diabolos with 'Away from me, Satan (Σατανᾶ)!' this is no doubt a reflection of Jesus quoting the hebrew scripture.

In other words, the only seeming break being that diabolos is used throughout by Matthew except the initial temptation, where it is πειράζων (peirazó), 'the tempter'.

... and he was in the wilderness, forty days, tempted (πειραζόμενος) by Satan (Σατανᾶ) ...

Mark 1:13 Rotherham

The ususal suspects, peirazó and satan.

... forty days,––being tempted (πειραζόμενος) by the adversary (διαβόλου) ...

And the adversary (διάβολος) said to him ...

And, leading him up, he (διάβολος) shewed him ...

And the adversary (διάβολος) said to him ...

And Jesus, answering, said to him––It is said: Thou shalt not put to the test (ἐκπειράσεις) the Lord thy God.

And, having concluded every temptation (πειρασμὸν) , the adversary (διάβολος) departed from him until a fitting season.

Luke 4:2,3,5,6,12,13 Rotherham

The adversary is consistently diabolos and not peirazó, 'the tempter', as Matthew uses on one occasion.
Otherwise the usage of peirazó is restricted to 'tempted' and 'temptation'.
The use of satan by Jesus corresponds with the account in Matthew, consistent with quoting the hebrew scripture.


As mentioned there's a peculiarity in Matthew with him once referring to the diabolos as 'the tempter' instead. Not poor linguistics but inconsistent.
Luke by contrast is consistent with his use of diabolos.

There's also the obvious issue of Matthew and Luke swapping the second and third temptations. Matthew following the natural progression but Luke seeming to prefer a Hellenistic audience.

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