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Yeshua in Context » Aims of Yeshua, Divinity of Yeshua, Identity of Yeshua, Temptation » Interpreting the Temptation

Interpreting the Temptation

What is the main issue in the Temptation narrative? Is it about Yeshua’s messianic mission? Or is it something else?

Aside from the many connections to Moses’ and Israel’s story, the temptation account definitely has a message about Yeshua’s identity. Is it what people think? R.T. France in the New International Commentary on the New Testament series is most helpful.

Some have argued that the temptation centers around Yeshua’s messianic mission:
…(1) if Yeshua could make bread he could get followers
…(2) if he survived a fall from the Temple, this sign would get followers
…(3) if he accepted Satan’s offer of transfer of kingship now, Yeshua could reign as Messiah early.

France says no, that is not it.

It is about Yeshua’s relationship to the Father and the tempter trying to drive a wedge between them:
…(1) Will Yeshua exploit his role as the Son of God? Will he put an early end to the time of testing by making bread from stones?
…(2) Will he require the Father to save him from a fall, pridefully asserting his right as the Son?
…(3) Will he skip the hard road to kingdom decreed by the Father and take a transfer of kingship directly from Satan?

As France observes, Yeshua will face similar temptations as the time of the cross draws near and while he is on the cross.

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40 Responses to "Interpreting the Temptation"

  1. Richard says:

    Something I’ve often wondered about – did Satan really believe that Yeshua might give in to these temptations? Or was Satan just torturing Yeshua? Or something else?

    1. yeshuain says:

      Richard:

      I have to think Yeshua could have given in to them. Otherwise, what was the point of God testing him and what goo dis his obedience and submission to the Father?

      Hope this helps.

      Derek

  2. renee says:

    Hi, i have a question regarding the “trinity” doctrine. i attend a messianic congregation and we don’t believe that there is G-d the Father, G-d the son and G-d the holy Spirit. We believe that there is One G-d , Elohim, that Yeshua is the son of G-d and the Holy Spirit is the breath of G-d. when people say 3god in one is that not going against what the scriptures say that we serve one G-d. I thought we were suppose to pray to the Father in the name of His Son by the power of the Holy Spirit.

    1. yeshuain says:

      Renee:

      I am sorry to hear that you are being influenced by a teacher who has not done his homework. If your leader (or you) will study the meaning of Yeshua’s divinity, you will find there is no conflict between statements like, “God is One” and “The Father is God and the Son is God.”

      This is a huge subject and how much can I say about it in a short comment reply? Here are a few tidbits:

      (1) In the Hebrew Bible we see that God is One, but his Presences are many (the Word, the Name, the Glory, the Presence, the Spirit, etc.).

      (2) In the gospels, we see Yeshua as the One sent by God who has the nature of God.

      (3) In Jewish thought, God in his Direct Being radiates his Presence, so that his Presence (the Word) makes the world, for example, and dwells in Zion.

      (4) Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6 gives what many scholars call the Pauline Shema. He expresses the unity of both ideas: God’s Oneness and his Presence in Yeshua.

      (5) You cannot read the gospels and not conclude that the apostles believed Yeshua is the Presence of God, the Son, the One who radiates from his Being.

      (6) If you study the Christian doctrine of the Trinity from theologians who know the history (many good books exist) you will find it is a lie that belief in Yeshua’s divinity and/or belief in the Trinity conflicts with the Oneness of God.

      (7) Mainstream Judaism rejects the divinity of Yeshua, but the idea is not in conflict with Judaism in truth. Much Jewish tradition points to God as Unity with Internal Diversity.

      Derek Leman

  3. renee says:

    I am saved because of the what Yeshua did for us and i don’t discount His divinty at all. to me that 3 gods in one is a contradiction to what the Word says and i have no problem believing the Father sent his son for us, Yeshua is divine and had the power of his father in him. i just don’t want to go against the Word. Does believing Jesus is divine because he has His fathers nature but not G-d does that make me not saved?

  4. yeshuain says:

    Renee:

    I definitely did not mean in any way to imply that you are “not saved” or that your faith is not acceptable to God.

    This is not about whether God accepts you. It is about your own growth and understanding of the depth of God’s nature.

    Here is a thing I have observed: people with very little theological training become leaders of congregations and they confuse people. It bothers me. How competent is your spiritual leader?

    Apparently he/she rejects not only Christian tradition but also has not done any research into this topic (reading internet “teachers” who do not develop their arguments from the chain of scholarship is not research). If the argument you gave against the divinity of Yeshua and the Trinity was more sophisticated, I might believe it was based on research. But the argument you presented suggests to me someone who has not studied the issue beyond a five minute surface investigation.

    It would be well for you to read about the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Here is one post I recommend:
    http://derek4messiah.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/the-nicene-creed-and-mj/

    You might check out some good books on the subject. I might mention:

    Larry Hurtado, How on Earth Did Jesus Become a God, for the history.

    For a simple theology on the subject, how about:

    James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity.

    Derek Leman

    1. Renee says:

      Derek i just read the post and all i have to say is WOW!! there was some pretty heavy debates, WOW! but it was good.

  5. James says:

    If Yeshua couldn’t have failed, then he couldn’t have been tempted and the transaction would be meaningless. He was fully human on earth, having all of our experiences and the temptation narrative does say he was hungry. We also know he got thirsty, sleepy, and frustrated. Although the Bible doesn’t record it, he also probably caught a cold, stubbed his toe, had an itch, played when he was a child, and so on. We know that he wept and he probably also laughed. He was (and is) a person…not Superman from the planet Krypton.

    Luke 22:42 records how Yeshua asked the Father to take “this cup” (the crucifixion) away, so obviously, he wasn’t a super-human being who was immune to suffering, agony, fear, and death. He was human. He could be hurt. It was possible for him to fail, but he could also stay the course and succeed. That’s the point, isn’t it?

    The temptation and crucifixion paint pictures for us, not of how Yeshua was invulnerable to the human condition, but how, as a completely human being, he was just as vulnerable as we are to everything we can possibly experience…only he didn’t fail. It’s a picture of how it’s possible to be a human being and not fail God. No, none of us will ever be perfect, but using Yeshua’s example as a “role model”, we know we can be better.

  6. renee says:

    i’m not a scholar, i’m a simple person who wants to follow Torah. i am not against the divinity of Yeshua, what is frustrating is for years i have believed in the trinity in the tradional sunday church, and the explanations for the trinity doctrine just never made since to me, it also bothers me that there has been poor examples from those in leadership they will mostly give you stupid examples like trinity is like an egg has 3parts and so on. when i came to Messianic i had more comfort and peace about what the Word is saying. people think i’m off my rocker, to me 3gods in one makes me feel like idolatry to me. and the fact that christians were killing christians back in the day if you didn’t follow the trinity doctrine is a scary thought also. with respect i have done more than a 5 minute surface investagtion on my own and maybe the problem lies with the idea that for years in chrisitanty there is alot of paganism, constanitne had much to do with the separation of Judiasm and christianiy and i guess for me Judiasm makes more since. alot of what was taught in tradional church is wrong for example : christmas, easter etc. so if they could lie about those ideas and dress up the paganism behind it, is it so far stretched the this 3gods in one is pagan as well , egypt had 3 in one isis, osiris, heru and babylonians had their trinity and so on. i have comfort know that their is only one G-d and i don’t take anything away from Yeshua the messiah, i believe in the blood of Yeshua and i believe he does emanate from his father and he was with G-d from the beginning , im just not comfortable calling him G-d because once again that makes me feel like im serving more than one the triad “trinity” doesn’t make sense you can still be saved knowing where Yeshua came from and the fact the He and is father are one but that doesn’t make him G-d to me its a sweeter notion that G-d loved us so much that He sent his son with all his power down to earth to bring us back to the father, my thoughts may be simple mind to you and others but i will continue to search out more info,thank you for the website i liked seeing what others thoughts were. i believe what i believe and as long as that doesn’t put my salvation or relationship with G-d at risk than i’m good. my teacher is well educated on these subjects i just can’t articulate them as well as he does but i think i do okay. oh by the way when i read the renewed covenant i don’t get the idea that the disciples thought that way , there are scriptures that ellud to it but why wouldn’t they just come out and say that Yeshua is G-d the idea of a trinity didn’t come until the 5th century or 4th i think -just a thought from a lay person. Father and son can be one with out Yeshua being G-d.

  7. renee says:

    thank you james well said.

  8. yeshuain says:

    Renee:

    It was not you I criticized for a 5 minute surface investigation, but your leader. I doubt I am wrong about that. Religious communities are notorious for encouraging self-authorized teaching that ignores the wisdom of those who came before. Scholars begin with the theories of the past and scholarship leading up to today for a reason: thinkers in the past have built up a wealth of knowledge that only a fool would ignore, even when coming up with a new theory that breaks the paradigm.

    You bring up two good points: (1) the shoddy teaching about the Trinity you found in a local church and (2) the fact that the apostles (with the notable exception of John 1:1) do not simply call Yeshua “God”.

    As to (1), what can I say? I pointed you to two books that will do a far better job than the woefully under-prepared church leaders who taught you before (and better than your current leader). Yes, the egg illustration is completely lacking in intelligence. It’s like saying I have many person because I have arms, legs, a head, fingers, toes, organs, cells, and so on. The fact that an object has parts and yet is one object has nothing to do with the Trinity.

    The illustration suggested by Hebrews 1:3 (and made more explicit by Augustine) is far better: we see the light and feel the heat of the sun, and this is what we call the sun, but we have never encountered the sun in and of itself and would not survive if we tried. God or the Father is, of course, the sun in this illustration. It is not perfect either, but it comes much closer to expressing what cannot be conveyed.

    As to (2), yes, the apostles were reluctant to simply say, “He is God.” People have speculated about the possible reasons for this. One is that they did not want to be misunderstood as denying an essential fact about God. I did point you to 1 Cor 8:5-6 and encourage you to read some good commentary on its relationship to the Shema and how Paul used it in a gentile context to express a Jewish truth.

    You say Yeshua is not God in the apostolic writings, but you admit that he emanates from the Father. That is a good step. He also has “all authority” and is “the bread of life” and “created all things” and so on. Sounds like God to me.

    Derek Leman

    1. Suzie Payne says:

      May I offer a different illustration that I like better? H2O is the chemical formula we know as water. H2O can be found as liquid water, steam and ice. In either of these three forms it is still H2O. G-d seems to be found in many forms, not just the three (the cloud in the wilderness and over the First Temple, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch when cutting covenant with Avraham, etc.)

  9. James says:

    i’m not a scholar, i’m a simple person who wants to follow Torah. i am not against the divinity of Yeshua, what is frustrating is for years i have believed in the trinity in the tradional sunday church, and the explanations for the trinity doctrine just never made since to me…

    One of my pet peeves about the community of faith is the suggestion that only scholars and academicians can understand the Bible, and the idea that the meaning of the scriptures is well beyond the cognitive powers of “ordinary” human beings. While I agree that learned men and women who are dedicated to in-depth investigations of the Bible can bring to light many things that a casual reader would miss, it’s like saying that only a small, elite group of people can tell you want God really wants. The rest of us don’t have true access to God’s Word and just have to take the educated group’s word for it.

    I’m not aiming this at you specifically Derek, but if the Bible is inaccessible to people who don’t have multiple, post-graduate degrees, why do the rest of us folks read it at all? Also, not all of the experts agree on the various points brought forth in the Biblical record, so there is not always one “right” answer to all of our questions, even in the lofty towers of academia.

    While it’s standard Christian doctrine that God is “three persons in one”, like Renee, I never received a clear understanding of how this works when I was in the church. It was a “mystery”. One Law congregations, almost uniformly, believe that God is “Echad”, which is interpreted as one object comprised of multiple components, like a bunch of grapes is made up of numerous individual grapes, or a table is made up of a lot of atoms and molecules.

    And yet, one of the reasons that all Judaisms (except Messianic Judaism) reject Yeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah is that they believe a man cannot be God.

    Many years ago, I read the book When Jesus Became God by Richard Rubenstein and he brought me to my first realization of how, in Christianity, the deity of the Christ was not assumed from the very beginning by the church but rather, developed over time.

    I don’t have a firm understanding of whether or not Jesus somehow is God or if he, as the Messiah, is a unique and divine being but not literally “God the Father” (and how did Jesus pray to himself when he was a human being on earth?). For me, the jury is still out, so to speak, on this matter and my plain and simple understanding of the Bible “sees” different scriptures pointing at different conclusions.

    Do I have faith? Yes. Is Jesus literally God? I don’t know.

    The human journey continues.

  10. yeshuain says:

    James:

    Neither is this aimed at you. I know you to be a well-studied and intelligent person.

    The way it should work is this: religious leaders study for their work. They learn from other religious leaders who studied. They teach people based on accumulated knowledge. If they venture into their own theories that make new paradigms (like Unitarianism or adoptionist Christology or something of that sort) they do so with a firm foundation in existing knowledge, not ignoring it completely.

    Here is how poor leaders do it: they may or may not get some training, but they see themselves as authorized to invent interpretations without assessing the wisdom of the thousands who have gone before. They teach their people “whatever seems right in their own eyes” and cannot answer serious questions about their theories because they didn’t do their homework. They raise up people who think the Bible means “what it means to me.”

    Derek Leman

  11. James says:

    Oh, I’m perfectly willing to admit that I am untrained in these matters. I found your LinkedIn profile some time ago and am well aware of your education and qualifications, and freely state that your ability to study the Bible in a scholarly way far, far outstrips my own.

    As a teacher (though I’m giving up the “job” in 5 or 6 months), I do my level best not to invent theologies or interpretations but rather, to ask questions and to encourage other people to ask questions. I’ve stayed away from teaching about the Trinity because I know I have no conclusions to offer and I don’t want to start a “holy war” in my congregation.

    I know I’ll spend the rest of my life reading, learning, and studying and will perhaps never reach a fraction of the level of understanding that you and other people who are formally educated in areas of theology and divinity possess. I am not disrespecting you or your qualifications. All I’m saying is that I believe God speaks to everyone, not just a small, select group of people who went to college.

    That said, I am aware of many congregations and many congregational leaders who are as you previously described. Many have been led astray. In my own small way, I’ve tried to encourage people to question the “unusual” doctrines they teach, to question their own assumptions, to question my assumptions, and to seek, not the obscure and esoteric “secrets” taught by some congregational leaders, but the things that are within the grasp of us all, such as giving to the poor, loving our neighbor, visiting the sick, and honoring God.

    As Hillel said, “the rest is commentary, now go and study.”

  12. renee says:

    James,
    even my 14yr old who rather be outside with his friends than at Shabbat service. said to me mom i always wondered if Jesus was G-d than who was he praying to when he went off by himself ?

    i love this stimulating conversation, i don’t get enough at home(smile)

  13. yeshuain says:

    James:

    I agree that simple things like loving God and people outweigh scholarship in the bigger picture. Good point and well taken.

    Derek Leman

  14. renee says:

    would your book Yeshua in context address some of my concerns and shed light also with the books you have recommended?

  15. yeshuain says:

    Renee:

    Yeshua in Context covers the human and divine aspects of Yeshua, yes. It follows some of the key stories with a view to the Judaism of Yeshua’s time, the cultural world he lived in, and looking for meaning drawn from his context that can be re-expressed in ours.

    Chapter 13 is called “Born from Above” and gets into the Heavenly Identity of Yeshua. There is a good bit of Father-Son theology here.

    Chapter 16 is “The Living and Present Lord” and talks about Yeshua’s mystical and real Presence now in his people, through the Holy Spirit (it’s a bit complicated, but Raymond Brown shows that the Comforter is Yeshua’s Spirit mediated by the Holy Spirit).

    The last chapter is “The True Vine” and also develops Yeshua’s Divine Presence and how it works amongst his followers.

    Derek Leman

  16. renee says:

    i just ordered it and look forward to reading it. thank you.

  17. yeshuain says:

    Renee:

    Got your order. Hopefully the snow will melt by Friday here in Atlanta! That way I can get it in the mail to you before Monday. Yes, in Atlanta, snow can shut down the postal service and the whole city for a week!

    Derek Leman

  18. James says:

    Snow shuts down the Postal Service in Atlanta? Ben Franklin would be so disappointed.

  19. Seth says:

    The issue that just won’t go away!

  20. James says:

    The issue that just won’t go away!

    Snow in Atlanta? No, it’ll melt.

  21. Seth says:

    LOL, I meant the Trinity. Having a long discussion on facebook about it too.

  22. James says:

    Kind of figured you meant the Trinity, Seth. I just thought I’d add some levity to an otherwise heavy situation. I wonder if an inch of snow on the ground qualifies as “snow bound” in Atlanta? Maybe Derek’s kids had a snow day all week long. ;-)

  23. William says:

    This is a bit off topic Reb Derek, but you brought up an interesting point. Some congregational leaders are well-intentioned but uninformed. We have both very likely seen living proof of the old adage, “A little knowledge is dangerous.” I am hoping in the near future you and some of your colleagues will be able to establish a Yeshiva-Bible Institute (or whatever you might call it) even if it is only one course monthly on three days that month. That might help cut down on misinformation but if this blog is any indication, we could probably count on some spirited discussion during those classes (but that is life in a beit midrash). Sincerely, William

    1. yeshuain says:

      Thank you, William. My seminary is MJTI which you can see at MJTI.org. I finished the requirements for my ordination here and continue with classes each summer to keep my mind supple and develop new knowledge in various areas of rabbinic literature. The rest of my graduate education was at Emory University. I think a combination of university and seminary graduate study is a good combination.

      1. William says:

        Information noted and points well taken! Todah Rabbah! William

  24. Wendeth says:

    Thank you Renee for your question (and follow ups) and Derek for continuing to answer the questions. The trinity is one I’ve also been studying from the Messianic movement perspective (for lack of a better description) for a little while. I also am evaluating what of the typical American church I need to throw out completely and what needs to stay and be used further in my faith. Someone who I am close to also began attending a messianic meeting of the minds and they also began to doubt the trinity. I’m not sure where they are on the subject, but I fully intend to forward this blog to them and hope they can gain some valuable insight as I have.

    As always, Derek, you back up your words with literature and most importantly scripture. It’s a great thing and I always appreciate it.

    1. Renee says:

      good point it a little difficult to understand what to keep and what to hold on to.

  25. Renee says:

    as seth said the issue that wont go away(smile), and i’m glad to know that either way has no bearing on how much i love the father for sending his son, i much i love Yeshua for laying down his life for us and HIs resurrection and the name that is above every name, and the Holy Spirit for guidance and opening my eyes to scripture, you know there have been times when i was reading a passage and it’s like the light bulb just came on, i love those times.

  26. Renee says:

    I was just wondering does anybody think that this offends G-d whether we believe or not believe in “trinity” as long as we Love Him and understad the foundation, like i said in the above blog, i think sometimes that you get misunderstood when you say you don’t believe. but thank G-d in our day you don’t get killed behind it, from what i understand christians were killing christians behind this doctrine. i don’t have all the answers and i’m glad that we can blog about this and other issues, this is my first time blogging so i like this. (smile)

  27. Renee says:

    Oh another question, (you guys have created a blogging monster(smile)). what do you guys think about the aramaic NT?

  28. James says:

    I was just wondering does anybody think that this offends G-d whether we believe or not believe in “trinity” as long as we Love Him and understad the foundation, like i said in the above blog..

    This is just my personal opinion, but I think God is highly amused at how we imagine Him and His purposes. It must be like being the parent of a bunch of 2 and 3 year olds who have 2 and 3 year old ways of conceptualizing the world around them, who their parents are, and how they fit into their universe.

  29. Suzie Payne says:

    Renee:

    I don’t believe G-d is offended at all. Instead, I think He’s pretty pleased that instead of just agreeing with anything and everything we’ve been taught, we want to know and understand Him, His Son and His Word better. If my child never cared enough about me to ask why I say/do/think certain things I wouldn’t think they love me very much.

  30. Renee says:

    thanks for responding, i didn’t think of it that way, thats pretty cool (smile)

  31. Richard Worden Wilson says:

    Wow, what a wonderful conversation here. I’ve been a believer in God in and through Jesus for about 34 years; spent a lot of early believing time and some later trying to know the God of the Bible better and sort out the trinity questions. Most of my conclusions coalesced in questions. Either-or reasoning and its attendant pre-suppositions tend to determine the conclusions (Derek, it seems you are inclined in this direction). A few years ago after another close study (as careful a study as my meager intellect and education would allow) I decided that the Scriptures didn’t answer the questions that Nicea and Chalcedon did. Tradition over scripture seems the human solution to most questions (pardon the cynicism). If anyone responds to this I may say more; right now I’m probably just thinking to myself, so I’ll stop.

  32. Sibyl says:

    Several passages of Scripture support the claim that Jesus is God.
    John Chapter 1…” In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God…”
    “…baptizing them in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.”
    Jesus accepted worship. Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God.” (John 20:28)
    Then there is Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:15-20.

    The way I have come to think of the Trinity, and how God can be three and yet completely unified so as to be one (congruent, completely in agreement) in spirit, mind, will, emotions, purpose, presence, power…and probably many other ways.

    The great Icon of the Trinity painted by Rublev also emphasizes the one-ness and exact likeness of the three persons, their unity and mutual love, attention, concern, support of the others. There is an empty space at the table where the three are seated…I have read that it is the space for the Bride of Christ, His beloved followers, that we are invited to dine and dwell with God at His table.

    Jesus prayed that His Church would be one as He, The Father and The Spirit are one. (Sadly that has often not been the case, even in married Christian or Messianic Jewish couples).

    What a wonderful blog, with peace and good will in the discussion. Thank you, Rabbi Leman.

  33. Sibyl says:

    Sorry – it’s late and one sentence did not make sense. Here it is again:

    The way I have come to think of the Trinity, is that God can be three separate beings in time, space and history (in His visits to temporal earth, His presence in eternal Heaven) and yet completely unified (congruent, completely in agreement) in spirit, mind, will, emotions, purpose, presence, power (and probably many other ways) so as to be one.

    God can also impart Himself, His power, His Word into a message entrusted to angels that it caused Ezekiel and others to believe the angel was God. That power of God’s Word can change, strengthen, refine, heal, deliver, convict and save the human being (Psalm 107:20) Is that the power of the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit? Or all three? The Scriptures ascribe the same power and attributes (Truth, Love and Life) to all three.

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