From: Jeffrey B. Gibson (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Thu May 31 2001 - 18:28:36 EDT
In my previous message, I made the claim that in enticement was not
thought of in the first century as the primary means he employed when
I should like to offer a little evidence for that claim. Now I know that
doing this may not seem to be within the purview of B-Greek. But since
the question has been raised regarding what PEIRAZEIN means when the
devil is said to be doing it, and especially in Matt. 4:1-11//Lk.
4:1-13//Mk. 12-13, offering evidence which might help to clear this up
does seem to me to be entirely warranted. Apologies for its length.
This evidence I want to bring forward is the way that the Devil is
presented in a text that both structurally and thematically bears more
than a passing resemblance to Mt. 4.1-11//Lk. 4.1-13, namely, the
midrash on the Genesis story of God's temptation of Abraham (Gen. 22)
found in TB Sanhedrin 89b.
What I will do first is to quote the text. Then I will point out the
formal and thematic similarities between it and the NT texts in
question. Then I will note what this text says regarding how the Devil
carries out PEIRASMOS.
The text reads:
And it came to pass after these words, that God did tempt Abraham
(Gen. 22.1) What is meant by `after'? - R. Johanan said on the authority
of R. Jose ben Zimra: After the words of Satan, as it is written, `And
the child grew and it was weaned. [And Abraham made a great feast the
same day the child was weaned' (Gen. 21.8)]
R. Simeon b. Abba said `na' can only denote entreaty. This may be
compared to a king of flesh and blood who was confronted by many wars
which he won by the aid of a great warrior. Subsequently he was faced
with a severe battle. Thereupon he said to him, `I pray thee, assist me
in battle, that people may not say, there was no reality in the earlier
ones'. So also did the Holy One, blessed be He, say unto Abraham, `I
have tested thee with may trials and thou didst withstand them all. Now
be firm for my sake in this trial, that men may not say, there was no
reality in the earlier ones.'
[But] I have two sons!
Thine only one.
Each is the only one of his mother.
Whom thou lovest.
I love them both!
And why all this [circumlocution]? - That his mind should not reel
[under the sudden shock].
Thereupon Satan said to the Almighty: `Sovereign of the Universe! To
this old man didst thou graciously vouchsafe the fruit of the womb at
the age of a hundred, yet of all that banquet which he prepared, he did
not have one turtle dove or pigeon to sacrifice before thee! Hath he
done aught but in honour of his son?' Replied He: `Yet were I to say to
him, `Sacrifice thy son before Me,' he would do so without hesitation.'
Straightway God did tempt Abraham ... And he said, Take, I pray thee
[na] thy son (Gen. 22:2)... On the way Satan came towards him and said
to him, `If we assay to commune with thee, wilt thou be grieved? ...
Behold thou hast instructed many; and thou hast strengthened the weak
hands. Thy words have upholden him that was falling and thou hast
strengthened the feeble knees. But now it has come to unto thee and thou
faintest (Job. 4:2-5 on the basis of a verbal link between nasah in Job
and Genesis). He replied, `I will walk in my integrity' (Ps. 26:2).
`But', said [Satan] to him, `should not thy fear be thy confidence?'
(Job. 4:6) `Remember', he retorted, `I pray thee, who ever perished,
being innocent?' (Job 4:6) Seeing that he would not listen to him, he
said to him, `Now a thing was secretly brought to me' (Job 4:12): thus
have I heard from behind the curtain, `the lamb for a burnt offering
(Job 4:7) but not Isaac for a burnt offering.' He replied, `It is the
penalty of a liar, that should he even tell the truth, he is not
As even a cursory glance at this text shows, the thematic and formal
similarities between TB Sanhedrin 89b and Matt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4.1-13 are
striking. The theme of both stories is the demonstration of the
faithfulness of the pious in and through PEIRASMOS. In both, the
PEIRASMOS is divinely ordained. But also in both, it is not God but the
Devil who carries out the `testing'. Then like the Q story, the bulk of
the structure of TB Sanhedrin 89b is shaped around a threefold and
ultimately unsuccessful attempt by the Devil to sway the one he `tests'
from obedience to a divine command. Also, as in Q, each of these
attempts is made by means of an appeal to a shared knowledge of how God
works, what his wishes are for the pious, and what, in light of this,
the pious have a right to expect from God. Likewise each appeal is
solemnly rebuffed. And here, too, each appeal as well as each of the
pious one's responses to it, is grounded directly or allusively in
Though there is hardly a case to be made for the literary
dependence of one story on the other, there is little doubt that they
are both derived from the same theological model of (1) the nature of
PEIRASMOS, (2) the Devil's role within this experience, and (3) how the
Devil goes about his task of determining the faithfulness of the pious.
Here Abraham, on the way to Mount Moriah to sacrifice Isaac, as God has
commanded him, is confronted by the Devil who has come to Abraham to
carry out the divinely ordained `testing' of his (Abraham's)
faithfulness. Notably, the Devil does so specifically by trying to show
Abraham through appeal to Scripture ( Job 4.2-5; Job 4.6 and Job 4.12
combined with 4.7) and the `knowledge' of God's ways he possesses by
virtue of his privileged position as a member of the heavenly court (Cf.
the Devil's remark `thus have I heard from behind the curtain ...'.),
that Abraham need not carry out God's command, for it is contrary to
God's ways and not really what God demands of him.
Given this, what can we assume from this passage regarding the figure of
the devil and his MO when engaged in subjecting someone to PEIRASMOS?
This text -- and, given its parallels with Matt. 4:1-11//Lk. 4:1-13, by
extension, the Matthean and Lukan ones, show that the devil was thought
of primarily as one who, when, as here, is engaged in puting the pious
`to the test', does so first by posing as one privy to the divine
counsel and then attempts to get the pious to break their faithfulness
to God, and turn aside from obeying him, by bringing them to `see' that
what God has commanded them to do (or put their trust in) is not really
If this is enticement, it is an enticement of a different horse
Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon.)
7423 N. Sheridan Road #2A
Chicago, Illinois 60626
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