Sunday, February 27, 2022

Twice Led, Not Fed, Well Read

Below is a rough translation and some initial commentary on Luke 4:1-13, the gospel reading for the First Sunday of Lent. I continue to believe that Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s parable, “The Grand Inquisitor” (in the book The Brothers Karamazov) is one of the most profound commentaries on this story anywhere. And, it is interesting! I remember vividly how a youth group was spellbound as I told them this parable and how stunned they were at the ending of it. Please don’t overlook it as a resource this week.

My title, “Twice Led, Not Fed, Well Read” picks up on the dynamics of this story- how Jesus was led by the spirit in the wilderness, then led by the devil to the place of testing; how he hungered and still refused to make a stone into bread; and how the discourse between Jesus and the devil was, in some ways, a wrestling over the heart of the Scriptures. Of course, this is just the rough beginnings of the exegetical process, so I am not developing those ideas to much degree.

Your comments are welcomed. Blessings on your Lenten journey.

1 Ἰησοῦς δὲ πλήρης πνεύματος ἁγίου ὑπέστρεψεν ἀπὸ τοῦ Ἰορδάνου, καὶ ἤγετο ἐν τῷ πνεύματι ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ
Then Jesus full of a holy spirit returned from the Jordan and was being led by the spirit in the wilderness,
ὑπέστρεψεν: AAI 3s, ὑποστρέφω, 1) to turn back  1a) to turn about  2) to return
ἤγετο: IPI 3s, ἄγω, 1) to lead, take with one
πνεύματος;  ἐν τῷ πνεύματι
1. The phrase ‘of a holy spirit’ is a genitive construction that has no definite article. In Lk.3:22 when Jesus is baptized, Luke writes that ‘the holy spirit’ (τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον) descended on him, using the definite article for that phrase (in the accusative case.) The larger point is that in 3:22, the spirit descends on Jesus; in 4:1 Jesus is full of a holy spirit; and in 4:14 (the beginning of the next pericope) Jesus is again described as being filled with the power of the spirit. What a difference that baptism made!
2. The conjunction δὲ, which often takes the shape of “then” (could be ‘yet’ ‘but’ or ‘and’) in Luke’s gospel, is curious. What precedes this story immediately is the genealogy at the end of Luke 3. The δὲ is a way of getting back to the narrative by connecting this story to the baptism story that ends in 3:22. My suspicion is that the genealogy of 3:23-38 was added later.
3. The verb “led” (ἤγετο) is imperfect, not aorist. The imperfect often takes on the sense of an ongoing past event, while the aorist often takes the sense of a simple past. One expects an aorist here, “was led,” rather than the imperfect, “was being led.” The difference might be that a holy spirit was with him throughout the time in the wilderness, as opposed to having led him to the edge of the wilderness and leaving him there on his own. For more on this, see v.9 below.
5. Luke follows Mark’s lead in granting importance to the wilderness in the story of Jesus.

2 ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου. καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, καὶ συντελεσθεισῶν αὐτῶν ἐπείνασεν.
forty days being tested by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and in the completing of them, he hungered.
πειραζόμενος: PPPart nsm, πειράζω, 1) to try whether a thing can be done  1a) to attempt, endeavour  2) to try, make trial of, test: 
ἔφαγεν: AAI 3s, ἐσθίω, 1) to eat 
συντελεσθεισῶν: APPart gpf, συντελέω, 1) to end together or at the same time  2) to end completely  2a) bring to an end, finish, complete
ἐπείνασεν: AAI 3s, πεινάω, 1) to hunger, be hungry 
1. “in the completing of them” is very awkward, but I am trying to reflect that συντελεσθεισῶν is a genitive participle.
2. The participial form of συντελέω will come back again in v.13. (That’s a teaser, folks!)
3. This story is the only mention of “the devil” outside of the parable of the sower in Luke. Luke does mention Satan several times (10:18, 11:18, 13:16, 22:3, 22:31) and some less reliable manuscripts have the phrase “Get behind me, Satan!” affixed to v.12 below (following Matthew). As I understand it, ‘devil’ was rooted in Greek and ‘Satan’ was rooted in Hebrew, but, I am not certain that Jesus/Luke used the words “devil” and Satan” interchangeably.
4. “Hungered” is a verb, not an adjective.

3 Εἶπεν δὲ αὐτῷ διάβολος, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, εἰπὲ τῷ λίθῳ τούτῳ ἵνα γένηται ἄρτος.
The devil said to him, “Since you are the God’s son, speak to this stone in order that it may become bread.”
Εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
εἶ: PAI 2s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
εἰπὲ: AAImpv 2s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
γένηται: AMSubj 3s, γίνομαι, 1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be
1. Paul Achtemeier points out that the Εἰ here should be translated, "Since you are God's son” not “If you are ....” I think it is because the Εἰ is followed by an indicative and not a subjunctive verb. Says Achtemeier, “What is at issue is not whether Jesus is really God's son; even the devil is willing to concede that. The temptation has to do with how God's son should act.”  1213
2. The temptation does not say “make this stone into bread,” but “speak this stone into bread.” Is the devil referencing the creation story of Genesis 1, where God speaks creation into being?
3. The first test seems related to the observation that Jesus hungered in v.2 and how someone with God’s power might satiate such hunger.  

4 καὶ ἀπεκρίθη πρὸς αὐτὸν Ἰησοῦς, Γέγραπται ὅτι Οὐκ ἐπ' ἄρτῳ μόνῳ ζήσεται ἄνθρωπος.
And Jesus answered to him, “It has been written, ‘The human will not live by bread alone.’”
ἀπεκρίθη: API 3s, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
Γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters
ζήσεται: FMI 3s, ζάω, 1) to live, breathe, be among the living
1. The test is for Jesus, as a son of God, to speak bread into being from a stone. The response speaks to what is proper to ‘the human’ (ὁ ἄνθρωπος). I don’t want to suggest that Jesus and the devil are having a 4th century argument over the humanity v. the deity of the Christ, but those terms are interesting.
2. And the terms ‘son of God’ v. ‘human’ must mean something. My suspicion is that it is a matter of identity – which identity will Jesus accept, particularly in his weakened state of hunger.
3. Deuteronomy 8:3 reads, “[God] humbled you by letting you hunger, then by feeding you with manna, with which neither you nor your ancestors were acquainted, in order to make you understand that one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” Reading Jesus’ words in this context suggests that for Jesus to act as a son of God and command a stone to become bread would not just be for him to act as something other than human. It would also be a way of not trusting that God will provide.

5Καὶ ἀναγαγὼν αὐτὸν ἔδειξεν αὐτῷ πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τῆς οἰκουμένης ἐν στιγμῇ χρόνου:
And having led him up he showed to him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.
ἀναγαγὼν: AAPart nsm, ἀνάγω, 1) to lead up, to lead or bring into a higher place 
ἔδειξεν: AAI 3s, δεικνύω, to show, exhibit
1. According to my resources, the word οἰκουμένης, translated ‘world’ here, refers more to the inhabited or perhaps ‘civilized’ world than to the globe itself. It was used during NT era to name the Greek and then Roman empires, as opposed to ‘barbarian’ lands. At its root is the word ‘house’ (οἰκος) and οἰκουμένης is where we get the word ‘ecumenical’. 
2. Paul Tillich famously distinguished between ‘chronos’ and ‘kairos’ as two different ways of speaking about time – a distinction that corresponds with many lexicons. To wit, chronos signifies linear, measurable time and kairos signifies a specific, propitious time, such as “at the right time.” It is a very helpful distinction for theological reflection, but I am wary of assuming that each NT writer was following that distinction closely. In v.5, chronos is frequently translated as ‘time,’ in the phrase ‘a moment of time.’ In v.13 below, many translations make ‘kairos’ “opportune time.”    

6 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ διάβολος, Σοὶ δώσω τὴν ἐξουσίαν ταύτην ἅπασαν καὶ τὴν δόξαν αὐτῶν, ὅτι ἐμοὶ παραδέδοται καὶ ἐὰν θέλω δίδωμι αὐτήν:
And the devil* said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for to me it has been given and I give it to whomever I will.
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
δώσω: FAI 1s, δίδωμι, 1) to give
παραδέδοται: PerfPI 3s, παραδίδωμι, 1) to give into the hands (of another) 
θέλω: PASubj 1s, θέλω, 1) to will, have in mind, intend
δίδωμι: PAI 1s, δίδωμι, 1) to give
1. This is quite a political commentary on the empires (the way that βασιλείας from v.5 was most often used in the NT era). They receive their territories and authority from the devil. And it may be quite a theological commentary, suggesting that it is God who gives the devil the power of empire-making.
2. Jesus (and the synoptic gospel writers) will use the term βασιλείας often in the phrase “kingdom of God/heaven.” As Warren Carter points out, this term is one way that the NT writers imitated, and did not simply resist, the Roman Empire. This test, however, is puts a critical distance between Jesus’ embrace of the term βασιλείας and the devilish power behind other empires.

7 σὺ οὖν ἐὰν προσκυνήσῃς ἐνώπιον ἐμοῦ, ἔσται σοῦ πᾶσα.
Therefore if you would bow before me, it will all be yours.”
προσκυνήσῃς: AASubj 2s, προσκυνέω, 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence  ...  3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage
ἔσται: FMI 3s, εἰμί, 1) to be, to exist, to happen, to be present
1. One implication of this offer is that the previous empires had bowed before the devil in order to receive their kingdoms. I would argue that subsequent empires have as well.
2. As a reader of too many bloody Bernard Cornwell novels, it is always a significant moment when a warrior will kneel before a king and pledge his loyalty. It is a sacred bond that puts the warrior at the king’s disposal with the promise of great reward.

8καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Γέγραπται, Κύριον τὸν θεόν σου προσκυνήσεις καὶ αὐτῷ μόνῳ λατρεύσεις.
And having answered 5678Jesus said to him, “It has been written, ‘Bow to the Lord your God, and serve only him.’”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters
προσκυνήσεις: FAI 2s, προσκυνέω, 1) to kiss the hand to (towards) one, in token of reverence  ...  3) in the NT by kneeling or prostration to do homage
λατρεύσεις: FAI 2s, λατρεύω, 1) to serve for hire  2) to serve, minister to, either to the gods or men and used  alike of slaves and freemen  2a) in the NT, to render religious service or homage, to worship
1. If the devil were as clever as some other tyrants in history, he would have argued that, since God gave him the authority he has, Jesus would be serving God by serving him. Either the devil is not that clever (which I find hard to believe) or Jesus wasn’t that stupid (which I find easy to believe).
2. Deuteronomy 6:13 reads, “The Lord your God you shall fear; him you shall serve, and by his name alone you shall swear.”

9 Ἤγαγεν δὲ αὐτὸν εἰς Ἰερουσαλὴμ καὶ ἔστησεν ἐπὶ τὸ πτερύγιον τοῦ ἱεροῦ, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Εἰ υἱὸς εἶ τοῦ θεοῦ, βάλε σεαυτὸν ἐντεῦθεν κάτω:
Then he led him to Jerusalem and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “Since you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
Ἤγαγεν: AAI 3s, ἄγω, 1) to lead, take with one 
ἔστησεν: AAI 3s, ἵστημι, 1) to cause or make to stand, to place, put, set
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
βάλε: AAImpv 2s, βάλλω, 1) to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls
1. The devil “led” Jesus to Jerusalem. Luke uses the same verb here that was used of a holy spirit by which Jesus “was being led” into the wilderness in v.1. In v.1, the verb is not only passive but also imperfect, which means ongoing past. Here in v.9, the verb is aorist, meaning simple past. It is conceivable that the holy spirit of v.1 is still leading Jesus, even while the devil of v.9 is momentarily leading Jesus. That coterminous leading is very intriguing.

10 γέγραπται γὰρ ὅτι Τοῖς ἀγγέλοις αὐτοῦ ἐντελεῖται περὶ σοῦ τοῦ διαφυλάξαι σε,
for it has been written, ‘His angels he will command concerning you, to protect you’,
γέγραπται: PerfPI 3s, γράφω, 1) to write, with reference to the form of the letters
ἐντελεῖται: FMI 3s, ἐντέλλομαι, 1) to order, command to be done, enjoin 
διαφυλάξαι: AAInf, διαφυλάσσω, 1) to guard carefully
1. Psalm 91:11-12 reads, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

11 καὶ ὅτι Ἐπὶ χειρῶν ἀροῦσίν σε μήποτε προσκόψῃς πρὸς λίθον τὸν πόδα σου.
and ‘On hands they will bear you up, [so that] you may not dash against a stone your foot.’”
ἀροῦσίν: FAI 3p, αἴρω, 1) to raise up, elevate, lift up 
προσκόψῃς: AASubj 2s, προσκόπτω, 1) to strike against  1a) of those who strike against a stone or other obstacle  in the path, to stumble 
1. The stark contrast between casting oneself off of the temple’s pinnacle and ‘dashing one’s foot against a stone’ seems rather dramatic. However, the 91st Psalm is fraught with dangers both humanly contrived (battlefield) and natural (serpents, lions, etc.). It would seem that the temptation is to trust that God will not allow even a minor injury when subjecting oneself to a major, life-threatening act. 

12 καὶ ἀποκριθεὶς εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ἰησοῦς ὅτι Εἴρηται, Οὐκ ἐκπειράσεις κύριον τὸν θεόν σου.
And having answered, Jesus said to him, “It has been said, ‘You will not test the Lord your God.’”
ἀποκριθεὶς: APPart nsm, ἀποκρίνομαι, 1) to give an answer to a question proposed, to answer 
εἶπεν: AAI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak
Εἴρηται: PerfPI 3s, λέγω, 1) to say, to speak  1a) affirm over, maintain 
ἐκπειράσεις: FAI 2s, ἐκπειράζω, 1) to prove, test, thoroughly 
1. Does this reply suggest some priority of things spoken over things written?
2. The words Jesus quotes are not in the imperative voice, as they are often translated. They are indicative in the future tense.
3. The close relationship between the word “test” (ἐκπειράζω) in this verse and the word “test” (πειράζω) in v. 2 is notable. Jesus was tested, but God is not to be tested.
4. Deuteronomy 6:16 reads, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah.”

13 Καὶ συντελέσας πάντα πειρασμὸν διάβολος ἀπέστη ἀπ' αὐτοῦ ἄχρι καιροῦ.
And having completed all of the tests the devil departed from him until a time.
συντελέσας: AAPart nsm, συντελέω, 1) to end together or at the same time  2) to end completely  2a) bring to an end, finish, complete
ἀπέστη: AAI 3s, ἀφίστημι 1. draw away ... depart from ...  withdraw one's self
1. The participle of συντελέω has returned! In v.2 above this participle signifies the completion of the 40 days of fasting. Here, it signifies the completion of the tests.
2. As I pointed out in a v.5 comment, the word kairos is often translated ‘opportune time’ (NIV, NRSV) or ‘convenient season’ (YLT). There is no adverb for ‘opportune.’ It is a judgment call regarding the meaning of kairos.




  1. Thanks for your work here Mark.
    Just downloaded your book and look forward to digging into to it!

    God's peace on your Lenten journey, may God reveal the ever-deepening grace and intention of His enduring love!


  2. I have always been curious about the testing during the 40 days. The sparring with the devil in this story seems to come afterwards, when Jesus is hungry and weakened. Was there previous testing or is this a nit picking distinction?

    Thank you for all of the insights that you give to us. It is greatly appreciated.


    1. Hi Sharon,
      Thanks for your note.
      I think the opening words of v. 2, with the use of the present participle, would suggest that this was a 40 day ordeal. Perhaps the 3 questions that we get (keeping in mind that we're talking about the story of the event, not really the event itself) are indicative of the kinds of temptations, or even highlights of the temptations.

      I think it is helpful to think of this is a 40-day ordeal. For example, we could imagine the comment that the devil took Jesus to a high place as more of a two-day journey, rather than an instantaneous magical form of travel. Etc.

      Thanks again for the note. Now you've got me thinking anew.

  3. Dear Mark,
    I am always so grateful for the insights that your close reading of the Greek provide. This time I am particularly grateful for the image of speaking a stone into bread. Here Jesus refuses to do that for himself. Later, he will "speak/pray" a small amount of bread into enough for multitudes, and a bit of Passover matzoh into waybread for his disciples to endure the Passion. Thank you for your prayerful work. A blessed Lent to you!

    1. Thanks, William. Blessings on your Lenten season as well.

  4. I, too, appreciate the distinction of speaking a stone into bread. All week I have been pondering the nature of Jesus' temptations, after seeing and intriguing picture with Jesus--alone--sitting and staring at a stone in the wilderness. It seems that each of the temptations are not what the Devil can do for Jesus, but what Jesus can do for himself IF he were to choose the shortcut way of doing things. He could speak the stone into bread to serve himself instead of others, as he does later. He could command the nations to honor him immediately instead of winning hearts and minds for the reign of God over time. He could escape death in Jerusalem instead of taking up his cross. That word "speak" speaks volumes to me. Thank you!

    1. Thank you, Laura. This story has endless possibilities.

  5. Diabolos is also the accuser, no? So the power of accusing - of diverting blame and shaming others (House of Cards) is at the center of the power of empire?

    And I know it's John, but Jesus' attribution of Pilate's power is that it was given 'from above.' Maybe a cross reference?

  6. Love this post. I will keep an eye out for it.

  7. Your comment: Jesus (and the synoptic gospel writers) will use the term βασιλείας often in the phrase “kingdom of God/heaven.”

    The root of βασιλείας is βασ - foot. I'm wondering if the word itself takes the concept of 'foundationing' (Tillich's Shaking of the Foundations?) - and that there is a 'foundationing' of the world order vs. a foundationing of heaven? Heaven has always seemed to me to be at least an expanded context for viewing - much as going up on a mountain and looking down lets you see a lot more than being in the valley? So a foundationing of God or a foundationing of heaven as the basic context for seeing and acting vs. a foundationing of the world order as it appears... FWIW

    1. That's a fascinating thought, Bill. Have you read William P. Brown's work, The Seven Pillars of Creation? If I'm remembering correctly, he talks about some rabbinical traditions that saw the creation story of Gen.1 as describing the creation of the heavens and the earth with relation to the architecture of the temple. Perhaps that is part of the development of the term βασιλείας and its relation to footings.


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