June 29, 2010

Did Jesus really debate Satan?

Sure.  The real question is, did the devil talk back?  Or first?  For starters, let's go over why I think Matthew and Luke really expect us to believe that he did.  Then we'll discuss whether _I_ think he did.

Luke's description of Zechariah & Gabriel (and Mary & Gabriel) sets us up to read Jesus as audibly hearing the devil in just the same way.  In contrast, Matthew's first three chapters always have God and his angels speaking through dreams (to Joseph & the Magi).  However, just three verses after God speaks audibly to Jesus at his baptism, the Devil starts talking as well.  Surely, therefore, Matthew also expects us to read this passage as an actual verbal exchange.

Elsewhere in both Gospels, we find Jesus speaking to demons through their human hosts, and we could easily imagine that could be how Satan interacted with Jesus as well... that he possessed someone and strolled out into the desert.  That could have been what happened... but that's not what the Gospels are telling us.  

Some accept Mark's bare bones account as 'the historical version' and suggest Matthew/Luke has embellished creatively on what must have been nothing more than inner temptations within Jesus' own conscience... that Jesus (and/or Mt & Lk) merely imagined precise words to match with the devil's temptations.  That's a believable scenario... but that's not what these Gospels are giving us.

Since Luke presents Gabriel as speaking audibly and both writers present God as speaking audibly, we have no reason to expect their presentation of Satan speaking audibly* should suddenly be meant as anything but an actual occurrence.

Accepting that it truly *WAS* an actual occurrence, on the other hand, is simply a matter of personal faith.

So, do _I_ think the devil and Jesus had a debate?  Sure I do.  Why?  Why shouldn't I?  (How's that for a scientific analysis!?!)

Next:  Did the Devil Teleport with Jesus?

*One more, um, technical point.  I'm not looking to gain experience in spooky areas, here, but I have no knowledge to suggest HOW angels would make physical sound waves pass through air without having physical lips, teeth or vocal chords.  Maybe they become audible the same way they become visible - which is, by some unfathomable method!  Otherwise, if what *really* happened was some form of 'loud' mental telepathy, I don't know how we'd be able to consider that different from audible speaking.  But we don't know that persons listening would be able to distinguish it, either.  So, moot point.


James F. McGrath said...

Why shouldn't you? What about the fact that there isn't a mountain from which one can view all the kingdoms of the Earth? :)

Bill Heroman said...

There's not? Oh, bother. I guess now I'll have to go re-edit my post on that topic, before it comes out.


James F. McGrath said...

Well, I did have someone suggest that Satan took Jesus to a mountain on the moon, from which all the kingdoms on Earth would then be visible. It's up to you whether you want to go to that length to have the story be not only factually true but reconcilable with the shape of the Earth as we know of it today.

Bill Heroman said...

This post isn't about the mountain.

I'm sure you have other issues, but in all seriousness, would you really discount an entire conversation because of one incredible aspect purportedly taking place during it?

James F. McGrath said...

What I would do is acknowledge that we would be skeptical of an account set in our own time in which a person was said to have been seen talking to Satan by several eyewitnesses, and we'd be that much more skeptical of one that was recorded almost two millennia ago under similar circumstances. And so when we have no claims that there were eyewitnesses other than Jesus himself (assuming of course that it is a historical rather than symbolic narrative, and that if he had such an experience he told others about it), how can anyone today claim to have a reason to affirm that this happened?

Obviously you are free to say "Why shouldn't I?" but how would you answer someone who asks "Why should I?"?

Bill Heroman said...

WHY would I answer someone who asks "Why should I?"

Geez, James. Don't you know me at all YET?

James F. McGrath said...

Of course not...WHY SHOULD I?! :P

Bill Heroman said...

Okay... sorry for the unintentional shouting. Maybe I should clarify.

If someone asked me for *reasons to believe*, I don't think I'd offer them any, even if I had some to give.

However, if someone wanted to discuss the sheer incredibility of it all, for its own sake, I'd be all in. This post could have been more like that. It just wasn't.

But see, here's the thing.

As I said the other day, in my post on Allison's take, incredibility does not and should not automatically equal non-credibility. That simply just isn't logical.

James F. McGrath said...

I don't think you got that I was responding with yet another "Why should I?" But then again, why should you have?

Bill Heroman said...

Ah, James. You do make me smile.

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