Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 4:1-11

1 Then Jesus was led by the spirit into the desert, to be tempted by the devil.

Then Jesus was led.] In his baptism Jesus has been declared to be the Messias [Is. 42:1; Ps. 2:7]; now the Messias was regarded as the founder of a new dispensation [31:32; Mal. 3:1], and as the conqueror of the serpent [Gen. 3:15]. Moses, the founder of the Jewish dispensation, and Elias, its restorer, had fasted forty days before beginning their work; the first Adam had been vanquished by Satan in temptation. It is then fit that Jesus should begin his Messianic work by a similar fast, and foreshadow his triumph over Satan by overcoming him in temptation.

1. The fast. a. When? The evangelist indicates the time by the general particle “then”; according to Mk. 1:12, this happened immediately after the baptism, and Lk. 4:1 suggests the same time. Iren. [adv. hær. II. xxii. 5] contends that Jesus retired after receiving baptism at the age of thirty, and began his public life only in the “senior ætas”; the text of the synoptic gospels, and the fact that among the Jews one could begin to teach at the age of thirty, demand no interruption between the baptism and the public life of Jesus. Iren. claims for his view the report of the gospel—probably Jn. 8:57, which does not support Iren.—and of the “Elders of Asia.”

b. Why? (1) Jesus was led [or driven, according to Mk. 1:12], without being rapt through the air [cf. ev. Heb.; Jer. in Mich, 7:5–7], by the Spirit who had come visibly upon him [cf. Bed.], into the desert, that he might return from the desert into paradise from which the first Adam had been cast out into the desert. The Greek expression shows that the Spirit led Jesus upwards from the Jordan valley. The gospel does not specify the desert that was the scene of the following events; Mald0nado. Schegg, Meyer, Schanz conclude, therefore, that the evangelist speaks of the same desert as in 3:1 [the desert of Judea]. There is no reason for identifying the desert with that of Sinai [Alf.], though we grant a scripture parallelism between Moses, Elias, and our Lord. Tradition points to the desert of Jericho, and more in particular, to the highest part of the mountain range near Jericho, on the road to Jerusalem, named Quarantania [Kuruntel or Karantel] from the Forty Days’ Fast.

(2) That solitude is well fitted for communion with God is manifest from many passages in Sacred Scripture: Ex. 34:28; 3 Kings 19:8, 9; Lk. 3:2; 5:16; Jn. 11:54; 18:2; Mt. 26:36; etc. But the evangelist adds another purpose for which the Spirit led Jesus into the desert, viz., “to be tempted by the devil.” The agent who was to tempt Jesus does not permit us to understand the word in the sense of “provoking to anger,” or of “trying to make known some secret or hidden quality in his sacred person”; and still, it seems to be a fearful thing that either God directly intended Jesus to be tempted to evil, or that the sacred humanity of Jesus should have been subjected to this awful humiliation.

(3) St. Paul has anticipated the answer to this second exception where he explains to the Hebrews the mystery of Christ’s abasement [Heb. 2:17; 4:15; 5:8]. The apostle shows that, excepting sin, Jesus must become like unto us; that he must be tried like ourselves, and that he must learn obedience by what he suffers.

(4) Nor is it unworthy of God to have intended the temptation of Jesus; for as in any attack one has to bear from one’s enemy, one may distinguish between the trial and the advantage of the enemy, so in the present case, God intended Jesus to be tried in the conflict with Satan without giving any advantage to the latter.

(5) This intention on the part of God creates the less difficulty, because on the part of Jesus sin was physically impossible. Hence it was that the temptation must come from outside; for Jesus was free from concupiscence, and could not therefore suffer any temptation arising from within.

(6) Moreover, it was fitting that the restorer of the human race should meet in single combat, as it were, the old serpent who had ruined Adam and his offspring in the garden of paradise; no wonder, then, that the Spirit of God, whom the evangelist contrasts so emphatically with the evil spirit, impelled our Lord to meet his enemy in the desert [Thomas Aquinas. Alb. Maldonado. Jansenius. Barradas. Sylveira. Lap. Lamy, Coleridge, Grimm].

c. The tempter. The desert is repeatedly represented as the dwelling place of evil spirits: Mt. 12:43; Lk. 11:24; Is. 13:21; 34:14; Lev. 16:10; Tob. 8:3; Bar. 4:33; etc. In the present case, the evangelist mentions “the devil” as the intended tempter. This word is derived from the Greek noun διάβολος, or the verb διαβάλλειν, to calumniate; this is the usual term in lxx. for the Hebrew שָׂטָן, which is σατανᾶς in the New Testament, and also σατᾶν in the lxx. The Hebrew word properly means “adversary,” and is used originally of men [3 Kings 5:18; 11:14; etc.] or angels [2 Kings 19:23; Num. 22:22]; but with the article, it means the adversary by excellence, the enemy of God, and the tempter of men [1 Par. 21:1; 2 Kings 24:1], and the accuser of men before the throne of God [Zach. 3:1, 2; Job 1:7]. In this sense the word has become almost a proper name of the prince of darkness. This excludes the rationalistic opinion that the tempter of Jesus was the chief of the Sanhedrin, or the Jewish high priest, or another remarkable and influential member of the Synagogue [cf. Rosenm. Kuinoel, Schütz]. Need we add that Paulus makes the whole history a dream, Eichhorn, Dereser, etc., a fancy, Schmidt, Döderlein, Schleiermacher, Usteri, Baumgarten, a parable, Strauss, De Wette, Meyer, a myth?

2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterwards he was hungry.

And when he had fasted.] d. The fast. α. That the fast of Jesus was not merely what is meant in ecclesiastical language by fasting, nor what the Jews understood by the term,—the Jewish fast ended with the day, at sunset,—is clear from the words of St. Matthew, “forty days and forty nights,” from the fast of Moses related in terms similar to those of the present passage [Ex. 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 18], and from the express statement of St. Luke [4:2], “and he ate nothing in those days” [cf. Euthymius. Paschasius. Alb. Salmeron. Maldonado. Jansenius. Lam. Calmet.].

β. It may be of interest to draw attention to the preferential use of the number forty in both the Old and New Testament: Moses and Elias fasted forty days [Ex. 24:18; 3 Kings 19:9]; it rained forty days and nights on the earth [Gen. 7:11]; the forty usual days passed after the embalming of Jacob’s body [Gen. 1:3]; the explorers of the land of Chanaan returned after forty days [Num. 13:26]; Goliath presented himself for forty days to the hosts of Israel [1 Kings 17:16]; the Jews passed forty years in the desert [Ex. 16:35]; Ezechiel did penance for forty days for the sins of the house of Israel [Ez. 4:6]; the land of Egypt was made desolate for forty years [Ez. 29:12]; Jesus was presented in the temple after forty days, he fasted forty days, and for forty days he conversed with his disciples after his resurrection; we need not add the forty days’ penance of the Ninivites, the forty days’ legal impurity after child-birth [cf. Hilary. Ambrose. Salmeron. Jansenius. Maldonado. Sylveira. Arnoldi. Schanz, Knabenbauer.].

γ. In the New Testament we find no fixed time for fasting [cf. Augustine. ep. 36, al. 38; ad Casul. xi. 25], though this holy exercise is frequently commended: Mt. 9:15; Mk. 2:20; Lk. 5:35; Acts 13:2, 3; 14:22; 1 Cor. 7:5; 2 Cor. 11:27. As to the time of lent, it is of ecclesiastical institution, but of apostolic tradition; cf. Jer. ep. 41, 3 [al. 51 or 54]; in Mt. ix. 15; ep. 18 ad Eustoch. [al. 22]; ep. 57 ad Lætam [al. 7]; Apostol. Const. c. 68; Counc. of Laodicea, can. 15; Leo the Great, serm. xliv. 1 [edit. Ballerini, t. i. p. 168]; xlvii. 1 [ibid. p. 177]; Ignat. ad Phil. xiii; Augustine. lib. ii. ad inquis. Januarii seu ep. 55 [al. 119]; 14:27; 15:28; Daille, de jejun. x.; Bellarm. De bonis oper. 1. ii. c. xiv.; Kirchenlexicon, ed. Kaulen, t. iv. s. v. Fastenzeiten. Bellarm. has collected a number of reasons for the institution of lent: in it we practise public penance for the sins of the year, we prepare for the paschal communion, we fulfil the prediction of our Lord [Mt. 9:15], we commemorate with greater fervor our Lord’s passion and death, we pray for the catechumens to be admitted to baptism about this time of the year, we pay tithes, as it were, of our whole lives to God by consecrating to him the tenth part of each year, and finally we imitate Jesus Christ, who fasted for forty days in the desert.

δ. St. Matthew adds “afterwards he was hungry”; St. Luke [4:2] agrees with this statement, saying “and when they [the forty days] were ended, he was hungry.” Commentators are unanimous in inferring from these words that Jesus did not feel hunger during his forty days’ stay in the desert, which may have been spent in ecstatic prayer [opus. imperfectum. Hilary. Ambrose. Alb. Faber. Dionysius the Carthusian. Salmeron. Jansenius. Maldonado. Barradas. Sylveira. Lapide. etc.]. Suarez [in 3 p. disp. 29 s. 2 n. 5] is of opinion that the interpretation defended by Caj. and proposed as probable by Medina, according to which Jesus felt hunger all through his stay in the desert, is rash, because it contradicts the obvious and plain sense of Sacred Scripture, and the common teaching of the Fathers and Catholic theologians.

3 And the tempter coming said to him: If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

And the tempter coming.] 2. The temptation. This section naturally falls into three parts, each considering one of the three temptations. a. First temptation, α. Manner of temptation. The narrative leads us to believe that the tempter assumed the form of a man, because he approached our Lord, asked to be adored by him, took him up into the Holy City, and again into a high mountain, and finally left him, when the angels in human form came and ministered to him [vv. 3, 9, 5, 8, 11]. That the whole event occurred outwardly, and has been literally described by St. Matthew, is the common and traditional opinion of the Fathers and the commentators, against which the view of Origen. Cyprin. Theodore of Mopseustia., who regard the temptation as a merely internal suggestion of the devil, cannot claim any authority.

β. Length of the temptation. Mk. 1:13 reads: “and he was in the desert forty days, and forty nights, tempted by Satan”; Lk. 4:2, 3 adds: “and was led by the Spirit into the desert for the space of forty days, and was tempted by the devil.” It is especially on account of these texts that Justin the Martyr [c. Tr. 103, 125] Clement [hom. 19, 2] Origen, Bede Euthymius Jansenius, Lapide, Coleridge, Alford extend the temptation of our Lord throughout the forty days, only admitting a greater intensity at the end; Thomas Aquinas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 2, ad 2] speaks of visible and invisible temptations of Jesus in the desert. Though St. Matthew does not say that the devil approached after the forty days for the first time, the whole tenor of the context implies this; the language of Mk. and Lk. may be reconciled with this, since it appears to indicate the place rather than the time of the temptation: “and he was in the desert for forty days and forty nights, [and there] tempted by Satan.” Besides, the hunger of Jesus is commonly regarded as the occasion of the temptation; low our Lord did not feel hungry till after forty days.

γ. Nature of the temptation. (1) The outward act to which the devil tempts Jesus is a miraculous change of the loaf-like stones found in the place where Jesus dwelt, into nourishment.

(2) The motives suggested for this act are two: the first is implied in the words “command that these stones be made bread [loaves],” seeing thon feelest the pangs of hunger; the second motive is suggested by the words “if thou be the son of God,” if indeed thou art able to do this, or if this condition is unworthy of thee as the Son of God. The motives are therefore sensuality under the pretence of necessity [cf. Gen. 3:6; Ex. 16:3; Num. 11:33; Ps. 77:30], and pride under the appearance of defending the honor of the Son of God.

(3) The end of the devil in thus tempting Jesus is twofold: first, he instigates our Lord to help himself independently of the will of God by whom he had been led into the desert, and placed in his present condition; secondly, the devil wishes to ascertain whether Jesus be truly the Son of God [Thomas Aquinas p. 3, qu. 41, a. 1; Chrysostom Amb. Theophylact, Alb. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan Sylveira Lam. Coleridge, Grimm].

(4) It is true that some commentators [Mald. Ypr.] believe that the devil knew the divinity of Jesus at the time of the temptation: (a) he had witnessed the hymn of the angels, the praises of the Magi, the testimony of John, the signs at the baptism, and the heavenly life of Jesus. (b) According to this view, the words “if thou be the Son of God” do not imply doubt, but they rather assume the fact [cf. Heb. 9:13], or they provoke more effectually by questioning that which is unquestionable. (c) That the devils knew the divinity of Jesus follows also from all those passages in which they bear testimony to it: Mk. 1:24; Lk. 4:34, 41; Mt. 8:29; Lk. 8:28; etc. (d) Again, it is urged that, had the devil been ignorant of the divinity of Jesus, he could not have learned it from the temptations, because the miracles could not have been wrought at the devil’s suggestion, and the last temptation is not connected with the sonship of God.

(5) But we have already given a stately array of Fathers and commentators who have not been convinced by these arguments; they must therefore not be insuperable. (a) It is St. Augustin [De civ. Dei, l. ix. 2] who says that the devils could learn only so much from the miracles of Jesus as God wished them to know; we cannot therefore “a priori” conclude that the evil spirits knew all that could be known from this source. (b) As to their testimony to Jesus, they often testify only to his Messiasship or his personal holiness, without implying his divinity; where they imply the divinity of Jesus, they may have intended to flatter him, or to deceive the multitude. (c) It is true that 1 Cor. 2:8 does not necessarily mean: if the princes of this world had known the divinity of Jesus, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory, but may signify: if the princes of this world [either the earthly princes or the devils] had known the mystery of the cross, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory [cf. Thomas Aquinas in loc.; Suar. De myster. disp. xxxi.]; but from the possibility that the demons may have known the divinity of Jesus at the time of the crucifixion, it does not follow that they did know it at the time of the temptation. (d) If it be finally asked how the temptations could have testified to the divinity of Jesus, we may answer with Suar. [l. c.]: in the case of the first and second temptation, Satan knew that no one but the Son of God could have worked such mighty signs, especially in confirmation of such a truth as the devil had called in question. The third temptation was calculated to provoke our Lord, to claim for himself the honor of the Son of God, who had every right to a divine adoration.

4 Who answered and said: It is written, Not in bread alone doth man live, but in every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God.

Who answered and said.] δ. The victory. (1) Jesus has recourse to Scripture, because the devil cannot question its veracity. His answer is not an admonition that God nourishes spiritually all those that keep his word [commandments] [Fritzsche], but is an allusion to Deut. 8:3, where Moses points back to the miraculous sustenance of the people in the desert, showing that bread is not the only support of life, but that man lives “in all that proceedeth from the mouth of God,” i. e. that God can sustain him in any way he pleases. The explanatory “word” has been added to the Hebrew text by the lxx. and the Vulgate. The means suggested by the enemy is therefore not necessary. (2) We must also admire the consummate wisdom of the answer: it restores to the heavenly Father the honor that was implicitly attacked by the suggestion of the devil [Coleridge, i.]; it says absolutely nothing concerning the divinity of Jesus [opus imperfectum, Jer. Rabbanus Alb. Dionysius the Cathusian, Cajetan, Jansenius, Sylveira etc.]; it overcomes the devil not by almighty power, such as God alone could exert, but by the aid of the law that had been given to men as a means of salvation [Ambrose, Thomas Aquinas, Alb. Cajetan]; not by the show of pomp and majesty, but by humility [Leo, Jerome, Greg. Jansenius,]. While Jesus therefore teaches us the power of the inspired word, he also foreshows his future teaching [Mt. 6:33]: “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all those things shall be added unto you.”

5 Then the devil took him up into the holy city, and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple,

Then the devil took him up.] 2. Second temptation. a. Order of events. St. Luke [4:5 ff.] inverts the order of the second and third temptation found in the first gospel. Hence a number of authorities believe that the third gospel gives the true chronological order of temptations. Reasons: The external evidence is represented by the names of gloss. ord. Paschasius Alb. Reischl, Coleridge, Grimm, Knabenbauer, etc.; the internal grounds are the fact that St. Luke promises to write “in order” [1:3], and the gradation found in the order of the third gospel. For there the devil proceeds from the concupiscence of the flesh to that of the eyes, coming in the third place to the pride of life. St. Thomas [p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4] proves too that the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes tempt carnal men, while the pride of life is a temptation of spiritual men. Not to mention those that hesitate as to the true order of temptations [Augustine, e. g.], or those that believe the order in the two gospels differs, because the order of temptations varies in various persons, the concupiscence of the eyes preceding in some cases the pride of life, while in other cases the inverse order obtains [cf. Tostatus qu. 31, Sylveira]; we cannot omit the opinion which regards the order of the first gospel as the true one. Reasons: External evidence: Dionysius the Carthusian, Suarez, [p. 3, disp. 29, s. 4, n. 4], Maldonado, Sylveira, Barrdas, Schanz, Arnoldi, Fillion, Keil, Meschler [i. p. 191]. Internal evidence: the first gospel employs throughout the particles of succession, v. 1 “then,” v. 5 “then,” v. 8 “again”; besides, the answer of v. 10, following the third temptation related by St. Matthew, must have been the final one. It is well known that while St. Luke’s order is accurate in regard to the greater events, the first gospel often supplies a more accurate order of detail. Even the gradation of the temptations is not lost in the order of the first gospel: the first temptation appeals to the motives of sensuality and pride; the second, to vainglory; the third presents motives of avarice and pride in the highest degree, or, as Meschler [l. c.] points out, it combines all the allurements of the concupiscence of the flesh, of the concupiscence of the eyes, and of the pride of life. Other authors represent the gradation of the temptations thus: temptation to independence and want of confidence in God, to presumption, to blasphemy [Schanz]; Jesus tempted as man, as Jewish prophet, as Messias [Lutter. ii. 34]; manifestation before the tempter, before the Jewish community, before the Gentile world; Jesus tempted as man, as Messias, and as Son of God [Godet]; etc.

b. Manner of the temptation. α. The evangelist describes it in three preparatory clauses: “the devil took him up”—“into the holy city”—“and set him upon the pinnacle of the temple.” In general, it may be noted that these expressions do not favor the hypothesis of a merely internal temptation by suggestion.

β. If it be asked whether the devil carried our Lord bodily through the air, we find different answers in the best commentaries: Euthymius, Maldonado, chiefly through reverential feelings for the sacred person of Jesus, contend that he did not permit himself to be carried by the devil, but that he accompanied his tempter on foot to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain [Berlepsch]; Fritzsche believes the devil merely impelled Jesus to go to the pinnacle of the temple and the summit of the mountain; but Greg. Lapide, Jerome Yp. Knabenbauer, Fillion, and most commentators adhere to the bodily transportation of Jesus by the agency of the devil. Suarez, [De angel, disp. xvi. s. iii.] infers from this passage that Satan has power to move bodies from place to place. Greg. [hom. xvi. in Mt.] explains how Jesus could allow himself to be carried by the evil spirit: “We need not be surprised if he permitted himself to be carried up into a mountain by Satan, since he permitted himself to be crucified by the members of Satan.” The wording of St. Matthew’s text together with the expression “set him upon the pinnacle of the temple” favors the third view.

γ. The “holy city” is Jerusalem, because it had been chosen by God as the site of the temple [Euth.], and as the centre of the theocracy, and therefore as the residence of God among his people [cf. Is. 48:2; 52:1; Dan. 9:24; 2 Esd. 11:1, 18].

δ. The “pinnacle of the temple” has been variously identified by commentators. The word rendered “pinnacle” occurs also in Lk. 4:9; in the lxx. version it stands regularly for the Hebrew כָּנָף [wing], though the Greek word presents the diminutive form [winglet]. Gesen. [Lexic. ed. 8, s. v.] states that the Hebrew word is never used of the “summit” or the “highest point” of anything, but only of the extremity or the border of a plain [e.g. the hem of a garment]. It must also be noted that the Greek text does not read ναός [temple proper], but τοῦ ἱεροῦ [sanctuary], so that the edge on which the devil placed our Lord may have belonged to any part of the temple structures. It is on account of these considerations that many writers reject the opinion of Or. and Hilary according to which Jesus was placed by Satan on the topmost height of the temple, preferring either the Royal Porch or the Porch of Solomon [cf. Scholz, Alterth. p. 238; Keil, Archæol. p. 151; Comment. p. 113], the height of which was considerable [Josephus Antiq. XV. xi. 5; XX. ix. 7], or the southeastern corner, at which these porches met [cf. Schæf. Alterth. p. 41], or the projecting part of the temple-roof [Maldonado, Calmet, Jansenius, Lapide], or the edge of an elevated part of the roof, or the enclosing wall [Grimm, ii. 192].

6 And said to him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written: That he hath given his angels charge over thee, and in their hands shall they bear thee up, lest perhaps thou dash thy foot against a stone.

And said to him.] c. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which Satan impels Jesus is clearly mentioned in the gospels. β. The motives by which the devil endeavors to move Jesus are various: the motive of pride is implied in the words “if thou be the Son of God,” for they suggest, it is unworthy of thee to descend from this dazzling height in the common way; again, there was the necessity of manifesting himself as the Messias promised to appear in the temple [Mal. 3:1] in such a manner that no one should know whence he came [John 7:27], both of which prophecies would be fulfilled in the person of Jesus, if he were to descend through the air among the multitudes in the temple court; finally, there was the express promise of God concerning the guardianship of the angels, which was surely due to one whom God himself had called his Son at the time of the baptism.

γ. The purpose of the devil in the second temptation is quite comprehensive: since Jesus had conquered in the first temptation through confidence in God and the use of Sacred Scripture, the devil now endeavors to gain the victory by quoting Sacred Scripture, and by appealing to our Lord’s confidence in God; as in the first temptation Jesus had postponed the preservation of his life to the will of God, the devil now incites him to jeopardize his life in order to show his trust in the help of his Father; as in the first temptation Jesus had shown his entire dependence on his Father, the devil endeavors to push the exercise of this dependence beyond the bounds of prudence. But this pretended dependence on God was a cloak of proud independence, choosing its own ways and means of Messianic manifestation; the pretended trust in God was a real distrust in the veracity of God’s words spoken at the baptism, putting them now really to the test; the seeming surrender of the earthly life to the good will of God was a real act of sovereign self-will in the choice of the time and the occasion at which God’s promises were to be verified [cf. Jerome Chrysostom, Alb. Cajetan, Jansenius, Grimm, Bede, opus imperfectum Schanz, Knab.]. It may be added that Satan either purposely misquotes [Schanz] or abbreviates [Anger] the passage of Ps. 91:11 f., omitting “to keep thee in all thy ways.” In Lk. 4:10 “to keep thee” is added, but “in all thy ways” omitted, because this clause would have shown the fallacy of the devil’s argument [Schanz]. We need not add the rationalistic gloss [Kuin.] which identifies angels with the means provided for men’s well-being and eliminates every spiritual element from the inspired record; in v. 11 Kuin. himself admits the common belief among the Jews that every child had a guardian angel.

7 Jesus said to him: It is written again: Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Jesus said to him.] d. Victory. α. The “again” in the words of Jesus does not imply opposition to what has been quoted as Scripture before, but it merely adds a new passage of Scripture to the preceding; [cf. Jn. 12:39; 19:37; Rom. 15:10–12; 1 Cor. 3:20 al.]. β. The addition does not allude to the passage our Lord himself had quoted, but to the proof which the enemy had adduced from the Bible. The help of God which is there represented indefinitely is properly defined by this text from Deut. 6:10 [lxx.]. At Raphidim the Hebrews murmured against God on account of a want of water [Ex. 17:7], and Moses upbraided them in the words quoted by our Lord. γ. The change to the second person singular from the plural in the Hebrew text renders the passage more crushing to the enemy. Jesus implicitly tells him that the limits of our confidence in God are his implicit or express promises: not to trust these, or to expect more than this, is tempting God. δ. While these words reject the suggestion of the devil, they do not answer his question concerning the sonship of Jesus [cf. Hilary, Ambrose], but leave this point wholly indeterminate [Chrysostom, opus imperfectum], so that the enemy is driven to a third temptation. ε. Some authors point out that in this victory the second Adam is the counterpart of the first: our parents succumbed to sensuality, expecting that by compliance with the tempter’s words “their eyes” should be opened, and they should become like gods; Jesus overcomes the temptation of sensuality and vain display of his power in spite of the fame among his countrymen which a compliance with the enemy’s suggestion would have brought him.

8 Again the devil took him up into a very high mountain, and shewed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them,

Again the devil took him up.] 3. The third temptation. a. Nature of the temptation. α. The external act to which the tempter impelled Jesus was a formal acknowledgment of the devil’s superiority over Jesus, himself; our Lord was to adore Satan, and thereby recognize him as his lord and master. β. The motives proposed to Jesus include all the world can give: wealth, pleasure, honor. (1) Though it is uncertain on which high mountain Jesus was carried by Satan [Moria, Olivet, Thabor, Horeb, Nebo, Quarantania, etc.], it is certain that our Lord’s vision of all the kingdoms of the world was not merely internal; for such a vision might be had in a valley, and it would imply power of the enemy over the inner faculties of Jesus. (2) On the other hand, there can be no question of a mere natural vision of the whole world from the top of a high mountain; the addition of Lk. 4:5 implies that there was some magical effect produced by Satan “in a moment of time.” (3) The opinion of Theophylact, opus imperfectum. Alb. Dionysius the Carthusian, Cajetan, Maldonado, Calmet, who maintain that the devil only pointed in the direction of the various kingdoms of the world without actually showing them, does not satisfy the text of the gospel saying that the devil showed Jesus not only all the kingdoms of the world, but also the glory thereof. (4) It seems that the devil preternaturally formed the species of all the kingdoms of the world before the eyes of Jesus “in a moment of time” [Lk. 4:5]; to make this deception more real, the devil places Jesus on the top of a mountain [Sa, Barradas, Lapide, Tir. Coleridge, Knab.]. (5) On the part of Jesus, the devil expected to find besides the triple concupiscence also the Messianic character aiding his purpose: the dominion over the whole earth had been promised to the Messias by the prophets [cf. Pss. 2:8; 71:8–11]; but it had also been foretold that he was to acquire this dominion by means of suffering [cf. Is. 49:4; 50:4–8; 53:2–12]. Satan then promises to give Jesus without labor and suffering what he otherwise must acquire at the sacrifice of his life.

9 And said to him: All these will I give thee, if falling down thou wilt adore me.

And said to him.] b. Purpose of the devil. (1) St. Luke [5:6] adds that the evil spirit claimed authority to dispose of all he showed Jesus: “To thee will I give all this power and the glory of them; for to me they are delivered, and to whom I will, I give them.” Though the world had not been given to Satan, nor the power of giving it to any one else, the words of the tempter had a semblance of truth, as appears from Jn. 12:31; 14:30; 16:11. (2) Seeing that he cannot overcome Jesus under the species of good, the devil throws off his mask, and proposes his principal scope plainly: Jesus is to become the master of the world, as God had promised him, but under the suzerainty of Satan. There is no more question of “the Son of God,” no more use of Scripture language: the alternative between God’s and the devil’s service is plainly stated. (3) Need we say that this is the real and final object in all temptations of the devil? It is not always put so clearly before us, because most of us are carried away by the temptations coming under the pretence of necessity and of propriety, i. e. by temptations concerning the means; hence there is no need of making us repeat the election of our last end.

10 Then Jesus saith to him: Begone, Satan: for it is written: The Lord thy God shalt thou adore, and him only shalt thou serve.

. Then Jesus saith to him.] c. Victory. The account of the victory brings before us three persons: Jesus, the devil, and the angels. α. The words of Jesus are taken from Deut. 6:13, but present two variations from the original: the word “only” is wanting in the Hebrew, and the expression “shalt thou adore” reads in the Hebrew “shalt thou fear”; since the former variation is in accord with the context, and since “fear” often implies religious worship in the language of Scripture, our Lord cannot be accused of having falsified Scripture. In the lxx. this meaning is indicated by the construction of the verb; for in the present passage it is followed by the accusative instead of the dative [cf. Ex. 20:5]. That the expression “serve” often implies religious worship is clear from Deut. 10:12; Jos. 24:15; Rom. 9:4; 12:1; Heb. 8:5; 9:9; 10:2; 13:10. The expression “Begone, Satan” does not imply that Jesus recognized the devil only at the third temptation, but it shows that while he had borne patiently the former trials, he utters this harsh word when the honor of God is attacked. Again, it must be noted that Jesus overcomes Satan in a way in which any man might have overcome; he does, therefore, give no answer to the devil’s eager inquiry whether he be the Son of God.

11 Then the devil left him; and behold angels came and ministered to him.

Then the devil left him.] β. Lk. 4:13 adds “for a time”; without discussing the question whether the conflict was renewed in secret, we may point to Gethsemani [cf. Lk. 22:53; Jn. 14:30], where the hour of Jesus’ enemies and the power of darkness made a renewed attack.

—and behold angels came.] γ. According to 1 Kings 19:6–8 an angel came to Elias and gave him bread to eat and water to drink. (1) It is therefore most probable that in the present case, also, the angels ministered to the bodily wants of Jesus. One angel would have been sufficient for this; but to emphasize the defeat of the devil more strongly, to show the parallelism between the victory of Jesus and the fall of Adam who was kept by angels out of paradise, to shame Satan more thoroughly, it was proper that a host of angels should present themselves. (2) Whether Jesus was carried back to his former abode by the angels, or returned thither by his own miraculous power, or again walked back, cannot be determined. But we certainly must deny the supposition that Satan should have been permitted to carry our Lord back, after the word of reprobation had been spoken. (3) St. Luke [4:13] adds “when the devil had ended all the temptation” or “all the temptation being ended.” We have seen already that the encounters between Jesus and Satan were frequent throughout the public life of our Lord; “all the temptation” cannot therefore mean that no temptation followed the present one; in other words, “all” is not used of individual, but of specific temptations. It implies, therefore, that the second Adam was tempted with all the temptations of the first, with sensuality, vainglory, and avarice [Greg. Rabbanus, gl. ord. Paschasius, Thomas Aquinas (p. 3, qu. 41, a. 4) Salmeron, Barrdas, Lapide]. (4) Again, the antitype was tempted with all the temptations of his type, the people of Israel in the desert: in the case of Israel, the want of food is supplied by the manna [Ex. 16:2], and this event is recorded in the words used by Jesus in his first temptation; the lack of water forms the second trial of Israel [Ex. 17:7], and it is with reference to this that Moses speaks the words used by Jesus in his second temptation [Deut. 6:16]; the lengthy journey and the continued labor form the third trial of the Israelites [Num. 21:4 f.; 1 Cor. 10:9], and occasion indirectly the utterance of the words employed by Jesus in his third temptation [Deut. 6:13, 14; cf. 8:2]. (5) Finally, Jesus overcame the devil in all the temptations with which he besets ourselves, i. e. in the concupiscence of the flesh, in the concupiscence of the eyes, and in the pride of life [1 Jn. 2:16]; he thus shows us that all manner of temptation can be overcome, even as death was overcome by his death; he warns us that we cannot be safe against temptation at any time, since he himself was tempted after his baptism [Greg. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Euthymius, Hilary, Ambrose Alb. etc.]; he teaches us how to overcome temptation; he encourages us by his own resistance, and not less by the fact that he has learned by experience how to compassionate us in our trials [Jansenius, Salmeron, Barradas, Augustine, Coleridge, etc.]. (6) The vivid contrast of Mark [1:13] must also be noted in connection with the present passage: “and he was with beasts, and the angels ministered to him.”

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One Response to Father Maas’ Commentary on Matthew 4:1-11

  1. Pingback: Commentaries for the First Sunday of Lent, Year A | stjoeofoblog

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