Joe Carter, of the Evangelical Outpost, has begun a project, called “Jesus, the Logician“.

This is my first contribution, on Matthew 4:1-10.

This is the famous logical duel between Satan and Jesus. I can think of no better place to examine. Jesus, when responding to Satan, uses one solitary argument. Anamnesis. He cites the Authority which is required to logically defeat His opponent.

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, `MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’ ” Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, `HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and `ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP, SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ ” Jesus said to him, “On the other hand, it is written, `YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’ ” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, “All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, `YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’ ”

Now, note Satan’s challenge. “If.” Now, Satan wants several things. He is nothing, if not subtle.

1. He is casting doubt on Jesus’ relationship to God – and inviting Him to also doubt it as well.

2. He is casting aspersions on the character of God – would He really allow His Son to get to such a state? Is it really Just of God to allow His Son to sink to this state? Without food, in the wilderness, all alone?

3. He is attempting to raise doubts about the Word of God. God had just said, “This is My beloved Son – in whom I am well pleased.” “If You are the Son of God…” Does this remind you of another question – thousands of years before? “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” Interesting how we are back to food again… isn’t it?

4. He is trying to get Jesus to prove He is the Son of God. Nothing about “Pray to the Father” – “command” the stones to turn to bread… a usage of His power solely for His own benefit.

What does Jesus do? He refuses, and He answers – with Scripture that is both applicable, and pertinent to the exact issue at hand.

Why does He answer with Scripture? Satan brings it up. “If You are the Son of God… Satan put it on that level – so Jesus answers him from the authority of His Father.

Why does He refuse?

1. It would look like He was questioning the voice from Heaven that had already said He was the Son of God. The Word of God, once given, is never in doubt. If is one of two cardinal words in this sentence.

2. It would look like mistrust of God’s provision.

3. It would be setting Himself up to use His own power – for Himself – when He was there to glorify the Father.

4. It would be doing the bidding of Satan. The other cardinal word is “command” – not for the word itself, but for the type of address it is used for – an imperative. Satan cannot tell us – and especially God – what to do.

What does He answer?

It is written…

In other words – God says. Now, if you know your theology, you’ll remember that Jesus was symbolically, the Second Adam. The “did God really say” argument, and the “food” thing has already been tried. In Eden. Eve, if you remember, did the same thing – she told Satan “God said”.

Jesus says… “Man shall not live on bread alone – but on every word which proceeds from the mouth of God.” So, Jesus is effectively saying (and notice the parallel between the 40-day fast in the wilderness, and Israel’s 40-year trek through the wilderness…) that, as the entire verse, of which Jesus quotes says; “He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that mandoes not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.”

God can, and will provide. Satan’s “show me a trick” is answered with the response: “On the contrary – since I AM the Son of God – My Father will take care of Me.”

He answers with the correct reference, from memory, to answer the opponent’s argument. Anamnesis.

Next, Satan attempts to do the same. So, don’t think you are the only one who will cite authority. Most theological discussions are going to be between differing interpretations of the same texts. How does Jesus handle this?

He affirms the authority – and explains why it is not applicable.

Satan does indeed quote correctly. (Although he omits the last part of the first verse… “For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. – maybe to cover up that this wasn’t the ways that God was talking about?)

So, Jesus says “on the other hand” (ignoring Satan’s omission) “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Duet. 6:16). Basically, He is saying “yes, it is true that God will protect us. However… if we purposely place ourselves in danger, just to prove that God will – that violates His command not to test Him.”

Satan, at this point, gives up all pretense of logical combat – and offers Jesus the choice of all of the world, His for the taking – (the final test of Jesus’ faith in His own divinity?) – if He worships Satan. Jesus, once again, quotes the Word: This time, the Deut. 6:13. He also sheds all pretense of any further logical argument – because Satan has already shed it. He tells Satan to leave. Satan loses – and God fulfills the faith Jesus had in Him, by sending His angels to minister to Him.