Trial by Desert by Patrick Henry Reardon

Trial by Desert

Students of Holy Scripture have long recognized that Matthew and Luke describe Jesus’ temptations in a way that contrasts his obedience in the desert with the disobedience of ancient Israel.

Both evangelists, in spite of differently arranging their narrative sequences, apparently relied on a common source, according to which our Lord quoted the Book of Deuteronomy in response to each of the three temptations. This sustained appeal to the final book of the Torah—invoked as a weapon to resist temptation—summons the memory of Israel’s moral failings during its forty years of desert wandering.

The immediate context of the accounts furthers this purpose: The parallel between Jesus’ Baptism and the passage through the Red Sea is followed immediately by the correspondence between the temptations of Jesus and Israel in the desert. (Mark also adheres to this sequence.)

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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).

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