It is well known that the order of the temptations in Matthew is not the same as in Luke.  Commentators and Harmonizers assume that the one is right and the other is wrong; and proceed to change the order of one in order to make it agree with the other.  See Ap. 96.

But an examination of the combined accounts, giving due weight to the words and expressions used, will explain all the differences, and show that both Gospels are absolutely correct; while the differences are caused by the three temptations being repeated by the devil in a different order, thus making six instead of three.

Mark and Luke agree in stating that the temptations continued all the forty days (Mark 1:13.  Luke 4:2); they are described as follows :--

  1. (Luke 4:3,4)  "The devil (ho diabolos) said to Him, 'Speak to this stone (to litho touto) that it become a loaf (artos).'"  This appears to be the first temptation: and there is no reason whatever why it should not have been repeated in another form; for it is nowhere stated that there were three, and only three temptations (*1).

  2. (Luke 4:5-8)  "And the devil, conducting (anagagon) Him, shewed to Him all the kingdoms of the habitable world, or land (Gr. oikoumene, Ap. 129. 3), in a moment of time."  Nothing is said about "an exceeding high mountain".  Lachmann brackets the words "into an high mountain", and Tischendorff, Tregelles, Alford, WH and R.V. omit them.

    The devil claims to possess the right to the kingdoms of the world, and the Lord does not dispute it.  Satan says :  "To Thee will I give this authority (exousia) and all their glory, for to me it has been delivered, and to whomsoever I wish I give it.  Therefore, if Thou wilt worship before me, all shall be Thine."

    Nothing is said here about "falling down", as in Matthew.  Here only "authority" is offered; for all the critical Greek texts read "pasa" (not "panta") fem. to agree with exousia. The Lord did not say, "Get thee hence" (as in Matt. 4:10), but "Get thee behind Me", which was a very different thing.  Satan did not depart then, any more than Peter did when the same was said to him (Matt. 16:23).

  3. (Luke 4:9-12)  "And he conducted (egagen) Him to Jerusalem, and set Him upon the wing (or battlement, Dan. 9:27m.) of the temple, and said to Him, 'If Thou art the Son of God, cast Thyself down hence, for it is written, that to His angels He will give charge concerning Thee, to keep thee (tou diaphulaxai se)'", &c.

    There is nothing said about this "keeping thee" in Matthew; moreover, it is stated that having finished every form of temptation, "he departed  from Him for a season".  Note that the devil departed (apeste) of his own accord in Luke 4:13, while in Matthew the Lord summarily dismissed him, and commanded him to be gone. (Matt. 4:10).

  4. (Matt. 4:3, 4)  After the "season" (referred to in Luke 4:13), and on another occasion therefore, "he who was tempting Him (ho peirazon), having come (proselthon), said, "If Thou are the Son of God, say that these stones become loaves (artoi)".  Not "this stone", or "a loaf" (artos), as in Luke 4:3.  Moreover he is not plainly called "the devil", as in Luke 4:3, but is spoken of as the one who had already been named as tempting Him (ho peirazon); and as "having come" (proselthon); not as simply speaking as being then present.

  5. (Matt. 4:5-7)  "Then (tote)" -- in strict succession to the preceding temptation of the "stones" and the "loaves" -- "Then the devil taketh (paralambanei) Him unto the holy city, and setteth Him upon the wing cc7 (or battlement) of the temple", &c.  Nothing is said here about the angels being charged to "keep" Him (as in Luke 4:10); nor is there any reason why any of these three forms of temptation should not have been repeated, under other circumstances and conditions.

  6. (Matt. 4:8-10)  Here it is plainly stated that the second temptation (Luke 4:5-8) was repeated :  for "Again the devil taketh Him unto an exceedingly high mountain, and sheweth to Him all the kingdoms of the world, kosmos (Ap. 129. 1), not oikoumene (Ap. 129. 3), as in Luke 4:5, and their glory, and said to Him :  "All these things, not "all this authority", as in Luke 4:6, will I give to Thee if, falling down, Thou wilt worship me".  Here, in this last temptation, the climax is reached.  It was direct worship.  Nothing is said in Luke about falling down.  Here it is boldly and plainly said, "Worship me".  This was the crisis.  There was no departing of satan's own accord here.  The moment had come to end all these temptations by the Lord Himself.  "Go! said the Lord (hupage), Get thee hence, Satan ... Then the devil leaveth (aphiesin) Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him".

    This angelic ministry marked the end.  There is no such ministry mentioned at the end of the third temptation in Luke 4:3-12; for then Satan "departed" of his own accord, returning (in Matt. 4:3) after "a season" (Luke 4:13). True, the Lord had said "Get thee behind Me, Satan" (Luke 4:8); but He did not, then, summarily dismiss him, nor did satan depart :  he continued with his third temptation, not departing till after the third had been completed.

    We thus conclude that, while there were temptations continuous during the whole of the forty days (Mark 1:13.  Luke 4:2), they culminated in six direct assaults on the Son of man, in three different forms; each form being repeated on two separate occasions, and under different circumstances, but not in the same order. This accords with all the variations of the words used, explains the different order of events in the two Gospels and satisfies all the conditions demanded by the sacred text.

    The two different orders in Matthew and Luke do not arise from a "mistake" in one or the other, so that one may be considered correct and the other incorrect; they arise form the punctilious accuracy of the Divine record in describing the true and correct order in which Satan varied the six temptations; for which variation, he alone, and neither of the Evangelists, is responsible.

(*1)  This is like other traditional expressions:  for where do we read of "three" wise me?  We see them only in medieval paintings.  Where do we read of angels being women?  Yet as such they are always painted.  Where do we find in Scripture other common sayings, such as "the talent hid in a napkin"?  It was hidden "in the earth".  Where do we ever see a picture of the crucifixion with the mark of the spear on the left side?

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