The Order of Christ’s Temptation in the Desert

I got a letter from a student today that asks a good question. Here it is:

Should luke chapter 4 verse 5 and verse 9 start with the word ( next) or ( and )? Is the order of temptations of Jesus in Matthew chapter 4 a chronological order? And Is the order of temptations of Jesus in Luke chapter 4 a chronological order?

Here’s my answer:

I assume you’re asking this because of the discrepancy of order compared with Matthew’s version (Matt 4).

Luke’s conjunctions are the very common δε and και. You are correct that these need not be thought of as conveying a chronological order. Matthews version uses slightly different conjunctions, one of which is τοτε, which does convey order.

But probably both Luke and Matthew did not think about these things. First century biography was not as focused on getting events in a certain order as we are today. They felt free to rearrange the events in a persons life to make the point they wanted to make. This explains why the four Gospels often do not agree regarding sequence. It may bother us but it would not have bothered a first century audience.

I recommend Blomberg’s book, “the historical reliability of the Gospels” if you want to read more about this.

I point this out because in many cases what we see as a “mistake” in the Bible is due to our imposition of modern assumptions on ancient writings.

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