Lectionary Reflection for the First Sunday of Lent

This excerpt comes from Luke (BTCB) by David Lyle Jeffrey, commenting on Luke 4:1-13:


Scriptural narrative presents three direct temptations by Satan; these, in canonical order, are the temptation of Adam and Eve, the temptation of Job, and the temptation of Jesus here in Luke’s Gospel. Unsurprisingly, these three episodes have been connected by Christian exegetes down through the centuries in various ways, but especially by seeing the resistance of temptation by Jesus as a paradigmatic reversal of the yielding of Eve and Adam in the garden of Eden. That this connection is invited by Luke, arranging and concluding his genealogy of Jesus as he does with Jesus as “the son of Adam, the son of God” (3:38), has seemed to much of Christian tradition an obvious element of his narrative design.

Thus, Ambrose speaks for many: “There is here an Adam typology and a Genesis background to this story: as Adam is cast out of paradise into the wilderness, so Christ, the new Adam, goes into the wilderness on our behalf, then to come forth from that temptation to lead us back to paradise” (Exposition of Luke 4.7). Parallels with Job are a frequent theme in Protestant theologians and poets such as Henry Oxenden’s Jobus Triumphans (1656) and especially John Milton’s Paradise Regained (1671), where the “two Adams” theme nonetheless still predominates: Milton bases his companion to Paradise Lost on Luke’s rather than Matthew’s account with its different order of temptations (Matt. 4:1–11) because it suited what he called his own “grand design” to place the temptation of the tower last.

Milton, though influenced by Calvin, is in this preference for Luke’s account certainly following the more dominant typology (Paradise Regained 2.129–39). What seems to emerge in these Lukan passages is a strong reminder that in biblical narrative in general there is a cosmic agōn or struggle taking place for the human soul (Calvin 1972: 1.135).

©2012 by David Lyle Jeffrey. Published by Brazos Press. Unauthorized use of this material without express written permission is strictly prohibited.