Luke 4:1-13

Excerpted from The Testimony of Luke, by S. Kent Brown, pp. 221-36, a volume of the BYU New Testament Commentary. The commentary can be purchased at BYU Studies. 

New Rendition

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Ghost, turned back from the Jordan, and was led in the wilderness by the spirit 2 for forty days to be tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing in those days, and when they were ended, he was hungry.

3 And the devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, say to this stone that it become bread.” 4 And Jesus replied to him, “It is written that man shall not live by bread alone [but by every word of God].”

5 And after the devil had taken him up, he showed him all the kingdoms of the earth in a single moment of time. 6 And the devil said to him, “I will give you all this power and the glory of these kingdoms, because it is entrusted to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.

7 Therefore, if you will worship me, all shall be yours.” 8 And answering, Jesus said to him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and shall serve him only.’”

9 And he took him to Jerusalem and stood him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written that,

‘He will command his angels concerning you, that they protect you,’ 11 and that, ‘They will carry you in their hands so that you will not stub your foot against a stone.’”

12 And answering, Jesus said to him, “It is said, ‘Thou shall not test the Lord your God.’”

13 And when the devil had finished each test, he left him for a time.


4:1 Jesus . . . returned: This expression is repeated in 4:14. In both passages, the idea ties pointedly to guidance from God’s Spirit and to geography. In this passage, the verb (Greek hypostrephō) properly means “to turn back” or “to depart,”[1] evidently meaning that he withdraws from a place of ordinances and spiritual manifestation to a place that will test his resolve to make these elements a part of his ministry.

being full of the Holy Ghost: First, the sequence is important. Jesus carries the Holy Ghost as a companion, but only after receiving John’s “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (3:3). If one holds up Jesus as the exemplar in receiving baptism (as in 2 Ne. 31:5–9), the point is inescapable. We receive the Holy Ghost only after receiving baptism at the hand of one of God’s agents, and the Holy Ghost then accompanies us in our return to our normal lives. Second, the Holy Ghost has now come upon the Savior (see 3:22), and his presence undergirds Jesus’ authority, allowing Luke to write that Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit,” and thereafter empowering Jesus to declare of himself, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me” (4:14, 18).

Jordan: By repeating this name, Luke ties Jesus firmly and purposefully to the Baptist who has earlier begun his activity in “all the country about Jordan” (3:3).

led by the Spirit: The Greek expression is “led in the Spirit,” which carries a subtle difference in meaning, one in which the Spirit is more of a companion than a guide. Even so, a sense of Jesus’ submissiveness arises from these words. Moreover, the companionship of the Spirit forms a litmus test of Jesus’ messiahship (“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me”—4:18).

into the wilderness: The earliest three manuscripts that preserve verse 1, all papyrus, omit this phrase, although the Joseph Smith Translation holds onto it. If in fact Luke does not write this expression, and if he does not write “into an high mountain” (see the Note on 4:5), he may not have wanted to place the temptations within a known geography. In contrast, Matthew’s phrase “into the wilderness” commits his account to a region east of Jerusalem known as the Judean wilderness where, evidently in his view, the temptations occur (see Matt. 4:1). But Luke may be thinking that Jesus undergoes the temptations nearer Galilee, a more natural place if one judges that Jesus, after his baptism, likely turns toward home and, on the way, experiences the temptations. To be sure, when Jesus departs the green banks of the Jordan River, he is stepping back into the wilderness through which he has just walked. But Luke’s report seems to detach itself from the geography of the region.

4:2 Being forty days tempted of the devil: The Joseph Smith Translation omits this entire expression, substituting “And after forty days, the devil came unto him, to tempt him” (JST 4:2). The substituted words clarify that the devil does not approach Jesus during the forty days, in contrast to Luke’s notation. This observation receives support from a change in Matthew’s report. The expression “to be tempted of the devil” (Matt. 4:1) becomes “to be with God” ( JST Matt. 4:1). See the Note below.

forty days: The number is challenged as too long for someone to fast, although modern research shows that it is possible.[2] Each of the synoptic Gospels repeats the number forty, making it firm in the gospel tradition (see Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:13). We see this length of time in other significant contexts (see Gen. 7:4; Ex. 24:18; 1 Kgs. 19:8; Acts 1:3; etc.).

tempted: The term (Greek peirazō) also can mean “to be tested” (see the Note on 22:28).[3] Its immediate parallels tie to the period in the wilderness wherein God tests the Israelites (see Ex. 16:4; 20:20; Deut. 8:2; 13:2) and they test him (see Ex. 17:2; Num. 14:22; Ps. 95:8–9; 106:14). In this manner, the story of Jesus’ temptations may be intended to recall the Exodus, continuing the connections found in the account of John the Baptist (see the introduction to chapter 3 and the Note on 3:7). The account may also allude to Abraham’s test when “God did tempt [test] Abraham” by requiring him to sacrifice Isaac (Gen. 22:1).

the devil: Even if Luke is following Mark, his account differs from Mark’s in repeating this title; Mark writes “Satan” and Matthew, like Luke, writes “the devil” (Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:13). In the Old Testament, the term “devils” arises in prohibitions about sacrificing to such creatures (see Lev. 17:7; Deut. 32:17; 2 Chr. 11:15; Ps. 106:37).[4] Prophecy anticipates Jesus’ encounters with the devil and his minions (see Mosiah 3:6).

he did eat nothing: We are left to imagine the enormous will power that Jesus exercises in wrestling down his appetites by refusing to eat. His challenge is foretold in prophecy: “he shall suffer . . . hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer, except it be unto death” (Mosiah 3:7). It is curious that Luke writes nothing of Jesus’ not drinking. Perhaps he assumes his readers will conclude that Jesus does not drink for he separates eating and drinking in other passages (see 12:19; 13:26; 17:8; Acts 9:9; 23:12, 21). In certain places on both sides of the Jordan River, water is abundant.

when they were ended: As does Matthew, Luke clarifies that the devil approaches Jesus only at the end of the forty days, not during, though the opening words of this verse can be understood as affirming that the tests are sprinkled throughout the period of fasting. We can readily assume, with Luke, that Jesus spends a good deal of time in meditation, prayer, and in deciding what his messiahship should consist of (see the Note above on the change in the Joseph Smith Translation of this verse).

4:3 the devil said: The devil’s approach to Jesus is direct and without formality. In contrast, Matthew writes, “when the tempter came to him, he said . . .” (Matt. 4:3), as if his coming is through a sanctioned access. Perhaps Luke is underscoring the ready accessibility of Jesus to all, including the devil. For further on the devil, see the Analysis below; the Notes on 10:18–

19; 11:18, 21–22; 13:16; 22:3, 31, 46, 53; the Analysis on 11:14–28 and 22:31–34.

If thou be the Son of God: The demeaning challenge in these words is obvious, throwing doubt on Jesus’ status with his Father (see also 4:9).

command this stone that it be made bread: We find allusion in this temptation to the creation account. At base, the devil teases Jesus to duplicate what is done at creation, to fashion from natural elements (soil, a stone) something that is very different in its nature (the man Adam, bread). At issue is Jesus’ status as Deity, now in human form, and his willingness to precisely follow his Father. While a heavenly, divine being, Jesus brings Adam to life. Now, in the wilderness, the devil challenges: Can he perform something similar, though less demanding? (As a sentient being, Adam is of course more complex than bread.) Naturally, all this assumes that Jesus possesses divine powers, that the scene with the devil is real, and that the devil recognizes Jesus for who he is from premortal life. Not all will grant these assumptions. But the act of creating bread from a stone echoes the act of creating Adam from the dust (see Gen. 2:7; Moses 3:7). This temptation is set off all the more sharply because the devil evidently does not tempt Jesus to satisfy his thirst, which is his main need in the desert. Of course, the appearance of “stone” recalls the statement of the Baptist about God making children of Abraham from stones, forming a clear bridge back to John’s allusions to the creation account (see the Note on 3:8).

bread: The first issue feeds off of Jesus’ appetites. After long abstinence, is he in control? Making bread will not satisfy Jesus’ hunger, only eating it. But making bread will show not only his willingness to take the first step toward eating but also a sagging self-mastery. The second matter concerns sacred contexts that stand far from the Jordan Valley. For the mention of bread points both to its sacramental use in celebrating Jesus’ body and to Jesus’ banquet with his faithful followers in his kingdom (see 22:19—“This is my body” and 22:30—“That ye may eat . . . at my table in my kingdom”—see the Notes on 12:37; 13:25, 28; 14:15; 22:16–18, 30; the Analysis on 4:1–13 and 9:10–17).[5]6 Hence, the act of making bread is to be viewed as a sacred gesture and draws to itself an anticipation of the Atonement as well as Jesus’ powers to save people into his kingdom. It is exactly these ties that grace the story of the feeding of the five thousand (see 9:10–17) and the feeding of the multitude at the Bountiful temple, a holy place (see 3 Ne. 20:1–9).[6] Succumbing to the devil’s temptation will shred all such ties.

4:4 Jesus answered him: It may seem odd that Jesus converses with the devil. But the stakes are high, including whether Jesus can push away the devil’s enticements. The scene, of course, continues the eons-old rivalry that erupts at the grand Premortal Council wherein the two present to the Father competing plans for the earth’s future inhabitants. When the Father’s decision goes against Lucifer, who becomes the devil, he rebels (see Moses 4:1–4; Abr. 3:27–28; D&C 29:36–38).[7]

It is written: The expression points to accepted scripture that expresses God’s will in written form (see 2:23; 4:8, 10, 17; etc.; the Notes on 3:4; 24:44).[8]

man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God: A number of key manuscripts omit the latter of the two expressions. If the words “but by every word of God” are added later to fill out the full idea from Deuteronomy 8:3, possibly under the influence of Matthew 4:4, then Jesus’ original emphasis rests not only on spiritual nourishment (“man shall not live by bread alone”) but, perhaps more broadly, on the kind of self-discipline that leads to a tried and proven personality (see D&C 98:11–15).[9]

4:5 the devil, taking him up: Two matters rise into view. First, the order of the next two temptations differs between Matthew and Luke. For here Matthew locates the event at the Jerusalem temple instead of on a mountain (see Matt. 4:5–7). Second, for the devil’s act of escorting Jesus, the Joseph Smith Translation substitutes “the Spirit taketh him up,” clarifying that the devil does not control Jesus’ whereabouts ( JST 4:5).[10] Instead, in an exemplary act, Jesus submits himself to the Spirit, not to the devil. But we still face the question, Why does the Spirit seemingly cooperate with the devil by escorting Jesus to places of temptation and trial? The answer, it appears, has to do with Jesus’ need to subject himself to every dimension of mortal life, and then some (see Heb. 2:10, 18; 5:8–9; Mosiah 3:5–7; Alma 7:11–12; D&C 122:4–8). Incidentally, some early manuscripts omit the term “the devil.”

into an high mountain: We note that some early manuscripts omit this phrase though the Joseph Smith Translation preserves it. What is secure is the expression “taking him up,” which points to an elevated spot. As is widely known, a high place is often associated with revelation and sacred acts (see Isa. 2:2–3; Moses 1:1; 1 Ne. 11:1). That this locale, wherever it lies, is intended to evoke a sense of worship appears in the devil’s words to Jesus about worshiping him in this place and Jesus’ response about the proper object of worship (see 4:7–8).

shewed unto him all the kingdoms: The Joseph Smith Translation changes this expression to “he [Jesus] beheld all the kingdoms,” underscoring that Jesus is the initiator of action rather than the devil (JST 4:5). Thus, Jesus willingly engages himself with the temptation that we face—how we respond to the tinseled allure of the world.

the world: In 2:1, this term (Greek oikoumenē), points to the world ruled by the Roman Empire.[11] But here it has to with the realm controlled by the devil (“that [authority] is delivered unto me [the devil]”—4:6). Later, we learn that Satan possesses a “kingdom” that stands in opposition to the Father’s kingdom (see the Note on 11:18).[12]

in a moment of time: The phrase hints that visions and revelations can occur almost instantaneously. They can also occur over a longer period as Philo Dibble’s memory of Joseph Smith’s and Sidney Rigdon’s reception of section 76 indicates: “over an hour.”[13]

4:6 power: The term (Greek exousia) can and perhaps should be translated “authority,” though the rendition “power” is not incorrect (see the Notes on 1:35; 4:14, 36; 9:1; the Analysis below).[14] At issue, of course, is the authority or power of the ruler of this world. Here the devil claims such power or authority for himself. But he does not succeed in turning Jesus toward himself. Instead, in one of Jesus’ first outings in Capernaum, following the temptations, Jesus both speaks “with power” and exhibits power in cleansing the afflicted man in the synagogue, thereby demonstrating that he does not need assistance from the devil (4:32, 36).

the glory of them: The emphasis of this temptation rests in these words. The devil offers to Jesus the glory and elegance of earthly kingdoms. But Jesus earlier chooses to come to the Baptist as others do, pointedly not drawing undue attention to himself (see 3:21). He adopts the low path of humility, not the elevated street lined with adoring crowds (see D&C 58:39).[15]

power . . . is delivered unto me: Although we might ask, Who delivers ruling authority to the devil? Jesus’ later words plainly acknowledge Satan’s counter realm: “If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand?” (11:18). That Satan sees his authority as worthy of devotion is apparent in his meeting with Moses when Moses refuses to worship Satan because he lacks divine glory (see Moses 1:12–15).

to whomsoever I will I give it: Consistent with the view that the devil possesses a kingdom and authority within it is his claim to the power and inclination to confer his authority on others.

4:7 worship me: The Greek text reads “worship before me,” an expression that hints at a formal place of worship such as an altar or sanctuary, as in the words “before the Lord” (see Gen. 18:22; 27:7; Ex. 16:9; 23:17; 27:21; etc.). If Jesus and the devil are indeed on a natural prominence (see the Note on 4:5 above), then we come upon a clear sense that the devil intends the encounter somehow to be understood as sacred and therefore strengthens his demand that Jesus worship him.

all shall be thine: So anxious is the devil to bring the Savior to his side that he seemingly is willing to give up all, leaving everything in Jesus’ hands and keeping nothing for himself, just as he handed authority to Cain (see Moses 5:23–24, 30). But some of his past actions belie this notion (see Moses 1:12–22).

4:8 Get thee behind me, Satan: Although this expression appears in the fifth-century Codex Alexandrinus and other later manuscripts, it is missing from the earlier fourth-century texts and is thus textually suspect, although Marshall believes that it is original owing to its presence in Matthew 4:10 at the climax of Matthew’s record of this set of scenes.[16] Whether or not this line was in Luke’s original record, the meaning of these words is difficult to grasp, unless one understands the expression as “Begone!” However, if we envision a scene at an altar, whether of this world or not (see the Note on 4:7), several possible meanings appear. The Savior may be ordering the devil to depart from a genuine place of holiness where a worshiper can approach God, as in the temple.[17] Or he may be directing Satan to remove himself from the altar where the priest officiates. Or, additionally, Jesus may be informing the devil that the latter has no authority to officiate in a sacred place, as priests do (“the priest that is anointed”—Lev. 4:3, 5).

it is written: This customary way of citing scripture (see 4:4) introduces Jesus’ paraphrasing quotation of Deuteronomy 6:13 and 10:20, which the Septuagint rather than the Hebrew text preserves most closely to Jesus’ words. This quotation is Jesus’ second from the book of Deuteronomy (see 4:4), which is one of the five books of the law and thus forms part of the most sacred section in Jewish scripture. By quoting from Deuteronomy, Jesus adds ballast to his response.

4:9 he brought him: Again, the Joseph Smith Translation clarifies that not the devil but “the Spirit brought him [Jesus] to Jerusalem” (JST 4:9).

to Jerusalem: For Luke, Jesus’ final temptation takes place in Jerusalem just as Jesus’ final trial of facing suffering and death will take place here.

a pinnacle of the temple: The stones in the temple’s surrounding wall that stand at the greatest heights above ground are the southeast and southwest corners. Though some favor the southeast corner as the “pinnacle,”[18] the more natural spot is the southwest corner where Jesus’ stunning descent will be onto the busiest street in the city and, apparently, is the place where priests sound trumpets and horns on special occasions, including the beginning of the Sabbath.[19]

4:10 it is written: This standard line introduces Psalm 91:11–12, a passage that, in the hands of the devil, passes as a prophecy about the Savior’s announcement of himself as Messiah.

4:12 It is said: In noted contrast to how the devil begins his quotation (see 4:10), Jesus’ answer points intriguingly to spoken words, though they exist only in written form at Deuteronomy 6:16. He thus makes his point more vivid, as if he is drawing directly from the living, revealing voice of God, thus placing his answer on a higher level than the written and sung words of the Psalms (see the Notes on 3:2, 4; 16:30). Moreover, a statement from the law carries more heft than one from the Psalms.

not tempt the Lord: The plain meaning is that one is not to tempt or test—the meaning of this term (Greek ekpeirazō)[20]—the Lord to do something that he would not otherwise do, such as to spend divine power on the frivolous or the spectacular. In fact, Jesus has already chosen the path of obedience to God, the road of humility and common behavior rather than one of glitter, as his approach to John and his baptism have shown (see the Note on 3:21). More pointedly, the Savior may well be commanding Satan to tempt him no more.

4:13 he departed . . . for a season: The devil, who effectively—and figuratively—leaves Jesus in Jerusalem, will later return personally to Jerusalem during the days before the crucifixion to influence Judas, one of the Savior’s closest companions (see the Note on 22:3). Not incidentally, the phrase translated “for a season” means “until a (certain) time” with the term for “season”

(Greek kairos) having to do with a critical or decisive moment, pointing to other moments of testing and very possibly to the last days of Jesus’ life (see the Notes on 1:20; 19:44; 21:8).[21] In a different vein, according to Matthew 4:11, when the devil departs, “angels came and ministered unto [Jesus].” The Joseph Smith Translation makes a significant adjustment before this statement by adding sixteen words: “now Jesus knew that John was cast into prison, and he sent angels, and, behold, they came and ministered unto him” (JST Matt. 4:11). Thus, even though Jesus is in the extremity of enduring physical privation and withstanding the onslaughts of the devil, he thinks of his cousin’s afflictions and sends angels to minister to him. In a correction, angels do not minister to Jesus.


The verses that treat the temptations focus on control, not only on Jesus’ discipline of himself but also on his harnessing of matters beyond himself (animals, kingdoms). At the front, in the emphatic position, we encounter Jesus’ storied effort to control his appetites by fasting. Subduing his appetites as he begins his ministry will serve him well as time goes on and will also stand as an example to his followers. For, as an angel prophesies about one hundred fifty years before this moment, “he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer” (Mosiah 3:7). In a way, we suppose, Jesus is testing the limits of his physical being as he gathers himself to step into his public ministry.

A second matter has to do with Jesus’ steely determination to remain obedient to his Father. This dimension arises clearly in his oft-repeated references to obeying God: “man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God. . . . Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God. . . . Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God” (4:4, 8, 12). Thus, Jesus’ words disclose that the temptation to disobey God runs through his encounter with the devil.[22]

A third issue concerns elements of this world that lie beyond Jesus’ person. Although Luke does not make evident Jesus’ interaction with the natural order during these momentous days, Mark does so when he writes that Jesus “was with the wild beasts” (Mark 1:13). This expression forms a clear pointer to the messianic age when all of nature will be at peace (see Isa. 11:6–9). In his turn, Luke dwells on how the Savior will interact with the human world through the latter two temptations. One has to do with the kingdoms of this world whose tinseled, noisy allurement Jesus resists. The other features the temptation that Jesus announce his messiahship in a spectacular public manner by jumping off a pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. Again, Jesus resists the obvious popular admiration that will surely come to him in the aftermath of such a spectacle. His messiahship will not follow the fawning paths of the world.

A fourth dimension signals Jesus’ ability to deal with the powers of the unseen world. The fact that the devil comes personally to the wilderness where Jesus is, and the later note that Satan possesses a “kingdom” (see the Note on 11:18), both underscore this dimension. For the duration of his ministry, the Savior will face unseen powers in the form of “devils, or the evil spirits which dwell in the hearts of the children of men” (Mosiah 3:6; also 1 Ne. 11:31). In each future meeting, the minions of Satan will try to challenge and draw down Jesus’ powers. The story of the temptations thus frames Luke’s first written notice of Jesus encountering this unseen world and triumphing over it. This triumph over the devil and his agents frames one of the chief reasons for his mortal ministry (see the Notes on 11:21–22).[23]

In this connection, we find a revealing blend of actions that the Savior initiates and others that he does not. These incidents are carried in the verbs that Luke repeats. For instance, as Luke opens this section of his record, he reports matter-of-factly that Jesus “returned from Jordan,” an action that Jesus initiates and carries through (4:1). Moreover, “he did eat nothing,” plainly an act of Jesus’ own will (4:2). Between these notices, we read that he “was led by the Spirit,” a circumstance that hails his submissiveness to a divine force outside himself. What do we make of these observations? Evidently, for Luke, Jesus’ actions arise from an exemplary blend of his own volition and his submissiveness. As Luke’s Gospel unfolds, it will frame a series of stories that further illustrate this point.

What we may find puzzling is the apparent omission of geographical notices in Luke’s account of the temptations. According to early Greek texts, neither the phrase “into the wilderness” nor the expression “into an high mountain” appear in Luke’s account (4:1, 5), although both of these phrases appear authentically in Matthew’s report (see Matt. 4:1, 8). But Luke’s research may have brought him to see these extraordinary moments in a different geographical light, or in no geographical light at all. Instead, he may have been universalizing the Savior’s struggles with the devil, untying them from a concrete setting and in effect setting them into a timelessness and a spatial independence that every reader can relate to.

On another level, virtually the whole of chapter 4 deals with Jesus’ power and authority. It is the devil who presents and pushes this set of issues by claiming authority—he of course possesses a form of authority and even a “kingdom” where he exercises it (see the Note on 11:18)—and then offering it to Jesus: “that [authority] is delivered unto me” hisses the devil (4:6). And, if Jesus complies with his request, the devil temptingly promises “All this power [authority] will I give thee” (4:6). But rather than taking up the devil’s vacant claims and resolving them on the spot, Jesus simply pushes away the issues by quoting scripture: “it is written.” Significantly—and this point is most important—Jesus resolves the question of who truly holds authority and power later, inside synagogues (see the Notes on 4:18; 5:24; the Analysis on 4:16–30).

After the temptations and the posturing and the grandiose assertions of the devil, Luke follows the Savior into two synagogues where Jesus finally confronts the devil’s claims. Within the walls of synagogues, within religious institutions of Jesus’ world, not the devil’s, Jesus discloses first his divine authority and then his power. For after Jesus “returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee,” we find him first “on the sabbath day” in the Nazareth synagogue where he announces himself: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me” (4:14, 16, 18). Here is the grand announcement of the ages; here, on this man, rests God’s holy authority; here, with this man, comes God’s Spirit. Then, after congregants forcefully reject Jesus at Nazareth, Luke goes with him into the Capernaum synagogue where, in a tingling moment of disclosure, he casts out “a spirit of an unclean devil” from a man. Those present in that synagogue, although “amazed,” recognize that Jesus’ powerful act exhibits “authority and power” (4:33, 36).

Within this sequence of events a reader comes to recognize that the Savior chooses to announce his authority and power inside the institution of the synagogue, an institution of devotion and worship and ordinances and learning. This is the proper place for God’s Spirit and its holy manifestations; this is the proper place of ordinances and their enduring influence; this is the proper place of sacred teaching and learning. On one level, the reports from the synagogues in Nazareth and Capernaum settle the questions of true power and authority, questions that the devil first throws up to Jesus in the wilderness. On another, we see that God’s authority and power are manifested in institutions of worship—in this case, synagogues—that enjoy the authorizing presence of the Savior. It is an easy step from the synagogue to the church. For at this point, the distance between the synagogue where Jesus and his contemporaries worship and the church which will arise from his work is paper thin.

Jesus’ delayed response to the devil’s challenges that is manifest in his later words and actions in synagogues mirrors his delay in answering temple authorities’ demands to know the source of his authority during the last week of his life. At first he refuses (see 20:1–8; the Note on 20:8); only then does he rehearse a parable that discloses his answer (see 20:9–16).

Another, more subtle, link to genuine authority lies in these verses. We come upon it in words that tie the Savior to the Baptist who, as Luke writes, receives his authorizing mission when “the word of God came unto John . . . in the wilderness” (3:2). Despite the fact that Luke’s record of Jesus’ baptism seemingly diminishes the bond between the Baptist and Jesus (see 3:21–22),[24] this bond remains firm throughout the rest of his work (see 7:18–29; 9:18–19; 20:1–8; Acts 1:5, 21–22; 10:36–38; 13:24–25). Luke reports that John’s ministry opens in “the country about Jordan” and then notes that Jesus “returned from Jordan” to begin his own work, thus tying their heaven-led efforts together by mentioning the name Jordan (3:3; 4:1). The second thread consists of “these stones” to which the Baptist points and from which, he declares, God can “raise up children unto Abraham” (3:8). Luke then quotes the devil as referring to “this stone,” the same words though in singular form, from which he invites Jesus to create “bread” (4:3). The verbal tie between the two accounts is strong. The additional allusion to the creation account in each of these references (see the Note on 4:3) reinforces the connecting links between John and his authority and Jesus and his authority. In this same vein, the words translated “power” and “authority” are the Greek dynamis and exousia. At times, the KJV translators do not distinguish between these terms. More properly, dynamis represents sheer power as manifested in miracles (as in 4:14 and 4:36—dynamis is the term translated “power” in 4:36).[25] In other passages in this chapter, we encounter exousia, more properly rendered as “authority,” as in 4:36 where the term appears correctly translated (elsewhere exousia is translated “power” as in 4:6 and 4:32).[26] As we have already noticed, these two concepts lie at the heart of chapter 4, and the resolution of the question, Who holds true authority? frames the rest of the Gospel story.

In another vein, we ask, Why does the devil not appeal to Jesus’ thirst rather than to his hunger alone? Is there some theological dimension of this scene which will explain this sort of entreaty?  For water is the most important need in the desert. Although we can think of a number of important theological connections to water, none seem relevant here. But Jesus’ act of making bread points to his hosting of the future messianic banquet. In this connection, we highlight Jesus’ promise to the eleven at the Last Supper: “I appoint unto you a kingdom . . . That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones” (22:29–30). In a word, this latter occasion is to be formal and grand, with food at its center (see the Notes on 4:3; 12:37; 13:25, 28; 14:15; and 22:16–18, 30; the Analysis on 9:10–17).[27]28 The devil’s mention of bread also anticipates Jesus’ miracle of feeding the five thousand and of his hosting the Passover at the Last Supper (see 9:10–17; 22:19). In sum, making bread will identify Jesus as the Messiah—but here inappropriately, because of the coaxing presence of the devil. Throughout these verses, Luke consistently writes the term “the devil” rather than some other title such as Satan or “the tempter” as in Matthew 4:3. The only exception occurs in Luke 4:8, “Get thee behind me, Satan,” whose originality remains in question because this expression is missing from the earliest manuscripts, though the Joseph Smith Translation holds onto it. To be sure, Luke writes “Satan” elsewhere in his narrative and evidently intends that we see the devil and Satan as the same individual (see 10:18; 11:18; 13:16; 22:3, 31; Acts 5:3; 26:18; D&C 76:25–28). This point is important for the question about how closely Luke may be following known sources, such as Mark, who repeats only the name Satan (see Mark 1:13). The issue of Luke’s sources also arises when we ask about the order of the temptations that he preserves. At first glance, Luke appears to follow the details of Matthew’s account but rearranges the order of the temptations. Matthew’s arrangement is bread, pinnacle, mountain; Luke’s ordering is bread, mountain, pinnacle. Mark reports merely that Jesus is “in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan,” with no mention of fasting or of the individual temptations (Mark 1:13). Setting aside the introductory lines in Matthew and Luke, which do not match (see Matt. 4:1–2; Luke 4:1–2), we focus on three other elements. The first has to do with how Matthew and Luke reproduce Jesus’ introduction of Deuteronomy 6:16: “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God,” a line that responds to the devil’s suggestion that Jesus jump from the temple’s pinnacle. Matthew writes, “Jesus said unto him, It is written . . .” (Matt. 4:7). As we have seen, Luke records Jesus as saying, “It is said . . .” (4:12), which brings an entirely different cast to the scene. There is little value in speculating which Gospel writer is correct. We simply notice that the two reports differ about how Jesus introduces the quotation. At base, Luke’s report supports a view that Jesus not only carries the living voice of God within himself but especially understands that the written scripture consists of God’s living, authoritative words which in effect speak audibly, even loudly to an attuned reader.

The second concerns the phrase “into an high mountain.” As already seen, the phrase is original in Matthew’s account (see Matt. 4:8) but, because it does not appear in the earliest manuscripts of Luke, it is possibly added to his Gospel by a later hand to harmonize it with Matthew’s report (see 4:5). The phrase is vivid and gives context to the devil’s temptation. From our perspective, Luke will add this important color to his account if he knows it, especially because of its connection with holiness or sacred space. Hence, it seems that Luke or his source is not aware of this detail. However, the temptation at a “pinnacle of the temple” does tie to a sacred spot and, additionally, to a height which carries its own sense of holiness. Here we behold the devil’s effort to create a counterfeit experience by mimicking that which belongs to the realm of God.

The third and final expression is “Get thee behind me, Satan” (4:8). Marshall is probably right that these words form the conclusion of the series of temptations and establish Matthew’s order as original.[28] If so, then we have to explain Luke’s quotation of Jesus’ words either as an attempt by a later hand to harmonize Luke’s account of the mountain scene with Matthew’s or, if they are original with Luke, as his conscious placement of these words in the middle of the temptations where they seem out of place. In either case, Luke is not following Matthew’s order and thus is likely not following an earlier document that he and Matthew might each have consulted and drawn upon.

The final item to treat consists of Jesus’ quotations of scripture. What strikes the reader first is the devil’s willingness to quote a scriptural passage in order to confer a sense of celestial purpose on his words. But Jesus quickly overturns this trickery. The devil’s quotation of Psalm 91:11–12 elicits the Savior’s quotation of Deuteronomy 6:16, a passage taken from the law that trumps any passage from the Psalms, as the order of Jesus’ words about the divisions of scripture illustrates in 24:44 (“the law . . . the prophets . . . the psalms”).

A relevant matter consists of Jesus’ resort to the written text of scripture when responding to each of the three temptations. Much scholarship wrestles with these quotations, discussing whether and, if so, how closely Jesus is quoting the Hebrew text, or whether Luke, in reporting Jesus’ words, is reproducing the version from the Septuagint. In the end, a resolution of such questions makes little difference. Why? Because in other places where reports about Jesus’ excerpting from a sacred text are more secure, he shows a marked tendency to quote and adapt. Perhaps the most ready set of passages stands in the book of 3 Nephi where the Savior quotes from Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah, Micah, and Malachi, besides the sermon to be recorded in Matthew 5–7.[29] One remarkable example of adapting appears in Jesus’ quotation of the prophecy found in Deuteronomy 18:15 and 19. Although, as the Risen Savior, he says that he is quoting Moses’ words that appear in this pair of passages, the quotation agrees fully neither with the Hebrew text nor with the Greek (see 3 Ne. 20:23). What becomes plain is that Jesus feels free to adapt the scriptural text to suit his needs. And why not? After all, he is the one who inspired the text in the first place.


[1] Liddell and Scott, Lexicon, 1896; BAGD, 855.


[2] Steve Hendricks, “Starving Your Way to Vigor: The Benefits of an Empty Stomach,”

Harper’s Magazine (March 2012): 27–38.

[3] BAGD, 646; TDNT, 6:23–28. [See the list of abbreviations in the front matter of this book.]

[4] Hebrew sa’ir and shed; BDB, 972, 993–94.


[5] John M. Madsen, “Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” in EM, 2:860.

[6] Brown, Voices from the Dust, 150–52, 163–65; John W. Welch, “Seeing 3 Nephi as

the Holy of Holies of the Book of Mormon,” in Third Nephi: An Incomparable Scripture,

  1. Andrew C. Skinner and Gaye Strathearn (Provo, Utah: Neal A. Maxwell Institute for

Religious Scholarship; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2012), 16–31.

[7] John L. Lund, “Council in Heaven,” in EM, 1:328–29; Brent L. Top, “War in Heaven,”

in EM, 4:1546–47.

[8] TDNT, 1:746–49, 758–59.

[9] Marshall, Luke, 171.

[10] TDNT, 6:362.

[11] BAGD, 563–64; TDNT, 5:157–59.

[12] Johnson, Luke, 74.

[13] Lyndon W. Cook, The Revelations of the Prophet Joseph Smith: A Historical and Biographical

Commentary of the Doctrine and Covenants (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 158; Robinson and Garrett, Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, 2:287.


[14] BAGD, 277–78; TDNT, 2:564–71.

[15] Morris, Luke, 113.

[16] Marshall, Luke, 172.

[17] Richman, Holy Temple of Jerusalem, 13.

[18] Ritmeyer and Ritmeyer, Ritual of the Temple, 12.

[19] Josephus, B.J. 4.9.12 (§582); Schurer, History, 2:446–47; Dan Bahat, The Illustrated

Atlas of Jerusalem, trans. Shlomo Ketko ( Jerusalem: Carta, 1996), 44.

[20] BAGD, 243.

[21] BAGD, 128, 395–96; TDNT, 3:455–62; 6:35–36; Johnson, Luke, 75.

[22] TDNT, 6:33–35.

[23] TDNT, 3:399–401.

[24] Hans Conzelmann, The Theology of St. Luke (New York: Harper, 1960), 20; Johnson,

Luke, 69.

[25] BAGD, 206–7; TDNT, 2:299–308.

[26] BAGD, 277–78; TDNT, 2:562–70.

[27] Madsen, “Marriage Supper of the Lamb,” 2:860; Dennis E. Smith, “Messianic Banquet,” in ABD, 4:788–91.

[28] Marshall, Luke, 172.

[29] For instance, for Gen. 12:3, 18:18, and 22:18, see 3 Ne. 20:25, 27; for Isa. 54, see 3 Ne. 22; for Micah 5:8–14, see 3 Ne. 21:12–18; for Mal. 3–4, see 3 Ne. 24–25; and for Matt. 5–7, see 3 Ne. 12–14.