New Testament Perspectives on Evil -- By: Jerry R. Flora

Journal: Ashland Theological Journal
Volume: ATJ 24:0 (NA 1992)
Article: New Testament Perspectives on Evil
Author: Jerry R. Flora


New Testament Perspectives on Evil

Jerry R. Flora

Dr. Flora (Th.D., Southern Baptist) is Professor of NT and Theology at ATS.

New Testament theology is the attempt to describe the theology of the New Testament on the basis of the writers themselves in the context of the first century. It does not try to move into the territory of systematic theology, but it does try to get past the point of exegesis so that we have a sense of what the various authors believe. Our task here is to look at the New Testament materials in their context, taking account of the fact that Matthew is not Mark, Mark is not John, and nobody is Paul except Paul.

Let us begin by calling attention to several points in the Gospel materials where evil appears to be overcome. The first of these is the temptation of Jesus. Following Jesus’ birth we have only one incident from his childhood (Luke 2:41–52). We know nothing else about him except that at about the age of thirty he was baptized in the Jordan Valley in a renewal movement that was occurring in Judaism. Then he went into the wilderness where he was tested. This probably needs to be thought of not in the word “temptation” but “testing.” As a man he goes into the wilderness and as a man he is tempted. But he is more than just a human being because the one who is testing him says, “If you are really the Son, do this; if you are really the Son, do that.” In each case Jesus overpowers the force of the evil one. He survives the ordeal by quoting scripture. The scriptures are all taken out of Deuteronomy 6–8, where it is Israel in the wilderness that is being tested.

The nation was called to be God’s child and to respond to God in faith and obedience and endurance. Israel did not survive the test very well. Israel has now been reduced to one solitary individual in the wilderness of Judea, and he is approached by a power of evil that says, “If you are really God’s Son, there are better ways to get to the promised land than through the desert. Make bread, jump off the temple, fall down and worship me, but by all means take a short-cut. You don’t have to go through the wilderness of putting up with this generation, wrestling in the garden, or enduring the cross. You can get around all that.” Jesus responds in every case with words from the early chapters of Deuteronomy in which he now personifies the true Israel. He meets the test in the wilderness and when he survives all of this, we are told that on the one hand he was desperately hungry and required angelic assistance to sustain him (Matt. 4:11). We are told on the other hand, that when he came out of the wilderness he was full of t...

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