The Temptations In The Wilderness -- By: Albert Weston Moore Cliftondale

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 077:307 (Jul 1920)
Article: The Temptations In The Wilderness
Author: Albert Weston Moore Cliftondale


The Temptations In The Wilderness

Albert Weston Moore Cliftondale

The Temptations in the wilderness are an inseparable part of the Christian record. Not only do they find a place in the ancient texts and versions, but it is psychologically natural that they should have occurred just when they did and in the very order in which one of the evangelists has related them. Assuming that it was not until his baptism that Jesus became aware that he was himself that Coming One for whose advent the Jewish people had so long been yearning, — an assumption which seems to fit into the various details of the Gospel narrative better than any other—the story of the forty days in the desert is indispensable to a right understanding of that steadiness of purpose and unwavering confidence with which he pursued his chosen course afterwards. It describes in few but luminous words the process by which a great soul adjusted itself to a great and unexpected mission. Had it been omitted there would have been a gap in the history of Jesus which would have suggested a mystery and even an incongruity in his moral development.

In considering this vital topic it is necessary to bear in mind, first of all, that the narrative of the Temptations, if it is conceded to be an authentic portion of the record, could have emanated only from Jesus himself. There were no witnesses of this momentous spiritual encounter who could have reported the incidents afterwards. The experiences of those forty eventful days, so far as they have been made known, may well have been the subject of some special communication made by him to his disciples that they might realize how profound was his knowledge of

those instincts within them which he would have them overcome.

It would seem to follow, then, that the account would be likely to exhibit some traces of his peculiar rhetorical and didactic style. What this was we can be in no manner of doubt. It was pictorial and figurative to such an extent that his meaning often was not easily grasped. Not only his parables but many, if not most, of his other utterances betray the same characteristic. And it is specially to be noted that the sign of likeness or comparison is frequently not expressed. “I beheld Satan fallen as lightning from heaven,” is not history, although historical in form, but a symbolic mental picture of the evangelistic Success which his disciples had begun to win. The disastrous effect on the human soul of a reformation which is not followed up by an active consecration to the highest moral ideals he describes as a return of an unclean spirit to its former domicile with seven others worse than itself, though many, no doubt, fail to realize that the description is only a...

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