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CHAPTER I.

IMPORT OF THE INDIVIDUAL TEMPTATIONS.

WHILE, on the one hand, we do not conceive that the individual features of the account of the Temptation are to be literally taken, the principles which triumph so gloriously in its course bear the evident stamp of that wisdom which every where shines forth from the life of Christ. Its veracity is undeniably confirmed by the period which it occupies between the baptism of Christ and his entrance on his public ministry; the silent, solitary preparation was a natural transition from the one to the other. We conclude, from both these considerations together, that the account contains not only an ideal, but also a historical truth, conveyed, however, under a symbolical form.115115   If we assign a symbolical character to the Temptation, it may be asked whether the fasting, which formed a ground-work for it, was not symbolical also. But the fasting is immediately connected with the obviously historical fact of Christ’s retirement. We conceive it thus: Christ, musing upon the great work of his life, forgot the wants of the body. (Cf. John, iv., 34.) The mastery (and this we must presuppose) which his spirit had over the body prevented those wants from asserting their power for a long time; but when they did, it was only the more powerfully. It formed part of the trial and self-denial of Christ through his whole life, that, together with the consciousness that he was the Son of God, he combined the weakness and dependence of humanity. These affected the lesser powers of his soul, although they could never move his unchangingly holy will, and turn hill to any selfish strivings.

The easiest part of our task is to ascertain the import of the several parts of the Temptation, and to this we now address ourselves. We shall find in them the principles which guided Jesus through his whole Messianic calling—principles directly opposed to the notions prevalent among the Jews in regard to the Messiah.


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