Jesus' Temptation


When Jesus’ was tempted by Satan for forty days in the desert, was satan aware Jesus was the Son of God and is also God? If so, why bother? Because I heard a version that says Satan wasn’t aware Jesus was God and the temptation in the desert was actually the time the devil realized Jesus was God. Any thoughts?


I’ve wondered this, too. Maybe he suspected it but wasn’t sure (and therefore tested him). Also possible he knew Jesus was the Messiah, but didn’t know the Messiah would be God Incarnate.

There’s a theory that the angels who fell, did so because they wouldn’t accept God’s plan to become Incarnate, would not worship God in an inferior nature. Even if this is true, though, the devil wouldn’t necessarily have known that Jesus was the One.


The devil did ask “IF you are Son of God…” We know that the evil one is not omniscient, and was cast from heaven long before the Incarnation. But, somehow he suspected that Jesus was something supernatural. Perhaps spirit is capable of perceiving Spirit. The devil may have been present at the annunciation, tempting Mary to say “no”, or at the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth. He may have been there beside Simeon at the presentation or when 12 year old Jesus questioned the elders in the temple. He may have known something of the communication between God and John the Baptist, telling John to go and baptize, and about the One to come. He may have heard John’s preaching regarding Jesus at the Jordan. He may have heard God’s voice from heaven when Jesus was baptized - after all, he heard that voice before, commanding him out of heaven. He also may have seen the Spirit descending upon Jesus. But, even if he had seen and heard all of this, the evil one doubted, as that is his nature. He incites us to doubt, and his doubt is apparent in his questioning of Jesus.


With the devil nothing is necessary. Necessary applies only to God (ie he necessarily exists, he necessarily loves and so forth). The devil being an angel he is superior in his intelligence to men, yet he is not all-knowing, only God is all-knowing. And actually, according to tradition, it was not because he wouldn’t adore God in this state, but because God asked the angels to serve men. And then came the rebelling words: Non serviam! (I will not serve!)
Another thing that does not apply to angels: they don’t suspect. They either know something, and understand it in fullness, except God of course, or they understand nothing about a specific thing or fact. They don’t need to do investigative work in order to come to knowledge. In the moment something is revealed to them by God, in that very second they understand fully and completely what was handed to them.


Really! That the Devil may have been present at a most holy moment of our Salvation is doubtful the least. But to affirm that he tempted Mary, that’s a long shot. At the state of grace she was in all her life, the devil could have yelled his lungs out, if he had any, and Mary wouldn’t have heard him. Scripture, nor Tradition, says anything about the devil being present at the holiest moments of our Salvation.


Do you deny that we live in the princedom of the evil one? Or, that he appeared before God after roaming the earth and patrolling it? That he hates all that is good and holy, thus would seek to prevent or destroy it? Think about it.


According to tradition the devil never had, never will have the beatific vision, he’s in hell, from the moment he rebelled and will be there for all eternity. He doesn’t need to leave hell to come and tempt us. We are surrounded by the spiritual world and the way the spiritual interacts with the material world isn’t quite clear to us. I seriously doubt that God would allow his presence at the annunciation of the birth of his only begotten Son.


The point of the story is to contrast Jesus with Moses and Israel.

Jesus spent 40 days in the desert while Moses and Israel spent 40 years in the desert. Jesus was tempted by the same three temptations as Israel. Israel failed while Jesus succeeded. Israel complained about food in the desert but Jesus did not give into the temptation to turn the stones into loaves. Israel worshiped a false God while Jesus did not give into the temptation to worship Satan. Israel wanted to go back to Egypt where life was more comfortable while Jesus did not give into the temptation to rule all the kingdoms of the earth. Moses never entered the promised land while Jesus ascended to heaven.

This is to show that Jesus is the New Moses who would lead his people on a new exodus from sin. The point of the author recounting the story was not to teach us about Satan’s knowledge of Jesus’ divinity but to contrast the great prophet and leader Moses with his fulfillment in Jesus, and to contrast Israel with Jesus. All through the Gospels Jesus is recapitulating - reliving the life of Israel and Jesus succeeds where Israel failed over and over.

The story has nothing to do with whether the devil knew of Jesus’ divinity.



Why doubt that when God later permitted the temptation of His only Son?


Except that we did not raise this issue - the devil did.


It is my belief that Satan knew very well who Jesus was. Satan asking “IF” is simply a way to goad Jesus.

Why bother tempting Jesus? How glorious a victory for Satan that would have been if He were to make the Son of Man fall and sin, right?


I think it is important to note, that Satan TRIED to tempt Christ but he did not succeed. Therefore, with all due respect to the OP, " Jesus’ temptation might be misleading to those not familiar with scripture.:wink:


Ah, ok. I heard the other theory from someone who studied theology, but I don’t think the theologians he was studying were all mainstream. Do you have a source for the view you mention?


I have been handed down this bit of Tradition. The stories of how Lucifer and his angels rebelled, as fascinating as they may be, are just theological speculation, and open for discussion. And the non serviam statement is quite known among Catholics.


C Lapide in his commentary on St Matthews Gospel writes about the idea that satan didnt know Jesus was the Son Of God, in a few places,and also of his envy that Christ was to become man -

Of the devil, namely Lucifer, the prince of all the demons. And it was just that Christ should now contend with him, as He had afore contended with him in heaven, when He cast Satan ambitiously seeking the hypostatic union, and envious that He was about to become man, down to Tartarus, as some suppose. Lucifer therefore, at this time, came forth from hell, and taking the form of a man—of a holy man, says Carthusianus—tempted Christ, (1) that he might make trial whether He were God’s own Son in very deed, and (2) that he might entice Him to sin. As therefore Lucifer, through Eve, tempted Adam, and overcame him, so he tempted Christ, and was overcome by Him. We are here taught that when the devil foresees any one will be an illustrious doctor of the Church, he is accustomed to assail him with various temptations, that he may cast him down, and destroy the harvest of souls which he sees he may reap, that he may choke the fruit in the seed, as now he strove to strangle all Christians in Christ their Parent.

If thou be, &c. The devil had heard the Father’s Voice at the Baptism of Christ—Thou art my beloved Son; yet forasmuch as he saw Him in some respects like a poor, weak, ordinary mortal, and being for that reason in doubt whether He were the very Son of God by nature, the WORD itself of the Father, or only a very eminent Son of God by adoption, he tempts Christ, and asks Him to turn stones into bread, that by His performance of the miracle, or inability to perform it, he might determine what kind of Son of God he was. For as by the Word of God all things had been created in the beginning, so by the same Word might stones be suddenly and instantly converted into bread. If therefore Christ had done this, the devil would have believed that He was the WORD of God.

So Christ made the devil suffer an illusion, who had intended to play falsely with Him. For the demon thought that if Christ were the Son of God, He would not allow Himself to be taken up and carried through the air, and by this would know whether He were the Son of God or not; but Christ, by suffering this, frustrated the demon’s plan, and left him still in doubt. Whence S. Chrysostom was of opinion that the devil supposed that he carried Christ through the air to the pinnacle of the Temple against His will, and because He was not able to resist him.


It is very likely that Satan the Devil knew who Christ was because he used the term “Son of God” while tempting Christ. (Matthew 4:3, 6.)

The “if” found in English translations is what is known in the Greek as a “conditional particle,” and it doesn’t mean that the Devil doubts who Jesus is, but that he is presenting an argument: i.e., “For the sake of argument, you being the Son of God should make it easy for you to do such-and-such, right?” The question is the same type of snare as in Genesis 3:1 where Satan got the woman to engage him by asking: “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the trees in the garden’?” Instead of doing like the woman did, which lead to sin, Jesus ignored the chance to satisfy the Devil’s question and instead quoted the Law of God and proceeded to act in compliance to that instead.

"Son of"

“Son of God” does not mean “offspring” of God. In Hebrew the term “son of” is vernacular for “spitting image of” or “one in the same” or “of the same cloth as.”

To illustrate, the NABRE renders Luke 10:6 as:

If a *peaceful person *lives there, your peace will rest on him.–Italics added.

The phrase “peaceful person” is literally “a son of peace.”

In John 17:12, Judas Iscariot is referred to as “the son of destruction,” which means that Judas was destined to be the only apostle who would be lost or destroyed.

Acts 13:10 has St. Paul address a sorcerer as “a son of the devil,” meaning that the person was “devilish.”

In fact, the Church sees the expression “Son of God” as evidence in itself that Jesus is “one in the same” with God. The Semitic use of “son of” was not only limited to Jews but was common in Egypt where Cleopatra used the feminine sense, declaring herself “daughter of Isis,” meaning she was the incarnation of the goddess herself. And Roman rulers used the title “divi filius” or “son of the divine” to claim that they were *incarnations *of deified figures. The use of the expression “Son of God” about Jesus was thus enough to frighten Pilate in an attempt to find a way to release him.–See John 19:6-12.

Satan’s use of the term “Son of God” in the Temptation likely showed that he knew Jesus was God incarnate. It was due to this fact that Satan attempted the Temptation in the first place because the Devil likely viewed the Incarnate Word as weak now that Jesus shared in our human nature. This turned out, of course, to be false while proving that human nature was able to live up to reflecting God as originally purposed from the beginning.–Genesis 21:6-7; Romans 8:3.

It should be noted that while there is room for other possibilities or other levels of interpretation, the fact that Satan tempted God’s people Israel as they traversed the desert wilderness for 40 years–even though God dwelled among them in the Pillar of Cloud–does show that the Devil was foolish enough to do so for 40 days with the Son of God. Only where Israel failed, the Incarnate Word did not, much to the Tempter’s displeasure.


I’ll just add this from the Catechism .

Jesus’ temptations

538 The Gospels speak of a time of solitude for Jesus in the desert immediately after his baptism by John. Driven by the Spirit into the desert, Jesus remains there for forty days without eating; he lives among wild beasts, and angels minister to him. At the end of this time Satan tempts him three times, seeking to compromise his filial attitude toward God. Jesus rebuffs these attacks, which recapitulate the temptations of Adam in Paradise and of Israel in the desert, and the devil leaves him “until an opportune time”.

539 The evangelists indicate the salvific meaning of this mysterious event: Jesus is the new Adam who remained faithful just where the first Adam had given in to temptation. Jesus fulfills Israel’s vocation perfectly: in contrast to those who had once provoked God during forty years in the desert, Christ reveals himself as God’s Servant, totally obedient to the divine will. In this, Jesus is the devil’s conqueror: he “binds the strong man” to take back his plunder. Jesus’ victory over the tempter in the desert anticipates victory at the Passion, the supreme act of obedience of his filial love for the Father.

540 Jesus’ temptation reveals the way in which the Son of God is Messiah, contrary to the way Satan proposes to him and the way men wish to attribute to him. This is why Christ vanquished the Tempter for us: “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sinning.” By the solemn forty days of Lent the Church unites herself each year to the mystery of Jesus in the desert.


I appreciate all your responses and there might be no last word on this, layers of interpratations perhaps.

I think the above post suffices for it simplicity. My question was more aboute “why bother if he’s God” rather than Satan’s omniscience which I understand can be implicit to the question.

Satan is supremely intelligent but he’s infinitely foolish to even try or to have tried.

He’s so foolish we even ask the question, because it’s unimaginable to us.


Keeping this event in context, the temptation narrative follows immediately after the baptism of Jesus. All heard God the Father proclaim Jesus is His beloved Son in whom He is well pleased. Straight after this, Satan attempts to force Jesus to prove his credentials that He is indeed the Son of God by posing “if you are the Son of God…”

Satan is very clever. He tries to tempt Jesus by enticing Jesus’ divinity by means of pride just like he did with Adam and the sons of Israel. Only this time Satan failed…

Jesus could not be tempted because his human nature enjoyed the beatific vision. Either Satan did not know this or through his foolish pride he thought he could weaken the human nature of Jesus.


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