Thomas Quinn is an Emmy-nominated producer and writer for television and print, an author and speaker, and a skeptic.

He received his M.F.A. from the American Film Institute, worked as a story analyst for DreamWorks, Universal and HBO, and was a film critic and entertainment reporter for a Los Angeles weekly.

In 2005, Tom received two Emmy nominations as writer and producer of "Beyond the Da Vinci Code" for the History Channel.

Originally from New Jersey, he now lives in Los Angeles.

Jesus Not Really Tempted All That Much

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of this 40-day liturgical period of prayer and fasting, rooted in the biblical story of Jesus fasting and praying for 40 days in the desert, resisting Satan’s temptations. This being the Middle East, the desert was the usual testing ground for holy men-in-training—Moses, Elijah the prophet, John the Baptist, and others. You may recall that, after they crossed the Red Sea, the Israelites spent forty years being tested in the Sinai, living such tidy lives that they left no evidence of their stay.

While out there, Jesus meets the devil himself, who is given a much bigger role in the New Testament than he played in the Hebrew Bible. You’d think a meeting like this would be a kind of “King Kong vs. Godzilla” clash of titans. But no, that will come at some unspecified future time—the Second Coming.

This first confrontation isn’t very thrilling. The Gospel of Mark keeps the story simple: it says Satan tempted Jesus. That’s it. Matthew expands the scene with some invented dialogue, but still keeps it brief. There’s no Old Testament prophecy for this event, you see. So, the author of Matt, writing for Jews, isn’t going to dwell on it.

Luke, however, further embellishes the story. Satan tempts Jesus by turning a stone into bread, and Jesus responds, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.” Frankly, this isn’t much of a temptation. After weeks in a parched desert, the last thing you’d want is a French roll. Now, if Satan had turned up with a keg of cold beer, history might have been very different.

The devil then offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worship. If you buy the traditional theology, this makes no sense. The Gospel of John says Jesus was “the Word of God” who existed from the beginning of time. This means Jesus and Satan have known each other for ages, which means Satan knew that Jesus was God. How could he tempt God with a piece of the Lord’s own creation? Did God give the devil the pink slip to earth? And if he did, why would he want it back? He could just whip up another planet.

The scene doesn’t work unless neither of them knew Jesus was God. That’s not something you forget. God knows everything, so Jesus had to know who he was, right? Or was Jesus’ lack of knowledge about himself part of his human condition? If so, how did he know he was The Messiah? You getting a headache yet? Jesus makes it clear that The Messiah will be a spiritual king, not a political one. He essentially tells the devil to go to hell and Satan departs “until an opportune time.” In other words…he’ll be back.

Why Jesus allowed this, I don’t know. He could have saved us a lot of trouble if he had just extinguished the bastard then and there. But then, the New Testament would only be about nine pages long. Like that was gonna be best seller.



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