"...even if someone were to prove to me that the truth
lay outside Christ, I should choose to remain with Christ rather than with the
truth." - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Site note: Dostoyevsky is NOT saying here that the truth doesn't matter or
can be cast aside. What he IS saying is that there is something in the life and
message of Jesus that transcends the logic of rhetorical proof.
Brothers Karamazov: The Cardinal versus Jesus
Some thoughts on the differences between
the two concerning the 3 temptations
It is the position of this website that the accounts of the "temptations" in the Gospels
of Matthew, Mark, and Luke—they are not in the Gospel of John—are apocryphal and
may be based on some undiscovered Hebrew literature or parable, or, more
likely, they are based on fabrications surrounding a retreat to be alone in
the wilderness by Jesus.. The disciples aren't
portrayed as being present at the confrontation, and it is hard to imagine that Jesus
came back and told them how he passed these excruciating tests.
At best, Jesus may have come back from an extended wilderness
sojourn and confided in the disciples that he was sorely tested while in agonized
contemplation, and the accounts got embellished like so many others. Nevertheless, however
inaccurate and invalid they are, they DO provide a foil for exposing some ultimate
issues. Here Dostoevsky uses them in his acclaimed novel, and has the Grand Inquisitor
Cardinal explaining to Jesus where he went wrong.
Temptation 1. Ostensibly Jesus was
led into the wilderness by "the spirit" (whatever that means in this
context), where he fasted for
40 days. Famished, weak and on the edge of dying, he was confronted by Satan* with the
challenge that if he were the son of God, he would turn some stones to bread and save his
own life, thus doing the will of God. Jesus refuses with the quotation that "Man shall
not live by bread alone, but by the word of God."
The Cardinal then presses his major thesis by claiming that almost all people do not
have the courage or strength to use their volition or "free will" and faith at this
level, and that this would be an impossible, unloving burden. He then claims that Jesus
made a mistake, and should have produced the bread, thus identifying more with the people
and not showing them all up by measuring up to an unreasonable standard and passing such
a subtle though simple test. As in, how can you expect people who
are dying of hunger to stand up and make such a ridiculous choice?
Temptation 2. The second temptation was to induce or maneuver God into a demonstration
of the value he placed in his son. Satan took Jesus to a temple pinnacle in Jerusalem
and challenged him that if he were the messiah, by throwing himself off, the angels
would take charge and bear him up, saving his life and thus showing his value to God.
Jesus again declined with a quotation, "You shall not test the lord your God."
The Cardinal Inquisitor presses on with his theme that again Jesus made a mistake, and
that people need a demonstration of this sort in order to have faith, and that Man
NEEDS a transcendent-to-human-being son of God. To be inspired by the purpose
and values of an equal is outside of the Cardinal's thinking range.
Temptation 3. The first two temptations were easy compared to the third. The first
two were merely asking Jesus to do something unreasonable with only the retention of his
life at stake. Who cares about the value of one's life to someone else or the sustenance
of one's life if there is no enhancement, no way to triumph over paucity or dearth of fulfillment?
Lot's of people destroy their own lives voluntarily by suicide in such a
The gloves were now off because the third temptation was about power, control and
fulfillment of all the natural and artificial needs and desires that humans
have. More wealth, power, superiority, deference, romantic attention and sexual gratification
than any man had ever had within reach. Satan "showed him all the kingdoms of the
world and the glory of them", and offered it all to him if he acknowledged that he,
Satan, and his ways, could grant this fulfillment and ultimately enhance his life.
Jesus again refused with a quotation.
The Cardinal again presses his theme by claiming it was a mistake to not take the power, and
how now that only left the church as the alternate in taking the power so that they
could numb the people's angst over the burden of free will and provide for their
We, of course, do not have to understand these tests or temptations in the same way
that Dostoevsky understood them. In the first the simple logic would be that if God
led you to the brink of dying, the burden should then be on Him—God—to do something to get you
out of the predicament.
In the second is the seed of logic to discount the literal reality of this
scenario ever having happened. If it is not legitimate for us to test God in arbitrary
ways, it would not be legitimate for him, in the name of love, to test US in this way.
Nobody in a relationship likes to be arbitrarily or purposely tested by the other.
In the third testing scenario the simple logic, promulgated by the IF-I-SEEK-US package,
is that the temporal, mundane and limited fulfillment available in this world—even IF
you had it ALL—IS NOT ENOUGH, and it would never ultimately satisfy. Given the opportunity in a
reasonable way to really "have the
all" that is spoken about so eloquently in the Gospel of Thomas, one would simply be foolish to opt for
the lesser package. A no-brainer if you actually understand and believe!
* The title "Satan" is used in the earliest Gospel, Mark, and then
changed to the Devil in the later ones. This is telling, in that the
concepts of the two are not the same, and the development of the "Devil"
motif was not developed until later in Christian times after the "event".