There’s something going on with the story of Christ’s temptations in the Wilderness.

The story is natural for symbolic or ritual readings, since it has fantastic elements like Christ fasting for a biologically impossible but symbolically important number of days, or a mountain from which one can se the whole world, and since it starts Christ’s ministry.

But when you read the story that way, there is something odd going on in it.

I don’t just mean that it seems like an ascension ritual, though it does. Christ moves from the wilderness, which is symbolically the domain of Satan and chaos, to the top of the temple, to the top of a “mountain” that is higher than the whole world. Mountains are symbolically temples, so this mountain is something like the loftiest, most exalted temple of all. Except that this is an ascension ritual conducted, oddly enough, by Satan. Satan here almost seems to be playing the part of the scholars’ Old Testament Satan who just puts people to the test.

But look at the symbolism. Christ is first tempted to turn stones to bread.   Satan next tempts him to jump off the temple, and see if he is dashed on the stones. Stones again. Last is the temptation on the exceedingly high mountain, which is both symbolically a temple and also by nature made of a enormous mass of stone.

In the scriptures, stone or rock usually refers to Christ. He is the rock of our salvation. He is the cornerstone.  Christ is also associated with the temple, naturally, and is even symbolically called the temple at times. A temple that is made without hands, such as a mountain, is a particularly strong symbol of Christ.

We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.

Thus Mark 14:58.

To compound the confusion, Christ is also symbolized as bread.

I’m convinced all this symbolism has meaning in the story. I just don’t know what it is.

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