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Discussion 2 to Meditation 585
Testing and Tempting

by: JT

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It was not my intention in Meditation 585 to demonstrate that God is a testable hypothesis. In fact, I do not think it is. The point was that I find it inconsistent that someone can both accept the literal truth of the Bible and also claim that God is not testable. (Of course, my primary motive was that I found it amusing to take Elijah's mockery of the failure of Baal to prove his existence and apply it to Elijah's own God.)

It is not just in 1 Kings 18 that we find a "God test." There is another one in Isaiah 41 verses 21-29 when the Israelite God challenges other gods to prove their existence and mocks their failure to do so. Surely, the same standard should apply to the god reportedly making the challenge.

Your suggestion that the tale of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness as told in Matthew 4 and slightly differently in Luke 4 changed the rules on testing god is interesting. I was going to say you were wrong about using the word "test" as most bible versions I am familiar with use the word "tempt." However "test" is used in the New American Bible (which is the version the links go to) - and is also used in the NAB version of Deuteronomy 6, which Jesus is paraphrasing in his response. (In my view, the word test in Deuteronomy 6 has the more of a sense of testing by temptation than testing as verification.)

But the whole story of the temptation in the wilderness is a mess.[1] Remember, at the time it was written, Satan was not regarded as the evil ruler of Hell (a concept which was only adopted in Christianity in about the 4th Century C.E.) but as an angel employed by God to tempt people to see if they would stray. Satan was not then considered a fallen angel, but an agent of God. In fact, he could not have offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world without God's agreement. Such a gift was not in his power to give, only God's.[2] So what we have is the agent of God tempting (testing) the son of God who (if you accept the Trinity) is also God. Simply, God is testing himself.

So in rejecting the three temptations (or tests) God passes the test he has given himself. Quite the paradox. But in terms of Christian theology, it is a test of God - though not one of proving God's existence.


  1. One might ask how Matthew and Luke know the story (other than copying the Q Document.) Neither of them could have been witnesses as Jesus was alone in the wilderness, yet they report the tale as fact. Perhaps they heard it from Jesus (assuming he existed), but misinterpreted a parable as a true tale.
  2. Satan: A Biography, Henry Ansgar Kelly, Cambridge University Press