Historical Cultural Context

The Second Adam

In Luke’s temptation scene (Lk 4:1-13), Jesus “passes” the temptation that Adam “failed.” Adam was tempted to eat forbidden fruit. He did and lost status as “son of God” (Gen 3:1-7). Jesus was tempted to turn stone into bread (Lk 4:2). He didn’t and remains truly “Son of God.”

Adam had dominion over all things (Gen 1:26-30) but yearned to “be like God” (Gen 1:26-30). He yielded to Satan and lost his dominion as he became subject to sin and death (Gen 2:17; 3:19). Jesus was offered power over the whole world (Lk 4:5-6) but rejected it. He remained subject only to God’s will.

Adam was told that by eating the fruit he would “not die” (Gen 3:4). He obeyed Satan and died (see Gen 3:19). Jesus is tempted to defy death by jumping from the Temple but he allowed God to remain Lord of life and death, obedient to God rather than to Satan (Lk 4:12). Jesus is a welcome “second Adam.”

Tempted On The Cross

There are similarities between Jesus’ new temptations on the cross and his previous temptations by Satan. Like the earlier temptations, these challenges are based on Jesus’ relationship to God: “If you are the Christ of God, his chosen one” (Lk 23:35). In both instances Jesus urged to defy death: jump off the Temple and live; escape execution.

While Satan and Jesus’ opponents propose that since Jesus is “Son of God,” he will not die, the Lukan interpretation claims that precisely because Jesus is truly “Son of God” he will die in obedience to God’s will. Jesus’ obedience will have life-giving consequences far surpassing the death-dealing disobedience of Adam.

Christ the King

Though Jesus spoke of the “reign or kingdom of God,” he rejected the title of “king” and all attempts to “enthrone” him. What does today’s Gospel and its interpretation teach us about this culturally jarring feast of “Christ the King”?

The Franciscan Order was instrumental in establishing this feast and extending its celebration to the universal Church. The Order followed the lead of its great thirteenth century theologians St. Bonaventure and Blessed Duns Scotus, who disagreed with Aquinas’ conviction that, if Adam hadn’t sinned, the Second Person of the Trinity would never have become flesh. They believed Jesus was incarnate before Adam and therefore before the sin. 

The Franciscans drew enlightenment from Scripture that Christ is the firstborn of all creation (Col 1:15). They reasoned thus: How could God, a pure spirit, create Adam, an inspirited body, in the divine image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27)? Only by looking at the embodied, incarnate Jesus, who served as the model!

Since God does not exist in time, God does not have past or future but only an eternal “now,” an eternal present. (Humans experience the eternal present in their dreams where past and future characters and events run together into the present moment of the dream.)

This Franciscan theological position is closely linked with the Adam-Jesus parallels in the New Testament developed by Luke and others. With these historical insights as background, today’s feast reminds Christians that the best commentary on the Bible is the Bible.

 

John J. Pilch

John J. Pilch is a biblical scholar and facilitator of parish renewals.
Liturgical Press has published fourteen books by Pilch exploring the cultural world” of the Bible.
Go to http://www.litpress.org/ to find out more.

 

**From Saint Louis University

Kristin Clauson