The Reader Writes


Feb. 18, 1961 The Rev. H. J. Kuiper Managing Editor, TORCH AND TRUMPET Grand Rapids. Mich.

Dear Rev. Kuiper:

In the TORCH AND TRUMPET of January 1961, you address yourself to the question of the variations between the accounts of Jesus’ temptations found in Matthew and in Luke. You suggest as your solution to the problem involved the position that only Matthew claims to present the three temptations in their chronological order, whereas Luke does not intend to do so, you base this conclusion upon the fact that Matthew introduces the temptation he places second with the word “then,” and introduces the temptation he places third with the word “again,” whereas Luke simply connects the temptations with the word “and,” You reaffirm this position in the February issue of your magazine.

I heartily agree with you that we should not call variations of this sort “mistakes.” I would, however, if I may, like to comment about your solution of the problem involved. Though it is true that most conservative commentators agree with you that Matthew presents these temptations in their chronological order whereas Luke does not, there are competent Reformed expositors who take a different position. In going through my seminary notes in New Testament History, I observed that the late Professor Schultze was of the opinion that Luke gave us the chronological order, whereas Matthew did not. F. W. Grosheide, Professor of New Testament at the Free University for many years, in his recent Commentaar op het Nieuwe Testament on Matthew (Kampen: Kok, 1954), says in his comment on Matt. 4:8 that Luke probably has the chronological order, since he commonly follows such an order, and that Matthew has in this instance probably placed the most important temptation last (p. 57).

As far as Matthew’s use of the words “then” (tote) and “again” (palin) is concerned, I wonder whether the use of these words is as decisive in determining the chronolOgical order as you and others suggest. To be sure, Luke simply introduces the temptations of Jesus with the words kai (Luke 4:5), and de (vs. 9), and does not use either tote or palin. Yet, to the casual reader, even these milder connectives ordinarily connote temporal succession. If I am telling a story, and connect the various parts of the story with “and’s,” the listener will ordinarily assume that I intend by these “and’s” to indicate chronological succession. In this connection I should like to cite two comments made in a recent book on the temptations of Jesus by a minister in the Cereformeerde Kerken, Dr. A. Dondorp, De Verzoekingen van ]ezus Christus in de Woestiin (Kok: Kampen, 1951). In this volume, which represents the fruits of his doctoral studies, Dr. Dondorp says, and I translate: “Matt. 4:5—tote does not sharply designate the time (markeert niet scherp). Certainly one cannot draw an argument from this word with respect to the originality of the chronological order of the three scenes” (p. 147). That Luke binds the three scenes together by means of the vague de or kai, whereas Matthew uses tote, says little. Matthew’s tote intends no historical precision” (p. 165).

I am inclined to think that it is better to say that neither Matthew nor Luke intended to give us the exact chronological order of the temptations of Jesus. I believe that Calvin’s comment on this passage is very much to the point: “It was not the intention of the evangelists to arrange the history in such a manner, as to preserve, on all occasions, the exact order of timeLet it suffice for us to know, that Christ was tempted in three ways. The question, which of these contests was the second, and which was the third, need not give us much trouble or uneasiness” (Harmony of the Evangelists, Eerdmans Edition, I, 216).

Sincerely yours, Anthony A. Hoekema


We are glad to place Dr. Hoekema’s article. We are always happy to print the reactions of our readers to what is written in TORCH AND TRUMPET. We say this because some persons seem to have the notion that we print only what agrees with the expressed opinions of our regular contributors.

Further, we were particularly gratified to read Dr. Hoekema’s statement: “I heartily agree with you that we should not call variations of this sort ‘mistakes.’”

As to the point in question, we have given consideration to the citations from works by Dr. Grosheide and Dr. Dondorp. What strikes us is that neither of the two takes the trouble to offer proof for his assertion. Apparently both are committed to the theory that Luke rather than Matthew gives us the chronological order of the wilderness temptations and simply make light of the fact that only Matthew uses words that indicate the chronological correctness of the order which he follows. When Dr. Dondorp states that Matthew’s use of tote says little” and that “Matthew intends no historical precision” we beg to differ. Dondorp offers no substantiation. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon gives as the second meaning of tote (then): then: that is, when the thing under consideration had been said or done, thereupon; so in the historical writers (especially Matthew) by way of transition from one thing mentioned to another which could not take place before it.” We ask: Isn’t that plain enough? And note that one of the passages to which Thayer then refers as an example is Matthew 4:1, 51 Verse 5 is the verse in question: “THEN the devil taketh him into the holy city; and he set him on the pinnacle of the temple.”

Now as to the other word used by Matthew: “Again.” This introduces the third temptation. This too indicates a temporal order. Thayer remarks concerning it: “joined to verbs of all sorts, it denotes renewal or repetition of the action.” Then the first instance given by Thayer is Matthew 4:8. the passage in question! The Berkeley Version. by the way, uses a stronger word than “again,” namely the word “NEXT!” Phillips translates: “Once again.” The Twentieth Century New Testament says: “The third time.”

In following a different chronological order Luke simply uses the connective “and.” It is true of course that “and” sometimes points to what follows in time. But often it does not, as when we say: “John and Mary went to town.” Surely, this does not mean that John went first and then Mary. In the Greek the word kai (and), according to Thayer, sometimes “after a designation of time .. . annexes what will be done or was done at that time.” At all events, kai does not necessarily indicate what follows chronologically.

As to Calvin’s comment, we can agree that “the question which of these contests was the second and which was the third need not give us much trouble and uneasiness.” But the question does cause uneasiness when some try to prove from the difference in order between Matthew and Luke that there are discrepancies, contradictions, in the Gospels. That simply does violence to the Scriptures. It was for that reason that we sought to show that Matthew intended to give the chronological order, not Luke.

THE CODE OF SILENCE “Now remember, brethren, the Christian Reformed Church does not make a practice of washing its dirty linen in public. Whatever is discussed here is strictly confidential. You are not even to confide in your own wife.

The above words probably have a familiar ring in the ears of anyone reading this article who is serving. or has at one time served. as un elder in the Christian Reformed Church.

Words of caution of this nature are commonly addressed by a pastor to his newly elected consistory, especially if there are any men who are serving for the first time.

Of course, this is admittedly a good rule, but I believe anyone who has knowledge of its actual application will have to admit it has often been carried to unwarranted extremes.

I was reminded of this fact recently when I ran across the following item contained in a report of the October meeting of one our Classes. (The Banner, Dec. 16, 1960).

A Synodical committee present at classis counseled classis in several matters. Much time was spent with an Article 31 case.”

Now, who would ever guess that behind that brief item could be hidden the struggle of a young married man, kept under the first step of censure by his consistory for over two years, to have this censure removed, and again be permitted to partake of the Lord’s Supper with his family and fellow believers.

He was kept under censure, in spite of the fact that at each one of three consecutive meetings of his Classis one a meeting called especially for this purpose—his consistory was advised they must lift censure, but refused to do so.

The young man then carried his case to Synod, where Classis was unanimously upheld, and the consistory was told to lift censure summarily. See Acts, 1961. p. 68.

The consistory still remained adamant in its refusal to do so.

Now comes the meeting of the Classis referred to in the item quoted in this article.

A Synodical committee appointed especially to deal with this case was present and under pressure from the Classis and from this committee censure was finally lifted.

So I am sure my readers will agree that the item I quoted reduced this dirty linen, if I may call it such, to a very minute, innocuous little bundle.

It is not at all the purpose of this article to suggest that detailed accounts of our assemblies. major or minor, should be made public.

Neither is there any intention to pass judgment here on the parties involved in this controversy. That can safely be left to Classis and Synod.

The writer is only trying to arouse the people of our Church to what he feels is a crying need for less secrecy. from the congregational level on up.

The philosophy often seems to be to tell the people as little as possible. whereas I believe we should keep our people informed as fully as possible.

I am convinced there then would be a great deal less suspicion and gossip, less circulation of misinformation. and even sometimes. less assassination of character.

Let the clean fresh air of publicity have a chance to clear the air of all these evils.

H. M. Veenstra

  A SERIOUS WORD TO OUR YOUNG PREACHERS After reading and re-reading Dr. John Kromminga’s opening speech for our Seminarian las fall, which appeared in The Banner of December 1960, may the underSigned write a few lines for the young preachers in our Seminary?