The Devil and Jesus #1

The Devil and Jesus #1

The Devil and Jesus. Or: Split Thinking

Jesus had fasted in the desert for forty day and was hungry. That is the moment the devil took advantage of to tempt him, first by asking him to use his divine power to turn stones into bread, secondly by asking him to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple and allowing himself to be safely supported by angels, and finally by taking him to an extremely high mountain from which all the kingdoms of the world could be seen and offering them to him. (The last temptation shows quite clearly that the action takes place in the Land of the Spirit, the so-called „Wilderness“.)
Notice that the devil does not want to seduce Christ to commit a crime, to gratify evilness. Instead he merely represents the NATURAL concretistic perspective versus a non-literal one. The first temptation is ultimately about social welfare, providing enough to eat for everyone. The second temptation is about performing a spectacular miracle that would make him credible to the masses as someone to put their hopes on. And the last one is about becoming a political world leader, who would by no means have to be a cruel despot, but could just as well be a wise and just ruler, a benefactor of the world. These are the devil’s offers. The issue here is not the choice between good and evil. In fact we see that as far as the substance of the goals is concerned, the devil and Jesus are not at all apart. Both were thinking in the same direction. Jesus showed the same concern for people being fed and, in fact, fed them. The only difference is that Jesus gives to the goals shared by both a fundamentally different meaning. „My kingdom is NOT of THIS world“ (John 20: 29), and „Man shall NOT live by BREAD alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.“


There is no trace here of a conflict between good and evil, not a DUALITY. Jesus and the devil are by no means divided by the opposition between good and evil, which is a horizontal opposition much like that between right and left. No, both aim for the good, namely „bread“ and „kingdom“.“ There is, however, the vertical difference within one and the same content or concept (e.g., „kingdom“) between „of this world“ and „NOT of this world.“ Jesus negates and inwardizes the notion of „kingdom“ into itself. The moralistic opposition gives way to a sophisticated difference between two different styles of understanding: between a naturalistic, external sense of „bread“ or „kingdom“ and an inner, „logical“ (based on the Logos), that is, spiritual sense, between the literal and the spiritual, between positivity here and „logical“ (spiritual) negativity over there.

Rather than rejecting „kingdom“ altogether, Jesus pushes off and spiritualizes the concept of „kingdom.“ What a kingdom that is not of this world is he cannot show. It does not exist as a positive fact. It is logically (spiritually) negative and exists only for a soulful understanding. He overcomes the worldly naturalism of the meaning of the words used and opens up a new dimension and an inner depth of meaning of the same words that did not exist before.
In the encounter between the devil and Jesus in the desert we witness the first-time conquest or birth of the new objective soul dimension, the dimension of spirit as logical negativity – „logical“ derived from LOGOS -, through the negation of the natural desire or of the naturalistic understanding of the desire. Jesus sees through the superficiality of the literal (political) kingdom. He gets a deeper self-understanding about his actual desire by becoming aware for the first time that he is indeed striving for „kingdom“, realizing at the same time  that this wish for „kingdom“ in the external sense would not at all give him what his soul in truth needs. So, instead of the clash of two opposite theses we find the „logical“ movement from a preliminary thesis to a deeper, more sophisticated one: an absolute-negative INTERIORIZATION.

— According to Wolfgang Giegerich, Ph.D.

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