Because Jesus Beats the Devil at Martin Luther’s Game

Reading my daily gospel chapter (Matthew 4), I started out thinking, “So why four Gospels?” Islam has one Koran, one truth never to be challenged, on pain of death. By approving a canon of four Gospels, the Church Fathers opened themselves to, nay invited multiple interpretations. As though the story of Christ’s life among us had been made by Akira Kurosawa and the four Gospels were a Greek “Rashomon.”

In that 1950 classic starring Toshiro Mifune (pictured), the story of a crime is told from four conflicting viewpoints. So with the Gospels and its story of the answer to a Great Crime, original sin: Did Mary hear an angel’s voice and visit Elizabeth, as Luke has it; or did Joseph hear an angel in a dream and flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, as Matthew tells us? Or both?!

What exactly happened after the Resurrection, and in what order, and how long did it take? I’m sure you Bible scholars (Frank?) can give far better examples. I’m just a po’ largely unchurched, unBibled Episcopalian gone Roman.

But you see my point? The structure of four Gospels makes interpretation required. So sola scriptura, the “Reformation” “creed” that only Scripture is infallible, has an inherent self-contradiction at the outset.

Then you come to Matthew 4, and the three temptations of Christ. Jesus and “the tempter” have what amounts to a Scripture Slam, fending each other off with passages from what we now know as the Old Testament. The second temptation is the kicker. The devil uses Scripture (the 91st Psalm in this case) to tempt Jesus. And what does Jesus do? Contradicts the devil with Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16)!

Now, I’m sure the “Reformers” have an answer for this quandary of mine, and I hope to hear from a few of them. But for now, I’m just a po’ Catholic boy scratching my thinning white head. Was Kurosawa Catholic?

  • Frank

    From the Akathist Hymn to Jesus ChristWhilst hymning Thine Incarnation, we all praise Thee, and withThomas we believe that Thou art our Lord and God, Who sittest with theFather, and shalt come to judge the living and the dead. Grant that Imay then stand at Thy right hand, who now cry:Jesus, King of Peace, bestow Thy peace upon me.Jesus, sweet scented Flower, make me fragrant.Jesus, longed for Warmth, warm thou me.Jesus, eternal Temple, shelter me.Jesus, resplendent Garment, adorn me.Jesus, Pearl of great price, enrich me.Jesus, precious Stone, illumine me.Jesus, Sun of Righteousness, shine on me.Jesus, holy Light, make me radiant.Jesus, deliver me from infirmity of soul and body.Jesus, rescue me from the hands of the adversary.Jesus, save me from the everlasting torments.Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me.

  • Julie D.

    I. love. it.Never thought about it that way. Thanks Webster! :-)

  • Michelle

    I was just reading Acts yesterday and came to the part of the Ethiopian eunuch and Peter. The eunuch is reading Isaiah and Peter asks him if he knows what he is reading, to which he responds "How can I if no one instructs me?" We DO need instruction.I keep recalling a song we used to sing at my evangelical free church with the four year olds: "The b-i-b-l-e, yes that's the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the b-i-b-l-e!" I can't help but think "How lonely it must be to stand alone on the Bible."

  • Carrie Sue

    How cruel it'd have been if Jesus left us with the great gift of the fullness of Divine Revelation – inerrant and infallible – but no teacher and interpreter with the same gifts. The divisions in the Body of Christ are heartbreakingly extensive as it is. I can only imagine their greater extent without the Magisterium as the recognized teacher and interpreter for at least the first 1500 years.

  • James

    I love that we have four Gospels all relating the same story of our Lord and each with its own observations and details which the different authors considered relevant from their perspective and viewpoint. What depth, richness and insight this provides us with! In contrast to the conflicting stories in Rashomon ( yesterday was Kurasowa's100th birthday – a non practicing Buddhist I think) the four Gospels combine to weave a harmonious, multi-dimensional tapestry that gives us a fuller image of His life, teachings and Sacrifice. I rely on the guidance and teaching of the Magesterium for the context and interpretation of the Scriptures and because they are under the auspices of the "one,true, holy and apostolic Church" their teachings are catholic i.e. universal. Not conjecture, not opinion, not one man's interpretation but the collective guidance and wisdom of holy,Mother Church.

  • EPG

    "I can only imagine their greater extent without the Magisterium as the recognized teacher and interpreter for at least the first 1500 years."Hmm. I'm not entirely sure that we can project the Magisterium back that far, at least in the form that it now exists. Certainly the Orthodox hold a different view as to how the teaching authority of the Church is properly excercised, and do not accept the manner in which Rome has asserted that authority since about 1100.

  • Anonymous

    Not to be a party pooper but it was Phillip who met the Ethiopian eunuch and after explaining Isaiah and baptizing the eunuch, Phillip disappears.I was in an Evangelical Free church for 4 years and it is there that I really read scripture in earnest and realized that it was a thoroughly Catholic book. I am forever grateful that God allowed me this detour. It was the last stop on my way back home to Rome.

  • Josh P.

    While I completely agree that the Bible requires interpretation, I don't understand how that's indicated by four gospels instead of one or Satan and Jesus exchanging (presumably contradictory) scripture verses. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the inclusion of four gospels requires juxtaposition, not interpretation, if "interpretation" implies deciding which is correct regarding this or that story? It never occurred to me that the accounts of angelic communications to Mary and Joseph would comprise an "and/or" pairing, since they're not mutually exclusive, i.e. they take place in separate time periods: pregnancy and post-birth.Also … I can't believe I am about to defend Reformed theology, but for the sake of a fair argument I'm gonna give it a go: I think you're misrepresenting Sola Scriptura. You're right that SS suffers from "inherent self-contradictions," but the problem is that SS is a doctrine not found in the Bible–the supposed source of all doctrine–and therefore self-contradictory, not that SS claims interpretation is unnecessary in understanding the Bible and is therefore self-contradictory because the inclusion of four gospels in the canon compels interpretation. To deny a defined arbiter, e.g. the Magisterium or the Pope, is not equivalent to saying "all truths here are plain: no interpretation needed." To misquote Jay-Z: Sola Scriptura's got 99 problems, but this ain't one.