The Forty Day Fast

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by Carolina Buckeye, Dec 27, 2010.

  1. Carolina Buckeye

    Carolina Buckeye
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    I hope my question isn't too basic for this forum. However, since I want to know I will ask:

    Is the forty day fast described in Matthew 4 a literal 40 days or is it just a description of a period of time?

    What lessons do you take from this episode and Christ's reliance on the word in His resistance to satan?

    Thanks in advance for your replies.
     
  2. annsni

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    Why would God say "40 days" when speaking in a narrative if He didn't mean a literal 40 days?
     
  3. menageriekeeper

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    Yes, 40 days literally means 40 days in this passage.

    What lessons? Well, firstly, Satan likes to tempt when he thinks you are at your weakest. of all the time Satan could have directly tried to tempt Christ off track, he waited until he knew that Jesus' human body was at it weakest. Even though Jesus had His Godhood, working to sustain him, Satan logically thought that just might not be enough to overcome the calling of the flesh. Remember, Jesus was fully human as well as fully God. If Satan could get his hooks into the human part, he'd have victory over the God part. But that didn't work so he tried another tact:

    Prove to me that you are God by tossing yourself overboard. Satan even quoted scripture in order to mock Christ and tempt Him into doing that which the Father had no commanded (which would have been sin, btw and if Christ had sinned He couldn't then become the perfect sacrifice for our sin). And this was a twofold temptation. This temptation questioned Christ's faith in the Father's plan. If Christ had had no faith, how then could we have faith? Sneaky thing Satan is, ain't he?

    The last temptation was that of another way. Not God's way which might prove difficult, but Satan's way which he of course implied would be so much better/easier. "just worship me and I'll give you all those puny humans. you can have it all" But Christ knew that Satan couldn't give what wasn't his to begin with and with this last temptation Christ lost His patience. This was the last straw. He had accomplished here what He had set out to do: reject the direct temptations of Satan, that thing which Adam failed to do.

    Why use scripture? I refer you to the first chapter and first verse of the Book of John, my from memory version "in the begining was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God". Christ was the living embodiment of all the scriptures. It was His nature to reply with such as God the Father had given Him. It was God's words that Satan sought to destroy and God's words which have the power to destroy Satan.

    HTH
     
  4. Carolina Buckeye

    Carolina Buckeye
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    Thanks HTH. I appreciate the reply.
     
  5. Logos1

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    An Excellent Question and no it was not Literal

    Welcome to the forum Carolina Buckeye. That is an excellent question. It does a great job of illustrating why we need to read the bible from the Jewish perspective it was written in and not think it is an original English document.

    The term 40 days both in the bible and the secular world of the time meant a long period of time just as the expression 10 days in both meant a short period of time. Exactly where the line is between short and long is up for grabs, but these were indeed recognized expressions of the day.

    Remember at the time most people are illiterate, there aren't day timers, clocks and PDAs everywhere you turn. They needed short hand ways of denoting short and long periods of time as measured in days.

    This story corresponds to the story of the lessons the Hebrews faced in the Wilderness.

    In the desert, Jesus like the Hebrews in the Wilderness faces three temptations.

    Like the Hebrews, Jesus is confronted first with hunger. He is tempted, to grumble against God as the Hebrews did.

    Then Satan tempts Jesus to test God--prove that God will care for Him. The Hebrews did as much when they started quarreling with Moses at Massah.

    Next Jesus is tempted to worship a false god just as the Hebrews did when they created the golden calf.

    Note Jesus answers each temptation with a quote from Deuteronomy and each time he illustrates the lesson the Hebrews needed to learn.

    To see these amazing parallels just compare Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:7 and Deuteronomy 6:16; and Matthew 4:10 and Deuteronomy 6:13-15.

    This pattern is repeated again and again. The stories about Jesus have an exact parallel in an Old Testament story.

    Audiences at the time of the New Testament would be familiar with the stories of the Old Testament and see the parallels between those stories and Jesus. It was easy to transfer the lessons of the Old Testament to Jesus through the parallels. It helped the Jewish audiences to accept him as the true Messiah at a time when many people were claiming to be the promised Messiah.

    “Your understanding of the inspiration of Scripture is utterly astounding!” Mel

    Why thank you Mel!
     
  6. Gabriel Elijah

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    Is it literal or not literal? Many believe it was literal, but as Logos demonstrated it does not have to be taken this way. Many times gospel writers focus on theological motif & not exact historical detail. It is this very reason why the order of events is not exact when Luke’s account is compared to Matthew’s. A much more important question is what lesson can Christians gain from this? Well, they are allowed to see what kind of Son Jesus was. He could have utilized his powers in a selfish fashion, but instead he humbly depended on his Father to meet his needs. Although he is God, during his earthly ministry he was also dependant on God (the Father) for everything & even voluntarily submitted the use of his powers to the Father’s will. But for me personally it gets to another issue—the reality of the incarnation. While the modern world seems to overlook the fact that he is 100% God, I myself often overlook that he was also 100% man. But the “duel in the desert” demonstrates that he hungered & that he had the ability to be tempted—something only someone who was truly man could undergo. Further, the passage reveals the importance of using exact Scripture to counteract satanic attack. Jesus did not blindly throw at Satan unrelated Scriptural passages but addressed the situation with verses that precisely related to the circumstances that he encountered. This could only be achieved by someone who had taken the time to study & learn Scripture in-depth. A practice more Christians need to apply to their lives today.
     
  7. menageriekeeper

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    ^^They have very good points as well^^
     
  8. RAdam

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    Christ used scripture to defeat the temptations of the devil that day because He was providing us with a pattern, an example. Christ didn't use His power as the Son of God. He used what God's people had in that day and in this day - scripture. Notice that Paul, when speaking of the whole armor of God that is able to withstand the wiles of the devil, says we have one offensive weapon: the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Same thing Jesus uses.

    Something else that is interesting to me is what Jesus said. Jesus is God and God is the author of scripture. He knew what Moses wrote originally, yet He said, "it is written..." Jesus, when He quoted scripture, always referred to the contemporary copy of scripture, never to the original copy. He referred to that which the Jews had in that day and could go and look up what He had quoted. The bible we have today is just as powerful.
     
  9. RAdam

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    By the way, I see no reason to understand 40 days in a passage that is not prophetic as being anything other than 40 days. 1,000 years in Revelation 20 could mean several different things, but a straightforward historical passage saying Jesus fasted 40 days should be taken at face value. When the bible says Jesus rose again the third day, should we understand that any other way? When the bible says Moses was on the mount 40 days, or that it rained 40 days, or that it didn't rain for 3 and a half years, should I take that some other way?
     
  10. Gabriel Elijah

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    Very Good points!:thumbs:
     
  11. RAdam

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    On the subject of 40 days being literally understood as 40 days, consider this. Luke, in Luke 4:2, also says Jesus fasted 40 days. The same author, when writing Acts, refers to particular periods of days. In Acts 21:4 he writes, "And finding disciples, we tarried there seven days..." Later in the same chapter in verse 10 he writes, "And as we tarried there many days..." So when Luke intends to speak of a precise number of days, he does so. When Luke intends to merely state that many days passed, he does so. Thus, if Luke says a particular number of days passed, we should take it literally to mean that particular number of days was meant. If he says Jesus fasted 40 days, I believe Jesus really did fast 40 days. If he merely meant many days, he would have said it that way, as he did in Acts 21:10.
     
  12. Logos1

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    LOL, Well let's just argue over what Forty days means

    RAdam If you want to believe it is a literal 40 days then have at it.

    I've got better things to do with my time than argue over what is an established historical fact. You are any body else can easily do a little research on your own and discover that Jewish writers in other documents used the expression forty days to mean a lot of days--not specifically 40 days. It was used in non religious writings by secular society the same way.

    Same was true of the expression 10 days--a small number of days.

    I could launch into a long discussion of numbers and symbols and their meanings in the bible, but do I really need to care what you believe on the subject.

    I'm not saying that every number is purely symbolic, but even when you cite Jesus rising on the third day it doesn't mean he was in the tomb 72 hours exactly or even three nights. The term "three days and three nights" was again an expression of their culture. Most scholars would agree Jesus was crucified on Friday and rose early on Sunday before it was light. Neither three days nor three nights, but still an accurate statement if you use it as intended in its Jewish context.

    Sometimes its good to read the bible from a Jewish perspective instead of twisting it into an English document and forcing literal English meanings on it.

    But if you are wedded to the strict notion of forty days meaning exactly 40 days ooh-ra for you.

    “Your understanding of the inspiration of Scripture is utterly astounding!” Mel
    Why thank you Mel!
     
  13. RAdam

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    Well it is always good to read the bible and let scripture interpret scripture. The same author who defined the period of time that Jesus fasted as 40 days in another place defined an undetermined number of days as "many days." That tells me that had Luke wanted to simply get across to me that Christ fasted for many days, He would have simply told me that. By telling me it was 40 days, he was telling me it really was 40 days and then he is tying it into the significance given to that specific period of time in the bible.

    If the bible, in historical sections, gives a specific period of time, it means us to take it at face value.
     
  14. Logos1

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    The greater lesson is not counting days but understanding how to approach the bible

    Although I know I shouldn’t respond to this—the logic behind it is so entertaining it was too hard to resist. So nothing personal RAdam.

    And the lesson here is not to argue 40 literal days vs. the expression forty days—I’ve laid that down. The lesson here is to realize we can’t divorce the Jewish culture the bible was written in from the bible and turn it into English literature and make literal meanings out of it. If you do the bible contradicts itself and it provides the means for our spiritual adversaries to undercut us.

    If the same argument was applied to Matthew when he quotes Jesus 40:12 saying “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” So if Jesus if is in the earth 3 literal days and nights he can’t rise till the 4th day.

    But later Matthew quotes Jesus 17: 23 saying “and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day." And they were greatly distressed.” So here it’s not after 3 days and nights but on the 3rd day.

    Not only do such literal interpretations make Matthew contradict himself, but worse since he is quoting Jesus both times so it makes Jesus contradict himself.

    The exact same contradiction happens in Esther. See Esther 4:16 "Go, gather all the Jews to be found in Susa, and hold a fast on my behalf, and do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my young women will also fast as you do. Then I will go to the king, though it is against the law, and if I perish, I perish."

    Clearly according to these terms Esther will go to the king after the 3 days and nights on the 4th day. But then look at Esther 5:1 “On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the king’s palace, in front of the king’s quarters, while the king was sitting on his royal throne inside the throne room opposite the entrance to the palace.” Here Esther is clearly stating the King’s visit will be on the third day.

    Is there a contradiction here—yes if you read this as English literature with strictly literal meanings, but no if you put the writings in their proper Jewish context as intended.

    Clearly in the writings of the Jewish culture any part of a day used constitutes using it as a full day and obviously the apostles and Jesus himself used these expressions (such as forty days) to communicate to their Jewish audience.

    The greater point here is not to argue over 40 literal days vs the Jewish expression forty days, but to realize that failure to read the bible in the Jewish context it was written will lead to far greater misinterpretation that how to count days.

    Such as thinking the term "last days" refers to our future instead of the last days of the old covenant.

    “Your understanding of the inspiration of Scripture is utterly astounding!” Mel
    Why thank you Mel!
     

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