Place of Temptation

Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan river and then “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Both the Gospels of Mark and Luke have a similar narrative, placing Jesus at the Jordan River immediately before his temptation in the wilderness. While Christian tradition often describes Jesus’ temptation as occurring in a “desert,” the Greek word eremos primarily means a location that is isolated, uninhabited and unfit for pasture.

The Gospels never mention a specific place, but local tradition claims Jesus spent his days on a mountain near the Jordan River, currently called the “Mountain of Temptation” just outside and overlooking Jericho. It is a mountain of sheer rock and would have been difficult to ascend. It is a place, even with its proximity to Jericho, would have offered Jesus a solitary place completely cut off from the world around him. Even today there are many caves in this mountain, and in the first few centuries after Jesus’ death, Christian monks and hermits took up residence in the caves, devoting themselves to lives of solitary prayer. Eventually a monastery was built there, and over the years different monastic communities have lived on the mountain they believe was the place of Jesus’ temptation. Today, the Monastery of the Temptation is under administration by the Greek Orthodox Church.

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