Solving the problem of evil in the twenty-first century

The Temptation of Jesus by Gustave Dore

The illustration by Gustave Dore, “The Temptation of Jesus Christ”,  strikes an emotional and religious chord in all its viewers.

The sketch refers to the Book of Matthew, where Jesus is praying and fasting for forty days and nights in the forest before he meets his fate. During Jesus’ period of meditation, Satan appears before Jesus in order to try and tempt him away from his devotion to God. First, Satan tries to scare Jesus out of going through with the Prophecy, saying that he will die for nothing and that his people/followers are cruel and will not devote themselves to him. When Jesus ignores Satan’s many detailed persuasions, Satan takes Jesus on the top of the highest mountain, telling Jesus that if he bows down to him and worships him, then he will give Jesus all the world seen beneath them. But Jesus strictly refuses Satan’s request, telling him that he already has a kingdom in Heaven and that the only person he will worship is God. Since he has no other option, Satan vanishes.

Many artists depict Satan in a variety of ways. They either depict him as a powerful evil being, a conniving creature, or a dim-witted bumpkin. Gustave Dore, a religious illustrator/painter in the 1800s, took a different approach. Instead, he portrays Satan as a pathetic individual, desperate to convert Jesus to his side. In the sketch, Satan is bent on one knee and is flailing an arm out to show Jesus the vast amount of land he is willing to trade if Jesus bows to him. There is a look of anguish and desperation of Satan’s face as he stares at Jesus. Jesus, however, is dignified and looking away from Satan’s bribe into the distance as a halo glows over his head.

Dore was trying to personify the concept of evil being a useless, pitiful creature as Satan is in the sketch. He embodied the notion of the triumph of good over evil and the rewards of turning away from temptation.

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One response

  1. jlai1226

    Great observation about the eyes. I love how Satan has to look up to Jesus, suggesting a sense of weakness on Satan’s part, and how Jesus does not look back at Satan, but instead looks up towards heaven. I also think it is really interesting that Satan looks strong and muscular. It seems to say that Satan’s power is really more on the surface and that he has no real spiritual power over Jesus and his kingdom.

    May 12, 2011 at 7:04 pm

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