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Mount of Temptation

West Bank

 

The Mount of Temptation, with a gravity-defying monastery clinging to its sheer face, is traditionally regarded as the mountain on which Christ was tempted by the devil during his 40-day fast.

Mount of Temptation

Monastery of the Temptation with cable cars immediately below it (Seetheholyland.net)

The summit of the mount, about 360 metres above sea level, offers a spectacular panoramic view of the Jordan Valley, the Dead Sea and the mountains of Moab and Gilead.

The Mount of Temptation is about 5km north-west of the West Bank city of Jericho. Access to the summit is by a 30-minute trek up a steep path — passing through the cliffhanging monastery on the way — or by a 5-minute cable car ride from Tel Jericho.

Unlike some Greek Orthodox monasteries, the Monastery of the Temptation allows women visitors as well as men.

The mountain is also known as Mount Quarantania and Jebel Quarantul. Both names arise from a mispronunciation of the Latin word Quarentena, meaning 40, the number of days in Christ’s fast. This period of fasting became the model for the practice of Lent in Christian churches.

 

Temptations on the mount

Mount of Temptation

The Temptation on the Mount, by Duccio di Buoninsegna (Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, Siena)

As recorded in the Gospels of Matthew (4:1-11) and Luke (4:1-13) — and fleetingly in Mark (1:12-13) — the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the desert. While he fasted, the devil tempted him three times to prove his divinity by demonstrating his supernatural powers.

Each time, Jesus rebuffed the tempter with a quotation from the Book of Deuteronomy. Then the devil left and angels brought food to Jesus, who was famished.

Tradition dating from the 12th century places two of the devil’s temptings on the Mount of Temptation.

The temptation to turn a stone into bread is located in a grotto halfway up the mountain. The offer of all the kingdoms of the world in return for worshipping the devil is located on the summit.

 

Monks turned caves into cells

Mount of Temptation

Monastery of the Temptation (Dmitrij Rodionov / Wikimedia)

Monks and hermits have inhabited the mountain since the early centuries of Christianity. They lived in natural caves, which they turned into cells, chapels and storage rooms. A sophisticated system of conduits brought rainwater from a large catchment area into five caves used as reservoirs.

A 4th-century Byzantine monastery was built on the ruins of a Hasmonean-Herodian fortress. The monks abandoned the site after the Persian invasion of 614.

The present Monastery of the Temptation, reconstructed at the end of the 19th century, seems to grow out of the mountain. The northern half is cut into the almost sheer cliff, while the southern half is cantilevered into space.

Mount of Temptation

Cliff into which monastery is built (Kourosh)

A medieval cave-church, on two levels, is built of masonry in front of a cave. In the monastery is a stone on which, according to tradition, Jesus sat during one of his temptations.

In the valley of this mountain, Jewish priests and Levites travelled the winding road from Jericho to Jerusalem when it was their turn to minister in the Temple. In the time of Jesus, about 12,000 priests and Levites lived in Jericho.

 

In Scripture

Jesus is tempted by the devil: Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13

 

Administered by: Greek Orthodox Church

Tel.: 972-2-2322827

Open: Monastery, Mon-Fri 9am-1pm, 3-4pm; Sat 9am-2pm; Sun closed

 

References

Gonen, Rivka: Biblical Holy Places: An illustrated guide (Collier Macmillan, 1987)
Inman, Nick, and McDonald, Ferdie (eds): Jerusalem & the Holy Land (Eyewitness Travel Guide, Dorling Kindersley, 2007)
Kochav, Sarah: Israel: A Journey Through the Art and History of the Holy Land (Steimatzky, 2008)
Murphy-O’Connor, Jerome: The Holy Land: An Oxford Archaeological Guide from Earliest Times to 1700 (Oxford University Press, 2005)

External links

Temptation of Christ (Wikipedia)
Virtual Pilgrimage Holy Land: Jericho (Franciscan Foundation for the Holy Land)
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