This is the first video in our multi-part series “Does The Bible Say The Earth Is Flat?” In this video, we will take a close look at Jesus’ temptation on the mountain, as reported in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. We attempt to answer the question…
Do Matthew and Luke’s reports about Jesus’ temptation on the mountain prove that the Bible says the Earth is flat?
For more than two thousand years, since the time of Aristotle, no educated society has taken seriously the idea that the Earth might be flat.
Nevertheless, although the Christian church has NEVER officially required anyone to believe that the Earth was flat, Many Christians have continued to believe in a flat Earth.
Where did they get this idea? Did they get it from the Bible? Did the Bible’s writers believe in a flat Earth? Most Christians say “no”, but some Christians have a different point of view.
In the last couple of decades, a rapidly growing movement has emerged within conservative Christianity, claiming that the Bible teaches that the Earth is flat as a pancake.
These conservative, Bible believing Christians are well organized and have created many very professional looking web sites. This is just a partial list.
They have also published many detailed, extensively documented, well-illustrated books, DVD’s and online videos. These are just a few of the ones that have been published in the past couple of decades.
This has caused great distress among Biblical creationists, who believe that the Christian God created the entire universe slightly more than 6,000 years ago, but also believe in a spherical Earth. Why should this bother Creationist Christians so much? Don’t flat Earth Christians have the same right to promote their interpretation of the Bible that creationist Christians do?
Maybe Creationist Christians are upset because flat Earth Christians have borrowed many of their arguments and tactics from Creationist Christians. Here are some of the main arguments that Creationist Christians use to promote their beliefs.
These arguments make just as much sense for flat earth Christianity as they do for creationist Christianity.
But do Flat Earth Christians even have an argument? Does the Bible really say that the Earth is flat?
Surprisingly, the Flat Earth Christians’ Biblical arguments are strong enough that Bible believing Christians should really give them some serious thought. In this 6 video series we will discuss 6 different, Bible based arguments for a flat Earth. Each video will discuss a different argument.
This video will discuss Jesus’ temptation on the mountain. Links to the other videos in this series are in the YouTube description for this video, and on our web site.
Before we dig into the specifics of Jesus’ temptation story, let’s briefly review why this story is so important to Christian beliefs.
These reports about Jesus’ temptation are important because they emphasize Jesus’ humanity and triumph over temptation. As the Bible says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."
Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-11 are “Proof Texts” for the Christian belief that Jesus Christ was tempted by sin. If there is reason to doubt the accuracy or literalness of these passages in these Gospels, then there is reason to doubt TWO of the most fundamental and indispensable beliefs of Christianity. [brief pause for emphasis] Because Christ has Himself been tempted by sin and resisted the temptation
1) He was able to atone (pay the price) for every person’s sin
2) He can help every Christian resist temptations to sin
Christianity really needs for the Gospel reports about Christ’s temptation to be literally true, or it loses important support for a doctrine that it really cannot do without.
It is absolutely essential that the events reported in these passages be literal historical events that actually happened, because humans face literal temptations. If Jesus did not resist literal temptations, he would not have been tempted “in all things as we are”, as it says in Hebrews 4:15.
Now, let’s dig a bit more deeply into the story of Jesus’ temptation. It is reported in both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. I am quoting from the New American Standard Bible, but most other Bibles translate these passages about the same way. I am not going to read all of this, but I do want to point out a few things.
First, there is one significant difference between the stories, because they are in a different order. Although the first temptation is with bread and hunger in both Gospels, in Matthew, the second temptation is jumping off the top of the Temple and the third temptation is going up on a high mountain and worshiping the devil. In Luke, these last two temptations are in the exact opposite order.
But this is NOT a contradiction, because Luke does not claim that these events are in chronological order. Although Matthew uses “Then” and “Again” to specify that these events took place one after the other, Luke does not. He uses “and”. So this video will be based on the assumption that these passages do NOT contradict each other.
The second difference is that Matthew says that the devil took Jesus to a very high mountain, but Luke simply says that the devil “led Jesus up” and does not specify a location. Some translations, such as the King James Bible, do say “mountain” in Luke. This is because some ancient manuscripts of Luke’s Gospel say “mountain” and some do not. We will see in this video that it does not matter whether Jesus and the devil were on a mountain or not.
The last difference that I want to point out is that Luke says that the devil showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. Matthew does not. As we shall soon see, this detail is extremely important to Flat Earth Bible believers.
So let’s focus on the two verses that interest flat earth Christians. Matthew 4:8 and Luke 4:5. As we have said, they are different, but they do not contradict each other. Instead of considering them separately, let’s combine them into one concept. Bible scholars usually call this process “harmonizing the Gospels”.
When we harmonize these two verses, we get, “The devil led Jesus to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time”
Notice two very important statements in these verses. First, Jesus and the devil were on a mountain, that is, in one place, one location. Second, the devil showed Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, that is, at one very short time. These statements in the Bible do NOT allow us to consider the possibility that Jesus and the devil went to multiple locations or took a long time to see everything.
These passages very clearly say: one location, one very short time.
I’m sure that, by now, most viewers have identified two obvious problems with this claim. First, is there any real mountain where you can see all of the kingdoms of the world? Second, is there any real place anywhere that you can see all of the kingdoms of the world in at the same time?
Let’s start with just the Roman Empire. In the early First Century, the Roman Empire stretched from Syria in the east to Spain in the west, a distance of about 2400 Miles. Notice that this is only about 1/10 of the Earth’s circumference, a small fraction of the total that we want to see. How high would a mountain have to be to see all of the Roman Empire at one time?
To answer that question, we need to learn some geometry. There is a mathematical formula for this. You may have studied it in high school. Here’s the formula. [READ: D equals the square root of (2 * (radius of sphere) * height of viewer + (height of viewer squared)] By the way, this formula works only for spheres.
D is the distance that you can see, which is about 2,400 miles in this case. R is the radius of the sphere. We’ll use 3,959 miles for the radius of the Earth, and h is how high up you are. So our formula becomes [READ: 2400 = (square root of (2 * 3959* h) + h squared)]
So we solve for h and get 1,341 miles.
Since the peak of Mount Everest is a paltry 5.5 miles above sea level, there is no mountain on Earth that comes anywhere near close to being tall enough.
Even if the devil took Jesus to the International Space Station, they still would not be able to see more than a small fraction of the former Roman Empire, because the space station orbits at an altitude that is more than a thousand miles too low. BUT … as a matter of fact … there ARE mountains that are high enough to see the entire Roman Empire all at one time….
Those mountains are on the moon. So if the Devil took Jesus to a mountain on the moon, and the moon and Earth were in the right positions, they would have been able to see the entire Roman Empire in a moment of time. But would they have been able to see “all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time”? Of course not. Even from the moon, Jesus could NOT have seen the Roman, Persian, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, American and African kingdoms “in a moment of time”, because Earth is a sphere.
But, if the Earth is flat, it becomes very easy for Jesus to see it all in a moment of time.
So, we see that the Flat Earth Christians actually have a pretty good argument. For Matthew 4:8 and Luke 4:5 to be true, the Earth must be flat, or close to flat, with allowances for mountains, valleys, etc.
Earth may even have some curvature, but it cannot be spherical.
What do Christianity’s defenders say about these verses in Matthew and Luke? They basically fall into three categories: (1) Frankly admit that they don’t know (2) Some say that this passage is not referring to the whole world (3) Others say that this is a vision, so there is not a real mountain
So who are the commentators who claim that they don’t know? John Calvin, the famous sixteenth century Protestant theologian, admitted that any explanation of this passage would be “doubtful”, and said that he would “suspend his judgement” rather than take a position. In other words, he refused to offer any explanation of how the events in Matthew 4:8 and Luke 4:5 could have actually happened.
Other commentators claim that, even though both Luke and Matthew say “all the kingdoms of the world”, they really didn’t mean it.
For example, conservative Christian Albert Barnes claimed that the mountain was near Jerusalem and Jesus saw only Palestine and possibly nearby kingdoms. The obvious problem here is that both Matthew and Luke make a strong point of saying “all the kingdoms of the world”. Barnes contradicts the clear statement of the text in both Luke and Matthew, and is therefore simply being dishonest.
The last, and by far the most common, explanation, is that it was not a real mountain. It was some kind of vision or other supernatural process. For example, Church of Christ minister Anthony Lee Ash claims that it was “probably a visionary experience”.
And William Robertson Nicoll claims that it was “presented only to the spirit of Jesus, without any physical accessories”. This certainly solves the inconvenient problem of the flat earth, but does the vision explanation match what Matthew and Luke actually say?
As we shall soon see, the answer is “NO”. There are two very good arguments against the vision explanation. The first reason is that both Gospels present Jesus on a single mountain, seeing all of the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, as actual literal history. The second reason is that all of the other events in these passages are not only presented as actual history, they are universally accepted by conservative Christian commentators and apologists as actual history. The literal, historical fact of these temptations are essential to Christian beliefs because these temptations are meaningless if they did not literally happen.
How do we know that Matthew and Luke present these events as actual, literal history? Let’s start with the Gospel of Matthew.
The Gospel of Matthew specifically says “dream” or “vision” whenever it reports a dream or vision. It NEVER reports a dream or vision as a literal event.
This happens 6 times in the Gospel of Matthew. God, or an angel, spoke to Joseph four times in dreams. God spoke to the wise men in a dream and, after the transfiguration, which occurred ON A MOUNTAIN, Matthew reports that Jesus specifically told his disciples that it was a vision.
So, the Number of times that something happened in a dream or vision and Gospel of Matthew says it was a dream or vision, is 6. The number of times that something happened in a dream or vision and Gospel of Matthew did not say it was a dream or vision, is zero.
And the number of times that the Gospel of Matthew says that ANYTHING in the Temptation of Christ story was a dream or vision is precisely zero.
Therefore, the Gospel of Matthew presents the temptation of Christ on the mountain as literal history. There is just no way to argue otherwise.
So, how do we know that the Gospel of Luke presents Jesus’ temptation on the mountain as actual, literal history?
As with Matthew, the author of Luke and Acts always tells us when he reports a dream or vision. There are 12 examples of Luke doing this.
Most of Luke’s reports explicitly say “trance” or “vision”. But one of these needs a little explanation. During the transfiguration, Luke says that the disciples fell asleep, then woke up and Peter spoke, BUT he did not know what he said. Obviously, this is not the actions of someone who is completely awake.
In this passage, Luke, a physician, is describing a dream-like state of consciousness, where people can interact with their dream. Today, we call this a “Lucid Dream”. There is a similar lucid dream reported in the Old Testament book of Daniel. A lucid dream is consistent with Matthew’s claim that the Transfiguration was a vision.
So, the Number of times that something happened in a dream or vision and Luke/Acts says it was a dream or vision, is 12. The number of times that something happened in a dream or vision and Luke/Acts did not say it was a dream or vision, is zero.
And the number of times that the Gospel of Luke says that ANYTHING in the Temptation of Christ story was a dream or vision is precisely zero.
Therefore, the Gospel of Luke presents the temptation of Christ on the mountain as literal history. There is just no way to argue otherwise.
In addition, all conservative Christian commentators and apologists, that we have been able to find, believe that Luke’s and Matthew’s reports about the temptation of Christ are completely literal, except they disagree about whether the mountain, viewing “all the kingdoms of the world” or both, are non-literal.
Let’s look at the parts of the Temptation story which all conservative Christians agree should be interpreted completely literally.
These include Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the wilderness, the devil, temptation, fasting for forty days and forty nights, Jesus was hungry, the stones, Jesus answering the devil, the holy city, the temple, the angels and the idea that the devil really could give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. Now let’s look at the parts of this story that non-Flat Earth conservative Christians believe are not literal.
Notice two things: First, the literal parts of this story vastly outnumber the supposedly non-literal parts.
And second, the Bible passage itself gives no indication that there is anything that is non-literal in it,
Nor does Matthew or Luke give any indication that the mountain or the whole world are to be interpreted any differently from anything else in their report of Christ’s temptation.
So let’s briefly summarize the arguments for a completely literal interpretation of the stories of Christ’s temptation as reported in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
(1) Luke 4:1-13 and Matthew 4:1-12 are “Proof Texts” for the Christian belief that Christ was literally tempted by sin, a belief that is essential to the Christian beliefs that
(a) Christ was able to atone (pay the price) for every person’s sin
(b) Christ can help every Christian resist temptations to sin (Hebrews 4:15)
It is absolutely essential that the events reported in the passages be literal historical events that actually happened, because humans face literal temptations.
(2) Christianity’s non-Flat-Earth defenders
Can’t or won’t try to explain how Jesus could see the whole earth in a moment of time from a mountain and/or
Disagree with each other about whether the mountain, the whole world, or both, are non-literal
(3) Matthew and Luke ALWAYS tell readers when anything else is a vision or dream, and they do NOT do that for the mountain and/or the whole world
(4) The stories themselves are interpreted completely literally by all conservative Bible scholars, except for the mountain and the whole world.
(5) The passages themselves give the readers no indication that anything is non-literal or that the mountain or the whole world should be treated any differently from anything else in the Temptation report.
So, Do Matthew’s and Luke’s reports about Jesus’ temptation on the mountain prove that the Bible says the Earth is flat? We hope we have given you enough information to make a well-informed decision.
Thank you for watching our video. Just a friendly reminder that this video is one of a multi-part series. Links to the other videos in this series are in the YouTube description, on our YouTube channel, and on our web site.
For more interesting videos, and more interesting information about the Bible and Christianity, please visit our web site, freethinkersbooks.com. If you liked our video, please click the YouTube “Like” icon, subscribe to our YouTube channel and share our video with your friends. Thanks again.
A growing number of Christians claim that the Bible says the Earth is flat. This video examines two of these Christians' "proof texts" for this belief: Jesus' temptation on the mountain, as reported in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Is it possible to believe that Jesus was literally tempted, but also believe that essential parts of the Gospels' temptation reports are myths, exaggerations or illusions? The factual basis and strength of the evidence for the strictly literal exegesis of Jesus' temptation will surprise, and upset, many Bible-believing Christians.
Does the Bible say the Earth is Flat?
Jesus' temptation on the mountain...
"All the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time"
Transcript of the audio portion of this video