“The devil took him [Jesus] up into an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them.”
– Matthew 4:8

What is being communicated here? It seems rather bizzare. How could Satan have shown Christ all of the kingdoms of the earth from a single mountin? There is simply no mountin that can carry such a task. Does Matthew make a blunder here, exposing his archaic flat-earth worldview?

How do we interpret such a passage as those who believe in inerracy?


1. The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it. There was a mountain that actually was this high and Christ could see all the kingdoms of the earth. (Ouch! Really?)

2. The devil had the supernatural power to show Christ all the kingdoms of the earth.

3. It was not really all the kingdoms of the earth, but a representation of the kingdoms (maybe one or two kingdoms).

4. Deny inerrancy.

Hagner simply says that this is not to be taken literally (Word).

Calvin says “It is asked, was he [Jesus] actually carried to this elevated spot, or was it done in a vision? … What is added, that all the kingdoms of the world were exposed to Christ’s view … in one moment … agrees better with the idea of a vision than with any other theory. In a matter that is doubtful, and where ignorance brings no risk, I choose rather to suspend my judgment than to furnish contentious people with an excuse for a debate.”

According to Leon Morris “The fact that there is no mountain from which all the world may be seen literally favors the view that the tempter brings all this before the mind of Jesus” (Pillar)

What do you do with this passage?

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Find him on Patreon Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. Join his Patreon and support his ministry

    55 replies to "Inerrancy and the Problem of Matthew 4:8"

    • Greg

      Jason C,

      While the Greeks certainly did come up with the idea of a global earth, whether it had spread into the Hebrew conception of the world is an important one to consider. I don’t think we see any of that in the New Testament though.

      Its entirely reasonable to believe that Matthew, raised as a Levite, would be familiar with the Old Testament’s conception of the universe and simply follow through with it in his gospel. I actually can’t think of any reason why he wouldn’t follow the beliefs of his culture.

      Many of the Biblical authors viewed the world differently than we modern Westerners do. There’s no reason to believe their cosmology would reflect ours in any significant degree once you get out of their field of vision.

      Its not that they are stupid, just ignorant of future advances in science. Just like we are.

      If you want to look into this idea any further, do an internet search for John H. Walton, or read some of his recent books on Genesis. He really helps bring it all together.

    • rey

      Jesus says in John 6:51 “I am the bread that came down from heaven” and also “the bread I will give is my flesh” which together means he came down from heaven already having his flesh.

      Combine that with Matthew 11:11 “of those born of women, there is none greater than John” by which Jesus shows He Himself was not born of a woman, and with John 2:4 where a supposed mother character is told by Jesus “Woman, what have I to do with thee?” and Luke 11:28 where a woman who says “blessed are paps that you sucked” hears Jesus’ response “Nay rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it,” and Mark 3:32-35 where one says to Jesus that his mother is outside and he says “Who is my mother, or my brethren?” motioning that the crowd is, saying “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and mother.”

      Again, the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is about the virgin-born child being a sign of when Ahaz’ two enemy kings, Rezin and Pekkah son of Remaliah, the kings of Damascus and Samaria will be defeated, for the prophecy says in verse 16 “For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.” And Isaiah 8 shows that Mahershalalhashbaz, a child virginally born of the prophetess, is the fulfillment, by Yahweh Himself saying “Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz, for before the child shall have knowledge to cry my father or my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away by the king of Assyria.” All the prophecies the Catholics have added to Matthew chapters 1 and 2 about Jesus’ birth are found to be taken out of context. Rachel weeping is about exile not death, for Yahweh says to Rachel in that prophecy, in Jeremiah 31:16-17 “Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the LORD; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the LORD, that thy children shall come again to their own border.” Out of Egypt I have called my son is no prophecy but a historical statement concerning the Exodus, for it comes from Hosea 11:1 “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.” The Bethlehem birth prophecy is about a physical warrior to defend the land against Assyrian incursion, for Micah 5:5 says “And this man shall be the peace, when the Assyrian shall come into our land…” And of course, the prophecy cited in Matthew 2:23 “He shall be called a Nazarene,” doesn’t even exist in the OT.

      The Catholics have corrupted our Bibles, all of them, with lies about Jesus’ birth. Jesus actually descended from Heaven already having his flesh. 1st John 4:2 says “he came in the flesh.” HE CAME IN THE FLESH; He was not born INTO the flesh. The word BECAME flesh. Mary was John Mark’s mother, not Jesus’ mother, and thus he says to John…

    • EricW

      Must be something in the water, ’cause there’s not a full moon tonight.

    • Steve Skeete

      I am inclined to agree with those who say that the word “show” can be used as a figure of speech and is most likely being used this way in this text.

      When one says to the person with whom one is conversing “show me” one may also mean ‘prove’, ‘demonstrate’ or ‘illustrate’ it to me, or give me an example.

      This makes even more sense to me when Matthew explains that Jesus is not only shown the “kingdoms of the world” but their “splendor”. The ‘splendor’ of a kingdom is more than the outward physical realm itself, since it comprises the pomp, pageantry and trappings of royalty, all of which would be extremely difficult to “see” standing on a mountain, no matter how high.

      The Devil could have taken Jesus to the top of the highest mountain around, painted a word picture of the world’s kingdoms and all that accompanied rulership of them, then made him an offer which Jesus unhesitatingly refused.

      The one who bought us with a price could not be bought at any price.

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