In the introductory comments to Jesus’ oft’-quoted sermon recorded in Matthew chapters 5-7, the first verse sets the stage for His “astonishing teachings.” Matthew indicates that “seeing the multitudes,” Jesus “went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him” (emp. added). When Luke gives the setting for Jesus’ masterful sermon, he says that Jesus “came down with them and stood on a level place” (6:17, emp. added). The question that has been asked by many people is why Matthew recorded Jesus preaching this sermon from a mountain, while Luke said it was while He stood on a level place. Could Matthew or Luke have made a legitimate geographical error here, or is there a reasonable explanation for the difference that exists?
First of all, for these passages to be contradictory one must assume the two sermons were delivered at the same place and at the same time. But, as H. Leo Boles stated in his commentary on Luke, this sermon “may have been repeated a number of times and Luke gives a record of the sermon which was repeated at some later time than the record given by Matthew” (1940, p. 134). It is more than possible that Jesus repeated His teachings on various occasions. He easily could have preached the beatitudes in Capernaum as well as in Cana. He could have taught the model prayer in both Bethany and Bethsaida. Who are we to say that Jesus preached the principles and commands found in Matthew 5-7 only once? There are some men today who travel to a different city nearly every week preaching the same sermons—and do so effectively. Could Jesus not have done something similar?
A more likely solution to this geographical “problem” is simply to understand that Matthew and Luke were referring to the same sermon, and that Jesus was preaching it while being both on a mountain and on a “plain” (KJV) at the same time. The word “plain” (tópou pedinoú) simply means “level place” (Wycliffe, 1985), and is translated thusly in nearly all modern versions of the Bible. Since a mountain can have level places on it, no one can assert logically that Matthew 5:1 and Luke 6:17 are contradictory. I have been to the top of a mountain in Anchorage, Alaska, that is so level it is known as “Flattop Mountain.” To say Jesus stood on a level place on a mountain is no oxymoron.
Boles, H. Leo (1940), A Commentary on the Gospel According to Luke (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Wycliffe Bible Commentary (1985), Electronic Database: Biblesoft.
Copyright © 2005 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
This document may be copied, on the condition that it will not be republished in print unless otherwise stated below, and will not be used for any commercial purpose, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (4) textual alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden; (5) Some illustrations (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, etc.) are not the intellectual property of Apologetics Press and as such cannot be reproduced from our site without consent from the person or organization that maintains those intellectual rights; (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original written content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken. Further, documents may not be copied without source statements (title, author, journal title), and the address of the publisher and owner of rights, as listed below.
For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
Phone (334) 272-8558