Is the Order of the Temptations of Jesus Contradictory?

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Some argue that the Bible is contradictory concerning the order of the temptations of Jesus. The argument is that Matthew 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-12 present the temptations of Jesus in different orders. However, there is a reasonable explanation the solves this alleged contradiction in the Bible.

Scriptures – Is the Order of the Temptations of Jesus Contradictory?

Matthew 4:1-10

1. Stones Become Bread

1 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3 And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” 4 But he answered, “It is written,

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

2. Pinnacle of the Temple

5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

7 Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

3. High Mountain

8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. 9 And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”

Matthew 4:1-10

Luke 4:1-12

1. Stones Become Bread

1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” 4 And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

2. High Mountain

5 And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, 6 and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” 8 And Jesus answered him, “It is written,

“‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

3. Pinnacle of the Temple

9 And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ 11 and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

Luke 4:1-12

The Answer – Is the Order of the Temptations of Jesus Contradictory?

Matthew’s Order is Chronological, Luke’s Order Was for a Purpose

Most likely, Matthew’s order is the chronological order, since Matthew uses the transitional word, “then,” while Luke only uses the transitional word, “and,” which allows the possibility for the order of temptations in Luke to not be chronological.

Why would Luke present the temptations of Jesus out of chronological order? Most likely, Luke had a particular purpose in presenting the temptations of Jesus in a different order. Peter Davids suggests that Luke often emphasizes geographical, or directional, order, so perhaps Luke is arranging the temptations according to geography—the first temptation is in the wilderness, the second temptation is on the mountain near Jerusalem, and the third temptation is in Jerusalem itself.

This is a very reasonable interpretation of these two passages, so there is simply no contradiction between the orders of Jesus’ temptations in Matthew 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-12.

Foundational Principles Regarding Bible Difficulties

There are some foundational principles that apply to all alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible. To read more, see Bible Difficulties: Foundational Principles.

Related to “Is the Order of the Temptations of Jesus Contradictory?”

To read more answers to alleged and apparent contradictions in the Bible, see “Contradictions” in the Bible Answered.

These books are also excellent resources:

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