Supposed Bible Contradictions: The Sermon on the Mount

Hill of the Beatitudes

16) Matthew 5:1-2 Christ preached his first sermon on the mount.  Luke 6:17 & 20 Christ preached his first sermon in the plain.
Some would suggest that there is a contradiction in the Sermon on the Mount accounts in the New Testament between Matthew 5:1-2 and Luke 6:17-49. The objection above creates a false distinction between the accounts. The objections appears to be something like, "Was Christ's first sermon on the mount or in the plain? It can't be both." As we established earlier we should evaluate the claim and determine if there be any contradiction whatsoever. Are there alternative explanations? It seems there are at least two plausible explanations:

1) They are the same sermon but Matthew and Luke give summaries that highlight different parts or emphasis of that sermon.

2) They are two different sermons but have similar content as is common in preaching.

Apparently, a contradiction is not the necessary conclusion here. Matthew 4:23-25 records:

23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. 24 Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. 25 Great multitudes followed Him — from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. NKJV

 It is clear from vs. 23 that Jesus went throughout all of Galilee preaching. Meaning He preached in more than one location. The noun for "synagogues" is also in the plural form which indicates He preached in more than one. Yet, in different locations and in different places it is said He preached the "gospel of the kingdom" which by necessity includes overlapping content. Therefore, it is quite possible that Jesus, while able to introduce new content at will, also preached the same thing repeatedly. Notice the following excerpt from Matthew 14:

13 When Jesus heard it, He departed from there by boat to a deserted place by Himself. But when the multitudes heard it, they followed Him on foot from the cities. 14 And when Jesus went out He saw a great multitude; and He was moved with compassion for them, and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, His disciples came to Him, saying, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is already late. Send the multitudes away, that they may go into the villages and buy themselves food." NKJV

It is clear from vs. 13 that Jesus, initially, was intending go to a "deserted place" to be by Himself. Yet, multitudes of people, following on foot, moved Him with "compassion for them" and He began ministering to them instead. After time had passed and it became evening the disciples suggested they be sent away because they still had to travel, by foot, back into the villages to buy food. Apparently, Jesus spent many hours with the multitudes ministering to them with miracles and teaching. It would be quite logical to conclude then that the sermons were long and therefore capable of having certain parts emphasized more than others. Craig L. Blomberg notes:

"Luke refers to Jesus’ speaking on a “level place,” but since Jesus has been in the mountains (cf. 6:12 with 6:17), Luke scarcely contradicts Matthew. Both writers envisage a plateau in a hilly area."(1)

In Matthew 5:1 it appears that Jesus is initially teaching the disciples. Yet, in Matthew 7:28 it is obvious that others had gathered. It must not be assumed that Jesus did not relocate or that parts of this sermon were not delivered in differing locations. In fact, if one thinks of a "sermon" here in the traditional modern sense then one has already imported too much into the text.

Matthew simply records that Jesus went up on a mountainside so that His disciples could be nearer to Him and then came down with them to a level place yet still in the mountain. The claim that the Sermon on the Mount is a contradiction is simply false. It begins with a faulty assumption and does not allow the Scriptural data to speak for itself. Instead the assumption that a contradiction is to be found is read back into the text. Such an assumption is not necessary and unwarranted. 


1) Craig Blomberg, Matthew, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992). 97.

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Adversus Trinitas

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