Matthew 4 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spiritinto the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.
3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’”
5 The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6 And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7 If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
8 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’”
9 The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. 10 For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you
to guard you carefully;
11 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’[d]”
12 Jesus answered, “It is said: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’[e]”
13 When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.
There is a contradiction in the order of the temptations of Jesus in Matthew and Luke. According to Matthew, the order is:
- “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
- “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down…”
- “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
But according to Luke, the order is:
- “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”
- “… If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
- “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here…”
Clearly, the second and third temptations are reversed. If this is a historical event, what is the correct order?
Before answering that question, I will also point out other discrepancies. For example, in Matthew Satan says “these stones” and in Luke Satan says “this stone”. Did Satan tempt Jesus with one stone or multiple stones? Also, Satan makes similar but not identical statements in the second and third temptations. Jesus also says “Away from me, Satan!” In Matthew but does not in Luke. I am going to ignore these discrepancies because they are small, but I will note that when many Christian apologists apologize for the order of events in these two passages, they often ignore the other contradictions.
This correct order of events and most exact statements cannot be confirmed historically. The only beings at this event were Jesus, Satan, and the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, the authors of the events in the gospels were not eyewitnesses. The author of Luke says in Luke 1 “1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.” So Luke admits that by the time he wrote his gospel that many had already written gospels and that he was not an eyewitness. This event is just as historical as Muhammad flying to heaven on a Buraq.
No normal human being witnessed these events. Most apologists claim that Matthew is “apparently” more concerned with order because he uses words like “then” while Luke does not. Christian apologists also claim that neither author is claiming exact chronological sequences. They also note silly things like history textbooks do not always present history in chronological order, but rather in topical order. (https://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=746). As previously noted, this event cannot be considered historical because of its total lack of witnesses or any type of corroboration.
However, it is my claim that if ANYONE read Luke by itself and never read Matthew, they would conclude that the order of events in Luke are the actual order in which the events occurred. The only reason Christians doubt that Luke presents the events in order is because Matthew exists.
I have also had a graduate of a Louisville seminary provide another explanation: Jesus was tempted by Satan on two separate occasions! In other words, Matthew and Luke are describing two separate events. This logic could be used to handle any contradiction. How do you handle the contradictions in the stories on the birth of Jesus? He was born twice! How do you handle the contradictions in the stories on the death and resurrection of Jesus? He died and rose twice!
I encourage Christians to read the bible as if they were reading the Koran. If the Koran contained contradictory orders of events, most Christians would not accept similar statements of Muslim apologists about the Koran.