Matthew 4:5–10 (cf. Luke 4:5–12)—Is there a mistake in recording the wilderness temptation of Christ by Matthew or Luke?

Problem: According to both Matthew and Luke, the first temptation was to turn stones into bread to satisfy Jesus’ hunger. The second temptation listed by Matthew took place at the pinnacle of the temple. The third temptation listed by Matthew involved all the kingdoms of the world. However, although Luke mentions these same two events, he lists them in reverse order—the kingdoms of the world are mentioned second and the pinnacle of the temple is mentioned third. Which is the correct order?

Solution: It may be that Matthew describes these temptations chronologically while Luke lists them climactically, that is, topically. This may be to express the climax he desired to emphasize. Matthew 4:5 begins with the word “then” while verse 8 begins with the word “again.” In Greek, these words suggest a more sequential order of the events. In Luke’s account, however, verses 5 and 9 each begins with a simple “and” (see nasb). The Greek in the case of Luke’s account does not necessarily indicate a sequential order of events. Furthermore, there is no disagreement on the fact that these temptations actually happened.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.