Question: A reader asserts that Matthew 4:8, which in part reads, " . . . the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor . . . ," is evidence that the Bible thought that the earth was flat, because it would be impossible to view the entire world from a high vantage point unless it was flat. The reader also asserts that the visualization of the 'all the kingdoms' could not have involved the supernatural, because if that were the case, it would not have been necessary to go to a 'very high mountain.'
Response: Aside from whatever opinion you have of the Bible, the fact is, it would actually be impossible for the supernatural to be absent during a meeting between Jesus and the devil, as described in Matthew 4:1-8. How else would the devil manage to find Jesus in the desert in Matthew 4:3? How else would the devil bring Jesus to the 'the highest point of the temple' in Matthew 4:5? And how else would he transport Jesus to the 'very high mountain' in Matthew 4:8?
Matthew's portrayal of the meeting between Jesus and the devil involves the supernatural. So how did the devil represent to Jesus 'all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor'? The answer seems obvious: by means of the supernatural.
So why does the devil take Jesus up to a 'very high mountain' when he could have used his supernatural powers in a valley, or in a plain, etc., to show Jesus all the kingdoms of the world? Because, a king is elevated. It is the king who has the highest seat in a palace. It is the king who has the highest seat in a coliseum. It is the king to whom others lower themselves by bowing.
So if the devil is going to tempt someone by offering to make him the king of the world, where else would be more appropriate than the top of a 'very high mountain?'
Consider the succession of temptations in Matthew 4:1-11:
• The first takes place in a desert.
• The second involves the highest point on the Temple in Jerusalem.
• And the third takes place on a mountain.
The pattern is clear: As the loftiness of the temptation increases, so does the height from which it is offered.
But, for the sake of argument, what if a person, who lived during the time of Jesus, actually thought that the earth was flat? Would that person really think that if he stood on a high mountain that he would be able to see the entire world - all the kingdoms in their splendor?
That would be easy to doubt. You don't have to be a 21st-century scientist to realize that there are limits as to how far the human eye can perceive detail and color. Anyone standing on a hilltop overlooking a valley, or standing on a shoreline looking out to the sea, would realize that the human eye can see only so far before details are washed out into the horizon.
Even a person living in ancient times would have realized that he could not see far enough, under any normal circumstances, to see all of the kingdoms of the world from any one vantage point.
Remember, the ancients traveled by foot. They often measured their journeys by the number of days that it took to complete the trip. The Bible records many examples of this. A man living in ancient times, taking a journey that lasted a day or more, would have realized that even when there are no trees or mountains or hills to obstruct your view, you still can't see your destination point at the start of your journey.
Please also see Does the Bible teach that the earth is flat?