Sermon on the Mount: Did the Writers Make a Mistake?

Sermon on the mount blog post

Testing the acoustics

In the 1970s, archaeologist B. Cobbey Crisler and professional sound engineer Mark Miles set up equipment at a cove on the shore of the Sea of Galilee to test this phenomenon.

They investigated the natural terrain and whether it acted like an auditorium with Jesus at the “stage” (in their study, a boat in the Galilee) and the crowd in the “seats” (the slopes).

It did. 

But Crisler and Miles unexpectedly found that the reverse also occurred: speech from the “seats” was clearly heard at the “stage.” 1

Natural amphitheaters, it turns out, exist all along the shores of the Sea of Galilee—and Jesus used them as “public address systems” to teach the crowds.2

It’s possible the crowds stood below Jesus as he taught from atop the hill.

It’s also possible Jesus stood on a “level place” at the bottom of the mount with the crowds listening from above.

But the crowds could have heard Jesus teaching from a boat as they listened from the shores of the Galilee, too:

So it was, as the multitude pressed about Him to hear the word of God, that He stood by the Lake of Gennesaret, and saw two boats standing by the lake; but the fishermen had gone from them and were washing their nets. Then He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat. (Luke 5:1–3)

The Galilee terrain was perfectly fashioned for throngs of people to hear Jesus’ message from any of these locales—long before sound systems were an option.

It was the perfect place for Jesus to preach the most important sermon of all time.

No wonder Jerome referred to the land of Israel as the fifth Gospel.


Read more about natural amphitheaters along the Sea of Galilee in the award-winning Lexham Geographic Commentary on the Gospels.

Karen Engle received her MA in Biblical Studies and Theology from Western Seminary. She is an editor for Faithlife and regularly takes groups to Israel.

  1. Beitzel, Barry. Lexham Commentary on the Gospels. Lexham Press, 2018. (See the full article: “The Acoustics and Crowd Capacity of Natural Theaters in Palestine.” The Biblical Archaeologist, 1976: 128–141. Read online at Accessed 4 February 2019.)
  2. Ibid.
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Karen Engle

Karen Engle is a copy editor for Faithlife. She has a master's in biblical studies and theology from Western Seminary and frequently takes groups to Israel.

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Written by Karen Engle