Jesus said we could tell mountains to move (Matthew 17:20), if only we had faith as small as the size of a mustard seed. Has this ever happened? If so, has it been documented or is there any evidence?

I'm thinking of a genuine supernatural miracle.

  • 5
    If you take a metaphorical view of Jesus' words, then many things could be considered "moving mountains" by faith--including building a business, overcoming racial prejudice, etc. I assume, however, you're asking if a literal mountain has ever been moved by faith?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 18:44
  • 1
    @Flimzy, indeed, a literal mountain. I seem to remember David Pawson mentioning it happening but I haven't found any evidence of it, Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 18:49
  • 1
    If enough people had ozone the size of a mustard seed they would quickly destroy the world. Perhaps it is difficult to quantify faith.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 18:58
  • 2
    This is almost a duplicate of this question. See this answer for a good answer to this question.
    – Richard
    Commented Aug 25, 2011 at 14:22
  • 1
    @Ulla: and who decides what was meant for the disciples, and what was meant for us too? A conundrum. Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 21:28

8 Answers 8


I doubt anyone has. I think this is either because there is no one who has faith the size of a mustard seed, or those who do have faith large enough have no need to move a mountain.

  • 11
    Most likely the latter. Tossing mountains around just because you can isn't a miracle; it's a magic trick. Actual miracles are about doing something useful that helps people.
    – Mason Wheeler
    Commented Aug 24, 2011 at 19:05
  • I always thought mountains were a metaphor for something awful in your life that you have to get through. I could be wrong though.
    – leeand00
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 4:09
  • 2
    @leeand00 I think it makes a great metaphor, as you said. When compared to moving a mountain, most things we go through in life can seem trivial. I believe it can be taken literally, too.
    – a_hardin
    Commented Aug 31, 2011 at 11:36
  • Mostly I jest, but I find it ironic that your answer starts with "I doubt."
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 3:37

Marco Polo wrote in his diaries of a group of Christians who were challenged (by the local despot) to either cast a mountain into the sea or die. They prayed fervently and all present were amazed to see the mountain rise into the air and move to a designated location.

It's not exactly "documented", but I was also recently told a story of a group of believers in another country that ran a small school. The school had a small garden, which didn't get enough sunlight because of a mountain close by, so remembering this scripture they decided to challenge their faith with the school children and ask God to remove the mountain. Soon after a highway crew began building a road. The mountain was removed in the process.

  • 8
    "I was recently told a story" is an accepted answer? Really? What is this, UrbanLegends.SE? snopes.com/glurge/mountain.asp
    – TRiG
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 1:46
  • @TRiG haha made me laugh. You have a point though. In retrospect, maybe my answer should have included the Marco Polo reference only. Granted, it's not a NY Times article, but it is "documentation", which is what was requested.
    – Bob Black
    Commented Sep 14, 2011 at 3:07
  • 6
    I like the story; it points out the fact that "moving a mountain" through faith doesn't necessarily mean magic-like mountain moving; rather, having faith in God to carry out his will through ordinary means. Commented Oct 3, 2011 at 21:30
  • @TRiG: I accepted it because of the first paragraph. Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 14:12

According to Wikipedia and OrthodoxWiki, in the late 900s, after being told this saying of Jesus, a caliph required the Christians, under pain of death, to move a mountain in three days. The pope of Egypt (for so the patriarch of the Copts is called), called Abraham, asked everyone to pray. In a vision, the Virgin Mary told the pope to get intercession from a one-eyed man carrying water through the market. This was St. Simon the Tanner. St. Simon directed the prayers of the Christians, and the mountain (the Mokattam Mountain) was lifted (and promptly set back down in its proper place) before the caliph.

Wikipedia also mentions the discovery of what are, more likely than not, the relics of St. Simon the Tanner, and the reasons behind attribution of the relics to him.

No geographical anomalies near the Mokattam Mountain are cited on Wikipedia, which one would expect to accompany such a miracle. The Coptic Church isn't wiped out, if that helps....

  • @Caleb Forgive my brash impertinence. :P Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 2:04
  • Did the caliph convert? Commented Oct 27, 2012 at 5:05

The question is whether or not Jesus intended this to exclusively apply to moving mountains or if it was intended in a figurative way to indicate that God would honor prayers of faith by granting very large requests.

If it were intended to apply exclusively to mountains, we should wonder what need anyone would ever have to move a mountain and why God would have put mountains in the wrong place to begin with. It would seem to make the statement indicate that, "Hey if you ever need a mountain moved, no problem, but if you need anything else, you're out of luck. All I'm promising is to move mountains around." That seems a bit absurd. Furthermore, the Bible contains no mention of the apostles ever asking for such a thing, so it seems that they did not understand this promise in this manner either.

What we do find, however, is the apostles asking for other miraculous things that God did work on their behalf. To name just a few:

  1. Peter walked on water for a few moments before doubts entered in Matthew 14:29-30

  2. Peter raised Tabitha from the dead. Acts 9:36-42

  3. The man who was lame was healed when Peter said, "Silver and gold have I none..." Acts 3:6

  4. Ananias prays and Saul (Paul) receives back his sight. Acts 9:17-18

  5. Peter heals the paralytic Aeneas. Acts 9:33-35

  6. Paul cures the lame man of Lystra. Acts 14:7-9

  7. Paul casts out a demon from a girl. Acts 16:16-18

  8. Paul heals Publius' father of dysentery. Acts 28:7-8

The Old Testament also has many miraculous things that God did on behalf of his people.

This also fits well with other Scripture as we are commanded to pray in faith and to expect God to answer. Nowhere else is a mountain referred to, so, again, the best conclusion is that this was a figure of speech, understood as such by those who originally heard it, to indicate that we can be confident that God will respond to our prayers of faith with miraculous power.

Still, if there were ever a time when a mountain literally needed to be moved, an omnipotent God would certainly be able to do anything and certainly could move a mountain--or anything else for that matter.


I know this doesn't count as evidence, but the question brought this to mind as the only instance I was aware of (before the St. Simon the Tanner story above).

In the Book of Ether, chapter 12 verse 30 it says

For the brother of Jared said unto the mountain Zerin, Remove—and it was removed. And if he had not had faith it would not have moved; wherefore thou workest after men have faith. -- Ether 12:30 from The Book of Mormon


St Simmon the Tanner during the papacy of Pope Abraam the 62nd of the see of St Mark has moved the huge Mokkatam Mountain of Egypt.

The then Moslem Caliph Al Moez Ledin Ellah who reigned from 953-975 threatned the Pope that unless a mountain is moved inline with Matthew 17:20: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you" that Christians of Egypt (Copts) will get killed.

Pope Abraam called for a 3 days fasting asking for God's help. Holy Mary asked Pope Abraam, in an apparition, to call Simon a man called Simon the Tanner who leads a good life and has the faith to move the mountain.

More than 1,100 years of that miracle Coptic Christian of Egypt fast 43 days being 40 for lent and 3 days in memory of the great doings of the Lord moving the Mokkatam Hill

There is now a Church for Saint Simon carved in the mountain which I have visited more than once and live close to.

Please refer to this Coptic link http://st-takla.org/Saints/Saint-Simon.html.

If you need more information please let me know.

  • Welcome to Christianity SE. I have only noticed this response now but I value it, thank you. I have no idea why it was downvoted because this is an example of what I was looking for. As a new user, please check out the tour page. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:24
  • Though I must add, the story includes Abraham, who was looooong dead by then, making me think it must be apocryphal. Commented Oct 22, 2013 at 18:27

I knew a lady that lived close to gold mine. There was a mountain made from the soil they dug up. The gold mine closed but the mountain remained. It caused a lot of dust in the air. Remembering this verse, she prayed for it to be removed and shortly afterwards a company started flattening the mountain as they were sifting it a second time for other elements. It took them 2 years, but the mountain was removed.


From http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/mokattam.htm

The only other real historical aspect of Mokattam Mountain is an early Christian legend, upon which a grand monastery was built. Tradition holds that a now famous saint by the name of Simon the Tanner who lived during the tenth century once miraculously moved the mountain.

At that time, Egypt was ruled by the Fatimid Caliph Al Mu'izz Ledeenallah Al Fatemy. During this period, the Coptic church was under the direction of the 62nd Coptic Pope, a Syrian by the name of Anba Abram. At the time, the Copts (Christians) in Egypt were engaged in handicrafts. St. Simon worked in one of the crafts widespread in Babylon (Old Cairo) which was tanning, a craft still known there till this day. This profession involved also other crafts that depend on the process, from where he carried several titles related to skins; St Simon the Tanner, the Cobber, the Shoemaker.

According to Coptic sayings, the Caliph Al Muizz, an enlightened man, was fond of literacy gatherings and inviting different religious leaders to debate in his presence with neither anger nor contention.

In one of those meetings in which Pope Abram and a Jew named Jacob Ibn Killis were present, the Pope got the upper hand in the debate. Plotting to take revenge, Ibn Killis quoted the verse where the Lord Jesus said in Mt 17:20: "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to the mountain, Move from here to there, and it will move, nothing will be impossible for you" and demanded him to prove that his religion is right by means of this. The Caliph saw in this an opportunity to remove the mountain that was spoiling his view. At the same time, if the Christians proved unable to perform this miracle, than it would be proof that the religion of the Christians was wrong and he would be finished with them, or so goes the Legend. And so, after three days of prayers and fasts by the people throughout the land of Egypt, Simon was chosen to move the Mokattam Mountain. It is said that a great earthquake swept over the mountain. Each time the people stood up to worship, the mountain was thrust up and the sun would be seen from under it.

When the people sat down, the mountain thrust down. This was repeated three times. Afterwards, the Caliph was racked with fear and embraced the Pope warmly and this was a new beginning for a good friendship between them. However, St. Simon went missing and was never found. It is believed that his skeleton was discovered in 1991 in Babylon in the St. Mary's church (the Hanging Church). This brings us to one of the modern attractions of the mountain, the Monastery of St. Simon (Simeon) the Tanner. Its not really an old monastery, as Egyptian monasteries go, established and dedicated to St. Simon some one thousand years after his death.

Read more: http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/mokattam.htm#ixzz3KB6RiwoG

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