Monday, 22 April 2013
When was Jesus transfigured?...and Where?
Matthew 17 and Mark 9 record the incident of The Transfiguration:
After six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up on a high mountain apart by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His clothes became shining, exceedingly white, like snow, such as no launderer on earth can whiten them. And Elijah appeared to them with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" ; because he did not know what to say, for they were greatly afraid. And a cloud came and overshadowed them; and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!" Suddenly, when they had looked around, they saw no one anymore, but only Jesus with themselves. Now as they came down from the mountain, He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen, till the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept this word to themselves, questioning what the rising from the dead meant.
Once again, just as in the Raising of Jairus's daughter, we read that He commanded them that they should tell no one the things they had seen. So, once again, we read about another 'private' appearance of the S'kinah, the visible manifestation of God Himself.
There are some extra details in the reports of The Transfiguration which indicate where it happened and when.
Peter, the great enthusiast, did not know what to say, so he blurted out the suggestion to make three tabernacles. Why did he suggest this? Surely, it was because it was the time of the Feast of Tabernacles when everybody built tabernacles, booths, temporary structures, to commemorate the time in the wilderness.
In addition, the reports begin with the phrase 'after six days' which, if it was the Feast of Tabernacles, refers to the day before the seventh day of Tabernacles, Hoshana Rabbah, which was, and is, traditionally known as the last of the Days of Judgment which began on Rosh HaShanah. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples would have had a 'free' day before the Temple observance of Hoshana Rabbah on the following day.
The place where The Transfigurstion took place has been traditionally accepted as being on Mount Tabor. However, the problem is that Mount Tabor is just over 150 kilometers from Jerusalem. Jesus and His disciples were observant Jews, and as such went up to Jerusalem three times per year to celebrate the Feasts of Passover, Shavuot, and Tabernacles.
Since the texts in Matthew 17 and Mark 9 include the details that suggest strongly that The Transfiguration happened at the Feast of Tabernacles, it seems highly unlikely that Jesus and Peter, James, and John travelled a round trip of some 300 kilometers to Mount Tabor and back to Jerusalem.
So, where was the high mountain? Surely, it was the Mount of Olives which is some 65 metres higher than the Temple Mount. The party of Jesus, Peter, James, and John would not have had to travel any distance.
Finally, it was particularly appropriate that Jesus should have chosen the Feast of Tabernacles for The Transfiguration. The Feast of Tabernacles celebrates the dwelling of God with Man, and it celebrates John 1.14 when The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How appropriate that He should dwell among Man as the S'kinah, the visible manifestation of God Himself, at the the Feast of Tabernacles.
Until next week...