The journey to God's mountain, 6:1-10:52

2. Growing faith, 8:22-10:52

iii] The transfiguration - "Hear Him"


About a week after Peter's confession, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up a high mountain, possibly a spur off Mount Hermon. There he meets with Moses and Elijah, and as Luke tells us, discusses his coming exodus in Jerusalem. Finally, a voice from heaven reminds the disciples who Jesus is, and that they should "listen to him."


Jesus is the faithful servant of God, "Son of God", the long-awaited prophet like unto Moses; "listen to him."


i] Context: See 8:22-30. It is most likely that 9:1 is part of the preceding episode, integrally tied to 8:38. Verse 2 better serves as the beginning of this passage. Most commentators agree that the prophecy concerning the coming of the kingdom of God in power is by no means fulfilled in the transfiguration, none-the-less, the transfiguration, in its own way, is certainly part of the kingdom's powerful realisation in the "now", in and through Christ. This link is established by Mark in his contextual arrangement of his gospel tradition. See notes for 9:1 in Mark 8:31-9:1.


ii] Structure: Jesus is transfigured:

Jesus transfigured, v2-8;

Maintaining the messianic secret, v9-10:

Elijah and the Suffering Servant, v11-13.


iii] Interpretation:

The account of Jesus' transfiguration is closely tied to the disciples' confession at Caesarea Philippi, Jesus' subsequent teaching on his death and resurrection, and his demand that disciples identify with his cross and empty tomb. The story portrays Jesus as the faithful servant of God ("Son of God" = messiah), the long-awaited prophet like unto Moses. As the messianic prophet, Jesus proclaims the way into the coming kingdom, namely faith in the faithfulness of the messiah, and to this end we must "listen to him."

So, the transfiguration serves to reveal Christ as the faithful Son of God, son in the sense of the faithful servant, messiah, and here, particularly, prophet. Jesus wares the mantle of Moses; he is the prophet like unto Moses and so we must listen to him. On the journey to the promised land he meets with God before he sets out to inaugurate the kingdom through his death and resurrection, both as an "exodus" (an escape from bondage) and a victory over the powers of darkness. Thus, "the kingdom of God is at hand."


iv] Synoptics:

The Transfiguration: Matt.17:1-13, Lk.9:28-36. This episode is usually classified as a resurrection narrative, although a theophany may be a better classification.

Keeping the messianic secret until Jesus is raised from the dead, Matt.17:9-13.

The significant feature of the transfiguration is its Exodus imagery and the insights it gives us into the Biblical theology of "the kingdom of God." The transfiguration incident draws on the story of Moses climbing Mount Sinai with three friends, confronting the divine, radiating the divine aura and being covered by the cloud of God's presence. Luke goes further, telling us that Jesus discussed "his exodus which he was about to complete in Jerusalem", Lk.9:31. Mark makes this link by reminding us that "the Son of Man must suffer." For all three gospel authors, the transfiguration of Jesus presents as firmly fixed in tradition.


v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage can be found in the pew-level sermon notes Jesus transfigured.

Text - 9:2

i] The glory of the transfiguration, v2-8. Although not a full reenactment of Moses' ascent up Mount Sinai, Jesus, none-the-less, takes the inner circle of his disciples up a high mountain, and there "his whole appearance changes before there very eyes." His clothes, probably his whole person, is shrouded with a dazzling brightness. In the midst of a settling mist, the disciples witness Jesus speaking with Moses, as well as Elijah, another prophet who spoke with God and lived to tell. During the Exodus it was Moses who was radiant on the mountain, now it is Jesus. With the weather settling in, the disciples want to keep the conversation going, so they offer to build some shelters. Luke tells us that the discussion concerns Jesus' "exodus" (his departure), "the destiny he was to fulfil in Jerusalem." Of course, the disciples miss the point of the occasion, they don't need to listen to what Moses and Elijah have to say, they need only listen to Jesus.

meta + acc. "after" - [and] after [six days]. Temporal use of the preposition. This unusual time signature serves to link the transfiguration to the preceding episode.

paralambanei (paralambanw) pres. "took" - [jesus] takes [peter and james and john]. Historic / narrative present, serving to introduce the next step in the narrative. The taking of three disciples ties in with the "some standing here" of v1.

eiV "-" - [and leads them up to, into [a mountain high]. Expressing direction of action and arrival at. Obvious Sinai imagery. They move up to meet with the divine in a place close to heaven, a "suburb of heaven", Gundry, or as the Scotts would say, a thin place.

kat idian "where they were all alone" - according to one's own = privately, apart, by themselves [alone]. Idiomatic. "Where they could be alone", CEV.

metemorfwqh (metamorfow) aor. pas. "there he was transfigured" - [and] he was transfigured, transformed, visibly changed. Divine passive, God does the transfiguring, although this aspect of Greek is possibly overdone. It is possible that it is just Jesus' clothing that changes in appearance, although it is more likely the whole of Jesus' person. It is not necessarily a change in form, but certainly in appearance. "His whole appearance changed before their eyes", Phillips.

emprosqen "before" - before, in front of [them]. Local / spatial. "In the presence of", TH; "there in front of the disciples", CEV.


stilbonta (stilbw) pres. part. "dazzling white" - [and the garments of him became] glittering, shining, gleaming, glistening. The participle, with egeneto, "became", probably forms a periphrastic construction, "his cloths became radiant", ESV, although Decker suggests it is adjectival. The word is used of a highly polished surface. Commentators tend to see the dazzling presence of Jesus in terms of a divine manifestation, as if it were a theophany. Yet, the radiance of Jesus, as with the radiance of Moses on Mount Sinai, serves to identify Jesus as the new Moses / Elijah, the new prophet. He is now the one we must listen to.

lian adv. "whiter" - exceedingly, intensely [white]. The adverb serves as an attributive adjective; "intensely white", ESV.

oi|a "than" - of such a kind as, like. Here comparative.

gnafeuV (uV ewV) "anyone" - a bleacher. Nominative subject of the verb "to be able." Referring to a person whose trade is to bleach, whiten, cloth with nitrium.

epi + gen. "in [the world]" - on, upon [the earth]. Spatial. Bishop suggests that this modifier does not need to be translated as it simply identifies "the launderers" work-place, ie., "on the ground". Most translators opt for "no launderer (fuller / bleacher) on earth." "Whiter than any earthly bleacher could make them", NJB.

leukanai (leukainw) aor. inf. "[could] bleach" - [is not able] to whiten [thus]. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "is able."


The appearance of Moses and Elijah has prompted numerous interpretations. The commonly held view that they represent the law and the prophets is unlikely. It is often noted that both did not die (they were translated), although with Moses this is only assumed, and in any case, why didn't Enoch join the party? We know that they both met with God on a high mountain and that the return of Elijah and the prophet like unto Moses was anticipated and would evidence the coming kingdom. So, it is likely that Jesus takes on the mantle of both Moses and Elijah, leading his disciples through the wilderness to the promised land and revealing to them the way to life eternal.

wfqh (oJraw) aor. pas. + dat. of pers. "appeared" - [and moses with elijah] appeared. This verb, "look at, see" takes the sense "appeared" in the passive. Here a supernatural appearing. It is interesting that Elijah is mentioned first, given that the situation is Mosaic, and that Elijah is sun, "with", Moses, as if Elijah is tagging along with Moses. If no precedence is intended, then the NIV "and" is on the mark.

autoiV "before them" - to them. Dative of indirect object after the passive verb "to appear".

hsan sullalounteV (sullalew) pres. part. "who were talking with" - [and] they were talking with. Imperfect verb to-be with the present participle forming a periphrastic imperfect construction. This construction may heighten aspect, here duration, "had a long discussion with", but often it is nothing more than a stylistic flair. "Elijah along with Moses appeared to them, and conversed with Jesus", Moffatt.

tw/ Ihsou (oV) dat. "Jesus" - jesus. Dative of direct object after the sun prefix verb "to talk with."


apokriqeiV (apokrinomai) aor. pas. part. "[said]" - [and] having answered [peter said]. Attendant circumstance participle, pleonastic / redundant. Semitic form used to introduce, or continue a discourse.

tw/ Ihsou (oV) dat. "to Jesus" - to jesus. Dative of indirect object.

rJabbi "Rabbi" - teacher. Vocative. Usually regarded as an inappropriate description of Jesus, yet, given the circumstances, if the lesson is "listen to him", then maybe it is very appropriate.

einai (eimi) inf. "to be" - to be [here is good for us]. The infinitive of the verb to-be forms a nominal phrase subject of estin; "to be here is good. "It is a wonderful thing for us that we are here", Barclay.

poihswmen (poiew) aor. subj. "let us put up" - let us make. Hortatory subjunctive. Peter's suggestion is not necessarily absurd, given that his intention is probably to keep the discussion going between such great ones. There would be much to learn from listening in, although it is Jesus they must listen to.

soi dat. pro. "[one] for you" - [three tents, booths, tabernacles, one] for you [and one for moses and one for elijah]. Dative of interest, advantage. Three shelters to protect the great-ones from the misty cloud that was descending on them. Another possible Exodus allusion.


gar "-" - for. More reason than cause, introducing a parenthetical explanation regarding Peter's inappropriate suggestion. Peter, in typical form, has jumped in, overwhelmed as he is with fear. This statement serves as an interesting editorial comment which has probably been carried in the pericope throughout its oral transmission. Matthew doesn't record the comment although states that the disciples were frightened. Of course, it could be Mark's comment and Luke has reworked it, although an original oral source seems more likely.

ou h/dei (oida) pluperf. "he did not know" - he had not known. "The rare pluperfect form grammaticalises remoteness", Decker. Treated as if a present tense; "for he [Peter] did not know what [how] he should answer", Gundry.

apokriqh/ (apokrinomai) aor. pas. subj. "[what] to say" - [what] he should answer. Deliberative subjunctive used in the interrogative phrase introduced by tiv, "what".

gar "-" because [they were afraid]. Introducing a causal clause explaining why Peter didn't know what to say; "for they were terrified", Barclay.


With much the same words that were used at Jesus' baptism, the heavenly voice proclaims that Jesus is the beloved Son of God; "listen to him." This time it is a word for the disciples, not just for Jesus. When we see the term "Son of God" we tend to think in terms of the filial relationship that exists between the Father and the Son, but this title also has Old Testament significance; it refers to God's faithful servant, the messiah. The prophets, priests and kings of Israel, even Israel itself, was God's son, and in the last day, a faithful son will emerge, the messiah, and through his death, he will save his people.

nefelh (h) "a cloud" - [and there appeared] a cloud. Nominative subject of the periphras. Often a sign of God's presence, his shekinah glory.

episkiazousa (episkiazw) aor. part. "enveloped" - overshadowing, covering, enveloping [them]. The participle with egeneto produces an imperfect periphrastic construction; "a cloud overshadowed them", ESV. Although anarthrous, it is possibly adjectival, attributive; "a cloud which overshadowed them." Possibly attendant circumstance, as NIV, expressing the sense of the cloud coming upon the disciples and enveloping them, ie, the verb egeneto is treated as having independent force. Note again the Sinai imagery, particularly reinforced by the fact that God speaks from the cloud, Ex.19:9, 24:16-25.

ek + gen. "from [the cloud]" - [and there came a voice] out of, from [the cloud]. Expressing source, origin.

ouJtoV estin oJ uiJoV mou "this is my Son" - this is the son of me. Virtually a repeat of 1:11, although here, God's words are for the disciples, not Jesus, ie., the messianic secret is coming out into the open (for those with eyes to see!). There is little doubt that this title is messianic, and as such it serves to proclaim Jesus as the faithful servant of God. Most commentators hold that the title derives from two messianic proof-texts, Ps.2:7 and Isa.42:1. Psalm 2 celebrates the crowning of the Davidic messiah and his victory over the nations. Isaiah 42 speaks of the suffering servant of the Lord who, in the power of the Spirit of the Lord, achieves justice for the nations. On the other hand, some commentators now hold that the title derives from Genesis 22:2, Abraham's attempt to offer Isaac as a sacrifice to the Lord. There is some evidence that this incident was later regarded as a vicarious offering for Israel's redemption. The corporate identification of Jesus with God's people and his vicarious offering on our behalf, fits well with the Genesis allusion. Either way, the title "Son of God" is messianic. Jesus is God's servant messiah come to save his people.

oJ agaphtoV adj. "whom I love" - the beloved. Given the Hebrew background to this word, the sense is "one and only", "chosen", "unique". It is by no means easy to identify the intended sense of "beloved Son." It is commonly understood in a filial sense, expressing a divine union between the Father and the Son. This is unlikely here, although Jesus is indeed divine and properly possesses an intrinsic union with God the Father. "The beloved and only one", Barclay.

autou gen. pro. "[listen] to him" - [hear] him. Genitive of direct object after a verb of perception. This divine imperative is the central element in the episode. We are to carefully note the message of Jesus, he is the one we hear (not the Writings and the Prophets???). The content of this message is contained in the previous episode, 8:31-38: the cross and empty tomb event, and our necessary identification with it. Israel is to listen to the prophet who is like Moses, Deut.18:15.


Then, in the blink of an eye, the "vision" ends and the disciples are alone with Jesus.

exapina adv. "suddenly" - [and] unexpectedly, abruptly, suddenly, instantly. Probably a similar sense to Mark's commonly used "immediately". Referring to an instantaneous change in circumstances, an immediate return to normality, rather than the sudden action of the disciples looking around.

peribleyamenoi (periblepw) aor. mid. part. "when they looked around" - having looked around. The participle is adverbial, best viewed as temporal, as NIV, or possibly just serving as a finite verb expressing the action of the subject, "the disciples suddenly looked around." "Suddenly, on looking around", Goodspeed.

eidon (oJraw) aor. "they [no longer] saw" - they [no longer] saw [anyone]. The language indicating that the transfiguration was no mere vision.

alla "except" - but. Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction, "they no longer saw anyone, but saw only Jesus." Possibly used instead of ei mh, expressing a contrast by designating an exception; "no one was with them except Jesus only", Cassirer.

meq (meta) + gen. "-" - [jesus alone] with [themselves]. Expressing association / accompaniment, "Jesus alone in the company of themselves."


ii] Maintaining the messianic secret, v9-10. The events on the mountain were startling, even more startling than Jesus' miracles, so, as with the miracles, the disciples are to play down the "vision". Popular messianic fervour is the last thing Jesus needs and in any case, the mystery of God's coming kingdom is only for those with eyes to see. There is, though, a time frame to the injunction. Of course, getting their head around a "rising from the dead" leaves the disciples confused.

katabainontwn (katabainw) pres. part. "as [they] were coming down" - [and they] were coming down. The genitive participle and its genitive subject autwn, "they", forms a genitive absolute construction, temporal, as NIV.

ek + gen. "down [the mountain]" - from [the mountain]. Expressing separation, "away from."

diesteilato (diastellw) aor. "Jesus gave [them] orders" - he gave orders, commanded, instructed. Used of a "strict instruction."

autoiV dat. pro. "them" - to them. Dative of indirect object.

ina + subj. "-" - that. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing the content of the command.

dihghswntai (dihgeomai) aor. subj. "[not] to tell" - they should tell. The need to maintain the "messianic secret" obviously applies to the transfiguration as it does for Jesus' miracles.

mhdeni dat. adj. "anyone" - no one. Dative of indirect object.

ei mh "-" - except. Introducing an exceptive clause; cf., alla v8.

oJtan + subj. "until" - when [the son of man]. This construction forms an indefinite temporal clause, future time; "until after", BAGD.

anasth/ (anisthmi) aor. subj. "had risen" - should arise. Glory is assured for the Son of Man, but only after the ignominy of his execution as a common criminal. The transfiguration points to that glory, but is also, in itself, "a prolepsis of the resurrection, a present momentary representation of a glorious future event", Edwards.

ek + gen. "from" - from [the dead]. Expressing source / origin.


ekrathsan (kratew) aor. "they kept" - [and the word] they kept, grasped, held fast, retained. The sense is either, "they observed the warning faithfully", NJB, or "they kept the matter to themselves", NRSV.

proV + acc. "to" - toward [themselves]. Here expressing association; "with, in company with" = "to themselves."

suzhtounteV (suzhtew) part. "discussing" - questioning, discussing. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "they kept", "they kept ...... and discussed ...." The notion of the resurrection of the dead in the last day was not new to the disciples, but a rising from the dead while others are living, certainly was. "Tried to puzzle out among themselves", Phillips.

tiv estin "what [`rising from the dead'] meant" - what is = means. Interrogative.

to ... anasthnai (anisthmi) aor. inf. "rising" - to rise [from the dead]. The infinitive takes the article and so forms a substantive, "the rising", "the resurrection", BAGD, subject of the verb to-be, estin, "what the rising from the dead is / means." It is also possible, as NIV, that the article introduces a quotation, "what is meant by the words 'raised from death.'" "What he meant by the rising from the dead", Goodspeed. Note the variant Western text, hotan ek nedrwn anasth "when he should rise from the dead." It makes better sense, but is probably not original.


iii] Elijah and the Suffering Servant, v11-13. Elijah, the one who proceeds the Son of man, was set upon, as the Son of Man is set upon. The disciples note the standard teaching of the day concerning the return of Elijah, namely, that he will herald the great Day of the Lord, the terrible day of judgment when the wicked will be punished and the righteous raised to new life. What they couldn't work out is how Jesus fits in with Elijah's coming, given what they have just witnessed on the mountain. Jesus explains that Elijah certainly does come before the Day of the Lord, and that when he comes he will herald the universal restoration of all things. Jesus then explains, from the scriptures, how he, the messiah, fits in with the dawning of this new age. "But what does the scriptures say about the Son of Man? This: that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt", Phillips. As for Elijah, guess what, he has already come, and they did to him what they will do to the Son of Man. One wonders how long it took the disciples to work out that Jesus was talking about John the Baptist.

legonteV (legw) pres. part. "-" - [and they were asking, questioning him] saying. Attendant circumstance participle, redundant.

oJti "why ...... that ....." - that [say the scribes] that. The second oJti in this verse obviously introduces a dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what the scribes say concerning Elijah, namely that he must come first. The first oJti is not so easily defined. It may also be recitative, so RV, "and they asked him, saying, [that] the scribes say that Elijah must first come", but it could be functioning as an interrogative, standing instead of tiV, or a relative pronoun, or dia tiv, as NIV and most modern translations. The disciples understand the common view that Elijah will return to proclaim the coming of "the Day of the Lord", Mal.3:23-24. Yet, fitting in Elijah's return just prior to that terrible day, while having just witnessed his "return" on the mountain, and linking that with Jesus' ministry and his resurrection while the disciples are still alive, is all a bit much.

dei + inf. "must" - it is necessary. Often expressing divine compulsion.

elqein (ercomai) aor. inf. "come" - [elijah] to come. The infinitive serves as a substantive, subject of the impersonal verb "is necessary"; "to come first is necessary for Elijah."

prwton "first" - first. Not "before messiah does", CEV, but rather "before the Day of the Lord."


oJ de "-" - but/and he. Transitional, indicating a step in the discourse narrative, as NIV.

autoiV dat. pro. "-" - [he said] to them. Dative of indirect object.

men ..... kai "to be sure ...... then" - indeed, on the one hand ..... but yet on the other ..... This adversative comparative is usually formed with men ...... de, but here kai is functioning as the adversative. Jesus partly agrees in the first clause, "indeed .......", but goes on to expose the inadequacy of the scribes teaching by his question in the second clause, "yet how can it be that ........?"

elqwn (ercomai) aor. part. "[Elijah] does come" - [elijah] having come [first]. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "restores."

apokaqistanei (apokafisqhmi) pres. "restores [all things]" - restores [everything]. Gundry suggests that the present tense is futuristic, but the action of restoration is more likely progressive. In this first clause Jesus expands on what Elijah comes to do. Malachi only says that Elijah will come before the Day of the Lord. Jesus points out that what Elijah comes to do is to inaugurate the process of universal restoration of which Jesus' death and resurrection plays an integral part. Of course, the "bad" news is that universal restoration involves judgment - the Day of the Lord (there are many such Days ["comings"] leading to the last Day). "It is true that Elijah comes before the Day of the Lord, but primarily he comes to inaugurate its coming."

pwV "why then" - [and] how, in what way. Interrogative.

epi + acc. "that" - [has it been written] concerning [the son of man]. The preposition epi here expresses reference / respect, "concerning / about / with reference to", rather than expressing opposition, "against", BAGD. Jesus is now drawing attention to what the scriptures have to say concerning the Son of Man and how this information relates to the coming of Elijah. The point, of course, is to show that the death and resurrection of Jesus fits in with Elijah's work to introduce the coming day. "What does the Old Testament have to say about the Son of Man?"

iJna + subj. "that" - that [he must suffer much]. Introducing an object clause / dependent statement, indirect speech, expressing what the scriptures have to say concerning the Son of Man. "But what does the scriptures say about the Son of Man? This: that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt", Phillips.

exoudenhqh/ (exoudenew) aor. pas. subj. "be rejected" - [and] be treated with contempt, counted as of no value, considered as nothing, despised. See: Ps.118:22, Isa.53:3.


The Son of Man comes as the suffering servant, as it is written of him.

alla "but" - but. Strong adversative.

uJmin dat. pro. "[I tell] you" - [i say] to you. Dative of indirect object.

oJti "-" - that. Introducing a dependent statement of indirect speech, expressing the point that Jesus want's to make to his disciples.

HliaV "Elijah" - elijah. Nominative subject of the verb "to come." We are still not explicitly told that John the Baptist is the Elijah, but his treatment, similar to the Son of Man, makes the link. The reticence of the gospel writers to openly identify the Baptist with Elijah is interesting. The Baptist's own identification of himself as "a voice crying in the wilderness" is a powerful one, and this with the identification of Jesus as the prophetic word of God, may well be behind the need to be less than specific.

kai "-" - and = indeed. Emphatic; "Elijah indeed / in fact has come."

elhluqen (ercomai) perf. "has come" - has come. "The fact is that Elijah has come", Barclay.

autw/ dat. pro. "to him" - [and they did] to him. Dative of indirect object / interest, disadvantage.

o{sa "everything" - as much as. Accusative direct object of "they were desiring."

hqelon (qelw) imperf. "they wished" - they were desiring, they willed. "And people treated him just the way they wanted to", CEV.

kaqwV "just as" - as, just as. In this context, the comparative expresses a characteristic quality / standard, "exactly as / in accordance with what has been written concerning him."

ep (epi) + acc. "about [him]" - [it has been written] concerning [him]. Here expressing reference / respect, "about, concerning", as in v12. "As the scriptures said they would", Barclay.


Mark Introduction.



[Pumpkin Cottage]