The mission of the Messiah, 1:5-9:50
6. The nature of the Messiah's kingdom, 9:1-50
iv] The transfigurationSynopsis
Some eight days after Peter's confession, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to a high and lonely place for prayer. In the presence of the disciples, Jesus is transfigured - he radiates glory. In this glorious state, Moses and Elijah join him, and to top it off, God speaks.
The transfiguration is a moment of high revelation: i] It confirms Jesus' destiny - suffering; ii] It confirms the disciples confession of Jesus as messiah; iii] It confirms Jesus as the source of divine revelation - "listen to him"; iv] The appearance of Moses and Elijah confirm that Jesus fulfills all that they stand for; v] The subject of Jesus' discussion with Moses and Elijah, namely his "exodus" in Jerusalem, confirms that his death and resurrection is that which realizes / inaugurates the kingdom and its promised blessings.
i] Context: See 9:1-9. The Transfiguration is the fourth episode of The nature of the Messiah's kingdom, 9:1-50, a section which develops the theme of confirmation and rejection, and leads to the conclusion of Jesus' Galilean mission, 9:50. Peter's confession at Caesarea Philippi, along with Jesus' first prediction of his death and resurrection and teaching on cross-bearing discipleship (9:18-27), is followed some eight days later by Jesus' transfiguration. The section closes with the healing of the epileptic boy and Jesus' teaching on the meaning of greatness. This sequence of events reveals that Jesus the messiah will enter into glory through suffering.
ii] Structure: This narrative, The transfiguration, presents as follows:
The transfiguration, v29-31;
Peter's suggestion, v32-33;
Heavenly endorsement, v34-35:
"this is my Son, my Chosen One, listen to him."
The disciples response, v36.
The transfiguration gives us an insight into the nature of Christ's future glory and of his messiahship. Two Old Testament motifs are used to draw out the significance of the transfiguration:
a) The revelation of the Son of man in Daniel (shining face, sleep, Elijah... Dan.10:8f, 5f, 16);
b) The Exodus, particularly the theophany on Mount Sinai (shining face, booths, cloud, and the presence of Moses. Ex.13:20f, 33:9f, 34:29).
Nolland's summary of this episode is worth quoting, "the transfiguration narrative confirms the importance of listening to Jesus, as he sets for himself and his followers a suffering fate; but it also confirms his anticipation of the glorious outcome of traveling this difficult road."
vi] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 9:28
The transfiguration and its revelation of the true nature of Jesus' messiahship, v28-36. i] Setting, v28: Mark tells us that the transfiguration is six days after the events at Caesarea Philippi, while Luke says it is eight days later. Luke's eight is highly symbolic. As with many resurrection appearances, 24:1, 13, 33, eight days symbolizes entrance into a new age, a new creation following the seventh day of God's rest. Only the inner circle of Jesus' disciples witness this significant event, and even they fail to understand it.
de "-" - but, and. Transitional, introducing a new literary unit / paragraph.
egeneto "-" - it happened, it came about. A common introductory phrase often not translated in English.
wJsei "about [eight days]" - about [the extent of eight days]. Expressing approximation. A rare use of the nominative case for hJmerai oktw, "eight days", to define an extension of time (usually accusative). Mark has six days, possibly alluding to Exodus 24:16, the period of preparation before God spoke from the cloud. Is Luke's eight days a subtle allusion to the resurrection, the day after the Sabbath?
meta touV logouV "after Jesus said this" - after these words. Luke is tying this episode to Jesus' words on cross-bearing discipleship, "after these sayings", NRSV.
paralabwn (paralambanw) aor. part. "he took" - having taken. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the main verb "he went up."
proseuxasqai (proseucomai) inf. "to pray" - The infinitive is verbal, expressing purpose; "in order to pray". Luke tends to focus on what Jesus is doing. Mark does not refer to Jesus' intention to pray.
ii] The transfiguration, v29-31: Jesus' glowing face and clothes serve as an allusion to Daniel's visions, as well as the theophany on Mount Sinai. Two witnesses confirm the truth of the event, as on the day of resurrection, 24:4; what more trustworthy witnesses are there than Moses and Elijah? Jesus and his witnesses then discuss his departure (exodon, "exodus") at Jerusalem. Again, this is a highly symbolic reference to Israel's Exodus and implies that Jesus, through his death and resurrection, is about to deliver God's people from their bondage of sin and death and usher them into the glory of the new age of the coming kingdom.
en tw/ proseucesqai (proseucomai) aor. inf. "as he was praying" - in to prayer. This construction, the preposition en with the articular infinitive, usually forms a temporal clause; "while he prayed". Luke here links Jesus' prayer with his transformation.
tou proswpou (on) gen. "[the appearance] of [his] face" - [the outward appearance, form, aspect] of the face [of him]. Culy suggests that the genitive is verbal, subjective, although eidoV (oV ouV), when taking the sense "appearance", is not really a verbal noun. It seems more likely that the genitive is adjectival, attributed, "his facial appearance changed"; "while he was praying, his face changed", CEV.
exastraptwn (exastraptw) pres. part. "[bright] as a flash of lightening" - white [flashing, dazzling]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting / describing "white". Is Luke distinguishing between the transformation of Jesus' face (and therefore, person) and his outer garb? The language alludes to Old Testament descriptions of divine glory, Ezk.1:4, 7, Dan.12:6. This and other motifs in the episode, most likely allude to the Exodus and Daniel 10.
idou "-" - [and] behold. An interjection serving to underline the importance of what follows.
andreV duo "two men" - Luke also has two visionary persons at Jesus' resurrection, 24:4. Does he imply they are the same persons? If so, he is tying the trasfiguration to the resurrection. Why these two particular persons? Moses has been in the cloud before and of course, Elijah, due to his translation, is a living heavenly being. There is a tradition that Moses was also translated, given that the site of his tomb is unknown. So, they may represent living heavenly beings who originally possessed an earthly life; both fit persons to discuss Jesus' "exodus", or more particularly, two fit persons to witness to Jesus. The conservative view is that they represent the law and the prophets, now enshrined in Jesus' word - "listen to him". Luke gives us no hint that this is intended.
ofqenteV (oJraw) aor. pas. part. "appeared" - [who] having appeared. Attendant circumstance participle expressing action accompanying the verb "were speaking." Note that the NIV has done some rearranging of v30-31. The Gk. is as follows: v30, "And behold, two men were holding a conversation with with him (Jesus), they being Moses and Elijah, v31, who appeared in glorious form and spoke about his (Jesus') exodus ....."
en + dat. "in [glorious splendor]" - in [glory]. The preposition here is adverbial, forming a modal construction, expressing the manner of their appearing. The manner of their appearing indicates that they are heavenly beings.
autw/ dat. pro. "[talking with] Jesus" - [were talking with, conversing with] him. Dative of direct object after a sun prefix verb.
exodon (oV) "[they spoke about his] departure" - [were discussing his] exodus. The word is commonly used of death, in the sense of the "dearly departed." Yet, it is more likely that Luke intends an allusion to the Exodus of Israel from Egypt and in so doing, ties Jesus' departure in Jerusalem to his death on the cross and thus the escape from sin and death of the new Israel in Christ.
plhroun (plhrow) pres. inf. "[which he was about] to bring to fulfillment" - [which he was about] to fulfill. The infinitive is complementary, completing the sense of the verb "was about to." "They talked with Jesus about the way in which his life was destined to end in Jerusalem", Barclay.
en + dat. "at [Jerusalem]" - in [Jerusalem]. Expressing space/sphere.
iii] Peter's suggestion, v32-33: The disciples gain a glimpse of the glory of the new age as Jesus is transfigured before their very eyes. The new age, the coming kingdom, is often described as glorious. This glory is witnessed in Jesus' resurrection, 24:26, 1Pet.1:21, and is promised for the parousia, the day of Christ's return, 9:26, Rom.8:18f. Peter is right in wanting to mark this glorious moment by building a "booth", a temporary shelter, to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles. God was present with his people during their wilderness wanderings, and in the yearly feast of "booths" the people of Israel commemorate this presence and look toward the end-time when God would again be present with his people. In Jesus' radiance, the disciples witness this divine presence. Yet, Peter is wrong in wanting to build three "booths". The divine presence is in Jesus, not in the two witnesses.
h\san bebarhmenoi (barew) perf. pas. part. "were very" - were having been weighed down. A periphrastic pluperfect construction, probably used to emphasize aspect - this was a long meeting.
uJpnw/ (oV) dat. "sleepy" - with sleep. Instrumental dative, expressing means; "were overcome with sleep", Barclay.
de "but" - but, and. Here adversative, as NIV.
diagrhgorhsanteV (diagrhgorew) part. "when they became fully awake" - having awakened fully. The participle is adverbial, probably temporal. Note the NRSV "since they had stayed awake" probably misses Luke's point. The disciples have not been part of the transfiguration up to this point; they were asleep. The experience, up to this point, is for Jesus. Only now do the disciples share in it, just as the heavenly visitors prepare to leave.
touV sunestwtaV (sunisthmi) perf. part. "standing with" - the ones having stood with. The participle is adjectival, limiting/describing the "two men."
autw/ dat. pro. "him" - Dative of direct object after a sun prefix verb.
en tw/ diacwrizesqai (diacwrizw) pas. inf. "As the men were leaving" - while they parted, separated. The preposition en with the articular infinitive usually forms a temporal clause, contemporaneous time. It is the parting vision that prompts Peter to want to preserve the moment with the building of "three shelters."
apo + gen. "-" - from [him]. Expressing separation; "away from."
ei\nai (eimi) "[it is good for us] to be [here]" - The infinitive verb to-be forms an infinitival phrase subject of the verb to-be estin, "to be here is good for us; "It is wonderful for us to be here", Phillips.
poihswmen (poiew) aor. subj. "Let us put up" - let us make. Hortatory subjunctive.
skhnaV (h) "shelters" - tents, tabernacles. Quite possibly another allusion to Israel's wilderness wanderings and so further underlining the Exodus theme. The problem is, why not also build a tabernacle for Peter and his friends?
soi dat. pro. "[one] for you" - Dative of interest, advantage.
mh eidwV (oida) perf. part. "he did not know [what he was saying]" - not having known [what he says]. The participle is obviously adverbial, possibly concessive; "although he didn't know what he was saying." Mark tells us that it was Peter's fear that led to his desire to preserve the glory of the moment rather than allow the journey to continue toward suffering and death. It is also possible that Peter's mistake was in wanting to make three booths and in so doing, place Jesus on an equal footing with Moses and Elijah. "(Hardly knowing what he was saying)", Torrey; "he did not really know what he was saying", Barclay; "he blurted this out without thinking", Peterson.
iv] The heavenly endorsement, v34-35: The cloud of God's Shekinah glory confirms the divine presence and further relates the incident to Daniel's vision and the Mount Sinai theophany. Then, a divine word corrects Peter's mistake. Jesus is not to be compared with Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the divine "Son", the "chosen" one, the "elect" one, and therefore, the disciples should "listen to him." The divine word declares Jesus as the royal Son of God, the messianic servant and the eschatological prophet like Moses, Deut.18:15. It is to Jesus the disciples must hear.
legontoV (legw) gen. pres. part. "while [he was] speaking" - [and these things him] saying. This genitive absolute participle forms a temporal clause, as NIV. The implication is that Peter's words hasten the end of the theophany.
epeskiazen (episkiazw) imperf. "enveloped [them]" - was overshadowing, covering. Whom did the cloud cover? Mark implies it was just the heavenly visitors and Jesus, therefore emphasizing the cloud as a divine transportation medium. In Luke the cloud seems to cover everyone, therefore emphasizing the divine presence. Note the allusion to the cloud covering the tabernacle in Exodus 40:35.
efobhqhsan (fobew) aor. pas. "they were afraid" - A proper response when confronted by a theophany.
en tw eiselqein (eisercomai) aor. inf. "as they entered" - in to enter. The construction, as above, v33. "They were awestruck as they passed into the cloud", Moffatt.
eiV + acc. "[the cloud]" - into [the cloud]. Spacial, expressing movement toward / into.
ek + gen. "from [the cloud]" - Expressing source/origin; "out of, from."
legousa (legw) pres. part. "saying" - The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting "a voice"; "a voice which sounded forth."
mou gen. pro. "[this is] my [son]" - The genitive is adjectival, relational, but is a filial sense intended? Certainly a messianic sense is intended. See the words at Jesus' baptism, although there they are for Jesus' ears only.
oJ eklelegmenoV (eklegomai) "whom I have chosen" - the one having been chosen. The participle serves as a substantive standing in apposition to "Son". In the sense of appointed as messiah.
akouete "listen to" - The divine directive, "lend your ear to him", is surely the key teaching point of the episode.
autou gen. pro. "him" - of him. Genitive of direct object.
v] The disciples response, v36: All this is a bit too much for the disciples and so they decide to remain quiet.
en tw/ genesqai "when [the voice] had spoken" - in the became. Infinitival construction, as v33, 34, above.
euJreqh IhsouV monoV "Jesus was alone" - Jesus was found alone. A poignant description that offsets the previous moment of glory. The lonely journey to Jerusalem continues, amid its dust and chaos.
esighsan (sigaw) "[the disciples] kept this to themselves" - were silent. Mark tells us that Jesus told them to be silent, while Luke tells us that they were silent, as if they didn't understand what had happened.
oudeni dat. "[did not tell] anyone" - Dative of indirect object.
en + dat. "at [that time]" - in [those days]. Temporal use of the preposition.
w|n "what [they had seen]" - of what [they have seen]. Introducing a relative clause serving as a partitive adjective limiting the substantive adjective ouden, "nothing"; "nothing of what they had seen." "They told no one anything about what they had seen", Cassirer.