The Transfiguration of Jesus is an event reported by the Synoptic Gospels in which Jesus is transfigured upon a mountain (Mount Tabor) ( , , ). Jesus became radiant, spoke with Moses and Elijah, and was called "Son" by God. It is one of the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels.
This miracle is unique among others that appear in the Gospels, in that the miracle happens to Jesus himself. Thomas Aquinas considered the Transfiguration "the greatest miracle" in that it complemented baptism and showed the perfection of life in Heaven.
According to the Gospels, Peter, James, son of Zebedee and John the Apostle were with Jesus upon the mountain. The transfiguration put Jesus above Moses and Elijah, the two preeminent figures of Judaism. It also supports his identity as the Son of God. In keeping with the Messianic secret, Jesus tells the witnesses not to tell others what they saw until he has risen on the third day after his death on the cross.
The principal account is that in the Synoptic Gospels; 2 Peter and the Gospel of John may also briefly allude to the event ( , ). Peter describes himself as an eyewitness "of his sovereign majesty." None of the accounts identifies the "high mountain" of the scene by name. The earliest identification of the mountain as Mount Tabor is in the 5th century Transitus Beatae Mariae Virginis. RT France notes that Mount Hermon is closest to Caesarea Philippi, mentioned in the previous chapter of Matthew.
Interpretation of the passage
|“||This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him! – Matthew 17:5||”|
In the narrative, after the voice speaks, Elijah and Moses have disappeared, and Jesus and the three apostles head down the mountain, Jesus telling his apostles to keep the event a secret until the "Son of Man" had risen from the dead. The apostles are described as questioning among themselves as to what Jesus meant by "risen from the dead" ( ). The apostles are also described as questioning Jesus about Elijah, and he as responding "Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come […]" ( ). It was commonly believed that Elijah would reappear before the coming of the Messiah, as predicted in the Book of Malachi ( ), and the three apostles are described as interpreting Jesus' statement as a reference to John the Baptist ( ).
Symbolic readings take Moses and Elijah to represent the Law and the Prophets respectively, and their recognition of and conversation with Jesus symbolize how Jesus fulfils "the law and the prophets" ( , see also Expounding of the Law).
In Catharism "transfiguration" is meant as personal transformation and evolution as opposed to referring to an actual Jesus. The meaning is esoteric.
Feast and commemorations
In the Syriac Orthodox, Indian Orthodox, Revised Julian Calendarists within Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholic, and Anglican churches, the Feast of the Transfiguration is observed on 6 August and is considered a major feast, numbered among the twelve Great Feasts in Orthodoxy. In all these churches, if the feast falls on a Sunday, its liturgy takes the place of the Sunday liturgy. In some liturgical calendars (e.g. the Lutheran and United Methodist) the last Sunday in the Epiphany season (that immediately preceding Ash Wednesday) is also devoted to this event. In the Church of Sweden and the Church of Finland, however, the Feast is celebrated on the seventh Sunday after Trinity, the eighth Sunday after Pentecost.
Eastern Orthodox practices
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Transfiguration falls during the Dormition Fast, but in recognition of the feast the fast is relaxed somewhat and the consumption of fish, wine and oil is allowed on this day.
In the Orthodox view the Transfiguration is not only a feast in honor of Jesus, but a feast of the Holy Trinity, for all three Persons of the Trinity are interpreted as being present at that moment: God the Father spoke from heaven; God the Son was the one being transfigured, and God the Holy Spirit was present in the form of a cloud. In this sense, the transfiguration is also considered the "Small Epiphany" (the "Great Epiphany" being the Baptism of Jesus, when the Holy Trinity appeared in a similar pattern).
The Tranfiguration is ranked as one of the Twelve Great Feasts of the Orthodox liturgical calendar, and is celebrated with an All-Night Vigil beginning on the eve of the Feast.
Grapes are traditionally brought to church to be blessed after the Divine Liturgy on the day of the Transfiguration. If grapes are not available in the area, apples or some other fruit may be brought. This begins the "Blessing of First Fruits" for the year.
The Transfiguration is the second of the "Three Feasts of the Saviour in August", the other two being the Procession of the Cross on August 1 and the Icon of Christ Not Made by Hand on August 16. The Transfiguration is preceded by a one-day Forefeast and is followed by an Afterfeast of eight days, ending the day before the Forefeast of the Dormition.
Roman Catholic church
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Transfiguration was once celebrated locally in various parts of the Catholic world on different days, including August 6, but was not universally recognized. In 1456, the Kingdom of Hungary repulsed an Ottoman invasion of the Balkans by breaking the Siege of Belgrade. News of the victory arrived in Rome on August 6. Given the importance to international politics at that time of such battles between Christian and Muslim nations, in celebration of the victory Pope Callixtus III elevated the Transfiguration to a Feast day to be celebrated in the entire Roman rite.
In 2002, Pope John Paul II selected the Transfiguration as one of the five Luminous Mysteries of the rosary.
- See Wikipedia article on Mount of Transfiguration for more information
Several candidates for this mountain have been suggested:
Mount Tabor (575 metres or 1,886 feet high) is the traditional location. The earliest identification of the Mount of Transfiguration as Tabor is by Origen in the 3rd century. It is also mentioned by St. Cyril of Jerusalem and St. Jerome in the 4th century. The Church of the Transfiguration is located atop Mount Tabor. It is later mentioned in the 5th century Transitus Beatae Mariae Virginis.
Mount Hermon (2814 metres or 9,232 feet high), was suggested by R. H. Fuller and J. Lightfoot for two reasons: It is the highest in the area (and the Transfiguration took place on "an high mountain" (Matthew 17:1)), and it is located near Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13), where the previous events reportedly took place.
Other locations which have been proposed include: one of the Horns of Hattin by R.W. Stewart (1857), Gebel Germaq (1208m) 5 km SW of Safed, by W. Ewing (1906), Tell El-Ahmar (1452m) on Jabal al-Druze by Gustav Dalman (1924), and Mount Nebo by H.A. Whittaker (1987), Mount Sinai by Benjamin Urrutia[when?].
No geographical location
Others, such as A. Loisy (1908), have deliberately rejected seeking a geographical location.
- Clowes, John, 1817, The Miracles of Jesus Christ published by J. Gleave, Manchester, UK page 167
- Henry Rutter, Evangelical harmony Keating and Brown, London 1803. page 450
- Lockyer, Herbert, 1988 All the Miracles of the Bible ISBN 0310281016 page 213
- Karl Barth Church dogmatics ISBN 0567050890 page 478
- Nicholas M. Healy, 2003 Thomas Aquinas: theologian of the Christian life ISBN page 100
- The Acts of Jesus: The Search for the Authentic Deeds of Jesus (1998), Harper SanFrancisco, ISBN 0-06-062979-7
- Meistermann, Barnabas (1912), "Transfiguration", The Catholic Encyclopedia, XV, New York: Robert Appleton Company, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15019a.htm, retrieved 2007-08-15
- Jesus and Archaeology - Page 176 James H. Charlesworth - 2006 "R. H. Fuller and J. Lightfoot proposed Mount Hermon as the mount of the transfiguration, because the place"
- R.W. Stewart The Tent and the Khan 1854
- Charlesworth Jesus and Archaeology - Page 176 "G. Dalman chose tell el Akhmar on the Golan Heights as the place of transfiguration." R. W. Stewart preferred the Horn of Hattin." W. Ewing thought Gebel Germaq [Mount Meron/Jabal al-Jarmaq] was the place where Jesus showed his glory to the apostles."
- Ewing "The Mount of Transfiguration" ET 1906-1907 p220
- G. Dalman Orte und Wege Jesu 1924
- H.A. Whittaker, Studies in the Gospels Biblia 1987
- Charlesworth Jesus and Archaeology "A. Loisy concluded that those who look for a geographical place for the transfiguration are like Peter who asked to build three tents. They do not ..."
- Media related to Transfiguration of Jesus Christ on Wikimedia Commons
- Icons and Mosaics of the Transfiguration
- Blessing of Firstfruits on Transfiguration
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Transfiguration
- The Mountain of the Transfiguration by Michele Piccirillo
- Pope Benedict XVI on Transfiguration of Jesus
- The Holy Transfiguration of our Lord God and Savior Jesus Christ Orthodox icon and synaxarion
Transfiguration of Jesus
Peter's Confession of Christ
Ministry of Jesus
Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
Parables of Jesus
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