The Transfiguration of 'Jesus' : Fact or Fantasy?
According to most modern biblical scholars, the so-called Transfiguration pericopes in the 3 synoptic Greek canonical Gospels (according to 'Matthew',
'Mark', 'Luke', whoever they were) are nothing more than a hotch-poth of midrashic legendary expansions from 'Old Testament' scriptural verses used by
the Gospel writers to prove (in their minds) that R. Yehoshua bar Yosef ('ho Iesous') was not a 'false prophet' after all - despite his being
summarily executed as a failed Messiah - an event which seems to have caught the disciples off guard and thrown them into a frenzy of midrashing
('searching') the 'scriptures' for proof that the whole thing was foretold in advance by 'God'.
But we moderns have to ask : Was such an event 'real' in the positivistic sense that bystanders could witness it (i.e. really happened), or was it
more of a 'vision' that was 'manifested' by a select few of the disciples?
Countering the 'False Prophet' accusation of R. Yehoshua would (at least in the minds of the earliest Nazorean Christians) require 'proof' from
eyewitnesses and propehtic scriptural texts in order to convince potential new converts that R. Yehoshua far from being a 'False Prophet' who died an
untimely death by crucifixion, was rather the 'Prophet who was to come like unto Moses' - as Mosheh said, (Deut 18:15-20)
"YHWH your clan-god will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow sons of Israel. You must listen to him. I will raise them
up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other
gods, even that prophet shall die..."
For reference purposes for this discussion, here is the English wording of the Transfiguration's 3 pericopes for comparison (all with their booming
voice from the sky screaming 'You will listen to him !')
Matthew 17:1 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was
transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and
Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and
one for Moses and one for Elijah." 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is
my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him." 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus
came and touched them, saying, "Rise, and have no fear." 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 And as they were
coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead."
Mark 9:2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured
before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses,
and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for
Moses and one for Elijah." 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the
cloud, "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only. 9 And as they were
coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead."
Luke 9:28 Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray. 29 And as he was
praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. 30 And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and
Elijah, 31 who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. 32 Now Peter and those who were with him
were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. 33 And as the men were parting from
him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah"--not
knowing what he said. 34 35 And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!" 36 And when the voice had
spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. As he was saying these things, a
cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud..."
What are we to make of this pericope in the Synoptics?
First it is obvious that the writers were drawing upon several Old Testament verses e.g. 'you will listen to him !' and also stylised imagery e,g, of
the Shekinah glory with reference to Moses on the mountain 'after 6 days' (although 'Luke' says 8 days) ]-
וַיְהִי, בְּרֶדֶת מֹשֶׁה מֵהַר סִינַי, וּשְׁנֵי לֻחֹת הָעֵדֻת בְּיַד-מֹשֶׁה,
וּמֹשֶׁה לֹא-יָדַע, כִּי קָרַן עוֹר פָּנָיו--בְּדַבְּרוֹ אִתּוֹ
"And it came to pass, when Moses came down from mount Sinai with the two tables of the testimony in Moses' hand, when he came down from the mountain,
that Moses knew not that the skin of his face sent forth beams of light while he spoke with him..."
Whereas Moses face shone only, in the Transfiguration, the whole body of 'ho Iesous' became as light, hearkening back to the axiom : something greater
than Moses is here...
Later in the narrative, it is Kephah (= Peter) who mentions the Canopy (tent) to cover the members of the vision - see Isaiah 4:2, 5-6 which
references the Nazir of YHWH (Daviddic Branch) being 'glorious'
"In that day the Branch (Nazir) of YHWH will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in
Israel. Then YHWH will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night;
over everything the glory will be a canopy. It will be a shelter and shade from the heat of the day, and shade from the heat of the day, and a refuge
and hiding place from the storm and rain."
There are approximately 25 additional verses in the Old Testament and in the Apocypha/Pseudipigrapha which add source details for these pericopes.
In view of their midrashic content, what are we moderns to-day to make of this story?
edit on 27-2-2016 by Sigismundus because: stuttering computterr keyyyboarddddd