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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible

Transfiguration

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TRANSFIGURATION . The Transfiguration is a mysterious occurrence in the life of our Lord, which must be seen and felt, rather than understood. It produced a sense of awe in the hearts of the disciples ( Matthew 17:6 ). Its value is symbolic. Silence regarding it is enjoined by Jesus, and practised by the disciples until the Resurrection, with which it is closely connected in significance. The problem of the transfigured body of Jesus and of the Resurrection body is the same. The event is referred to by Jesus Himself as a vision ( horâma , Matthew 17:9 ); it is vouched for by the three Synoptists ( Luke 9:28-38 , Mark 9:2-13 , Matthew 17:1-13 ). Elsewhere in the NT it is referred to only in 2 Peter 1:16-18 . The Fourth Evangelist, after his own manner, undoubtedly expresses its inner significance for faith in John 12:23-36 . The mountain on which it took place was probably Hermon . The time was night ( Luke 9:32 ). It was as ‘he was praying’ that the transfiguration of face and raiment appeared.

As regards the inner significance of the occurrence, one expression in St. Luke’s narrative is of great importance leukos exastraptôn ( Luke 9:29 ), ‘was white and glistering’ (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ). The sense is really ‘gieamed out white.’ The glory is not that of reflected light; its source is inward. It is the manifestation of a mental process. The note of time (‘six days after’ [Mt. Mk.]; ‘about eight days after’ [Lk.]) affords the key to His thoughts and the subject of His prayers. After what? After Peter’s confession ( Luke 9:18-27 ), and the prediction of Christ’s death ( Luke 9:22 ). Recognized as Messiah by the disciples, He must now prepare them to meet the stumbling-block of the cross. Thus the Transfiguration had (1) a deep significance for Jesus Himself . He was strengthened by the appearance of Moses and Elias, who spoke of His decease ( Luke 9:31 ). They represented the saints in heaven, who understood. Again the Voice stood for the acceptance of His work by God, and He was enabied to yield up His heart and life anew to the will of God. (2) The great lesson for the disciples was that the dreadful shame of His cross was really glory, and that all suffering is ultimately radiant with heavenly beauty, being perfected in Christ. Peter’s suggestion of the three tents is an attempt to materialize and make permanent the vision, to win the crown without the cross. The vision vanished, and they saw ‘Jesus only.’ It was real, but only a glimpse and foretaste. By loyaity once more to the Master, in the common ways of life to which they returned, the disciples would come to share the eternal glory of the Risen Lord.

R. H. Strachan.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Transfiguration'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdb/t/transfiguration.html. 1909.

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