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Tabor, Mount

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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TABOR, MOUNT.—A notable landmark, of rare beauty and symmetry, six miles east of Nazareth, on the north-east arm of the plain of Esdraelon. In the works of Josephus and the Septuagint its designation is Itabyrion; in Polybius, Atabyrion; elsewhere, Thabor. The modern Arabic name—identical with the name of the Mount of Olives—is Jebel et-Tur. Mount Tabor stands apart, clear and distinct, from the rugged elevations grouped around it, except on its western side, where a low narrow ridge connects it with the hills of Galilee. Its apparent isolation, and its noble domelike contour, rising directly from the level of the Plain,, make it the most conspicuous mountain in Lower Galilee. Its outline varies somewhat when viewed from different positions. As seen from the south and south-west, it resembles the segment of a sphere; from the north-west a truncated cone. Its true figure, according to W. M. Thomson, is an ‘elongated oval, the longitudinal diameter running nearly east and west.’ Its flattened summit, not easily distinguishable from the levels near its base, is 1400 feet above the average elevation of the plain, and almost 1900 above sea level. Like the hills south and west of it, Tabor is a mass of cretaceous limestone, and the soil on its summit and sides is deep and rich. It is conspicuous among the mountains of this section for its wooded slopes and leafy glades, as well as for its regular form and graceful outline, and yet it is not ‘densely wooded,’ as some have described it. There are dense clumps of undergrowth in places, but the trees, which for the most part are scrub and evergreen oaks, resemble the growth of an orchard or park rather than of a forest. The summit of the mountain is a flattened platform, oval in outline, and thickly strewn along its outer edges with ruined walls and massive substructions of different periods and styles of architecture.

A tradition as old as the 4th cent, locates the scene of the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, and until the middle of the 19th cent, this was the generally accepted place of pilgrimage and devotion in commemoration of this event. The earliest references in this connexion are by Cyril of Jerusalem, Jerome, and others (Cat. xii. 16; Epp. 44 and). In the 6th cent., three churches, corresponding to the three tabernacles of Peter (Mark 9:5), were built on its summit. Saewulf speaks of three monasteries (c. [Note: circa, about.] a.d. 1103), which, with later reconstructions by the Crusaders, were destroyed in the 13th century. There is no mention of Mount Tabor in the NT, and no intimation which in any way connects it with the scene of the great Epiphany. It is an unquestioned fact, based upon the statement given above, that Tabor at the date of this occurrence was not a suitable place for a quiet retreat, such as is implied in the narrative of the Evangelists. Apart from this objection, not in itself decisive, all the events immediately associated with it unquestionably took place on or about the southern slope of Mount Hermon (Matthew 16:17-28, Mark 8:27-38, Luke 9:18-37). Of the six days which followed the prophetic declaration of Jesus concerning His approaching sufferings and death, there is no record, but it is in keeping with the entire narrative to assume that they were spent in retirement and prayer. There is no intimation that He passed the momentous hours of this transition period in travel, or that He sought another place in the most densely populated part of Galilee for this crowning manifestation of His Divinity and Messiahship. On the contrary, it is asserted in Mark 9:30 that Jesus ‘passed through Galilee’ after He had healed the spirit-possessed child at the foot of the mountain. While, for the reasons given, the time-honoured tradition which connects this ‘strange and beautiful mountain’ with the Transfiguration has been almost universally abandoned, it is nevertheless true that it was one of the most prominent objects of vision from the outskirts of the early home of Jesus, and its graceful outlines were often before Him, as He journeyed to and fro during the greater part of His public ministry.

Literature.—Thomson, Land and Book, ii. 136; Schaff, Through Bible Lands, 330–336; Baedeker-Socin, Pal. [Note: Palestine, Palestinian.] 364; Stanley, SP [Note: P Sinai and Palestine.] 419; Merrill, Galilee, 54; Robinson, BRP [Note: RP Biblical Researches in Palestine.] ii. 353, and iii. 221; Ritter, Erdkunde, xvi. 391; Andrews, Life of our Lord, 357, 358; PEF [Note: EF Palestine Exploration Fund.] Mem. i. 388–391; de Vogüé, Églises de la Terre Sainte, 353; G. A. Smith, HGHL [Note: GHL Historical Geog. of Holy Land.] 394, 408, 417; C. W. Wilson in Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible iv. 671 f.; Buhl, GAP [Note: AP Geographic des alten Palästina.] 107 f., 216 f.

R. L. Stewart.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Tabor, Mount'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​t/tabor-mount.html. 1906-1918.
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