The Transfiguration

A Series

One

A Mount Beyond Jordan

 

By Steve Santini

The value of understanding the transfiguration and its time and place is priceless. In the gospel records the transfiguration immediately followed Jesus' statement that some of his followers would not die before they saw the kingdom of God.

Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power. And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. Mark 8:38 - 9:2

Later, as his last words to the church, Peter, who was one of those followers, prophetically likened the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to his experience on the Mount of Transfiguration.

For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. 18 And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: 2 Peter 1:16-19

The author of Hebrews wrote that this hope of the Lord Jesus Christ's coming to establish the kingdom of God is the anchor of the soul.

Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil; Hebrews 6:17-19

Peter wrote of the location for his witness of Jesus' transfiguration as "the holy mount." It was not just any mountain. It was one recognized by Jesus' followers as "the" holy mount. Where then is this holy mount located? Scholars have questioned the location for millennia. Some have pointed towards Mt. Hermon in Syria, others towards Mt. Tabor or Mt. Jebel Jermuk in Galilee and a few have considered Olivet overlooking Jerusalem in Judea. However, as a result of recent discoveries regarding Jesus' ministry on the eastern side of the Jordan River and the relevant reconsiderations of scriptures, a more reasonable location for this holy mount has appeared. That location is east of Judea in an area on the farther side of the Jordan River.

By the use of pivotal statements designating movement from one location to another, the authors of Mark and Matthew confirm that the Mount of Transfiguration was located beyond the Jordan River. In Mark the pertinent narrative begins in Bethsaida north of the Sea of Galilee after Jesus told his disciple that some would see the kingdom of God before they died and then took Peter, James and John onto a high mountain.

And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves: and he was transfigured before them. Mark 9:2

Over the course of the next twenty-seven verses of Mark, Jesus answered a question posed by Peter, James and John regarding the second coming of Elijah. Next he cast an evil spirit out of a young child while he was among the people who had gathered around him after he came down from the mountain.

And straightway all the people, when they beheld him, were greatly amazed, and running to him saluted him. Mark 9:15

And then he answered another question posed by his disciples regarding their faith. In the following verse after Jesus had responded Mark wrote:

And they departed thence and passed through Galilee; and he would not that any man should know it. Mark 9:30

Matthew's account of the departure from the location of the Mount of Transfiguration and Jesus' return to Galilee reads:

And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: Matthew 17:22

The Greek word translated abode is avnastre,fw. Lexicons define this word as a return. The Louw Nida Lexicon elaborates upon this word defining it as "to move back to a point or area from which one has previously departed, but with more explicit emphasis upon the return."

These verses of Mark and Matthew harmonize revealing that the location of the Mount of Transfiguration was outside the borders of Galilee by stating that Jesus and his disciples returned to Galilee after their experiences on the Mount of Transfiguration. This fact alone eliminates Mount Tabor and Mount Jebel Jermuk in Galilee as candidates for the mount upon which the transfiguration occurred.

After Jesus departed the area of his transfiguration and passed through Galilee, the gospels of Mark and Matthew place him with his disciples in Capernaum northwest of the Sea of Galilee.

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way? Mark 9:33

And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute? Matthew 17:24

Thirty nine verses later Matthew states that Jesus departed from Galilee came into the region just beyond the Jordan River from Judea.

And it came to pass, that when Jesus had finished these sayings, he departed from Galilee, and came into the coasts of Judaea beyond Jordan; And great multitudes followed him; and he healed them there. Matthew 19:1-2

Similarly, fifteen verses later in the first verse of his record's tenth chapter, Mark writes of Jesus' departure from Galilee with his disciples for the coasts of Judea by the farther side of the Jordan. In this first verse of chapter ten, Mark contributes the essential pieces of information for identifying the location for the Mount of Transfiguration by referring to "the people" who had once gathered around after his descent from the holy mount and by using the word "again" twice in a context containing the words "the farther side of Jordan".

And he arose from thence, and cometh into the coasts of Judaea by the farther side of Jordan: and the people resort unto him again; and, as he was wont, he taught them again. Mark 10:1

When Jesus departed from the locale of the Mount of Transfiguration on the further side of the Jordan where the people had gathered around him to be taught he only took his disciples with him to Galilee. (Mk 9:28-30 Mt 17:19-22) Then when he returned from Galilee with his disciples to the locale of the transfiguration on the farther side of Jordan the people who had previously thronged him after his transfiguration returned to be taught again by him.

The accounts from Mark's and Matthew's gospels leading up to and following Jesus' transfiguration contain three journeys by Jesus and his disciples. After six days of travel from Bethsaida Jesus selects Peter, James and John to experience the transfiguration. Several days later, after the transfiguration, Jesus and all his disciples travel from the area beyond the Jordan to Capernaum on the northwestern coast of the Sea of Galilee. Then they return to the area beyond the Jordan where Jesus had been transfigured and he again teaches the people who have re-gathered there.

The narrative development from these gospels clearly locates the Mount of Transfiguration in the area to the east of Judea beyond the Jordan River. Neither Syria's Hermon, nor Galilee's Tabor or Jebel Jermuk, nor Judea's Olivet fit the textual description for the location of the holy mount. What, then, are further discoveries of truth to be made by searching the scriptures regarding the Mount of Transfiguration?

 

Chapter Two

The Transfiguration-After Six Days or About Eight Days?