Luke 9: 28 – 36 The transfiguration
About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.’ When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
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I’m afraid that my first response to this passage was sceptical. It’s dramatic – cinematic, even – seeming more like Star Trek than scripture. That discomfited me, so I prayed for understanding and started studying.
This event is recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels, (Matthew 17: 1 – 13; and Mark 9: 2 – 13) and also in 2 Peter 1: 16 – 18. Of these, 2 Peter 1: 16 – 18 is perhaps the most striking, because the author of the letter is St Peter, and he writes, “We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the mountain.”
An eye-witness account. Wow!
But when was 2 Peter written? Could it really have been early enough? I read that this was controversial, with many scholars concluding that it wasn’t written by St Peter, but by someone else, much later, probably not before 150 AD. Even very early in the church’s existence there was apparently doubt about the authorship. However, some scholars supported the view that it really had been written by St Peter shortly before his martyrdom.
I looked at various summaries of the evidence, and the evidence for doubting St Peter’s authorship seemed slim, resting on arguments such as style, inconsistency with 1 Peter, and the use of quotations from the letter of Jude. There didn’t seem to be any fundamental reason not to accept the letter at face value as being from “Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ.”
So, yes, an eye-witness account. Wow! I really must take this very seriously.
And it was while I was looking at the arguments for Peter’s authorship that I came across a very interesting article about the accuracy of the New Testament that you can find here https://evidenceforchristianity.org/if-the-bible-was-written-so-long-ago-and-interpreted-in-many-different-ways-and-has-been-re-written-so-many-times-how-can-we-be-sure-the-version-we-read-today-is-not-complete-fiction/
The evidence presented in the article has changed my view of the accuracy of the New Testament. We may challenge what should be understood from the texts, but in terms of whether or not the texts have been corrupted in copying there’s really no doubt at all. We have the same texts as Christians from the first and second centuries.
I’m forced to the conclusion that something dramatic – indeed, something quite extraordinary – happened on that mountain.
As to why it happened and its significance, I think I shall quote 2 Peter 1: 16 – 18, which seems to me to put it more clearly than St Luke in his gospel.
For we did not follow cleverly devised stories when we told you about the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in power, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. He received honour and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
Thank you for your words that have been faithfully and accurately transmitted through the millennia. Please let them be fruitful in our hearts and lives.
In Jesus name, Amen