What’s up with transfiguration in Luke 9? Such a strange and eerie scene. Any thoughts? Maybe books to read about it?


I am not sure exactly what you want to know. To me, this is a fairly straightforward account of a very unusual event which happened. I will admit that this is not an every day event! We can assume that Peter, James and John spoke of the event, probably after Jesus was resurrected. Jesus went to the top of a mountain with his three closest apostles in order to reveal to them something of his relationship with the Father. I believe that it is not an accident that this happened, in Luke’s account, right after Peter accurately confessed that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus felt they were ready for the next step in understanding who he was. When they got to the top of the mountain, they had a very unusual experience. The Father spoke directly to Jesus, and Moses and Elijah appeared to them as well. Perhaps God was trying to reveal to Peter, James and John the continuity of the Jewish covenant with Jesus. We cannot say for sure exactly what happened. Presumably, God produced an audible voice for the sake of Peter, James and John, as Jesus probably would not need to hear the voice. We can ask what exactly Moses and Elijah looked like and what kind of bodies they had, but will probably have to settle for being unsure. How did the apostles know who they were seeing? Did Jesus tell them? Did Moses and Elijah identify themselves? Unfortunately we are not given this information.

Some list the transfiguration as one of the five key transformational events in the life of Jesus on the earth. These five are the incarnation, baptism, transfiguration, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. The Jews considered Moses and Elijah as the two greatest spokespersons for God in all their history. Their presence at the transfiguration can be seen as confirmation that Jesus is the greatest spokespersons for God–even exceeding Elijah and Moses (see Hebrews 1:1-2). Another view is that Moses and Elijah represent the Law and the Prophets. Again, the point is that both the Law and the Prophets point toward Jesus. From a theological perspective, the transfiguration has great significance.

I did a little research–far from comprehensive–looking for books on the transfiguration. I am afraid that the only thing which came up was books about Harry Potter and the version of transfiguration done in the books in that series! I do not know of any books devoted to this particular event in the New Testament. The early church fathers had a lot to say about the transfiguration and its significance, but I do not know of equivalent books available today.

John Oakes


Comments are closed.