* Transfig. 1
* Transfig. 2
* Transfig. 3
* Mk 9:2-10 A
* Mk 9:2-10 B
* Old Test.
* Post Crus.
* Pictures 1
* Pictures 2
* Pictures 3
* Pictures 4
The Transfiguration in Mk 9:2-10 (Part 2)
(by Claudio Bottini, ofm - translated by Lionel Goh ofm)
II. Principle themes
After six days
The immediate reference to this
chronological indication appears to be the episode of Peter's confession; but
according to some authors it could have lost its chronological value and took
on a more profound meaning. Briefly it may be: an allusion to the Feast of
Tabernacles, basing on Peter's proposal to erect 3 tents (v 5); a reference to
Ex 24:16 in which is said that the cloud covered the mountain for 6 days and on
the 7th day, God called Moses; a remains of a primitive account of
the resurrection; a synchronization of the Transfiguration and the
7th day of the week of the Passion and Resurrection; a recourse to a
Semitic scheme in which the event of the 7th day constitutes a
climax; a use of an ancient Judaic literary scheme and of primitive
christianity in which the 6th day took on an importance as the day
of God's revelation on Mt Sinai and the day which the Law was given.
"He took with him Peter, James and John"
From the group of
disciples Jesus chose 3, whom according to Mark's Gospel were present at the
resurrection of Jairus' daughter (Mk 5,37) and will be close to Jesus in
Gethsemani (Mk 14:33). These are 2 significant moments because in the
1st, the 3 disciples become witnesses to the divine power which
Jesus revealed by resurrecting a dead person, a sign of eschatological power
which will be realized in the resurrection of all believers. In the
2nd event the 3 disciples are witnesses to the supreme hour in which
Jesus, the Son of God (Mk 14:36) and "Son of Man was given over to the hands of
sinners" (Mk 14:41). Analogically it may be considered that the restriction of
the immediate witnesses to these 3 disciples underline that the Transfiguration
is a culminating event of Jesus' revelation and the mystery of his death and
"He brought them up a high mountain
where they could be by
The topographical data is important for its message.
Besides the symbolic resonance of the adjective "high", Mark records elsewhere
the motif of mountains which help interpret this verse. In 3;13 the mountain
is the place where Jesus reveals himself as the founder and leader of the
community by choosing some disciples, "making them" the Twelve and giving them
the eschatological power to announce the Gospel and to cast out demons. In 6:46
the mountain is the place where Jesus after having multiplied the bread and
before walking on the Sea of Galilee, went to pray; 2 revelatory events in the
presence of the disciples. In 13:3 the mountain is the place where Jesus, alone
with 4 disciples, reveals the signs of the eschatological coming of the Son of
Man. The mountain of the Transfiguration thus appears to be an element which
accentuates the aspect of messianic revelation with reference to the community
in which the 3 disciples represent.
The place of the Transfiguration away from the public, found near to places
where some significantly messianic miracles were worked (1:40-45; 5:21-43;
7:31-37; 8:22-26) and the prohibitions to divulge these miracles (5:37.40 cf.
5:43; 7:33 cf. 7:36; 8:23 cf. 8:26; the Transfiguration 9:2 cf. 9:9), becomes
clear in the light of Mark's characteristic theme by which "that which he kept
hidden from the masses came to be revealed to his disciples, the nucleus of the
future messianic community."
"He was transfigured in their presence;
his clothes became dazzlingly
The verb used by the evangelist is also found elsewhere - see
Rom 12:2 and 2Cor 3:18 - and it indicates a spiritual change. Here however it
treats of a visible transformation. The context shows that it is not a
metamorphosis of the Hellenistic type whereby Jesus acquired a nature of
another living thing or of another person or had taken on a disguise. Jesus
does not appear to be a divine being who took over a human body, nor was found
to be in an unrecognizable form (cf. Mk 16:12 and Lk 24:16). On Mt Tabor the
disciples had no trouble in recognizing him; his personal and physical reality
did not undergo mutation.
The evangelist does not speak of the type of transfiguration undergone by
Jesus. He speaks only of a unique and heavenly candour of the clothes. From
this one may consider that "it treats of a transformation to a heavenly
condition which matched the resplendent whiteness of the clothes." Moreover
according to the connection between 9:1 and 9:9, to see the Kingdom of God come
in glorious power is to see Jesus transfigured. It speaks of a transfiguration
in which Jesus assumes the splendour of the eschatological Glory in the might
of the divine power of the Kingdom.
is also possible to maintain simply that, like the jewish apocalypses, the
candour of the clothes is a sign of the heavenly glory that is given to the
elect who become like the angels (cf. Mt 28:3; Rev 3:4; 4:4). It is difficult
to show that in the whiteness of Jesus' clothes, one ought to see a motif which
links to the young man "dressed in white" and seated in the opened tomb as
found in Mk 16:5, and then to establish that this points to a relationship
between the Transfiguration and the Resurrection of Jesus.
"Elijah appeared to them with Moses,
and they were talking with
The meaning of the presence of these two renown heavenly figures
who represent the Prophets and the Law next to Jesus, most probably is that the
times are fulfilled in Jesus and that Jesus is the Messiah. It is unique that
Mark names Elijah first, but it is difficult to give an explanation for this. It appears that Mark stressed the function
of these 2 persons with regard to the disciples.
"Master, it is good for us to be here;
let us make three
Peter, having experienced this heavenly event, expressed his
joy and proposed to keep as long as possible Jesus and the 2 heavenly figures.
Various authors see in these words of Peter an allusion to the Feast of
Tabernacles (cf. Ex 23:16; Lev 23:27-34; Dt 16:13). But if this were to be
true, then Peter ought to have had proposed the building of tents also for the
disciples. This feast in the time of Jesus was linked to the pilgrimage to
"He did not know what to say; they were so frightened"
In this comment by the evangelist is found, as also often elsewhere, the theme of fear,
awe and the like of the disciples. Significant parallels within Mark's gospels
are 14:40 and 16:8. The 2 statements in 9:6 appear to be a fusion of these 2
other texts which joins the unintelligibility of the disciples in Gethsemani
with the fear of the women at the tomb. In this way, the evangelist appears to
allude to the incapacity of the disciples to understand both the tragic and
glorious events; of the mystery; and indirectly that the glory of Jesus
transfigured is intimately linked to the glory which Jesus will obtain through
the power of his Death and Resurrection. "It is the Glory which corresponds to
the Passion and Death and that death brings with it the glorious Resurrection.
The Transfiguration of Jesus was not meant to make a paradise out of the
mountain; it was to stimulate, to fortify each step in the journey towards the
Passion. The christological revelation is oriented towards an ecclesiological
parenesis for a community placed in the journey which leads the Passion."
"And a cloud came, covering them in shadow"
The way this is
expressed indicates that the action of the cloud is meant to protect and guide
the frightened disciples from the event. This meaning seems to be reinforced by
the fact that the cloud elsewhere in the Old Testament indicates the coming of
God in His manifestation to His people in the Exodus (Ex 40:35; Num 9:18.22;
10:34). The function of the cloud was to guide and protect the people in their
journey in the desert (Ex 33:9-10; Num 11:25; 12:5). Perhaps it can allude also
to the eschatological cloud which covers the elected people as found in Is 4:5.
The cloud can therefore indicate the benevolent action of God on the disciples
called to follow Jesus in the journey towards the Cross.
"There came a voice from the cloud
'This is My Son, the Beloved. Listen to him' "
The association between the cloud and the voice is found in
biblical literature (Ex 16:10; 19:19; 24:16; Num 17:7) as well as ancient
jewish literature (Num 21:6 in Targum Yerulshalmi I ; Gen 22:10 in Targum
Neofiti). It treats of a voice within a theophanic or revelatory framework
which proclaims a divine oracle. Peter had practically equated Jesus with
Elijah and Moses. The voice instead made the distinction very clear.
statement of the divine sonship recalls without doubt the declaration which the
evangelist had referred to at the moment of Jesus' baptism in Mk 1:11. There
the divine oracle was addressed to Jesus, here however it is addressed to the
disciples and through them, to the community and the crowds. Indeed with the
command to listen to Jesus, the voice indirectly presents Jesus as a prophet
whom all the people must listen to (cf. Acts 3:22 citing Dt 18:15). It is a
unique command valid for all time.
The "messianic secret" and the incomprehension
of the Passion and the Resurrection"
It is written "As they came down from the mountain, he
ordered them to tell no one what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had
risen from the dead. They observed the warning faithfully, though among
themselves they discussed what "rising from the dead" could mean." In the
descend from the mountain, Jesus spoke to his 3 disciples about what happened
on the mountain and gave them an order. This is the well-known "messianic
secret" (cf. 1:34; 3:12 and especially 8:30) followed immediately by the
incomprehension of the disciples regarding the announcement of the Son of Man's
Passion and Resurrection (cf. 8:32-33; 9:31).
In the first instance regarding the messianic secret, there is brought the
prohibition to divulge the messiahship of Jesus (8:30) and the event of the
Transfiguration inasmuch as it is the manifestation / revelation of the Son of
God (9:9); "The function of the prohibition is to link strictly the messiahship
of Jesus to the event of Cross and the Resurrection; outside of this event
Jesus cannot be understood nor proclaimed". In the second matter regarding the incomprehension of the Passion and
Resurrection by the disciples, Mark shows that it remained up till the end and
was overcame only by the illumination of Easter. A common element to these 2
themes - to which could be added also the incomprehension of the parables (cf.
Mk 4:13.33-34; 7:18) - is the recognition of the "incapacity of the human mind
towards divine revelation, the transcendental grandeur of the mystery and the
gratuitousness of his giving it to believers". Moreover it is noted above all that it treats of an
incapacity of a "past time" which now, in the time of Mark's readers, had been
overcomed. Hence it harks back in history to the revelation itself and cannot
be an interpretative key exclusively parenetic, much less polemic.
I have cited at the beginning of this paper a liturgical text summarizing the
mystic theology and the existential spirituality which the event of the
Transfiguration had inspired the Church. I now conclude with a liturgical text
which seems to have as its basis the same fundamental text. It is found in the
Preface of the Feast of the Transfiguration according to the Ambrosian Missal;
"Christ revealed his glory before the witnesses pre-chosen by Him and in the
poverty of our common nature He shone an incomparable light. Thus He prepared
his disciples to bear the scandal of the Cross, anticipating in the
Transfiguration the marvelous destiny of the entire Church, His Spouse and His
Body; called to share in the fate of its Head and Lord".
 In the bibliography compiled by F.
Neyrinck and collaborators (The Gospel of Mark. A Cumulative
Bibliography:1950-1999 [BETL 102] , Leuven 1992) are listed 95 authors who
have studied Mk 9:2-1. This excludes the list of those who have examined
individual verses of this pericope. 15 authors deal with this topic in specific
monographs or noteworthy contributions.
 X. Leon-Dufour, "The Transfiguration of
Jesus", in Studi sul Vangelo (La Parola di Dio 2), 3rd ed.,
Cinisello Balsamo 1974, 105-157, maintains that it is possible to see a
transposition of events leading from the existence of the Incarnate Word to its
"crystallization" in Jn 12:20-32 (p.149).
 The Apocalypse of Peter 15-17; The
Acts of Peter 20; The Acts of John 90; The Acts of Thomas
 Pistis Sophia I, 2-6.
 Cf. E. Nardoni, La Transfiguracion de
Jesus y el dialogo sobre Elias segun el Evangelio de San Marcos (Teologia:
Estudios y Documentos 2), Buenos Aires 1976, 25 and notes 3-7.
 Similar meanings are also expressed in the
Preface of the Feast of the Transfiguration in the Roman Missal.
 Cf. C. Clivaz, "La Transfiguration au risque
de la comprehension du disciple: Mc 9/2-10". Etudes Theologiques et
Religieuses 70 (1995) 493-508.
 Cf. J. Dupont, "Il cieco di Gerico
riacquista la vista e segue Gesu (Mc 10:46-52)", Parola Spirito e Vita 2
 Cf. I. De la Potterie, "La confessione
messianica di Pietro in Marco 8,27-33", in San Pietro. Atti della XIX
Settimana Biblica, Brescia 1967, 59-77; V. Fusco, Parola e Regno. La
sezione delle parabole / Marco 4,1-34 / nella prospettiva marciana
(Aloisiana 13), Brescia 1980, 129 and 115-132; K. Stock, "Vangelo e discepolato
in Marco", Rassegna di Teologia 19 (1978) 1-7.
 Some authors claim that between 8:22-9:29
it is possible to find a chiastic structure according to the scheme: A
(8:22-26); B (8:27.28); C(8:29.30); D(8:31-33); E (8:34-9:1); D' (9:2-6); C'
(9:7-8.9-10); B' (9:11-13); A' (9:14-29). Cf. Nardoni, La
Transfiguracion, 40-41 and authors cited.
 Cf I. De la Potterie, "La confessione messianica di Pietro in Marco
8,27-33", in San Pietro. Atti della XIX Settimana Biblica, Brescia 1967,
59-77; V. Fusco, Parola e Regno. La sezione delle parabole / Marco 4, 1-34 /
nella prospettiva marciana (Aloisiana 13), Brescia 1980, 129 e 115-132; K.
Stock, "Vangelo e discepolato in Marco", Rassegna di Teologia 19 (1978)
 Nardoni, La Transfiguracion,
 For a synthesis of the opinions and
authors, cf. Nardoni La Transfiguracion, 197-199 and its relevant
 From the beginning of the 3rd
century the mountain of the Transfiguration came to be identified with Mt
Tabor. For references from ancient pilgrims cf. D. Baldi Enchiridion Locorum
Sanctorum. Documenta S. Evangelii loca respicientia, Jerusalem 1982,
reprint, nn.490-529; for history of the place cf. M.T. Petrozzi, Il Monte
Tabor e dintorni (Luoghi Santi della Palestina), Jerusalem 1975.
 Fusco, Parola e Regno, 135.
 Nardoni, La Transfiguracion,
 Nardoni, (La Transfiguracion,
206-208) believes that it is possible to explain this because Mark in 9:10-13
made Elijah to be a "personified symbol of the Passion and Death of Jesus".
 This interpretation is actually found in
Bibbia TOB which refers back to Mt 17:5 as well as Mk 9:2. For the
latest discussion cf. Nardoni, La Transfiguracion, 209.
 Nardoni, La Transfiguracion, 210
which refers to 2 studies by A. Vanhoye and K. Weiss respectively.
 Fusco, Parola e Regno, 132-133.
 Fusco, Parola e Regno, 136.
 Fusco, Parola e Regno, 136-137.