From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology [1]

An event in Jesus' life in which his appearance was radiantly transformed. The transfiguration is recorded in each of the Synoptic Gospels ( Matthew 17:1-9;  Mark 9:2-10;  Luke 9:28-36 ) and in  2 Peter 1:16-21 . The place of this event is "a high mountain" ( Matthew 17:1;  Mark 9:2 ). The association with a mountain is also found in Luke 9:28, 2 Peter 1:18 . Several geographical locations have been suggested: Mount Hermon (truly "high, " at 9,200 ft.); Mount Carmel (out of the way for the surrounding events); and the traditional site of Mount Tabor (not a "high" mountain and the presence of a Roman garrison stationed on the top in Jesus' day makes this questionable). The biblical writers apparently were not interested in locating exactly where this event took place; they were more concerned with what took place.

Attempts have been made to interpret the transfiguration as a misplaced resurrection account. There are several reasons why this is unlikely: the title given to Jesus ("Rabbi") in  Mark 9:5 and the equation of Jesus with Moses and Elijah (  Matthew 17:4;  Mark 9:5;  Luke 9:33 ) would be strange addressed to the resurrected Christ; the form of this account is quite different from resurrection accounts; the presence of Peter-James-John as an inner circle occurs in other accounts during the life of Jesus, but not in a resurrection account; and the temporal designations associated with the resurrection are "first day" or "after three days, " not "after six days" ( Matthew 17:1;  Mark 9:2 ) or "about eight days after" ( Luke 9:28 ). Attempts to interpret the transfiguration as a subjective "vision" ( Matthew 17:9; RSV ) ignore the fact that this term can be used to describe historical events. The Septuagint does this in  Deuteronomy 28:34,67 . There is nothing in the accounts themselves that suggests that this is anything other than an actual event.

The transfiguration possesses one of the very few chronological connections found in the Gospel traditions outside the passion narrative. These temporal designations tie this event intimately with the events of Caesarea Philippi ( Matthew 16:13-28;  Mark 8:27-38;  Luke 9:18-27 ). The temporal tie between the transfiguration and the events of Caesarea Philippi extends to how this event is to be interpreted. The words, "This is my Son, whom I love" ( Mark 9:7 ), are a rebuke of Peter's placement of Jesus on the same level as Moses and Elijah ("Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah" [  Mark 9:5 ]) as well as a divine confirmation of Jesus' identity given in Peter's confession ( Mark 8:29 ). Whereas the voice at the baptism is directed to Jesus ( Mark 1:11 ), here it directed to the three disciples. "Listen to him" is best interpreted in light of what had taken place at Caesarea Philippi, for Jesus does not speak in the present account. These words are best understood as a rebuke of Peter's unwillingness to accept Jesus' teaching concerning his future passion ( Mark 8:31-33 ).

It is difficult to understand exactly what happened to Jesus during his transfiguration. Unlike Moses, who radiated the divine glory that shone upon him ( Exodus 34:29 ), Jesus' transfiguration comes from within. He is transfigured and his garments as a result become radiant. Some have interpreted this event in light of  John 1:14 and   Philippians 2:6-9 . At the transfiguration the glory of the preincarnate Son of God temporarily broke through the limitations of his humanity; the "kenosis" of the Son was temporarily lifted. In  2 Peter 1:16 , however, the transfiguration is interpreted rather as a glimpse of the future glory of the Son of God at his second coming (cf.  Matthew 24:30 ). Still another interpretation is that the transfiguration is a proleptic glimpse of the glory that awaits Jesus at his resurrection ( Luke 24:26;  Hebrews 2:9;  1 Peter 1:21 ). In light of mr 8:38, 2 Peter 1:16 the second interpretation is to be preferred. The presence of Moses and Elijah is probably best interpreted as indicating that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Luke adds that Moses and Elijah spoke to Jesus of his "departure" or forthcoming death (  Luke 9:31 ). This fits well Luke's own emphasis on Jesus being the fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Gospel writers seem also to have understood this account as the fulfillment of Jesus' words with respect to the disciples seeing the kingdom of God coming with power in their lifetime.

Robert H. Stein

See also Christology Christ; Jesus Christ

Bibliography. G. B. Caird, ET67 (1955-56): 291-94; A. Kenny, CBQ19 (1957): 444-52; A. M. Ramsey, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Christ; T. F. Torrance, EvQ14 (1942): 214-29; J. W. C. Wand, Transfiguration.

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [2]

Outside the Gospels the Transfiguration is only once directly referred to in the NT, in  2 Peter 1:16 ff., where it is mentioned as showing the credibility of those who preached Christ’s Parousia, seeing that they had been eyewitnesses (ἐπόπται) of His majesty (μεγαλειότης) and had heard the voice; cf.  John 1:14, which also would seem to refer, inter alia , to the Transfiguration. Whatever view we take of the authorship of 2 Peter, the passage shows the importance of that event in the eyes of the early Christians. But why does not the writer appeal rather to the Ascension, of which the apostles were equally witnesses? The difficulty is the same, whether St. Peter or some later teacher wrote the Epistle. C. Bigg suggests, with much probability ( International Critical Commentary , ‘St. Peter and St. Jude,’ Edinburgh, 1901, pp. 231, 266), that those opponents who denied the Parousia perhaps denied the Resurrection as well, and that therefore it would have been useless for the writer to meet them by blankly affirming the fact of the Ascension; whereas they would acknowledge the truth of the events of our Lord’s ministry. At any rate, the Epistle appeals to an event witnessed by St. Peter. This neither proves nor disproves the Petrine authorship. If the author was St. Peter (whether or not he gave a free hand to the scribe), the reference is natural enough; if he was a later writer wishing to pose as the Apostle, he might equally well introduce a Petrine reminiscence. It seems likely that the author, whoever he was, did not use the Gospel records, or at least not those which we now have. We notice ( a ) that he says that Jesus received from the Father honour and glory, which is not mentioned in the Gospels; ( b ) that he uses ‘the excellent glory’ for the ‘bright cloud’ of  Matthew 17:5; ( c ) that he speaks of the holy mountain (the adjective has been thought to betray a later date, when sacred sites might have been held in reverence-but why not in the Apostolic Age?); ( d ) that he quotes the words of the voice differently from the Synoptists, though he is nearest to St. Matthew; he has εἰς ὃν ἐγὼ εὐδόκησα (an unusual construction) for ἐν ᾧ εὐδόκησα of  Matthew 17:5; he omits ‘hear ye him,’ and in Codex B the order of the words is different. He also omits all reference to Moses and Elijah, but this does not affect the question of his source. The probable conclusion from these facts is that the writer, if he was not St. Peter, depended on oral tradition, and this would argue a comparatively early date. It has been noticed that in the context ( 2 Peter 1:14) we read of St. Peter’s putting off his tabernacle (σκήνωμα) and of his departure (ἔξοδος), which may have been suggested by the σκηναί of  Mark 9:5 and ║ Mt. Lk., and the ἔξοδος of our Lord in  Luke 9:31, but this is very doubtful. It is possible that there is an indirect reference to the Transfiguration in  2 Corinthians 3:18 (note μεταμορφούμεθα; cf.  Mark 9:2,  Matthew 17:2), but the reference is to the glory of the Ascended Lord.

A. J. Maclean.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [3]

TRANSFIGURATION . The Transfiguration is a mysterious occurrence in the life of our Lord, which must be seen and felt, rather than understood. It produced a sense of awe in the hearts of the disciples (  Matthew 17:6 ). Its value is symbolic. Silence regarding it is enjoined by Jesus, and practised by the disciples until the Resurrection, with which it is closely connected in significance. The problem of the transfigured body of Jesus and of the Resurrection body is the same. The event is referred to by Jesus Himself as a vision ( horâma ,   Matthew 17:9 ); it is vouched for by the three Synoptists (  Luke 9:28-38 ,   Mark 9:2-13 ,   Matthew 17:1-13 ). Elsewhere in the NT it is referred to only in   2 Peter 1:16-18 . The Fourth Evangelist, after his own manner, undoubtedly expresses its inner significance for faith in   John 12:23-36 . The mountain on which it took place was probably Hermon . The time was night (  Luke 9:32 ). It was as ‘he was praying’ that the transfiguration of face and raiment appeared.

As regards the inner significance of the occurrence, one expression in St. Luke’s narrative is of great importance leukos exastraptôn (  Luke 9:29 ), ‘was white and glistering’ (AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ). The sense is really ‘gieamed out white.’ The glory is not that of reflected light; its source is inward. It is the manifestation of a mental process. The note of time (‘six days after’ [Mt. Mk.]; ‘about eight days after’ [Lk.]) affords the key to His thoughts and the subject of His prayers. After what? After Peter’s confession (  Luke 9:18-27 ), and the prediction of Christ’s death (  Luke 9:22 ). Recognized as Messiah by the disciples, He must now prepare them to meet the stumbling-block of the cross. Thus the Transfiguration had (1) a deep significance for Jesus Himself . He was strengthened by the appearance of Moses and Elias, who spoke of His decease (  Luke 9:31 ). They represented the saints in heaven, who understood. Again the Voice stood for the acceptance of His work by God, and He was enabied to yield up His heart and life anew to the will of God. (2) The great lesson for the disciples was that the dreadful shame of His cross was really glory, and that all suffering is ultimately radiant with heavenly beauty, being perfected in Christ. Peter’s suggestion of the three tents is an attempt to materialize and make permanent the vision, to win the crown without the cross. The vision vanished, and they saw ‘Jesus only.’ It was real, but only a glimpse and foretaste. By loyaity once more to the Master, in the common ways of life to which they returned, the disciples would come to share the eternal glory of the Risen Lord.

R. H. Strachan.

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary [4]

Jesus’ transfiguration took place on a high mountain, possibly Mt Hermon, not far from Caesarea Philippi in northern Palestine ( Matthew 16:13;  Matthew 17:1). The event was a revelation of Christ’s glory, witnessed by only three chosen disciples. In coming into the world, Jesus had laid that glory aside, but now it reappeared briefly, displayed through a human body. It was also a foretaste of the glory that Christ would receive after he had completed the work that he had come to do ( Matthew 17:2;  John 17:4-5).

Moses and Elijah, the two people of the Old Testament era who appeared with Jesus, possibly symbolized the law and the prophets ( Matthew 17:3). Jesus was God’s chosen one, to whom the Old Testament pointed. Their conversation with Jesus about his coming death confirmed what Jesus had told his disciples a few days earlier, namely, that though he was the Messiah, he was also the suffering servant. Though he was a glorious figure of heavenly origins, he had to die a shameful death ( Luke 9:30-31; cf.  Matthew 16:16;  Matthew 16:21).

This was further confirmed in the words that the Father spoke from heaven. His statement of approval of his Son combined words from one of David’s messianic psalms with words from one of the servant songs of Isaiah ( Matthew 17:5; cf.  Psalms 2:7;  Isaiah 42:1).

The Father’s final words, ‘Hear him’, indicated that this one, besides being the kingly Messiah and the suffering servant, was the great prophet who announced God’s message to the world ( Matthew 17:5; cf.  Deuteronomy 18:15;  Acts 3:22-26). The entire transfiguration event showed God’s satisfaction with all that Jesus had done and with all that he intended to do as the climax to his ministry approached. (See also Messiah; Servant Of The Lord )

People's Dictionary of the Bible [5]

Transfiguration, The.  Matthew 17:1-13;  Mark 9:2-13;  Luke 9:28-36. Though tradition locates the transfiguration on Mount Tabor, there is little to confirm this view, and modern scholars favor some spur of Mount Hermon, Jesus frequently went to the mountains to spend the night In prayer.  Matthew 14:23-24;  Luke 6:12;  Luke 21:37. The apostles are described as heavy with sleep, but as having kept themselves awake.  Luke 9:32. Moses the lawgiver and Elijah tie chief of the prophets both appear talking with Christ the source of the gospel, to show that they are all one and agree in one.  Luke 9:31 adds the subject of their communing: "They spake of his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem." Among the apostles the three favorite disciples, Peter, James, and John, were the sole witnesses of the scene. The cloud which overshadowed the witnesses was bright or light-like, luminous, of the same kind as the cloud at the ascension. It is significant that at the end of the scene the disciples saw no man save Jesus only. Moses and Elijah, the law and the promise, types and shadows, pass away; the gospel, the fulfilment, the substance, Christ remains—the only one who can relieve the misery of earth and glorify our nature, Christ all in all.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

A word indicating the change which took place in the appearance of Jesus in the vision on the holy mount. The Lord, speaking to His disciples prior to the transfiguration, said that some should see "the Son of man coming in his kingdom;" "the kingdom of God come with power;" and Matthew records that Christ "was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light." Peter says he was an eyewitness of His majesty. It was therefore a short glimpse of the Lord Jesus invested with glory, as He is now on high, and as he will be in His kingdom. The law and the prophets were represented by Moses and Elias; but when Peter proposed to make three tabernacles, he was silenced by a voice from heaven, saying "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased: hear ye him."  Matthew 17:1-8;  Mark 9:2;  Luke 9:28;  2 Peter 1:16 . The same Greek word is applied to the Christian as being 'transformed' in  Romans 12:2 , and as being 'changed' in  2 Corinthians 3:18 : metamorphosed.

Early writers fixed on Mount Tabor as the Mount of Transfiguration; but it is more probable that it was on some part of Mount Hermon, which would have been more private. The Lord was also in that locality.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

 Matthew 17:1-9   2 Peter 1:16-18 . This remarkable event in the life of Christ probably took place on Hermon or some other mountain not far from Caesarea Philippi; the tradition which assigns it to Tabor not being sustained. See Tabor .

The whole form and raiment of the Savior appeared in supernatural glory. The Law and the Prophets, in the persons of Moses and Elijah, did homage to the Gospel. By communing with Christ on the theme most momentous to mankind, his atoning death, they evinced the harmony that exists between the old and new dispensations, and the sympathy between heaven and earth; while the voice from heaven in their hearing gave him honor and authority over all. Besides its great purpose, the attestation of Christ's Messiahship and divinity, this scene demonstrated the continued existence of departed spirits in an unseen world, furnished in the Savior's person an emblem of humanity glorified, and aided in preparing both him and his disciples for their future trials.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [8]

This relates to that glorious scene recorded by three of the Evangelists, in which the glory of Christ's person broke out in the presence of the disciples in Mount Tabor. All description of it fails, I can only therefore refer the reader to the Scripture account of it, as the Holy Ghost hath recorded it, ( Matthew 17:1-27;  Mark 9:1-50;  Luke 9:1-62)

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [9]

trans - fig - ū́ - rā´shun ( μεταμορφόομαι , metamorphóomai , "to be transformed"): Used only with reference to the transfiguration of Christ (  Matthew 17:2;  Mark 9:2 ) and the change wrought in the Christian personality through fellowship with Christ ( Romans 12:2;  2 Corinthians 3:18 ).

(1) About midway of His active ministry Jesus, accompanied by Peter, James and John, withdrew to a high mountain apart (probably Mt. Hermon; see next article) for prayer. While praying Jesus was "transfigured," "his face did shine as the sun," "and his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them." It was night and it was cold. The disciples were drowsy and at first but dimly conscious of the wonder in progress before their eyes. From the brightness came the sound of voices. Jesus was talking with Moses and Elijah, the subject of the discourse, as the disciples probably learned later, being of the decease (exodus) which Jesus was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. As the disciples came to themselves, the figures of Moses and Elijah seemed to withdraw, whereupon Peter impetuously demanded tents to be set up for Jesus and His heavenly visitants that the stay might be prolonged and, if possible, made permanent. Just then a cloud swept over them, and out of the cloud a voice came, saying, "This is my beloved Son: hear ye him." In awe the disciples prostrated themselves and in silence waited. Suddenly, lifting up their eyes they saw no one, save Jesus only ( Matthew 17:1-13;  Mark 9:2-13;  Luke 9:28-36 ).

Such is the simple record. What is its significance? The Scripture narrative offers no explanation, and indeed the event is afterward referred to only in the most general way by Peter ( 2 Peter 1:16-18 ) and, perhaps, by John ( John 1:14 ). That it marked a crisis in the career of Jesus there can be no doubt. From this time He walked consciously under the shadow of the cross. A strict silence on the subject was enjoined upon the three witnesses of His transfiguration until after "the Son of man should have risen again from the dead." This means that, as not before, Jesus was made to realize the sacrificial character of His mission; was made to know for a certainty that death, soon and cruel, was to be His portion; was made to know also that His mission as the fulfillment of Law (Moses) and prophecy (Elijah) was not to be frustrated by death. In His heart now would sound forever the Father's approval, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." The scene, therefore, wrought out in Jesus a new fervor, a new boldness, a new confidence of ultimate victory which, as a source of holy joy, enabled Him to endure the cross and to despise the shame ( Hebrews 12:2 ). In the disciples the scene must have wrought a new faith in the heavensent leadership of Jesus. In the dark days which were soon to come upon them the memory of the brightness of that unforgettable night would be a stay and strength. There might be opposition, but there could be no permanent defeat of one whose work was ratified by Moses, by Elijah, by God Himself. Indeed, was not the presence of Moses and Elijah a pledge of immortality for all? How in the face of such evidence, real to them, however it might be to others, could they ever again doubt the triumph of life and of Him who was the Lord of life? The abiding lesson of the Transfiguration is that of the reality of the unseen world, of its nearness to us, and of the comforting and inspiring fact that "spirit with spirit may meet."

The transfigured appearance of Jesus may have owed something to the moonlight on the snow and to the drowsiness of the disciples; but no one who has ever seen the face of a saint fresh from communion with God, as in the case of Moses ( Exodus 34:29-35 ) and of Stephen ( Acts 6:15 ), will have any difficulty in believing that the figure of Jesus was irradiated with a "light that never was on sea or land." See Comms . and Lives of Christ  ; also a suggestive treatment in Westcott's Introduction to the Study of the Gospels .

(2) The transfiguration of Christians is accomplished by the renewing of the mind whereby, in utter abandonment to the will of God, the disciple displays the mind of Christ ( Romans 12:2 ); and by that intimate fellowship with God, through which, as with unveiled face he beholds the glory of the Lord, he is "transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit" ( 2 Corinthians 3:18 ).

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [10]

One of the most wonderful incidents in the life of our Savior upon earth, and one so instructive that we can never exhaust its lessons, is the Transfiguration. The apostle Peter, towards the close of his life, in running his mind over the proofs of Christ's majesty, found none so conclusive and irrefragable as the scenes when he and others were with him in the holy mount, as eye-witnesses that He received from God the Father honor 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.' If we divide Christ's public life into three periods—the first of miracles to prove His divine mission, the second of parables to inculcate virtue, and the third of suffering, first clearly revealed and then endured, to atone for sin—the transfiguration may be viewed as His baptism or initiation into the third and last. He went up the Mount of Transfiguration on the eighth day after He had bidden everyone who would come after Him take up His cross, declaring that His kingdom was not of this world, that He must suffer many things, and be killed, etc.

The Mount of Transfiguration was long thought to have been Mount Tabor; but as this height is fifty miles from Caesarea Philippi, where Jesus last taught, it is now supposed to have been a mountain much less distant, namely, Mount Hermon.

The final causes of the transfiguration, although in part wrapped up in mystery, appear to be in part plain. Among its intended lessons may be the following:—First, to teach that, in spite of the calumnies which the Pharisees had heaped on Jesus, the old and new dispensations are in harmony with each other. To this end the author and the restorer of the old dispensation talk with the founder of the new, as if his scheme, even the most repulsive feature of it, was contemplated by theirs, as the reality of which they had promulgated only types and shadows. Secondly, to teach that the new dispensation was superior to the old. Moses and Elias appear as inferior to Jesus, not merely since their faces did not, so far as we know, shine like the sun, but chiefly because the voice from the excellent glory commanded to hear Him, in preference to them. Thirdly, to gird up the energies of Jesus for the great agony which was so soon to excruciate Him. Fourthly, to comfort the hearts of the disciples, who, being destined to see their master, whom they had left all to follow, nailed to a cross, to be themselves persecuted, and to suffer the want of all things, were in danger of despair. But by being eye-witnesses of His majesty they became convinced that His humiliation, even though He descended into the place of the dead, was voluntary, and could not continue long.

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [11]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Transfiguration'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.