Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:1-8) - Analysis (2024)

  • 1 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. 2 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.
  • 3 And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. 4 And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses: and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter answered and said to Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: and let us make three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias. 6 For he wist not what to say; for they were sore afraid. 7 And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him. 8 And suddenly, when they had looked round about, they saw no man any more, save Jesus only with themselves.
  • Compare: Matthew 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36

The beginning of chapter 9 is odd in that it simply ends the previous scene at the end of chapter 8. There weren’t any chapter or verse divisions in the ancient manuscripts, but why did the person(s) who inserted the divisions not do a better job in this case? At the same time, this ending also has a lot to do with events in the current scene.

Meaning of Jesus’ Transfiguration

Jesus shows something special to the apostles, but not all of them — just Peter, James, and John. Why were they singled out for special, insider information that they couldn’t even reveal to the other nine apostles until after Jesus had risen from the dead? This story would have given a boost in prestige to whomever was associated with those three in the early Christian church.

This event, known as “The Transfiguration,” has long been regarded as one of the most important events in Jesus’ life. It is connected in one way or another to many other events in the stories about him and plays a central theological role because it connects him more explicitly to Moses and Elijah.

Jesus appears here with two figures: Moses, representing Jewish law and Elijah, representing Jewish prophecy. Moses is important because he was the figure believed to have given the Jews their basic laws and to have written the five books of the Torah — the basis of Judaism itself. Connecting Jesus to Moses thus connects Jesus to the very origins of Judaism, establishing a divinely authorized continuity between the ancient laws and Jesus’ teachings.

Elijah was an Israelite prophet commonly associated with Jesus because of the former’s reputation for rebuking both leaders and society for falling away from what God wanted. His more specific connection to the coming of the Messiah will be discussed in more detail in the next section.

This incident is tied with the beginning of Jesus’ ministry when he was baptized and a divine voice said “Thou art my beloved Son.” In that scene, God spoke directly to Jesus whereas here God speaks to the three apostles about Jesus. This also serves as a confirmation of Peter’s “confession” in the previous chapter as to the true identity of Jesus. Indeed, this entire scene seems to be designed for the benefit of Peter, James, and John.


It is worth noting here that Mark includes a time reference: “after six days.” Outside of the passion narrative, this is one of the few times Mark creates any chronological ties between one set of events and another. Indeed, Mark seems generally unconcerned with any chronological considerations and almost never uses connectives that would establish a chronology of any sort.

Throughout Mark the author makes use of “parataxis” at least 42 times. Parataxis literally means “placing next to” and is the stringing together of loosely connected episodes with words like “and” or “and then” or “immediately.” Because of this, the audience can only have a vague sense about how most events might be connected chronologically.

Such a structure would be keeping with the tradition that this gospel was created by someone writing down events described by Peter while in Rome. According to Eusebius:

  • “And the Presbyter used to say this, Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord’s oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.”
Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:1-8) - Analysis (2024)
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