Thursday, August 18, 2011

Transfiguration Celebrated on Mount Tabor

I am not very familiar with this annual observance. From the Jerusalem Post:

On August 18 and 19 the Greek Orthodox Church will celebrate the annual Feast of the Transfiguration, which celebrates the transfiguration of Jesus that is traditionally thought to have occurred at Mount Tabor in the Galilee. The Catholic Church celebrated the holiday earlier this month on August 6 with a festive mass at the Church of the Transfiguration at Mount Tabor.

[...]

During this feast a night vigil occurs in the Greek Orthodox Church, which is the most unique experience associated with the holiday. Arab Christians camp in the woods surrounding the church and spend the night there, during which time the Divine Liturgy is celebrated outside the church. The Divine Liturgy is celebrated inside the Church on the August 19.

To commemorate Jesus's climb up the mountain, some pilgrims will ascend Mount Tabor by foot.

The full article gives some details about the Transfiguration from the New Testament. It does not mention that most scholars reject Mount Tabor as the location for this event or give any of the reasons why. Three reasons may be suggested:

1. The Gospels record that Jesus was in the vicinity of Caesarea Philippi before the Transfiguration (Matt 16:13). Nothing suggests that he traveled southward to Mount Tabor.

2. The event was intentionally private, and a setting on Mount Hermon or even in the mountains of Upper Galilee would be more suitable than a location on Mount Tabor. The international highway traveling through the Jezreel Valley passed next to the Mount Tabor and would have made privacy unlikely.

3. A military fort on the summit of Mount Tabor during Hasmonean and Roman times was probably in use during Jesus’ ministry and would have precluded the site as a get-away for Jesus.

Nevertheless, early Christian pilgrims were attracted to Mount Tabor as the location for this event. It is possible that its convenient location on the way to Capernaum was a factor. This would have eliminated the need for a multi-day trek up to the environs of Caesarea Philippi.

For more information (and links), see the Mount Tabor page at BiblePlaces.com (also in Spanish and French).

Mount Tabor aerial from east, tbs121280011

Summit of Mount Tabor. Nazareth is visible in the distance.

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5 Comments:

  • I agree that TABOR is not the place for the stated reasons that it was not private enough and that there was a settlement and fort on the top. And yes, early pilgrims were attracted there by design, for convenience and security or by osmosis, since it was nearby Nazareth. I don't agree however that it occurred in the Galilee or around Hermon or the Golan at all.

    Here is a riddle. How did the disciples know that the individuals with Jesus were Elijah and Moses? Did they introduce themselves? Did they have name tags? HOW did they know? Revelation knowledge? Well, we don't know for sure, but I have an inkling that WHERE they were gave them an idea of WHO those guys were, simply by location. So where? ;>)

    By OpenID Dani, at Thu Aug 18, 04:24:00 PM  

  • Dani - so how did the disciples know where they were? It is highly unlikely they had ever been that far south in their lives before. If they were teleported somewhere, they could have been anywhere. Was there a sign just behind Elijah saying, "Welcome to Mount Sinai"?

    Perhaps they deduced the identity of the individuals from what they said in the conversation.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Thu Aug 18, 04:32:00 PM  

  • Todd you lost me on this comment:
    "It is highly unlikely they had ever been that far south in their lives before."
    Please briefly clarify this for me when you get a chance.

    By Blogger Jack, at Fri Aug 19, 11:34:00 AM  

  • Jack - my solution to Dani's riddle was Mount Sinai. There is no evidence that Jesus or the disciples ever traveled south of Jerusalem. Mount Sinai is more than 150 miles south of Jerusalem.

    By Blogger Todd Bolen, at Fri Aug 19, 11:59:00 AM  

  • I do agree that Tabor is not the right location and that strong evidence supports the area of Caesarea Philippi To solve the problem of how the disciples knew it was Moses and Elijah: 1) They were on a high mountain (both men had "mountain" experiences with God. But there is stronger evidence still. Peter offers to build "sukka" or booths for them, suggesting that the feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) was near/occurring. According to Jewish practice and tradition, each night of Sukkot they invite "guests" to dine with them. Each night they invite patriarchs of the Bible (ushpizin), Moses, Elijah, etc, until the final night is David or the Messiah himself. Put in this context, it makes a lot of sense. Because Sukkot symbolizes the abiding presence of God, therefore, His Kingdom. You can check it out here: http://www.hebrew4christians.com/Holidays/Fall_Holidays/Sukkot/sukkot.html

    By Blogger Shireen, at Mon Aug 22, 03:18:00 PM  

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