The Mount of Transfiguration
Mount Nebo and the Winter Solstice
By Steve Santini
The apostle Peter reveled the keys to the kingdom of heaven given to him by the Lord Jesus Christ in his last letter to those of faith like his. (Matt. 16:19) The following verse is one of those keys.
For he received from God the Father honour 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. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. II Peter 1:17,18
This verse is an unfulfilled prophecy about the entrance into the millennial kingdom of heaven upon earth. The next verse establishes the fact that it is a prophecy. It begins by saying, ďwe have also a more sure word of prophecy.Ē The preceding verse also verifies the fact. It reads, ďFor we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.Ē In this preceding verse the underlying Greek word for coming is parousia. Biblically, when parousia is used in association with Jesus Christ, it is used in reference to the second advent of Christ.
When Peter wrote this second letter he knew that soon he would die. (II Peter 1:14,15) He also knew that the second advent of Christ was about two thousand years away. (I Peter 1:11,12; II Peter 3:8) He knew too that the world would be filled with scoffers in the last days before the second coming of Christ.(II Peter 3:3-7) So, he wrote a letter to all like himself who would keep the faith during the interval between his death and the second advent of Christ. (II Peter 1:1, 1:12,13)
Events on the Mount of Transfiguration confirmed much for those in that day and time. More importantly, they prophetically depicted the condition to occur between the saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus during the course of transition into the millennial kingdom. Then, on that holy mountain stood Moses and Elijah, the former saints revealed as eternal angels. These two were and are gods about whom David, as former saint and scripturally defined as a god also, had written.
I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. Ps:138:1
O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever. Ps:136:2
God standeth in the congregation of the mighty; he judgeth among the gods. Ps:82:1
For I know that the LORD is great, and that our Lord is above all gods. Ps:135:5
It is evident that both Moses and Elijah were gods. Moses brought the plagues upon the once great nation of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, and lived in the midst of the fire of God on Sinai. Elijah commanded the fire of God on three different occasions. He brought the fire of God upon two different groups of fifty soldiers sent to capture him and brought the fire of God down to consume his sacrificial altar in contrast to the failed attempts of the false prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Jesus spoke of these gods as those to whom the word of God came.(John 10:34,35) Paul writes of these gods as the mighty angels to come in flaming fire during the entry-way into the millennial kingdom. (II Thess. 1:7,8)
Also upon the holy mountain were the men, Peter, James and John, evidently the most faithful of Jesusí apostles. Peter, decades later, in concern for the faith of those to come, specifically highlighted the event of the transfiguration as that type to occur during the time of entrance into the millennial kingdom.(II Peter 1:22) At the end of his letter he wrote that the holy apostle Paul had also written of these things in all his epistles. (II Peter 3:15,16)
With these things in mind it becomes important in this day and time to review the time and place of these events to strengthen necessary faith. Biblical historians have offered three different possible locations for the events of the transfiguration. They are Mount Carmel, Mount Hermon, and Mount Sinai. Matthew and Mark define the location as a high mountain. The underlying Greek word for high has a connotation as an exalted mountain. Peter writes of the mount as a holy mountain. Of these three proposed locations only Mount Sinai could have been considered holy. Mount Carmel was a historically well-known center for Baal worship. Likewise, Mount Hermon was skirted on its flanks with a number of altars to Baal and other false gods. Although Mount Sinai was considered holy it was too far distant to fulfill the parameters of scripture. The scriptural records place Jesus and his apostles around Bethsaida just north of the Sea of Galilee eight days before ascending the holy mount. Mount Sinai was far more than an eight-day journey from Bethsaida.
Why then were these locations chosen? After the Romans destroyed Jerusalem they blotted out its name and associations in written history for two generations of 30 years each. It was illegal in the empire to write the name of Jerusalem or write of any thing associated with it. Christianity was singularly outlawed in the 80s AD by the Emperor Domitian as a "Jewish superstition". By the end of this time all the eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus had died. After that time there were also a number of pseudo gospels produced including the book of Revelation. These added confusion to the overall mix. It was not until the fourth century that the somewhat ignorant Western Christian Church tried to reconstruct the locations of the events in the life of Jesus.
The preponderant scriptural evidence points more so to Mount Nebo as the location for the Mount of Transfiguration. Some translators translate the Hebrew word Nebo as height and some give it a flavor of prophecy in its association with the Hebrew word naba that is translated as prophecy in the Old Testament. From a broader view and more ancient view, Nebo was the god of recorded prophecy that originated from within the Sumerian culture and was carried through to the Babylonian culture. It was said that Nebo had power over the length of human existence.
Mount Nebo was the highest peak on an east-west ridge that spurred off of the north-south Mountains of Abarim that were to the east beyond the Jordan River Valley. The word Abarim means across a dividing line like a passage across. Its first three letters are similar to Paulís usage of Abba in his phrase Abba Father. Abba means the way to the hidden source. Our English word abbey is derived from this Hebrew word.
Historically a number of other significant spiritual events occurred on Nebo or around its western flanks. From the western face of Nebo, Balaam, the prophet from the Euphrates, could not curse the tribe of Israel encamped below in the Jordan Valley as requested by his kinsman the Moabite, Balak. Instead, he blessed Israel with a prophecy that contained a promise of the Messiah to come forth from the tribe of Israel. (Num. 23) At the foot of Nebo on the Plains of Moab Moses delivered his final prophesy condemning the future faithlessness of Israel. Then, as his last act Mosesí climbed Nebo to view the land once promised to the tribe of Israel. Afterwards, he died there. His body was never found. (Deut. 34)
After parting the Jordan and transferring the prophetic ministry of Israel to Elisha, Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind from what was once know as the "Little Hill of Hermon" or "Elijah's Hill" not far from the western foot of Nebo. Likewise his body was never found. (II Kings 2) John the Baptist ministered between the eastern side of the Jordan and the western foot of Nebo. Jesus established an abode below Nebo beyond the Jordan from Judea. John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan River about 9 miles miles west of the foot of Nebo. At that instant of baptism a voice from heaven, like that later on the Mount of Transfiguration, said, ďThis is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.Ē
Along a line stretching west of Nebo over the Mount of Olives, through the Templeís Golden Gate, over the altar of sacrifice and through the starry veil to the Ark of the Covenant with its two cherubim, the most dramatic events of Jesus ministry occurred. On this line Jesus was baptized, crucified, resurrected and ascended. In proximity to this line Jesus made entrances into Jerusalem, had an abode, prayed for the cup of his sacrifice to be taken from him, raised dead Lazarus, healed blind Bartimaeus, and framed the parable of the Good Samaritan. Some of Israelís most powerful redemptive symbols were on this line as it approached the Temple over the Mount of Olives. The Red Heifer Sacrifice and the annual sending forth of the scapegoat on the Day of Atonement took place on this line.
The gospel records of Matthew and Mark state that the event on the Mount of Transfiguration took place six days after Jesus presence in Bethsaida while Lukeís gospel states that the event took place eight days after his presence in Bethsaida. This at first appears to be a discrepancy, however, when close comparisons of the records are made meaningful insight can be accomplished in regards to the location of the Mount of Transfiguration.
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart, Matt. 17:1
And after six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John, and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves Mark 9:2
And it came to pass about an eight days after these sayings, he took Peter and John and James, and went up into a mountain to pray. Luke 9:28:
All three verses appear to depict two distinct actions of Jesus-the taking of Peter, John and James and then the leading of them up a high mountain. However when the Greek texts are studied, Lukeís rendition has only one, then present, action-the going up into a mountain to pray. In the Greek texts the word took in Lukeís gospel is a past tense participle introducing a participle phrase modifying the word Jesus. Here the word took is properly translated as having taken. In addition in the Greek texts there is no and before the verb went up. Lukeís verse would then read:
And it came to pass about eight days after these sayings, he, having taken Peter, and John and James, went up into a mountain to pray. Luke 9:28
On the sixth day after Jesusí sayings in Bethsaida, he took Peter, John and James from among the other apostles present and then on the eighth day he lead them up into the mountain. There was a two-day interval between the separating and taking of Peter, John and James and the ascent up the high mountain. This two-day interval was filled with traveling from the point at which he took them and the point where he led them up to the top of the high mountain.
The travel from Bethsaida to the top of Mount Hermon is about a one-day journey. Mount Carmel is eliminated because it was a bastion for Baal worship and, as such, would not have been considered holy by the Hebrews. It would seem that Mount Nebo, a five-day journey away from Bethsaida, would be eliminated also. However if consideration is made for their movement during the six-day interval between their presence in Bethsidia and the location at which Peter, James and John were separated and taken then the parameters of scripture for Neboís location being that of the Transfiguration could be fulfilled.
Johnís gospel may have answers to the questions surrounding locations. Johnís gospel in difference to Matthew, Mark, or Lukeís focuses on Jesus presence and words spoken in Jerusalem during the annual feasts of the Hebrew year. John readily admits in the closing line of his gospel that there is much in the ministry of Jesus Christ that he did not include. (John 21:25) Other salient events like the Transfiguration that are not included in his gospel are found in Matthew, Mark, or Luke.
In the tenth chapter of his gospel there is a section that harmonizes with the time period between Jesusí presence in Bethsiada and his transfiguration on the holy mount.
22: And it was at Jerusalem the feast of the dedication, and it was winter.
23: And Jesus walked in the temple in Solomon's porch.
24: Then came the Jews round about him, and said unto him, How long dost thou make us to doubt? If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.
25: Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me.
26: But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29: My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30: I and my Father are one.
31: Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32: Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
33: The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
34: Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods?
35: If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken;
36: Say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?
37: If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
38: But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
39: Therefore they sought again to take him: but he escaped out of their hand,
40: And went away again beyond Jordan into the place where John at first baptized; and there he abode.
A number of bible chronologist believe that the events on the Mount of Transfiguration did occur after the end of the Feast of Tabernacles in the fall of 27 AD and well before Jesusí crucifixion on Passover in the spring of 28 AD. The Feast of Dedication occurred in latter December in that year about 65 days after the Feast of Tabernacles.
In Johnís gospel all the events prior to verse twenty-two occurred at Tabernacles while all the verses through verse forty occurred at the Feast of Dedication. The subject matter of Jesusí dispute with the Judeans concerning gods would harmonize with the subject matter of the events on the Mount of Transfiguration. Likewise Johnís statement that Jesus went away beyond Jordan after the dispute would harmonize with the location of Mount Nebo being that of the Transfiguration.
It would then be fitting to propose that the eight-day time period between Bethsaida and the Mount of Transfiguration written of by Luke was the eight-day time period for the Feast of Dedication written of by John. It would also be fitting to purpose that during the first five days Jesus and his apostles traveled the five- day journey from Bethsaida to Jerusalem. Then on the sixth day at the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem he had his dispute with the Judeans. He, as Matthew and Mark record ďon the sixth dayĒ, took Peter, James and John from Jerusalem on the about two-day journey to Nebo beyond Jordan. Then on the eighth day according to Lukeís account he lead them up Nebo.
That year the Feast of Dedication began on the evening of December 12.(Celestron's "The Sky" Software) Accordingly, the Mount of Transfiguration occurred eight days later on the night of December 20/21, 27 AD. That night was in the midst of the winter solstice.
After Jesus was baptized a year earlier and spent 40 days in the wildness he went to Nazareth and there stated that he was sent to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord as had been prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before that time. The Hebrew word for acceptable is favorable. The time period from his baptism, as previously purposed, on the winter solstice of 26 AD till the Mount of Transfiguration on the winter solstice of 27 AD is one year. It was shortly after the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem to accomplish his sacrifice. (Luke 9:51) From the point of the Mount of Transfiguration his message became more so one of judgment based on manís rejection of him as the Christ rather than one of favor as previously preached.
The importance of Peterís prophetic words in his second letter cannot be overstated for those of faith. An understanding of the event on the Mount of Transfiguration is a revealed key to the kingdom of heaven as implied in Peterís second letter (II Peter1:11) The Greek word translated key in scripture in its earlier stages meant a passage way like a pass or a strait.
Matthew and Mark describe the mount on which Jesus was transfigured and appeared with Moses and Elijah as a high mountain. Peter describes the mountain as a holy mount. The Greek word translated holy is hagios. Used singularly this word is translated saint as in Paulís letter to the Ephesians when he addresses it to both the saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus.
From the times of the early church there has been a season of Advent. The earliest records of adventís celebration have been found in fourth century church writings. Adventus is the Latin word used to translate the Greek word parousia meaning coming. Advent is in celebration of both the first coming and the second coming of Jesus Christ. Originally it started on November 11. Still today in some localities it begins on November 11. Advent lasted 40 days thus it ended on December 21, the winter solstice.
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