Lectionary Year B
March 5, 2000
Step IV: Broader Context
A. PRIMITIVE CHRISTIANITY
(JR)      Matthew's parallel of this story (Matthew 17:1-8) portrays the disciples in a more positive light than does Mark's version. First, Peter prefaces his suggestion to Jesus with the qualifier "If you wish" (verse 4). Then, the disciples assume worshipful postures—the typical response to a theophany—upon hearing God's voice (this act connected with "fear" indicates the latter has the meaning of reverence rather than emotional distress). Luke's parallel (Luke 9:28-36) offers the phrase that could be called either a defense or a criticism of Peter: "He did not know what he was saying" (verse 33). Earlier in the same verse, Peter begins his suggestion to Jesus with the same hortatory subjunctive that is found in Mark. Also of note in this passage is the reference to Jesus as "chosen" rather than "beloved" (verse 35), and the mention (in Matthew as well) of Christ's face being transfigured.
2 Peter 1:17-18 interprets the transfiguration to mean that Jesus has "received honor and glory from God the Father…." Given this witness, the text's instruction is to listen to the one who has been honored and glorified. Listening to Jesus leads to obedient response to what God has done and is doing.
B. OLD TESTAMENT & JUDAISM
(JR) In relation to Mark 9:7, Nestle-Aland cross-references Deuteronomy 18:15, which reads, "The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must listen to him." It is not clear that Jesus is the prophet mentioned in this verse. However, it is clear that ancient Judaism placed great importance on listening to prophets. As shown in the preceding pericope already discussed, Jesus is a prophet (albeit also more than a prophet). Exodus 40:34, which speaks of a cloud and the appearance of God's glory, is also cited by Nestle-Aland. This theophany bears a resemblance to the transfiguration story, the most significant difference being that God's glory is given to Jesus in the latter.
(GG) This is a theophany story. The cloud is another of the common elements in this type of story. Does not Paul refer to the Israelites being baptized into the cloud? Where is this located in Scripture?
(JA) There are two types of theophanies: one is anthropomorphic where communication is through a human form and the other is the "weather/storm" type of encounter where the communication is through a voice. In this story which is more significant?
(JD) Is this not Mark trying to link the OT style of theophany with a glimpse of the new type of theophany which is a physical encounter with God in Christ?
(GG) From the OT all of the issues associated with Moses and Elijah are brought into the story. Why Elijah? It has to do with Jewish tradition...
(JD) so much so that it even seems to be out of character for Mark.
(JA) But what is "out of character" for Mark?
(FS) Both Moses and Elijah, according to Scripture, did not die but were taken up into heaven.
(ME) Does it make any different WHY Elijah was the one? That is still the accepted Jewish tradition.
(JA) Maybe what we are dealing with is an element of apocalyptic nature.
(CH) Are these elements (Moses, Elijah, and the cloud) signs that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah?
(GG) The Jewish features of this story indicate that it did not originate on Hellenistic soil. The transfiguration story does not find its place in any early preaching in the Church (cf. of course II Peter 1:17ff). Another element is the identification of John the Baptist with Elijah. Note John's later question from prison, "have you broken from my teaching of who the Messiah is?" The use of 6 days must have something to do with the story of creation....is it describing a "new creation" in Jesus?
(DR) Isn't that a baptism theme?
(JD) How could this have been recorded by any writer if only Jesus heard the words of God and if they weren't supposed to tell anyone about this?
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