The transfiguration and ascension scenes

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nazarene
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:52 pm

The transfiguration and ascension scenes

Post by nazarene » Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:38 am

The transfiguration and Sinai

The synoptic Gospels speak of the transfiguration of Yeshua, the event is told with slightly differing details, some of those details will be explored in light of tradition.

The basis for the scene itself is mount Sinai, there are certain parallels between Mosheh ascended mount Sinai in Exodus 24 and the event of the transfiguration.

Matthew 17:1 CJB Matthew 17:1 Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya'akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately.

The phrase “six days” is a hint to the scene of Sinai in Exodus 24.

Exo 24:16 And the glory of Jehovah dwelt on the mountain of Sinai. And the cloud covered it six days. And He called to Moses on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud.

Mount Sinai is also a high mountain, so the combination between “six days” and the imagery of a high mountain would further strengthen the connection.

Yeshua only takes with him some of his disciples, and not all, why would he do this?

Matthew 17:1 CJB Matthew 17:1 Six days later, Yeshua took Kefa, Ya'akov and his brother Yochanan and led them up a high mountain privately.

This would mean there is 1] Yeshua 2] Kefa 3] Ya'akov 4] Yochanan, four people in total.

The four could be a further hint that Exodus 24 is being brought to mind, just before Mosheh ascends further up the mountain, Mosheh, Aaron, Nadab and Abihu “go up”;

Exo 24:9 And Moses and Aaron went up with Nadab and Abihu, and seventy from the elders of Israel.

Although Mosheh ascends further up in the mountain later on in the same chapter [Exodus 24:12], what seems to be happening in the Gospels is that the account of seeing the Glory of the Most High and the further ascension of Mosheh in Exodus 24 is being combined into one narrative.

Mat 17:2 And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothing became white as the light.

During the transfiguration the face of Yeshua “shone like the sun”, this would bring to mind the account of the further ascension of Mosheh, after the seeing of the Glory by him and others, Philo informs us of the tradition that the face of Mosheh shone like the sun;

Mos. 2:70 70 For, having gone up into the loftiest and most sacred mountain in that district in accordance with the divine commands, a mountain which was very difficult of access and very hard to ascend, he is said to have remained there all that time without eating any of that food even which is necessary for life; and, as I said before, he descended again forty days afterwards, being much more beautiful in his face than when he went up, so that those who saw him wondered and were amazed, and could no longer endure to look upon him with their eyes, inasmuch as his countenance shone like the light of the sun.

Mat 17:2 And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothing became white as the light.

Luk 9:29 And in His praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing was dazzling white.

Mar 9:3 And His garments became shining, very white like snow, such as a fuller on earth is not able to whiten.

All three synoptic Gospels lay emphasis on the white clothing of Yeshua, was white clothing associated with mount Sinai?

Decal. 1:45 45 And the people stood by, having kept themselves clean from all connection with women, and having abstained from all pleasures, except those which arise from a participation in necessary food, having been purifying themselves with baths and ablutions for three days, and having washed their garments and being all clothed in the purest white robes, and standing on tiptoe and pricking up their ears, in compliance with the exhortations of Moses, who had forewarned them to prepare for the solemn assembly; for he knew that such would take place, when he, having been summoned up alone, gave forth the prophetic commands of God.

Just before the giving of the Torah, Philo relates the tradition that the nation clothed themselves in white robes, both Targums also relate this tradition;

And Mosheh went down that day to the people, and prepared the people, and they blanched their clothes. And he said to the people, Be ready for the third day; abstain from the marriage‑bed. Targum Pseudo-Jonathan Section XIX Jethro

When the trumpet is prolonged they shall be allowed to go forward to the mount. And Mosheh came down from the mountain unto the people, and prepared the people, and they made white their clothes. Targum Onkelos Section XIX Jethro

The clothing of Yeshua shining white would then further strengthen the connection between the imagery of Sinai and the transfiguration.

When Mosheh ascends the mountain further in Exodus 24, he then receives instruction in how to construct a Tabernacle, this may be a motivating factor in why Kefa asks to build three tabernacles;

Mar 9:5 And Cephas said to him: Rabbi, it is delightful for us to be here. And let us make three booths; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

The Greek word behind the English translation “booths” is used in the singular to described the Tabernacle that was made in the wilderness [Acts 7:44].

Mat 17:5 While he was yet speaking, behold, a radiant cloud overshadowed them. And, behold, a voice out of the cloud saying, This is My Son, the Beloved, in whom I have been delighting; hear Him. Psa. 2:7; Gen. 22:2; Isa. 42:1; Deut. 18:15

In the Gospel of Luke the conversation between Yeshua, Mosheh and Eliyahu includes the word "exodus".

Luk_9:31 Appearing in glory, they spoke of His exodus, which He was about to accomplish in Jerusalem.

This would further strengthen the scene to the exodus narrative in Exodus.

A cloud then comes into the scene, in Exodus 24 there is also cloud imagery;

Exo 24:15 And Moses went up into the mount, and the cloud covered the mount.

Exo 24:16 And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days; and the seventh day He called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.

A voice comes out of cloud, just like we have in the transfiguration scene;

Mat 17:5 While he was yet speaking, behold, a radiant cloud overshadowed them. And, behold, a voice out of the cloud saying, This is My Son, the Beloved, in whom I have been delighting; hear Him. Psa. 2:7; Gen. 22:2; Isa. 42:1; Deut. 18:15

The disciples having see all of this become fearful;

Mat 17:6 And hearing, the disciples fell on their face and were greatly terrified.

Could there be another Sinai tradition behind this?

And Mosheh went up into the mount, and the Cloud of Glory covered the mount. And the glory of the Lord's Shekinah abode upon the mountain of Sinai, and the Cloud of Glory covered it six days. And on the seventh day He called to Mosheh from the midst of the Cloud. And the appearance of the splendour of the glory of the Lord was as burning fire with flashes of devouring fire; and the sons of Israel beheld and were awe-struck. And Mosheh entered into the midst of the Cloud, and ascended the mountain; and Mosheh was upon the mountain forty days and forty nights, learning the words of the Law from the mouth of the Holy One, whose Name be praised. [Targum Jonathan Exodus XXIV]

In Targum Jonathan when Mosheh ascends further up, the sons of Yisrael see the glory of the Most High as “burning fire with flashes of devouring fire” they then become awe-struck.

There is also an emphasis on what the nation saw in the Targum Onkelos;

And Mosheh arose and Jehoshua his minister, and Mosheh ascended the mountain on which was revealed the Glory of the Lord. But to the elders he said, Wait for us here until we return to you: and, behold, Aharon and Hur are with you: whosoever hath a (matter for) judgment, let him bring it before them. And Mosheh ascended the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain; and the glory of the Lord dwelt upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud enveloped it six days. And He called to Mosheh on the seventh day out of the midst of the cloud. And the appearance of the Glory of the Lord was as the appearance of devouring fire on the summit of the mountain in the eyes of the sons of Israel. And Mosheh entered into the midst of the cloud, and ascended the mount; and Mosheh was in the mount forty day and forty nights. [Targum Onkelos Exodus XXIV]

There may also be some connections with Eliyahu that need to be taken into consideration, but hopefully the connections shown will be enough to demonstrate that the transfiguration is based from the Sinai account in Exodus 24.
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nazarene
Posts: 132
Joined: Tue Nov 07, 2017 3:52 pm

Re: The transfiguration and ascension scenes

Post by nazarene » Wed Jun 12, 2019 9:40 am

The ascension and mount Sinai!

Acts 1:9 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.

The Greek is 1:9 can be translated as “took” as opposed to “received”, the nuance is that Yeshua was taken up by a cloud

Acts 1:11 11 The men said, "You Galileans! Why are you standing, staring into space? This Yeshua, who has been taken away from you into heaven, will come back to you in just the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

This reading would make sense, as in Acts 1:11 it is indicated that Yeshua will travel back the same way that he left, and it is indicated elsewhere that he will return on clouds;

Luk 21:27 And then they shall see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.

Could there be a Sinai tradition under this ascension by cloud?

Josephus writing in the late first century gives us an interesting association, when he relates the death of Mosheh, he indicates that Mosheh was taken away by a cloud;

Antiquities of the Jews 4:326 326 and as he was going to embrace Eleazar and Joshua, and was still discoursing with them, a cloud stood over him suddenly, and he disappeared in a certain valley, although he wrote in the holy books that he died, which was done out of fear, lest they should venture to say that, because of his extraordinary virtue, he went to God.

This tradition of Josephus can help us date another tradition that we have about Mosheh, in Exodus 24, Mosheh ascends Sinai;

Exo 24:18 And Moses entered into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mount, and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Exo 24:18 ויבא משׁה בתוך הענן ויעל אל־ההר ויהי משׁה בהר ארבעים יום וארבעים לילה׃

The Hebrew in Exodus 24:18 can be read to indicate that Mosheh went into the cloud and he ascended up in the midst of the cloud, this way of reading the Hebrew is found in rabbinic interpretation;

`We have a teaching in accord with Resh Lakish [PA2]`: Moses went up in a cloud, was covered by the cloud, and was sanctified by the cloud in order that he might receive the Torah for Israel in sanctity, as it is written: And the glory of the Lord abode upon Mount Sinai, this took place after the Ten Commandments, which were at the beginning of the forty days, this is the view of R. Jose the Galilean [T3]. R. Akiba [T3] said [with reference to] `And the glory of the Lord abode` from the beginning of the [third] month, and the cloud wa-yekasehu [covered it], i.e., the mountain, then `He called unto Moses on the seventh day`. Moses and all Israel were standing there, but the purpose of Scripture was to honour Moses. [b.Yoma ch.1.1, 2a-14a]

Here Mosheh is seen as ascending Sinai in a cloud, this could account for the imagery of the ascension of Yeshua being associated with a cloud, whilst bringing to mind the context of Sinai.

In Ephesians 4, the apostle Paul cites from Psalms 68 and applies it to Yeshua;

Eph 4:8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
Eph 4:9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
Eph 4:10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)

In applying Psalms 68:18 to Yeshua the word “gave” is used, yet when we look at Psalms 68:18 we do not find the word “gave”;

Psa 68:18 (68:19) Thou hast ascended on high, Thou hast led captivity captive; Thou hast received gifts among men, yea, among the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell there.

The word “received” is used, is there a reason for the difference?

Even if we turn to the LXX, the Greek translation of the Scriptures, the word “received” is still used;

Psa 68:18 Thou art gone up on high, thou hast led captivity captive, thou hast received gifts for man, yea, for they were rebellious, that thou mightest dwell among them.

However, there is precedent for reading Psalms 68:18 in terms of “gave”. In applying to verse to Yeshua, the apostle Paul seems to be using an existing targumic tradition, which interpreted the verses as being applied to Mosheh at mount Sinai.

17.  God said, Why do you leap, O mountains? It is not my will to give the Torah on proud, contemptuous mountains. Behold, Mount Sinai which is humble; the word of the Lord desires to place his presence upon it; [but] in the highest heaven the Lord will abide forever.
18.  The chariots of God are two myriads of burning fire, two thousand angels guiding them; the presence of the Lord rests on them, on the mountain of Sinai, in holiness.
19.  You ascended to the firmament, O prophet Moses; you captured captives, you taught the words of Torah, you gave gifts to the sons of men, and even the stubborn who are converted turn in repentance, [and] the glorious presence of the Lord God abides upon them.
20.  Blessed be the Lord, every day he weighs us down, adding commandments to commandments; the mighty one, who is our redemption and our helper forever.

The apostle Paul here then uses the existing targumic tradition but instead of Mosheh, applies it to Yeshua, this would not only connect Yeshua to Mosheh conceptually, but also bring in the context of Sinai.
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