Mount Tabor and the Transfiguration

Rising 420 meters (about 1400 feet) above the Jezreel Valley in Lower Galilee and 7 km east of Nazareth (about 4 miles) east of Nazareth is Mount Tabor, the traditional site of the Transfiguration as narrated in Matthew 17: 1-9; Mark 9: 2-8 and Luke 9: 28-36. None of these sources mention Mount Tabor. They talk of a high mountain where Jesus took his disciples James, John and Peter. It says further, that it was “after six days”. So, six days after what?

From Matthew 16:13 we learn that it was after Jesus and his disciples were in Caesarea Philippi where Peter made the confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.

Again, scholars are not agreed as to the location of the Transfiguration but there is a solid tradition around Mount Tabor. In any case, the view of the Jezreel Valley from the top of Mount Tabor is spectacular – breathtaking. One has to agree with Peter, that “it is good for us to be here”. Like Peter, one would be tempted to make it a dwelling place with such a wonderful view of the world around.

Although not mentioned in the New Testament, Mount Tabor is first mentioned in Joshua 19:22 as a border post between Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali, and again in Judges 4:6 when Deborah summoned Barak to lead the children of Zebulun and Naphtali in battle against Sisera and the Canaanites. Other references to Tabor can be found in 1 Chronicles 6:77; 1 Samuel 10:3; Psalm 89:12 and Jeremiah 46:18.

Tabor is also the name of the building that houses the Swedish Theological Institute on Rehov Haneviim.

The story of the Transfiguration and Peter’s reaction remind me of John and his pictures. The disciples saw Jesus transfigured and the appearance of Moses and Elijah. That is what a photograph or a postcard would show. But there is far more to the picture than the objects. What about the voice from heaven? It cannot be shown in a photograph.

And a lot more that Peter missed, hence his limited reaction in a wish to pitch tents there so that they could make the site a dwelling place.

The lesson here is that there is more to the picture than what the eye sees. It is not only a lesson with Mount Tabor and the Transfiguration but in all of life. But how often do we remember that?