Bible Review 14:3, June 1998

The Jewish Roots of the Transfiguration

By Herbert W. Basser

The Transfiguration—the moment when Jesus is mystically transformed by divine power in the company of Moses and Elijah—offers a uniquely Christian message. At this moment Jesus’ divinity is revealed to his disciples. Yet the roots of this complex story, so critical to Christian theology, are deeply embedded in Jewish tradition.

The story of the Transfiguration is recounted in three slightly different versions in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which are known as the Synoptic Gospels.1 The differences between the accounts, however, are such as to rule out direct copying; the evangelists must have worked from different sources, reaching back to very early Jesus stories.

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