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Transfiguration-raphael

 

Analysis of Mark 9:9–13: The Transfiguration

A concern of The Law, The Trinity, and Monotheism

 

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him (Mark 9:9–13[NIV]).”

Introduction

To accurately interpret any passage of scripture one must first bridge the historical gap and measure the width between the contemporary gaps. Then, study the syntax, grammar, and identify if it uses figurative or literal language. One should also read the passage surrounding the text in question.  It is wise to compare it to a passage with a similar theme in another Book as well. Next, try to relate it to some relative circumstance in one’s own life or a practical situation or application as I illustrated in my previous essay on my analysis of Colossians 3:1-4(Rindoks 2013a).

To understand the message in the Gospels J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays suggest asking the two additional questions. First, “What does the small story tell us about Jesus?” Secondly, “What is the writer trying to say to his readers by the way he put s the small stories together?” It is key to remember, “The author is trying to convey a message in an inspired way about Jesus in each episode by the way they link the stories together (Duvall and Hays 2008, 108).”

The above steps will help to interpret The Passage from Mark. I personally, also pray for guidance and illumination when reading The Word is Theopneustos “Spirit Breathed,   inerrant, infallible, and the true source of all Gnosis and is Revelation. It is important to have the Holy Spirit present when one is seeking wisdom or meaning from the Bible and to use a non-paraphrased Bible for study.

I personally prefer the NIV as it presents a middle of the road view between  the literal translations (KJV NKJV,ESV,NASB)  and the more contemporary versions of the English translations(NLT,CEV). However, I also like to consult the Geneva Version 1599, NET, LXX, and Jewish Orthodox Bible. Although not recommended, and considered by many to be an interpretive view of the Bible, I also occasionally will read and cite from the Amplified as well. In many cases one my find it necessary to cross reference a passage in multiple versions of the Bible to gain full insight into the true divine meaning of the intended message unless one is gifted and privileged to  having the ability and access to a copy of the manuscript in the original language of composition. Unfortunately, I myself do not read Aramaic, Greek or Hebrew so this is not an option as of yet and although internet translators exist they do not transcribe the true meaning accurately (Duvall and Hays 2008, 75-83).

Historical Viewpoint

John Mark, who was a close friend of the original disciples and a missionary of the Early Church, in Rome, wrote the Book of Mark in 65 AD.  During this period of history, Christian was still under persecution by the Roman Empire and there was still a rivalry between Jewish and Gentile Christian Converts. This book is written to a Gentile audience who may be unfamiliar with Jewish customs and would be opposed to the strict regulations of The Jewish Law (Mosaic Covenant). False prophets and heretic teachings were also common during this age as well. The only written Bible of sorts in circulation would have been the Greek translation of the Old Testament (LXX), some Epistles, and the Targums (Aramaic OT). Thus, God’s message was spread orally primarily by the Church.

I recall from my studies on the Roman Empire that the Government itself was made up of three parts a consul, senate and Caesar (Rex). In addition, there were many other elected and appointed officials. Each province outside the city had a certain level of autonomy as long as it did not affect the other province or Rome itself. The Consul members could be removed for corruption and were elected by the general populous. The Senate was chosen from the rich aristocracy and the Senate proclaimed the Rex. A citizen was to be granted a fair trial and Roman society was based on a patriarchal system with the father overseeing the details of the house and of religion. Rome was a pagan city resentment towards Christians and Jews would have naturally been high. Fear would of imprisonment and death would have been in the hearts and mind of the church or Rome(Rindoks 2013b).

 

Modern Relationship

 

The gap between Rome and today is not that wide. We too have a three party system off government and our civil an Christian liberties are slowly being scrutinized and removed by governing bodies. We also have a rise in false teachers, cults, new age religions and overall debauchery and sin decline in moral decency much like in the time of the Early Church. Society in America not to mention much of the civilized society is embracing worldly viewpoints, Extrastentialism (and other humanistic philosophies), Greed, self-centeredness and a disregard of righteousness and eve an hatred for God by some. Many Christians are being persecuted, imprisoned, and even killed for their beliefs in some parts of the world, and the attendance of church and rise of unbelievers is at an alarming rate(Estimated to be #4 In the world by some statics). Like the time of the early Church, the need for Evangelism is great.

The Small Story of Mark 9:9-13

The three main characters in this passage are Elijah, Jesus (Son of Man) and the reborn Elijah (John the Baptist).  The central theme of the small store is restoration.

Elijah

Elijah, as one may recalls from (1 Kings 17-19), warns king Ahab because of the sinful nature of the nation of Israel ( one should remember after Solomon the tribes split into two kingdoms Israel in the north and Judah[Capital City  Samaria 10 tribes] in the South [Capital City Jerusalem 2 tribes] ). A drought would come upon the land and rain will not fall until Elijah commanded it. Elijah also tests the priest of Baal to bring fourth rain and they were not able to do so. He then prepared a sacrifice to the lord, which was consumed by fire (fire symbolizes the Holy Spirit and redemption), and had the prophets of Baal executed. The rain fell ending the drought. The rain is a symbol of the abundance and grace of the Spirit and as it replenished the land restored faith and hope to the people serves as form of the first baptism. The rain cloud arose from the sea in the size of a small hand symbolizing the coming of the Redemption [alluding to redemption by the Spirit] (1 Kings: 18:22-45).  James cites Elijah as an example ion how we should pray (James 5:17).  More importantly Matthew states Elijah was to come before Christ to pave the way for our salvation (Matthew 11:11, 14) referring to John was the Elijah that “must first come” (Matthew 11:11, 14), the forerunner of The Savior as prophesied by Malachi (Malachi 4:5).

John the Baptist

The passage below illustrates the persecution and coming suffering and falling away from God and that it would be necessary John the Baptist to come as a new Elijah to prepare the way for Christ. It also illustrates that many people will resist the Messiah and turn against him. This foreshadows the trail and crucifixion of Christ and the beheading of John the Baptist.

“11 I tell you the truth, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John the Baptist. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than he is!12 And from the time John the Baptist began preaching until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been forcefully advancing, and violent people are attacking it. 13 For before John came, all the prophets and the Law of Moses looked forward to this present time. 14 And if you are willing to accept what I say, he is Elijah, the one the prophets said would come (   Matthew 11:11-14[NLT]).”

John the Baptist preached that one would come greater than he would:

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire (Matthew 3:11-12[ESV]).”

One may also recall that John the Baptist requested Jesus to baptize him but Christ deemed it necessary for himself to be baptized first, showing servitude, humility, and the need of salvation of all men. This was Jesus Christ illuminating us on his human side in the hypostatic union. The dove the descended from heaven at the time of Jesus’ baptism is a manifestation of the Holy Spirit and is a symbol of love, beauty and gentleness of character. Many people falsely interpret this to mean the spirit entered Christ at the time of baptism. However, Jesus as The Son of Man was always present and in union with flesh and spirit.

Son of Man

Jesus the Father Holy Spirit are present from the beginning and end of time, are present in everything, and the source of all power, knowledge and creation. Jesus chose to limit his divinity to fulfill his role as the sacrificial lamb, prophet, teacher, priest, and teacher while on earth and to perform his miracles through the father and the Spirit. This was an action to educate humankind on what we will be able to accomplish after his crucifixion, resurrection, accession, our Salvation and Sanctification by grace, and the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

The rejection, suffering, and the Law

Rejection

Under Mosaic Law, sins were rectified by sacrifice, penitence, paying of retribution, or even death. Besides the ten Commandments there were a host of forbidden activities, strict ceremonial requirements and only the high priest were allowed to personally enter the area most sacred. A curtain veiled off the altar of the Temple cutting the people off from God. The layman was expected to seek a Levi or priest in matters of religious question. However, prayers were allowed. To make matter worse there were many factions preaching and fighting for control of religious control during the time of Christ and the Covenant was impossible to uphold do to the nature of sin itself. The Hebrew people also fell out of grace from God and thus the sacrifices became meaningless to Jehovah and corruption was a common place among all people. Strict adherence was to be followed and those who did not obey the commandments or taught false teachings or preached on the Sabbath or in Holy places (and were not of the Priesthood) were to be put to death. Thus, the rejection was in part out of fear of death and prosecution and the rest a result of prophecy.

 

Suffering

The suffering endured by was necessary to fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah in the Old Testament and the Crucifixion to satisfy to penalty for the sins of man and remove death from the world so we may be born again, have a New Covenant relationship with God and be restored to grace by faith hope, and love.

Law

Although the New Covenant overturned the strict restriction of the Mosaic Covenant and granted Salvation to all who believed and accepted Christ through the Holy Spirit and gave us our Christian Liberties(Galatians). It did not abolish the law. We still are expected to live by the guidance and direction of the Ten Commandments, but not under the restrictions of such thing as circumcision, what is unclean, animal sacrifice… We are to Teach, Preach and Rebuke sin with Love and kindness. We are to act as slaves and servants to God the Father and the Holy Spirit and to bring others into the Body of Christ (Church) by living in a righteous manner.

The Big Picture

The transfiguration teaches us that some people not achieve salvation. Peter James and John were present and mistakenly thought the Theophany to be actual people and asked if they should pitch extra tents. It is interesting to note the use of tents as this has become a symbol for the Tabernacle and later the Church (Body of Christ) by Matthew in this passage. The overall message is that deed alone will not be sufficient for Salvation, Christ will have to die as a living sacrifice, will have to suffer and Elijah and John the Baptist have prepared the way for this to happen as prophesied in the Old Testament. Another Theme is that Man cannot live under the restrictions of the Law and it would be necessary to amend the Covenant. A final theme is many will reject the Messiah and turn away from his teachings and Salvation and persecuted him and his followers but this was necessary for Salvation and part of what God has predestined to happen. Only Through the Crucifixion, Accession, and the Coming of the Holy Spirit would Salvation be fulfilled and a New Covenant established. The disciples were to remain silent until this was to come to pass, as the world would not be able to accept it until it happened.  The apparitions also serve to illuminate us on Christ unity of his Human and Divine Nature (Hypostatic Union) and the truth that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the same in a monotheistic fashion. Yet each retains their own persona, personality, identity, office and traits but shares the powers of omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience.

Conclusion

To conclude Elijah had to come first, followed by John the Baptist and then Jesus Christ. The Law was to rigid for man to live by and humankind became to corrupt so a living sacrifice became necessary to restore a union with God. The Transfiguration illustrated the monotheist nature of Christianity and the Hypostatic Union of Christ and alludes to power we as believes will have in the Holy Spirit and Church. It also warns of the persecution we will face and the need for Salvation.

 

In Christ Name,

Trenton Clark Rindoks

 

 

 

Bibliography

Duvall, J. Scott, and J. Daniel Hays. Journey Into God’s Word. Grand Rapids: ZONDERVAN, 2008.

Elwell, Walter A. “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology 2nd Edition, by Walter A. Elwell, 218-219, 583-584. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 184,2001.

Towns, Elmer L., and Ben Guitierrez. Thr Essence of the New Testament: A Survey. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2012.

 

Rindoks, Trenton Clark. 2013a. “Analysis of Colossians 3: 1-4.” https://hades1solution.wordpress.com/.

———. 2013b. “‘If God Is for Us, Then Who Can Be Against Us?’ A Lesson on Humanity from (Romans 1-8).” https://hades1solution.wordpress.com/.

 

 

 

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