Some scholars have claimed that Jesus’ Transfiguration occurred on one of the mountains near Caesarea Philippi, Mt. Hermon is a popular suggestion. Still others have suggested it occurred on the top of Mt. Tabor, which is located in lower Galilee, near the Valley of Jezreel. Other locations, having less support, have been put forward including Mt. Sinai. Nevertheless, one would have to say little can be known for certain, about where Jesus’ Transfiguration occurred. It is, therefore, with some degree of trepidation that I propose yet one more mountain that, as far as I know, has never been suggested, although it seems to fit in the context of Jesus’ activity, as we see him ministering in the Scriptures.
Jesus went up to a mountain to pray (Luke 9:28). This was about eight days after saying the things he is recorded to have said in Luke 9:23-27, and he took with him Peter, James and John. Matthew says this took place after six days (i.e. more than six days – Matthew 17:1) and Mark says the same thing (Mark 9:2). According to chronology, the fourth Gospel shows us that the next time Jesus visited Jerusalem after John’s death was to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles, but Jesus did so in secret and only the Twelve were with him. Luke’s about eight days (Luke 8:28) is the same as Matthew’s and Mark’s after 6 days (Matthew 17:1; Mark 9:2), if we understand how Luke reckoned the time. Actually, there were six full days, but two partial days tacked on, one before the six full days and the other after the six full days.
It seems that Jesus was in Jerusalem on the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles, a Holy Day Sabbath, when he spoke with his disciples about pulling up stakes – pointing to what was happening during the feast. There were still a few hours of the Sabbath left after he taught them (Luke 9:23-27). Then there occurred the six full days after this (i.e. 6 full calendar days plus the one partial calendar day before the six are equal to about seven calendar days). Add to this one more partial day for the eighth calendar day would put Jesus and the three disciples on top of the mountain at the beginning of night portion of the Last Great Day or the eighth day of the Feast (remembering that the Jews celebrate their days from sundown to sundown, not midnight to midnight like gentiles do).
Peter claimed the Transfiguration took place upon the holy mount (2Peter 1:18). Actually, there is but one mountain in all of Scripture that is ever called holy and that is Jerusalem, specifically the mount upon which the Temple is built (cf. Isaiah 27:13; 66:20; Daniel 9:16; Joel 3:17; Zechariah 8:3; Revelation 21:10). However, Ezekiel tells us:
“This is the law of the house; Upon the top of the mountain the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy. Behold, this is the law of the house.” (Ezekiel 43:12)
The House in Ezekiel 43:12 is the Temple. “This is the Law of the Temple… the whole limit thereof round about shall be most holy…” (emphasis mine). The “limit” round about the House or the Temple was what Luke called a Sabbath days’ journey in Acts 1:12, where we find the Mount of Olives was included in the “limit” round about the House.
The law concerning traveling on the Sabbath can be found in Exodus 16:29, where Moses told the Israelites that they couldn’t go out of their place on the Sabbath day. The word for place is maqowm (H4725) and means “locality, country, or home.” Moses wasn’t trying to keep everyone inside his tent, but, rather, no one was permitted to leave the camp. In Numbers 35:5 the Law fixed the limits of the city to its suburbs of 2000 cubits (3000 feet) on every side. Later, the rabbis defined this as a Sabbath day’s walk, so that, even if a Jew was on a journey, he knew about how far he could walk on the Sabbath from where his tent was. This understanding excludes every other mountain in Judea and Galilee or elsewhere. Jesus could have been Transfigured only upon the Mount of Olives (Luke 9:28-29), within the city limits of Jerusalem (2Peter 1:18).
Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on top of the mount (Luke 9:30-31), showing that Jesus embodied or fulfilled the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Since it was the night portion of Last Great Day of the Feast, Peter, James and John were asleep (Luke 9:32). They were awakened, perhaps by the intensity of the Light of Jesus appearance, but Luke doesn’t say what awakened them. Peter wanted to build three tabernacles or tents, one for Jesus and the other two for Moses and Elijah. He saw what occurred in the context of the Feast of Tabernacles. He really didn’t understand what was going on (Luke 9:33).
While Peter was still speaking a cloud overshadowed the three disciples and engulfed them, and they were in great fear (Luke 9:34). Out of the cloud came a heavenly Voice saying: “This is my beloved Son. Hear him (Luke 9:35), and Matthew adds “…in whom I am well pleased… and, when they heard, they fell upon their faces and were sore afraid” (Matthew 17:5-6; cf. 2Peter 1:17-18). Afterward, Jesus came to the three disciples and touched them (Matthew 17:7) and when they looked up, they saw they were alone with Jesus (Luke 9:36). As they descended the mount, Jesus told the disciples not to discuss the vision with anyone else (Matthew 17:9; Luke 9:36), but they, from time to time, discussed it among themselves, especially wondering what rising from the dead should mean (Mark 9:10).