Mt Sinai + Mt Transfiguration

I find it interesting how Mark’s version of the Mount of Transfiguration echoes the Mount Sinai episode in the Old Testament. At least seven parallels surface:

  • The most obvious is that Moses is present at both Mount Sinai and the Mount of Transfiguration (Ex, Mark 9:4)
  • Both accounts take place on a high mountain (Ex 24:12–15, Mark 9:2)
  • In both cases a cloud covers the mountain (Ex 24:15–16, Mark 9:7)
  • A six-day interval leads up to the climactic events (Ex 24:16, Mark 9:2)
  • In both cases God speaks from the mountain on the seventh day (Ex 24:16, Mark 9:2,7)
  • At Mt Sinai, Moses’ face shines (Ex 34:29–35); at Mt Transfiguration, Jesus’ clothes shine (Mark 9:3)
  • The fear of the people in seeing Moses is paralleled by the fear of the disciples (Ex 34:30, Mark 9:6).

And another interesting connection links Moses and Jesus together in the Transfiguration. In the OT Moses says to look forward to a coming prophet—a new prophet—and when he comes, listen to him. Compare this to God’s words at the Mount of Transfiguration:

  • Moses: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:15).
  • God: “This is my beloved Son; listen to him” (Mark 9:7).

Exactly what Mark intended us to understand through this parallelism is not immediately clear. But it does seem to indicate two things:

  1. As God delivered revelation through Moses at Sinai, so now Jesus is a new revelation of God. Everyone should be listening.
  2. Jesus’ redemptive work is the outworking of an ancient redemptive lineage. After his transfiguration, Jesus turns his thoughts and his words to his approaching death and resurrection (see Mark 9:10-11, 31). This work is firmly rooted in the OT promises.

William Lane, in his commentary on Mark (NICNT), summarizes the data well when he concludes:

When the cloud lifted, Moses and Elijah had vanished. Jesus alone remained as the sole bearer of God’s new revelation to be disclosed in the cross and resurrection. Moses and Elijah had also followed the path of obedience, but having borne witness to Jesus’ character and mission, they can help him no more. The way to the cross demanded the submission of the Son and Jesus must set out upon it alone.

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