My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Review: Transfiguration of Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Reading

Transfiguration of Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Reading Transfiguration of Christ: An Exegetical and Theological Reading by Patrick Schreiner
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Recounted in all three (3) of the synoptic gospels, the Transfiguration of Christ is obviously an important part of the faith from the very beginnings of the Church that is rich in symbolism that can be difficult to unpack and appreciate today without the appropriate historical context. Schreiner does an excellent job providing that context along with commentary that explores a number of potential interpretations, some of which provided new insights and some of which seemed to be a bit of a stretch, all of which provoked some deep thoughts about how this event should fit within the faith. Overall I found this to be a valuable addition to me reference library.

The chapters and sections in this work are:

Introduction: A Two-Level Christology
Chapter 1. The Necessity of the Transfiguration
Chapter 2. The Glorious Setting
Chapter 3. The Glorious Signs
Chapter 4. The Glorious Saying
Chapter 5. The Transfiguration and Theology
Conclusion: Restoring the Transfiguration
Appendix: Light from Light

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:

For Christians, “metamorphosis” refers both to the physical unveiling of Jesus on the mountain (Matt. 17:2; Mark 9:2) and to the change that progressively occurs in Christians (Rom. 12:2; 2 Cor. 3:18) as we behold “God’s glory in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6) and eventually “see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

First, the Gospels saw the episode as foreshadowing Jesus’s resurrection and exaltation. Second, Jesus’s transformation and the cloud recalls the glorification of Moses. Third, the dazzling white garments are typical of heavenly beings, including the glorified saints.

This context is fundamental for understanding the transfiguration. Jesus, in an allusion to Daniel 7:13–14, predicts that some of the disciples will not die until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom. The temporal note signifies that the transfiguration fulfills Jesus’s prediction. The transfiguration is a vision of the Son of Man’s glory, victory, and exaltation.

God created the world in six days, then on the seventh day he rested. The eighth day was known as the first day of the new creation, since it transcended the seven days of creation. The seventh and eighth day imagery therefore symbolizes the reconfiguration of the cosmos.

Second, mountains are places of theophanies, where God and humankind meet. A mountain is an axis mundi, a conduit between earth and heaven, a place of divine revelation. God met with Abraham on a mountain (Gen. 22), revealed himself to Moses in the burning bush on a mountain (Exod. 3:9–10; 19:18–20), and spoke to Elijah on a mountain (1 Kings 19). Mountains are where humans encounter God.

The church fathers all affirmed that the transfiguration, while a concrete historical event, was symbolic of our own ascent to God. The setting becomes a cipher for what it means to “seek the things above” (Col. 3:1), ascend God’s mountain (Exod. 19:3; Isa. 2:3; Ps. 24:3; Mic. 4:2), and reach for the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). To ascend God’s mountain requires casting off that which clings so closely (Heb. 12:1–2) and discarding the deeds of darkness (Rom. 13:12). This has been called the work of purgation––burning the sin from our bodies.

All three Evangelists recount Moses and Elijah’s advent with only minor differences. Matthew and Luke list the figures in chronological order—Moses then Elijah—while Mark names Elijah before Moses. Luke is unique in saying they appeared in “glory” (doxa) and spoke of Jesus’s “departure” (exodos). Significantly, only after Jesus is transfigured do they appear.

Many assert that Moses and Elijah appear because they are covenantal figures who represent the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah). Throughout the New Testament, the phrase “the Law and the Prophets” summarizes all of Israel’s Scriptures.

The church has spoken of the stage after purgation as one of illumination. We put off sin so that we can ascend and see. We move from the ways of a child (purgation) to that of an adolescent (illumination) (see 1 Cor. 13:11–12). Illumination is “characterized by a radical shift of the deep dynamics of our being, a profound transformation of our relationship with God.”

His error lies in his basic proposal to make tents. Peter’s misstep pertains to his attempt to prolong the glory of the scene ad finitum. Peter envisions this mount as the new Bethel, the dwelling place of God, that should last into eternity.

The Lord commands Abraham to take his only and beloved son and sacrifice him on the mountain. The links to the transfiguration are hard to miss: (1) sacrificial imagery, on (2) a mountaintop, accompanied by (3) beloved-son language, and (4) future glorification. In the Jewish tradition, Isaac is seen as a sacrificial figure. The story is called the Akedah, from the Hebrew term for the binding of Isaac.

For Hebrews, “today” is forever. Today is always present. Therefore, when the Father says, “Today, I have become your father,” it implies a past, present, and maybe even eternal meaning.

The Old Testament contains an iconic text that also calls Israel to listen: the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4–5. The title “Shema” is based on the first Hebrew word of the text, which means “listen,” “hear,” or “obey”: “Listen [shema‘], Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one [ekhad]. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

Origen held to a three-stage understanding of Christ’s visibility. First, everyone can see Christ’s physical body donned in the incarnation. Second, there is a glorified but only semi-spiritualized body shown at the transfiguration and between the resurrection and ascension, and only the spiritually mature can perceive it. Third, there is the body of Jesus that has ascended into the heavens, which is fully spiritual and can only be seen by those who have assumed “spiritual” bodies.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#TheTransfigurationOfChrist #NetGalley

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.