Not everyone believes that the Mount of Transfiguration is exactly the location where Christ went with His three disciples. Yet the Bible clearly states that Christ revealed the glory of His Godhead to the disciples on Mount Tabor. The Evangelist Matthew says His face shone like the sun, and His garments became white as light.
Mount Tabor, also called: Har Tavor, Itabyrium, Jebel et-Tur or הַר תָּבוֹר, Όρος Θαβώρ is a hill at the eastern end of the Jezreel Valley, rising to an altitude of just over 500 meters in the region of Lower Galilee. Located 9 kilometers east of Nazareth and just 17 kilometers west of the Sea of Galilee, where the borders of Issachar and Zebulun begin, this hill is also known as the Mount of the Transfiguration of Christ.
From Scripture, we learn that only three disciples were present at this revelation of what the Lord kept hidden because people could not face the sight of His Godhead: Peter, James, and John. And the prophets Elijah and Moses also appeared. They were given this wonderful sight because they were changed: The disciples were transformed, and this made them see the transformation.
What is the Mount of Transfiguration in the Bible?
Starting in the 4th century, Christians began to make pilgrimages and services on this site, identifying a stone here as the site of the great event: the Transfiguration. The place is also particularly important for the Jews, because Moses blessed it, saying: For Zebulun said: Rejoice, Zebulun, in your ways, and you, Issachar, in your tents. And they shall call the people to the mountain, and there they shall slaughter the lawful sacrifices: for they shall feed upon the riches of the sea, and the treasures hidden in the sand.
The Mount of Transfiguration in the Bible is the place where Jesus changed His appearance. And also where the battle between Barak and Jabin, mentioned in the Old Testament, took place. On Mount Tabor, the men of Zebulun and Issachar, led by Barak and Deborah, gathered to attack Sisera’s hostiles.
And Deborah sent and called Barak the son of Abinoam from the Kedesh of Naphtali, and said to him: The Lord God of Israel commands you: Go, get thee up to Mount Tabor, and take with thee ten thousand men of the sons of Naphtali and the sons of Zebulun: and I will bring unto thee unto the wall of Chison Sisera, the captain of the host of Jabin, and his chariots, and his host of many, and will deliver him into thy hand.
What happened to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration?
For the first time, the people of Israel have the opportunity to see the Glory of God. In Moses’ encounters with God, the Lord will tell him that no one can see His face and live. Now, at the Lord’s Transfiguration, this event, foreshadowed in the Old Testament by the encounters with Moses, happens. It is the first time that people can see God’s face in glory. In great light, shining like the sun. Glory as of one born of the Father.
The theological works say that on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus changed his Face. The Savior’s Transfiguration represents the date when Jesus, along with three of the closest of the disciples, Peter, James, and John, ascended Mount Tabor. As Jesus was praying, the apostles, sleepy with sleep, were suddenly startled by a sight they had never seen before: the Saviour’s face was changed, his face shone like the sun, and his clothes were as white as snow. Immediately, however, they saw something else unusual: in this light, two men were talking to Jesus about his passion and death in Jerusalem. These are the great Old Testament prophets, Moses and Elijah, say the theological writings.
The Holy Fathers tell us in the hymns of these feasts that Jesus Christ is the Image of the Holy Trinity. Now on Tabor, it is the first time humanity sees the Face of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ is the image of the Holy Trinity. That is the image. Not in the virtual sense of image, but the sense of part-seen. Jesus Christ is the Trinity who makes himself seen to the world.
What is the significance of the Mount of Transfiguration?
Against the clear backdrop of the Galilean sky, Tabor presents itself in all its splendor, with a geographical configuration all of its own. Surrounded by a vast valley with villages and cultures of all kinds, Tabor rises to heaven like a true spiritual ladder between man and God, between matter and Spirit.
The meaning of Mount Tabor remains “God’s holy mountain”, the symbol of divine kenosis, the ladder of great spiritual ascents, the “high mountain” where the Son of Man clothed Himself in the radiance of divinity and revealed Himself to us as the Son of God. Tabor remains for Christians the altar of the uncreated energies of the Holy Trinity, which renew and clothe a man in heavenly light, changing the face of the soul and making it worthy of Christ, of eternity. Tabor remains the unique image of man’s deification through faith and prayer.
From Cana of Galilee, we set off towards Mount Tabor, a 25 km long path. The asphalt road passes over vast fields of cereals, citrus fruits, and bananas. To our left, the local tradition says, is the field where the apprentices used to harvest wheat ears on Saturdays. We approach the mountain of the Transfiguration. In the distance, the peak of Tabor looms solitary against the blue of the sun-drenched sky. Arab villages appear here and there. 6 km from Mount Tabor, to the south, in the village of Nain, where the Saviour raised the son of a widow.
Where is Mount of Transfiguration located?
One of the great feasts of Orthodoxy, the Transfiguration of the Savior Jesus Christ, can be experienced by the faithful right where that wonderful transfiguration took place: on Mount Tabor; the place where the Son of God showed the three apostles, Peter, James and John, His true and divine face.
According to historians, the Mount of Transfiguration is located in Jerusalem and is 9 km from Nazareth. Unlike the Nazareth Mountains, it is unique in all its characteristics, both in terms of shape and geological structure. Although it looks like an extinct volcano, it has no volcanic elements. The plateau of this limestone hill has an elliptical shape, its slopes are quite steep and the view is great. Today, two Arab villages stand at the base of the mountain: Shibli-Umm al-Ghanam on the eastern side and Daburiyya on the western side. The Arabs call this hill ‘Jebel out-turn, meaning ‘Mountain of Mountains’. There is also a Jewish community here, known as Kfar Tavor.
Saint Peter the Apostle would call it the Holy Mountain ( 2 Peter 1,18) because this is where the Lord’s Transfiguration took place, the revelation of His divinity. Also here took place the meeting of the representatives of the Old Testament (Moses and Elijah) with those of the New Testament (the three Apostles present).
Key Verse related to the Mount of Transfiguration
“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.”
Matthew 17:1-6 (NIV)
Who appeared to Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration?
Mount Tabor, completely isolated in the middle of the Esdrelon plain, with a height of 588 m and a vast platform on top, is the most representative mountain in Galilee. A pilgrim of the last century described it as follows: the mountain “rises before us like a moment of ecstasy that has taken on earthly form, like a kilometre stone of creation, like an altar of the earth that is itself a temple of God”.
On the Mount of Transfiguration, the prophet Moses and Elijah appeared to Peter, James, and John. It played an important role in biblical history, and tradition links it to the Transfiguration of our Saviour Jesus Christ. The mountain is strategically located on the ancient north-south main road and was an important fortress in the Greek, Roman and Crusader periods. The Evangelist Luke tells us that Moses and Elijah spoke to Christ about His Passion. The Holy Fathers say that Moses is said to have said, “You are the One whose passion I foreshadowed, slaying the lamb and celebrating the Passover.”
But Mount Tabor is primarily linked to the Transfiguration of Christ. The Gospels do not name the mountain on which the event took place, but early Christian tradition considers it to be the place where Jesus revealed his radiance to the three disciples. Also Mount Tabor rises on the northeast side of the Yizreel Depression.
On Mount Tabor, apart from the Triune God, there are five people. Next to Christ are two prominent Old Testament figures, the Prophet Moses and the Prophet Elijah, as well as the three disciples, Peter, James, and John. The former are representatives of the Old Testament, namely, one of the Law (Moses) and the other of the Prophets (Elijah), while the Apostles are representatives of the New Testament.
According to the Gospels, Moses and Elijah appear to Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration to see the Face of God. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, speaking to Him. And Peter answered and said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you will, I will make three booths here: One for you, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah. And as he continued speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold a voice out of the cloud saying: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. And Jesus came to them, and touching them said to them: Arise and do not be afraid. And when they lifted their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus alone.
According to a tradition related by Origen, Christians on this mountain are said to have venerated the Transfiguration of the Lord, the first Christian shrines appearing in the 4th century, in the Byzantine period. So documents tell us that St Helen climbed Mount Tabor and, after discovering the site of the Transfiguration, built a church in honor of the Saviour and the three apostles. Also mentioned is a staircase with 4,340 stone steps leading up from the valley to the top of the mountain.
- Mount Tabor – the Holy Mountain of the Turning of the Face – hosted on it three Christian churches, dedicated to the great event, as an Anonymous Pilgrim from 570 testifies.
- Another pilgrim, named Willibaldus, mentions that in the year 723, on Mount Tabor there was only one other church, dedicated “to Christ, Moses and Elijah”.
- Today the Tabor or Transfiguration Mountain is home to two Christian monasteries, one Orthodox and one Franciscan. The Greek Orthodox monastery is located on the north-eastern side of the mountain, at the top of the plateau, while the Catholic one is on the southern side of the mountain.
No one among mortals knows the exact place on Tabor where the Lord changed His face before the three disciples, Peter, James, and John. This remains a mystery of God for ages. But we all believe, feel and testify that here, on the summit of Tabor, Christ clothed himself in the glory of the Godhead, as far as “his disciples” who bore his flesh could comprehend. How great are nature and the whole building, seen from Tabor! Let us remember the Gospel of the Lord’s Transfiguration.
The Tabor Plateau is almost a kilometer long and wide. In the golden age of Christianity, dozens and hundreds of Sikh monks were in need in the caves and forests of Mount Tabor. Many came to “see” and experience the uncreated light of God through fasting and heartfelt prayer. Many became saints here and their bones remain on Tabor. The name and number of the Orthodox saints on Tabor are known only to God.