Notes & Commentary:
And after six days. St. Matthew reckons neither the day of the promise, nor the day of the transfiguration; St. Luke,
including both, calls the interval about eight days, osei emerai okto. (St. Chrysostom) --- He took
Peter, as head of the apostolic college; James, as first to shed his blood for the faith; and John, as he was to survive all
the rest, and to transmit to posterity the circumstances of this glorious mystery; or, according to St. Chrysostom on account
of their more excellent love, zeal, courage, sufferings and predilection. The mountain is generally believed to be Thabor,
and as such is considered by Christians as holy, and was much frequented by pilgrims, as St. Jerome testifies. Ven. Bede tells
us that three churches were built upon it; and Mr. Maundrell, in his Journey from Aleppo to Jerusalem, p. 112, says
there are still three grottoes, made to represent the three tabernacles proposed by St. Peter. According to Le Brun, Thabor
is situated about 12 miles from the sea of Galilee, and eight from Nazareth. Others, however, do not think the transfiguration
took place on Mount Thabor, which was in the middle of Lower Galilee, because St. Mark (ix. 29,) says, that Christ and his
apostles, departing thence, passed through Galilee, and not out of Galilee, and suppose it might be Libanus,
because it was near Cæsarea Philippi; in the borders of which Christ appears at this time to have been, at least the promise
of the transfiguration was made there, and this place is distant about 60 miles from Mount Thabor. (Matthew xvi. 13.) ---
Mount Libanus is the highest in Palestine, according to St. Jerome; and of it Isaias prophesied: "the glory of Libanus
is given to it, the beauty of Carmel and Saron; they shall see the glory of our God," xxxv. 2. (Tirinus) --- But, as we
said above, Thabor is very generally supposed to have been the mountain.
Ver. 2. Transfigured.
Let no one think that he changed his natural form, laying aside his corporeal, and assuming a spiritual form; but when the
evangelist says his countenance shone like the sun, and describes the whiteness of his garments, he shews in what the transfiguration
consisted. He added to his former appearance splendour and glory, but laid not aside his substance. ... The Lord was transfigured
into that glory with which he will appear again at the day of judgment, and in his kingdom. (St. Jerome) --- Calvin translates metamorphousthai,
transformed, but contrary to the sentiment of the holy fathers. He did not shew them his divinity, which cannot be seen
by the eyes of the body, but a certain glimpse or sign of the same: hence the hymn:
Quicunque Christum quæritis,
Oculos in altum tollite;
Illìc licebit visere
Signum perennis gloriæ.
Ver. 3. Moses
and Elias. Jesus Christ had been taken by the people for Elias, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He therefore chose the
chief of all the prophets to be present, that he might shew his great superiority over them, and verify the illustrious confession
of Peter. The Jews had accused Christ of blasphemy, and of breaking the sabbath; the presence of Moses and Elias refuted the
calumny; for the founder of the Jewish laws would never have sanctioned him who was a transgressor of those laws; and Elias,
so full of zeal for the glory of God, would never have paid homage to one who made himself equal to God, had he not really
been the Son of the Most High. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lvii.) --- St. Hilary thinks that Moses and Elias (who represent the
law and the prophets, and who here bear witness to the divinity of Jesus Christ,) will be the precursors of his second coming,
alluded to in Revelations, chap. xi, though the general opinion of the Fathers is, that the two witnesses there mentioned
are Enoch and Elias. (Jansenius) --- It is hence evident, that the saints departed can and do, with the permission of God,
take an interest in the affairs of the living. (St. Augustine, de curâ pro mort. chap. xv. 16.) --- For as angels elsewhere,
so here the saints also, served our Saviour; and as angels, both in the Old and New Testament, were frequently present at
the affairs of men, so may saints. (Bristow) --- All interpreters agree, that Elias appeared in his own body, but various
are their opinions with regard to the apparition of Moses. (Haydock)
Ver. 6. And
were very much afraid. There were two causes that might produce this fear in the apostles, the cloud that overshadowed
them, or the voice of God the Father, which they heard. Their human weakness could not bear such refulgent beams of glory,
and trembling in every limb, they fall prostrate on the ground. (St. Jerome) --- The Almighty, it seems, was pleased to fulfil
the wish of Peter, thereby to shew that Himself is the tent or pavilion, under the shade of which the blessed shall live for
ever, and to sanction the public and explicit confession of Peter relative to the divinity of Jesus Christ, by his own no
less public and explicit confession, joined with an express command to hear and obey him. St. Chrysostom very justly remarks,
that this voice was not heard till after the departure of Moses and Elias, that no possible doubt might exist to whom it was
referred, and that it was to Christ only and to no other. --- Hear ye Him: i.e. as the law and the prophets are fulfilled
and verified in Jesus Christ, your new legislator and prophet, you are to hear and obey Him in preference to either Moses
or Elias, or any other teacher. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. And
Jesus came and touched. The terrified disciples were still prostrate on the ground, and unable to rise, when Jesus, with
his usual benevolence, approaches, touches them, expels their fear, and restores them to the use of their limbs. (St. Jerome)
Ver. 9. Tell
the vision to no man, till the miracle of his resurrection has prepared the minds of men for the belief of this. Expose
not an event so wonderful to the rash censure of the envious Pharisees, who calumniate and misrepresent my most evident miracles.
Jesus Christ also gave a lesson here to his followers to observe the closest secrecy in all spiritual graces and favors.
Ver. 10. Elias
must come first. The prophet Elias will come again in person before my second coming to judgment, and will re-establish
all things, by the conversion of the Jews to the Christian faith, according to the common opinion. But John the Baptist
who was Elias in spirit, is already come. See Matthew xi. 14. (Witham) --- This was a vulgar error spread by the Scribes among
the Jewish people. It proceeded from an erroneous interpretation of Scripture. They confounded the two comings of our Saviour.
The Baptist was the precursor of Christ at his first coming, and was styled by our Lord Elias, because he performed the office
of Elias; and he shall go before Him in the spirit and power of Elias. (Luke i. 17.) --- But this prophet in person
will be the precursor of the second coming of Christ. Whereby Malachias, predicting this coming of Christ, says: I will
send to you Elias the Thesbite; thus evidently distinguishing him from the Baptist, who was also Elias in spirit and in
the dignity of his office. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lviii.) --- Jesus Christ here confirms the literal sense of the prophecy;
(Malachias iv. 5,) but, in the next verse, he shews a prior, though less perfect accomplishment of the same in the person
of John the Baptist, who was raised by God to prepare the ways of the Lord.
Ver. 11. Shall
... restore all things. According to St. Chrysostom, Theophylactus, and others, these words signify that Elias shall restore
all the Jews to the one true faith towards the end of the world; or, according to St. Augustine, he shall strengthen those
that shall be found wavering in the persecution of Antichrist.
Ver. 12. So
also shall the Son of man. Jesus in a most beautiful manner takes advantage of this conversation, to remind them of his
future passion, and from the recollection of the sufferings of John, affords them comfort in his own. (St. Chrysostom)
Ver. 14. And
when he was come. Peter, by wishing to remain on the holy mount, preferred his own gratification to the good of many.
But true charity seeketh not its own advantage only; what therefore appeared good to Peter, did not appear so to Christ, who
descends from the mountain, as from his high throne in heaven, to visit man. (Origen)
Ver. 15. I
brought him to thy disciples. By these words the man here mentioned privately accuses the apostles, though the impossibility
of the cure is not always to be attributed to the weakness of God's servants, but sometimes to the want of faith in the afflicted.
(St. Jerome) --- Stand astonished at the folly of this man! how he accuses the apostles before Jesus! But Christ frees them
from this inculpation, imputing the fault entirely to the man himself. For it is evident, from many circumstances, that he
was weak in faith. Our Saviour does not inveigh against this man alone, not to wound his feelings too sensibly, but against
the whole people of the Jews. We may infer, that many of the bystanders entertained false notions of his disciples, from these
words of deserved reproach: O! unbelieving and incredulous generation, how long shall I be with you? In which words,
he shews us how much he wished for his passion, and his departure hence. (St. Chrysostom) --- We must not imagine that our
Saviour, who was meekness and mildness itself, uttered on this occasion words of anger and intemperance. Not unlike a feeling
and tender physician, observing his patient totally disregarding his prescriptions, he says, How long shall I visit you; how
long shall I order one thing, and you do the contrary? Thus Jesus is not angry with the man, but with the vices of the man;
and in him he upbraids the Jews, in general, for their incredulity and perversity. (St. Jerome) --- The general sentiment
is, that these reproaches are limited to the people; some extend them to the apostles. See below, ver. 19. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 18. Why
could not we? The disciples began to apprehend that they had incurred their Master's displeasure, and had thereby lost
their power of working miracles. They come therefore secretly to Jesus Christ, to learn why they could not cast out devils.
He answered them, that it was their want of faith, which probably failed them on this occasion, on account of the difficulty
of the cure, little reflecting that the virtue of the Lord, which worked in them, was superior to every possible evil of both
mind and body. --- St. Hilary is of opinion, that during the absence of Christ on the mountain, the fervour of the apostles
had begun to abate. (Jansenius)
Ver. 19. If
you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed. Christ insinuates to his apostles, as if they had not yet faith enough to work
great miracles, which require a firm faith joined with a lively confidence in God. The mustard-seed is brought in with an
allusion to its hot and active qualities. (Witham) --- That is, a perfect faith; which, in its properties and its fruits,
resembles the grain of mustard-seed in the parable. (Chap. xii.[xiii.?] 31.) (Challoner) --- By faith is here understood,
not that virtue by which we assent to all things that are to be believed of Christ, the first, of the theological virtues,
in which the apostles were not deficient, but that confidence in the power and goodness of God, that he will on such an occasion
exert these, his attributes, in favour of the supplicant. To have a true faith of this kind, and free from all presumption,
is a great and high privilege, which the Holy Ghost breathes into such only as he pleases. (Jansenius) --- Examples of this
efficacious faith are given by St. Paul. (Hebrews chap. ii.[xi.?]) St. Gregory of Neo-Cæsarea is also related, by Eusebius
and Ven. Bede, to have removed by the efficacy of his faith a rock, which obstructed the building of a church; thus literally
fulfilling the promise of Jesus Christ. (Tirinus) --- The faith of the apostles, especially of those that had not been present
at the transfiguration, was not perfect and complete in all its parts, till after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus
Christ, and the descent of the Holy Ghost. (Haydock) --- St. Jerome understands by mountains, things the most difficult
to be effected.
Ver. 20. See
here the efficacy of prayer and fasting! What the apostles could not do, prayer accompanied with fasting can effect. How then
can that be genuine religion, which makes fasting an object of ridicule? We see also here that the true Church in her exorcisms
follows Scripture, when she uses besides the name of Jesus, many prayers and much fasting to drive out the devils, because
these, as well as faith, are here required. (Bristow)
Ver. 21. Jesus
then taking the road to Jerusalem with his disciples, and whilst they were in Galilee, which they had to pass through, he
spake to them of his sufferings, death, and resurrection. (Bible de Vence)
Ver. 22. They
were troubled exceedingly, not being able to comprehend the mystery of Christ's sufferings and death, which were so opposite
to the notions they had of the glorious kingdom of the Messias. (Witham) --- This grief was the consequence of their attachment
to their divine Master. They were ignorant, as St. Mark and St. Luke notice, of the word that was spoken. They full well understood
that he would be put to death, but did not sufficiently comprehend the shortness of his rest in the grave, the nature of his
triumphant resurrection, nor the inestimable benefits which his death would bring on the world. (St. Chrysostom, hom. lix.)
Ver. 23. They
that received the didrachmas, (ta didrachma) in value about fifteen-pence of our money. (Witham) --- A tax,
according to some, laid on every person who was twenty years of age, for the service of the temple. See Exodus xxx. St. Chrysostom
thinks it was paid for the first-born only, whom the Lord would have redeemed for the first-born of the Egyptians, whom he
slew. Others think it was a tribute paid to the Romans, as Christ, in ver. 24, seems to insinuate, by mentioning the kings
of the earth; and the Jews were tributary to them at this time. In ver. 24, the evangelist uses the word Kensos,
taken from the Latin census, or tax.
Ver. 25. Then
the children. From these words and the following, that we may not scandalize them, some argue that Christians are
exempt from taxes. The fallacy of this deduction is victoriously demonstrated from the express words of St. Paul, (Romans
xiii.) commanding us to be subject to the higher powers, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake: Render tribute
to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom, &c. The word children then does not mean subjects, but must be understood
in its natural limited sense. (Jansenius) --- Jesus Christ argues a minori ad majus thus, if the kings of the earth
exact money from their subjects only, and exempt their own children, how much more ought I to be exempt, who do not claim
my descent from a temporal prince only, but from the supreme King of heaven. This example our Saviour would never have adduced,
says St. Chrysostom had he not really been the Son of God. (hom. lix.) Our Saviour uniformly waved his right to exemptions
in temporal things: he declares every where that temporal princes have nothing to fear from him, or his doctrines, since his
kingdom is not of this world. (Haydock)
Ver. 26. But
that we may not. Jesus Christ pays the tribute, not as one subject to the law, but as consulting the infirmity of the
people; but he first shews himself exempt from the above example, lest his disciples might take occasion of scandal therefrom.
(St. Chrysostom, hom. lix.) --- For me and thee. A great mystery this: Jesus Christ paid not only for himself, but
for the future representative of Him and his Church, in whom, as chief, the rest were comprised. (St. Augustine, q. ex Nov.
Tes. q. lxxv. tom. 4.) Jesus Christ here, as well as on many other occasions, pointedly marks the precedence of Peter, which
might give rise to the strife and contention of the disciples, in the commencement of the ensuing chapter, on the subject
of superiority. Thus St. Jerome, St. Chrysostom, Tirinus, &c.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The transfiguration of Christ: He cures the lunatic child,
foretells his passion: and pays the didrachma.
1 And *after six days Jesus taketh unto him Peter and James, and John
his brother, and bringeth them up into a high mountain apart:
2 And he was transfigured before them. And his face did shine as the
sun: and his garments became white as snow.
3 And behold there appeared to them Moses and Elias, talking with him.
4 Then Peter answering, said to Jesus: Lord, it is good for us to be
here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
5 And as he was yet 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: hear ye him.
6 And the disciples hearing, fell upon their face, and were very much
7 And Jesus came and touched them: and said to them: Arise, and be not
8 And lifting up their eyes, they saw no man but only Jesus.
9 And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying:
Tell the vision to no man, till the Son of man be risen from the dead.
10 And his disciples asked him, saying: *Why then do the Scribes say
that Elias must come first?
11 But *he answering, said to them: Elias indeed shall come, and restore
12 But I say to you, *that Elias is already come, and they knew him not,
**but have done unto him whatsoever they had a mind. So also the Son of man shall suffer from them.
13 Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them of John the
14 *And when he was come to the multitude, there came to him a man falling
down on his knees before him, saying: Lord, have pity on my son, for he is a lunatic, and suffereth much: for he falleth often
into the fire, and often into the water.
15 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
16 Then Jesus answered, and said: O unbelieving and perverse generation,
how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? Bring him hither to me.
17 And Jesus rebuked him, and the devil went out of him, and the child
was cured from that hour.
18 Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not
we cast him out?
19 Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. *For amen I say to you,
if you have faith as a grain of mustard-seed, you shall say to this mountain: Remove from hence to yonder place, and it shall
remove, and nothing shall be impossible to you.
20 But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.
21 And while they abode together in Galilee, Jesus said to them: *The
Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
22 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall rise again. And
they were troubled exceedingly.
23 And when they were come to Capharnaum, they that received the didrachmas,
came to Peter, and said to him: Doth not your master pay the didrachma?
24 He said: Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented
him, saying: What is thy opinion, Simon? Of whom do the kings of the earth receive tribute or custom? of their own children,
or of strangers?
25 And he said: Of strangers. Jesus said to him: Then the children are
26 But that we may not scandalize them, go thou to the sea, and cast
in a hook: and that fish which shall first come up, take: and when thou hast opened its mouth, thou shalt find a stater: take
that, and give it to them for me and thee.
1: about the year A.D. 32.; Mark ix. 1.; Luke ix. 28.
5: Matthew iii. 17.; 2 Peter i. 17.
10: Mark ix. 10.
11: Malachias iv. 5.
12: Matthew xi. 14. --- ** Matthew xiv. 10.
14: Mark ix. 16.; Luke ix. 38.
19: Luke xvii. 6.
21: Matthew xx. 18.; Mark ix. 30.; Luke ix. 44.