Mt. Tabor: Transfiguration of Christ
Places of Interest
Transfiguration of Christ
1. Mount Tabor, rising like a dome-like mountain from the Plain of Jezreel, is the place where Christian tradition places the transfiguration of Jesus.
2. It’s about 11 miles (15 km.) southwest of the Sea of Galilee and about 5 miles (8 km.) east of Nazareth.
3. Mount Tabor stands some 1,500 ft. (457 m.) above the Jezreel Valley plain in lower Galilee.
4. It held a strategic position at the junction of several trade routes. For this reason, many battles have been fought around it.
5. It is mentioned as one of the key mountains in Scripture: The north and the south, you have created them; Tabor and Hermon joyously praise your name (Psalm 89:12).
1. In the Old Testament, Mount Tabor is described as a sacred mountain and a place for worship. It is not mentioned by name in the New Testament.
2. Throughout its history, it has been a place where mankind has sought contact with the divine.
3. It also served as an important fortress during the Old Testament, Greek, Roman, and Crusader times.
4. It is best known as the believed place where the transfiguration of Christ took place, an event in the Gospels in which Jesus is transfigured upon an unnamed mountain and speaks with Moses and Elijah as described in Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36.
5. Christian tradition in the early centuries named Mount Tabor as the place of the transfiguration of Christ. This location is cited in early apocryphal writings and was accepted by the Syriac and Byzantine churches.
6. The earliest identification of the Mount of Transfiguration as Tabor is by Origen in the 3rd century.
7. During the Byzantine period, due to the importance of Mount Tabor in Christian tradition, it became a pilgrimage site from the 4th century and onward. According to descriptions of the pilgrims visiting this site during the 6th century, there were three churches that resided on the top of Mount Tabor.
8. Some biblical scholars today now question this tradition. These scholars see the much higher Mount Hermon as a more likely location as it was closer to Caesarea Philippi, where Peter’s confession of Christ took place.
9. However, there is great value in considering the 2,000-year traditional history of this site.
10. Scripture says that the transfiguration of Christ took place 6 days after Peter’s confession of Christ in Caesarea Philippi. Mount Tabor is about 40 miles (65 km.) south of Caesarea Philippi which could easily have been reached in 6 days.
11. It’s really not important where this event happened but that it did happen.
12. Today, there are two main churches and monasteries on top of Mount Tabor marking the event of the transfiguration of Christ. They include the Franciscan Basilica of the Transfiguration and St. Elias Greek Orthodox Church.
Places of Interest
1. Franciscan Basilica of the Transfiguration – Main church that is visited and sits at the highest part of Mount Tabor. This church, which is part of a Franciscan monastery complex, was completed in 1924. It was built on the ruins of an ancient (4th–6th-century) Byzantine church and a 12th-century church of the Crusader Kingdom period.
2. St. Elias Greek Orthodox Church – Located on the northeast side of Mount Tabor. It’s named after the Prophet Elijah.
3. Tower & Walls
4. Other ancient structures, chapels, cisterns, and quarries.
5. Descentibus Chapel
6. Melchizedek Chapel
7. Jezreel Valley
Mount Tabor in the Bible
1. Mount Tabor is mentioned 12 times in Scripture.
2. It's first mentioned in Joshua 19:22, as a border between the three tribes of Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali. The mountain's prominence is due to its strategic location at the junction of the Galilee's north-south route, along with the east-west highway of the Jezreel Valley.
3. According to Judges chapter 4, Hazor was the seat of Jabin, the king of Canaan. His military commander, Sisera, led a Canaanite army against the Israelites. Deborah, the Jewish prophetess, summoned Barak of the tribe of Naphtali and gave him the following command from God.
Judges 4:14–16: And Deborah said to Barak, “Up! For this is the day in which the Lord has given Sisera into your hand. Does not the Lord go out before you?” So, Barak went down from Mount Tabor with 10,000 men following him. 15 And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army before Barak by the edge of the sword. And Sisera got down from his chariot and fled away on foot. 16 And Barak pursued the chariots and the army to Harosheth-hagoyim, and all the army of Sisera fell by the edge of the sword; not a man was left.
4. Transfiguration of Christ.
Matthew 17:1–13: And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John, his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3 And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4 And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8 And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. 9 And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.” 10 And the disciples asked him, “Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?” 11 He answered, “Elijah does come, and he will restore all things. 12 But I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also, the Son of Man will certainly suffer at their hands.” 13 Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.
5. After descending Mount Tabor, Christ healed a man and used Mount Tabor as an example of faith.
Matthew 17:14–20: And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he has seizures and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.” 18 And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly. 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.”
Faith Lesson from Mount Tabor
1. It’s really not important where the transfiguration of Christ happened but that it did occur.
2. The transfiguration of Christ is another proof that He was truly the Son of God and divine.
3. It cemented in the hearts of Peter, James, and John, who would become key leaders in the early church, that Christ was definitely the Messiah and God the Father in the flesh.
4. The Apostle Peter looked back to this landmark event of the transfiguration to speak about how sure and solid our faith in Christ and His Word is.
1 Peter 1:16–21: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain [mount of transfiguration]. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation [source or wisdom]. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
5. Are we anchored in our faith and unmovable?
6. Do we believe Christ was God in the flesh and are we willing to follow Him and be His disciples?
7. Do we have faith that we can move spiritual mountains if we have faith in Christ?