oa Conspectus : The Journal of the South African Theological Seminary - Reading the Markan transfiguration (Mark 9:1-9) in the light of Jesus’ scattering of the Tyrian Baal coins - research

Volume 26 Number 1
  • ISSN : 1996-8167



The transfiguration is found in all three Synoptic Gospels yet remains one of the more puzzling incidents in the life of Jesus. At the level of narrative, the event forms the bridge between the Galilean ministry of Jesus and his coming passion and the occasion is bracketed by warnings of his imminent death. Focusing on the Gospel of Mark, I suggest that there are elements of dramatic irony present, when we read the account of the transfiguration in the light of Jesus’ intervention in the temple. The tone is already set by Jesus’ ironical comment on ‘taking up one’s cross’. The location on the mountain, and the mention of Elijah and Moses, in that order, point back to Carmel (Elijah and the worship of the Tyrian Baal) and to Sinai (Moses and the second commandment, the prohibition of graven images). The transfiguration points forward to Jesus’ encounter in the temple and his scattering of the Tyrian Baal-Melkart coins. The radical transformation of Jesus and the responses of Peter and the other disciples in the ensuing debates, as they struggle to make sense of what is happening, furthers the ironical intent of the narrative. Reading the transfiguration through the lens of the temple events, allows us to glimpse the penumbra of the cross, which like a shadow enshrouds the mountain top.

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