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6 1 Christ’s Transfiguration The Early Church to the High Middle Ages This chapter will trace the development of the Church’s understanding of Christ’s transfiguration in the period that extends from the New Testament to the High Middle Ages. It will examine the transfiguration narratives in the synoptic gospels and in 2 Peter, which also contains a passing reference to the transfiguration. Next, it will briefly outline the early Christian and Gnostic interpretations of those passages and the Early Medieval reception and development of those interpretations. The chapter will then prepare for the examination of early Franciscan and Dominican theologies of the transfiguration by discussing the relative absence of the transfiguration and other events of Christ’s life from the scholastic Christology of the twelfth century. Finally, the chapter will provide a succinct overview of how thirteenthcentury scholastic theologians explored Christ’s transfiguration. This overview will constitute an introduction to the Franciscan and Dominican theologians studied in this work and will provide reference points for the fuller explorations in subsequent chapters. The Transfiguration in the New Testament Jesus’ transfiguration is recorded in all three synoptic gospels; several common elements unite these Gospel narratives. The first common theme is that Jesus took Peter, James, and John to a mountain, where they witnessed his transformation: His garments became exceedingly white and shining. Moses and Elijah then appeared and con- Early Church to High Middle Ages  7 versed with Jesus. In all three Gospel accounts, Peter addressed Jesus, saying, “It is well [καλόν] that we are here,” and he suggested building three booths: one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.1 A cloud overshadowed the disciples, and a voice from the cloud proclaimed ,“This is my Son . . . listen to him.”2 The different emphases of each of the three synoptic gospels are too numerous to examine exhaustively in this section, but a few of the more important ones should be mentioned.3 One apparent disparity 1. Mt 17:4, Mk 9:5, and Lk 9:33. All English translations of the New Testament in this chapter are taken from the RSV. The Greek texts of the New Testament are from NestleAland , Novum testamentum graece et latine, 26th ed. (Stuttgart, Ger.: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft , 1991). 2. Lk 9:35. All three Gospels have slightly different statements, among them Matthew’s Gospel has the most full expression:“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Mt 17:5). 3. The unique characteristics of each Gospel narrative have been the subject of numerous biblical studies. The following studies by no means exhaust the secondary literature on this topic: P. R. Baldacci, “The Significance of the Transfiguration Narrative in the Gospel of Luke: A Redactional Investigation” (PhD diss., Marquette University, 1974); Stephen C. Barton, “The Transfiguration of Christ according to Mark and Matthew: Christology and Anthropology,” in Auferstehung-Resurrection, edited by F. Avemarie and H. Lichtenberger, 231–46 (Tübingen, Ger.: Mohr Siebeck, 2001); T. F. Best,“Transfiguration and Discipleship in Matthew” (PhD diss., Graduate Theological Union, 1974); Josef Blinzler, Die neutestamentlichen Berichte über die Verklärung Jesu (Münster, Ger.: Verlag der Aschendottschen Verlagsbuchhandlung , 1937); Rudolf Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, translated by John Marsh (New York: Harper and Row, 1963), and Theology of the New Testament, translated by Kendrick Grobel, vol. 1 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1951); Eugène Dabrowski , La transfiguration de Jésus (Rome: Institut Biblique Pontifical, 1939); Augustín Del Agua, “The Narrative of the Transfiguration as a Derashic Scenification of a Faith Confession (Mark 9.2–8 par.),” New Testament Studies 39 (1993): 340–54; André Feuillet,“Les perspective propres à chaque évangéliste dans les récits de la transfiguration,” Biblica 39 (1958): 281–301; Crispin H.T. Fletcher-Louis,“The Revelation of the Sacral Son of Man: The Genre, History of Religions Context and the Meaning of the Transfiguration,” in AuferstehungResurrection , 247–98; Augustin George, “La transfiguration (Luc 9:28–36),” Bible et vie chrétienne 33 (1960): 21–25; Wolfgang Gerber, “Die Metamorphose Jesu (Mark 9, 2f. par.),” Theologische Zeitschrift 23 (1967): 385–95; John Paul Heil, The Transfiguration of Jesus: Narrative Meaning and Function of Mark 9:2–8, Matt 17:1–8, and Luke 9:28–36 (Rome: Editrice Pontificio Istituto Biblico, 2000); Morna D. Hooker,“‘What Doest Thou Here, Elijah?’ A Look at St. Mark’s Account of the Transfiguration,” in The Glory of Christ in the New Testament: Studies in Christology...


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