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SUNSET ON MOUNT HERMON.
shone out in the blue summer-sky, one by one, the stars in Eastern brilliancy. We know not the exact direction which the climbers took, nor how far their journey went. But there is only one road that leads from Cæsarea Philippi to Hermon, and we cannot be mistaken in following it. First, among vine-clad hills stocked with mulberry, apricot, and fig trees; then, through corn-fields where the pear tree supplants the fig; next, through oak coppice, and up rocky ravines to where the soil is dotted with dwarf shrubs. And if we pursue the ascent, it still becomes steeper, till the first ridge of snow is crossed, after which turfy banks, gravelly slopes, and broad snowpatches alternate. The top of Hermon in summer-and it can only be ascended in summer or autumn-is free from snow, but broad patches run down the sides, expanding as they descend. To the very summit it is well earthed; to 500 feet below it, studded with countless plants, higher up with dwarf clumps.'
As they ascended in the cool of that Sabbath evening, the keen mountain air must have breathed strength into the climbers, and the scent of snow-for which the parched tongue would long in summer's heat a—have refreshed them. We know not what part Prov. xxv. may have been open to them of the glorious panorama from Hermon, embracing as it does a great part of Syria from the sea to Damascus, from the Lebanon and the gorge of the Litany to the mountains of Moab; or down the Jordan valley to the Dead Sea; or over Galilee, Samaria, and on to Jerusalem, and beyond it. But such darkness as that of a summer's night would creep on. And now the moon shone out in dazzling splendour, cast long shadows over the mountain, and lit up the broad patches of snow, reflecting their brilliancy on the objects around.
On that mountain-top 'He prayed.' Although the text does not expressly state it, we can scarcely doubt, that He prayed with them, and still less, that He prayed for them, as did the Prophet for his servant, when the city was surrounded by Syrian horsemen that his eyes might be opened to behold heaven's host-the 'far more for us than could be against us.'b And, with deep reverence be b2 Kings vi. it said, for Himself also did Jesus pray. For, as the pale moonlight shone on the fields of snow in the deep passes of Hermon, so did the light of the coming night shine on the cold glitter of Death in the near future. He needed prayer, that in it His Soul might lie calm and still-perfect, in the unruffled quiet of His Self
1 Our description is based on the graphic account of the ascent by Canon Tristram (u. s. pp. 609-613).
• St. Matt. xxvi. 43; St. Mark xiv. 40
b St. Luke e St. Matthew
d St. Mark
e St. Luke
surrender, the absolute rest of His Faith, and the victory of His Sacrificial Obedience. And He needed prayer also, as the introduction to, and preparation for, His Transfiguration. Truly, He stood on Hermon. It was the highest ascent, the widest prospect into the past, present, and future, in His Earthly Life. Yet was it but Hermon at night. And this is the human, or rather the Theanthropic view of this prayer, and of its sequence.
As we understand it, the prayer with them had ceased, or it had merged into silent prayer of each, or Jesus now prayed alone and apart, when what gives this scene such a truly human and truthful aspect ensued. It was but natural for these men of simple habits, at night, and after the long ascent, and in the strong mountain-air, to be heavy with sleep. And we also know it as a psychological fact, that, in quick reaction after the overpowering influence of the strongest emotions, drowsiness would creep over their limbs and senses. They were heavy-weighted-with sleep,' as afterwards in Gethsemane their eyes were weighted. Yet they struggled with it, and it is quite consistent with experience, that they should continue in that state of semi-stupor during what passed between Moses and Elijah and Christ, and also be fully awake' to see His Glory, and the two men who stood with Him.' In any case this descriptive trait, so far from being (as negative critics would have it), a later embellishment,' could only have formed part of a primitive account, since it is impossible to conceive any rational motive for its later addition.3
What they saw was their Master, while praying, 'transformed.'' The form of God' shone through the form of a Servant;' 'the appearance of His Face became other,' it did shine as the sun.'c6 Nay, the whole Figure seemed bathed in light, the very raiment whiter far than the snow on which the moon shone - so as no fuller on earth can white them,' d' glittering,' white as the light.' And
The word is the same. It also occurs in a figurative sense in 2 Cor. i. 8; v. 4; 1 Tim. v. 16.
2 Meyer strongly advocates the rendering; but having kept awake.' See, however, Godet's remarks ad loc.
3 Meyer is in error in supposing that the tradition, on which St. Luke's account is founded, amplifies the narratives of St. Matthew and St. Mark. With Canon Cook I incline to the view of Resch, that, judging from the style, &c., St. Luke derived this notice from the same source as the materials for the large portion from ch. ix. 51 to xviii. 17.
On the peculiar meaning of the word
μopon, comp. Bishop Lightfoot on Philip. pp. 127-133.
This expression of St. Luke, so far from indicating embellishment of the other accounts, marks, if anything, rather retrogression.
It is scarcely a Rabbinic parallelhardly an illustration-that in Rabbinic writings also Moses' face before his death is said to have shone as the sun, for the comparison is a Biblical one. Such language would, of course, be familiar to St. Matthew.
The words 'as snow,' in St. Mark ix. 3, are, however, spurious-an early gloss.
more than this they saw and heard. They saw with Him two men,' whom, in their heightened sensitiveness to spiritual phenomena, they could have no difficulty in recognising, by such of St. Luke their conversation as they heard, as Moses and Elijah.' The column was now complete: the base in the Law; the shaft in that Prophetism of which Elijah was the great Representative-in his first Mission, as fulfilling the primary object of the Prophets: to call Israel back to God, and, in his second Mission, this other aspect of their work, to prepare the way for the Kingdom of God; and the apex in Christ Himself a unity completely fitting together in all its parts. And they heard also, that they spake of His Exodus-outgoing-which He was about to fulfil at Jerusalem.' Although the term 'Exodus,' St. Luke 2 outgoing,' occurs otherwise for death,' we must bear in mind its meaning as contrasted with that in which the same Evangelic writer designates the Birth of Christ, as His 'incoming.' In truth, odos, it implies not only His Decease, but its manner, and even His Resurrection and Ascension. In that sense we can understand the better, as on the lips of Moses and Elijah, this about His fulfilling that Exodus: accomplishing it in all its fulness, and so completing Law and Prophecy, type and prediction.
Acts xiii. 24
And still that night of glory had not ended. A strange peculiarity has been noticed about Hermon in the extreme rapidity of the formation of cloud on the summit. In a few minutes a thick cap forms over the top of the mountain, and as quickly disperses and entirely disappears.' It almost seems as if this, like the natural position of Hermon itself, was, if not to be connected with, yet, so to speak, to form the background to what was to be enacted. Suddenly a cloud passed over the clear brow of the mountain-not an ordinary, but a luminous cloud,' a cloud uplit, filled with light. As it laid itself between Jesus and the two Old Testament Representatives, it parted, and presently enwrapped them. Most significant is it, suggestive of the Presence of God, revealing, yet concealing a cloud, yet luminous. And this cloud overshadowed the disciples: the shadow of its light fell upon them. A nameless terror seized them. Fain would they have held what seemed for ever to escape their grasp. Such vision had never before been vouchsafed to mortal man as had fallen on their sight; they had already heard Heaven's converse; they had tasted Angels' Food, the
Godet points out the emphatic meaning of olivES.
In some of the Apocrypha and Josephus, as well as in 2 Pet. i. 15.
Bread of His Presence. Could the vision not be perpetuated-at least prolonged? In the confusion of their terror they knew not how otherwise to word it, than by an expression of ecstatic longing for the continuance of what they had, of their earnest readiness to do their little best, if they could but secure it-make booths for the heavenly Visitants1-and themselves wait in humble service and reverent attention on what their dull heaviness had prevented their enjoying and profiting by, to the full. They knew and felt it: "Lord' Rabbi - Master '-'it is good for us to be here '-and they longed to have it; yet how to secure it, their terror could not suggest, save in the language of ignorance and semi-conscious confusion. They wist not what they said.' In presence of the luminous cloud that enwrapt those glorified Saints, they spake from out that darkness which compassed them about.
And now the light-cloud was spreading; presently its fringe fell upon them.2 Heaven's awe was upon them: for the touch of the heavenly strains, almost to breaking, the bond betwixt body and soul.
And a Voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is My Beloved' Son hear Him.' It had needed only One other Testimony to seal it all; One other Voice, to give both meaning and music to what had been the subject of Moses' and Elijah's speaking. That Voice had now come-not in testimony to any fact, but to a Person-that of Jesus as His 'Beloved Son,'4 and in gracious direction to them. They heard it, falling on their faces in awestruck worship.
How long the silence had lasted, and the last rays of the cloud had passed, we know not. Presently, it was a gentle touch that roused them. It was the Hand of Jesus, as with words of comfort He reassured them: Arise, and be not afraid.' And as, startled, they looked round about them, they saw no man save Jesus only. The Heavenly Visitants had gone, the last glow of the light-cloud had faded away, the echoes of Heaven's Voice had died out. It was night, and they were on the Mount with Jesus, and with Jesus only.
MOSES AND ELIJAH WITH CHRIST.
Is it truth or falsehood; was it reality or vision-or part of both, this Transfiguration-scene on Hermon? One thing, at least, must be evident: if it be a true narrative, it cannot possibly describe a merely subjective vision without objective reality. But, in that case, it would be not only difficult, but impossible, to separate one part of the narrative the appearance of Moses and Elijah-from the other, the Transfiguration of the Lord, and to assign to the latter objective reality,' while regarding the former as merely a vision. But is the account true? It certainly represents primitive tradition, since it is not only told by all the three Evangelists, but referred to in 2 Peter i. 16-18,2 and evidently implied in the words of St. John, both in his Gospel," and in the opening of his First Epistle. Few, if St. John 1. any, would be so bold as to assert that the whole of this history had been invented by the three Apostles, who professed to have been its witnesses. Nor could any adequate motive be imagined for its invention. It could not have been intended to prepare the Jews for the Crucifixion of the Messiah, since it was to be kept a secret till after His Resurrection; and, after that event, it could not have been necessary for the assurance of those who believed in the Resurrection, while to others it would carry no weight. Again, the special traits of this history are inconsistent with the theory of its invention. In a legend, the witnesses of such an event would not have been represented as scarcely awake, and not knowing what they said. Manifestly, the object would have been to convey the opposite impression. Lastly, it cannot be too often repeated, that, in view of the manifold witness of the Evangelists, amply confirmed in all essentials by the Epistles-preached, lived, and bloodsealed by the primitive Church, and handed down as primitive tradition-the most untenable theory seems that which imputes intentional fraud to their narratives, or, to put it otherwise, non-belief on the part of the narrators of what they related.
But can we imagine, if not fraud, yet mistake on the part of these witnesses, so that an event, otherwise naturally explicable, might, through their ignorance or imaginativeness, assume the proportions of this narrative? The investigation will be the more easy, that, as regards all the main features of the narrative, the three
This part of the argument is well worked out by Meyer, but his arguments for regarding the appearance of Moses and Elijah as merely a vision, because the former at least had no resurrection-body, are very weak. Are we sure, that disem
bodied spirits have no kind of corporeity,
2 Even if that Epistle were not St. Peter's, it would still represent the most ancient tradition.