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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 17)

17:1 {After six days} (\meth' hēmerās hex\). This could be on the
sixth day, but as Luke (Lu 9:28) puts it "about eight days" one
naturally thinks of a week as the probable time, though it is not
important. {Taketh with him} (\paralambanei\). Literally, {takes
. Note historical present. These three disciples form an
inner group who have shown more understanding of Jesus. So at
Gethsemane. {Apart} (\kat' idian\) means "by themselves"
({alone}, \monous\, Mark has it) up (\anapherei\) into a high
mountain, probably Mount Hermon again, though we do not really
know. "The Mount of Transfiguration does not concern geography"

17:2 {He was transfigured before them} (\metemorphōthē emprosthen
. The word is the same as the metamorphoses (cf. Ovid) of
pagan mythology. Luke does not use it. The idea is change
(\meta-\) of form (\morphē\). It really presents the essence of a
thing as separate from the \schēma\ (fashion), the outward
accident. So in Ro 12:2 Paul uses both verbs,
\sunschematizesthe\ (be not fashioned) and \metamorphousthe\ (be
ye transformed in your inner life)
. So in 1Co 7:31 \schēma\ is
used for the fashion of the world while in Mr 16:12 \morphē\ is
used of the form of Jesus after his resurrection. The false
apostles are described by \metaschēmatisomai\ in 2Co 11:13-15.
In Php 2:6 we have \en morphēi\ used of the Preincarnate state
of Christ and \morphēn doulou\ of the Incarnate state (Php
, while \schēmati hōs anthrōpos\ emphasizes his being found
"in fashion as a man." But it will not do in Mt 17:2 to use the
English transliteration \metamorphōsis\ because of its pagan
associations. So the Latin _transfigured_ (Vulgate
_transfiguratus est_)
is better. "The deeper force of
\metamorphousthai\ is seen in 2Co 3:18 (with reference to the
shining on Moses' face)
, Ro 12:2" (McNeile). The word occurs in
a second-century papyrus of the pagan gods who are invisible.
Matthew guards against the pagan idea by adding and explaining
about the face of Christ "as the sun" and his garments "as the

17:3 {There appeared} (\ōphthē\). Singular aorist passive verb
with Moses (to be understood also with Elijah), but the
participle \sunlalountes\ is plural agreeing with both.
"Sufficient objectivity is guaranteed by the vision being enjoyed
by all three" (Bruce). The Jewish apocalypses reveal popular
expectations that Moses and Elijah would reappear. Both had
mystery connected with their deaths. One represented law, the
other prophecy, while Jesus represented the gospel (grace). They
spoke of his decease (Lu 9:31), the cross, the theme uppermost
in the mind of Christ and which the disciples did not comprehend.
Jesus needed comfort and he gets it from fellowship with Moses
and Elijah.

17:4 {And Peter answered} (\apokritheis de ho Petros\). "Peter to
the front again, but not greatly to his credit" (Bruce). It is
not clear what Peter means by his saying: "It is good for us to
be here" (\kalon estin hēmās hōde einai\). Luke (Lu 9:33) adds
"not knowing what he said," as they "were heavy with sleep." So
it is not well to take Peter too seriously on this occasion. At
any rate he makes a definite proposal. {I will make} (\paiēsō\).
Future indicative though aorist subjunctive has same form.
{Tabernacles} (\skēnas\), booths. The Feast of Tabernacles was
not far away. Peter may have meant that they should just stay up
here on the mountain and not go to Jerusalem for the feast.

17:5 {Overshadowed} (\epeskiasen\). They were up in cloud-land
that swept round and over them. See this verb used of Mary (Lu
and of Peter's shadow (Ac 5:15). {This is} (\houtos
. At the baptism (Mt 3:17) these words were addressed to
Jesus. Here the voice out of the bright cloud speaks to them
about Jesus. {Hear ye him} (\akouete autou\). Even when he speaks
about his death. A sharp rebuke to Peter for his consolation to
Jesus about his death.

17:7 {And touched them} (\kai hapsamenos autōn\). Tenderness in
their time of fear.

17:8 {Lifting up their eyes} (\eparantes tous ophthalmous
. After the reassuring touch of Jesus and his words of
cheer. {Jesus only} (\Iēsoun monon\). Moses and Elijah were gone
in the bright cloud.

17:9 {Until} (\heōs hou\). This conjunction is common with the
subjunctive for a future event as his Resurrection (\egerthēi\)
was. Again (Mr 9:10) they were puzzled over his meaning. Jesus
evidently hopes that this vision of Moses and Elijah and his own
glory might stand them in good stead at his death.

17:10 {Elijah must first come} (\Eleian dei elthein prōton\). So
this piece of theology concerned them more than anything else.
They had just seen Elijah, but Jesus the Messiah had come before
Elijah. The scribes used Mal 4:5. Jesus had also spoken again
of his death (resurrection). So they are puzzled.

17:12 {Elijah is come already} (\Eleias ēdē ēlthen\). Thus Jesus
identifies John the Baptist with the promise in Malachi, though
not the real Elijah in person which John denied (Joh 1:21).
{They knew him not} (\ouk epignōsan auton\). Second aorist active
indicative of \epiginōskō\, to recognize. Just as they do not
know Jesus now (Joh 1:26). They killed John as they will Jesus
the Son of Man.

17:13 {Then understood} (\tote sunēkan\). One of the three k
aorists. It was plain enough even for them. John was Elijah in
spirit and had prepared the way for the Messiah.

17:15 {Epileptic} (\selēniazetai\). Literally, "moonstruck,"
"lunatic." The symptoms of epilepsy were supposed to be
aggravated by the changes of the moon (cf. 4:24). {He has it
(\kakōs echei\) as often in the Synoptic Gospels.

17:17 {Perverse} (\diestrammenē\). Distorted, twisted in two,
corrupt. Perfect passive participle of \diastrephō\.

17:20 {Little faith} (\oligopistian\). A good translation. It was
less than "a grain of mustard seed" (\kokkon sinapeōs\). See
13:31 for this phrase. They had no miracle faith. Bruce holds
"this mountain" to be the Mount of Transfiguration to which Jesus
pointed. Probably so. But it is a parable. Our trouble is always
with "this mountain" which confronts our path. Note the form
\metaba\ (\meta\ and \bēthi\).

17:23 {And they were exceeding sorry} (\kai elupēthēsan
. So they at last understood that he was talking about
his death and resurrection.

17:24 {They that received the half-shekel} (\hoi ta didrachma
. This temple tax amounted to an Attic drachma or
the Jewish half-shekel, about one-third of a dollar. Every Jewish
man twenty years of age and over was expected to pay it for the
maintenance of the temple. But it was not a compulsory tax like
that collected by the publicans for the government. "The tax was
like a voluntary church-rate; no one could be compelled to pay"
(Plummer). The same Greek word occurs in two Egyptian papyri of
the first century A.D. for the receipt for the tax for the temple
of Suchus (Milligan and Moulton's _Vocabulary_). This tax for the
Jerusalem temple was due in the month Adar (our March) and it was
now nearly six months overdue. But Jesus and the Twelve had been
out of Galilee most of this time. Hence the question of the
tax-collectors. The payment had to be made in the Jewish coin,
half-shekel. Hence the money-changers did a thriving business in
charging a small premium for the Jewish coin, amounting to some
forty-five thousand dollars a year, it is estimated. It is
significant that they approached Peter rather than Jesus, perhaps
not wishing to embarrass "Your Teacher," "a roundabout hint that
the tax was overdue" (Bruce). Evidently Jesus had been in the
habit of paying it (Peter's).

17:25 {Jesus spake first to him} (\proephthasen auton ho Iēsous
. Here only in the N.T. One example in a papyrus B.C. 161
(Moulton and Milligan, _Vocabulary_). The old idiomatic use of
\phthanō\ with the participle survives in this example of
\prophthanō\ in Mt 17:25, meaning to anticipate, to get before
one in doing a thing. The _Koinē_ uses the infinitive thus with
\phthanō\ which has come to mean simply to arrive. Here the
anticipation is made plain by the use of \pro-\. See Robertson's
_Grammar_, p. 1120. The "prevent" of the Authorized Version was
the original idea of _praevenire_, to go before, to anticipate.
Peter felt obliged to take the matter up with Jesus. But the
Master had observed what was going on and spoke to Peter first.
{Toll or tribute} (\telē ē kēnson\). Customs or wares collected
by the publicans (like \phoros\, Ro 13:7) and also the
capitation tax on persons, indirect and direct taxation. \Kēnsos\
is the Latin _census_, a registration for the purpose of the
appraisement of property like \hē apographē\ in Lu 2:2; Ac
5:37. By this parable Jesus as the Son of God claims exemption
from the temple tax as the temple of his Father just as royal
families do not pay taxes, but get tribute from the foreigners or
aliens, subjects in reality.

17:26 {The sons} (\hoi huioi\). Christ, of course, and the
disciples also in contrast with the Jews. Thus a reply to Peter's
prompt "Yes." Logically (\arage\) free from the temple tax, but
practically not as he proceeds to show.

17:27 {Lest we cause them to stumble} (\hina mē skandalisōmen
. He does not wish to create the impression that he and
the disciples despise the temple and its worship. Aorist tense
(punctiliar single act) here, though some MSS. have present
subjunctive (linear). "A hook" (\agkistron\). The only example in
the N.T. of fishing with a hook. From an unused verb \agkizō\, to
angle, and that from \agkos\, a curve (so also \agkalē\ the inner
curve of the arm, Lu 2:38)
. {First cometh up} (\ton anabanta
prōton ichthun\)
. More correctly, "the first fish that cometh
up." {A shekel} (\statēra\). Greek stater = four drachmae, enough
for two persons to pay the tax. {For me and thee} (\anti emou kai
. Common use of \anti\ in commercial transactions, "in
exchange for." Here we have a miracle of foreknowledge. Such
instances have happened. Some try to get rid of the miracle by
calling it a proverb or by saying that Jesus only meant for Peter
to sell the fish and thus get the money, a species of nervous
anxiety to relieve Christ and the Gospel of Matthew from the
miraculous. "All the attempts have been in vain which were made
by the older Rationalism to put a non-miraculous meaning into
these words" (B. Weiss). It is not stated that Peter actually
caught such a fish though that is the natural implication. Why
provision is thus only made for Peter along with Jesus we do not

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Word Pictures in the New Testament
(Matthew: Chapter 17)