Caesarea Philippi: A town situated at the headwaters of the Jordan River at an elevation of 350 m (1,150 ft) above sea level. The town is some 40 km (25 mi) N of the Sea of Galilee and near the SW foot of Mount Hermon. It was named Caesarea by Philip the tetrarch, son of Herod the Great, in honor of the Roman emperor. In order to distinguish it from the seaport city of the same name, it was called Caesarea Philippi, which means “Caesarea of Philip.”
a lofty mountain: Possibly Mount Hermon, which is near Caesarea Philippi. (See study note on Mt 16:13.) It reaches a height of 2,814 m (9,232 ft) above sea level. The transfiguration may have taken place on one of the spurs of Mount Hermon.
he was transfigured: Or “he was transformed; his appearance was changed.” The same Greek verb (me·ta·mor·phoʹo) occurs at Ro 12:2.
look!: The Greek word i·douʹ, here rendered “look!,” is often used to focus attention on what follows, encouraging the reader to visualize the scene or to take note of a detail in a narrative. It is also used to add emphasis or to introduce something new or surprising. In the Christian Greek Scriptures, the term occurs most frequently in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke and in the book of Revelation. A corresponding expression is often used in the Hebrew Scriptures.
a voice from the heavens: The first of three instances in the Gospel accounts where Jehovah is reported as speaking audibly to humans.
whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased; in whom I take great delight.” The same expression is used at Mt 12:18, which is a quotation from Isa 42:1 regarding the promised Messiah, or Christ. The outpouring of holy spirit and God’s declaration concerning his Son were a clear identification of Jesus as the promised Messiah.
whom I have approved: Or “with whom I am well-pleased.”
a voice: The second of three instances in the Gospel accounts where Jehovah is reported as speaking audibly to humans.
Son of man: Or “Son of a human.” This expression occurs about 80 times in the Gospels. Jesus used it to refer to himself, evidently emphasizing that he was truly human, born from a woman, and that he was a fitting human counterpart to Adam, having the power to redeem humankind from sin and death. (Ro 5:12, 14-15) The same expression also identified Jesus as the Messiah, or the Christ.
knelt down: In the ancient Near East, kneeling was a posture that expressed respect, especially when petitioning superiors.
an epileptic: The Greek term literally means “be moonstruck.” (Some older translations use “lunatic.”) However, Matthew employs the term in a medical sense, not superstitiously associating the disease with certain phases of the moon. The symptoms that Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe are certainly those associated with epilepsy.
you with little faith: Jesus applied this expression to his disciples, indicating that their belief or trust was not strong. (Mt 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Lu 12:28) It implies not an absence of faith but, rather, a deficiency of faith.
mustard grain: Several kinds of mustard plants are found growing wild in Israel. Black mustard (Brassica nigra) is the variety commonly cultivated. The relatively small seed, 1-1.6 mm (0.039 to 0.063 in.) in diameter and weighing 1 mg (0.000035 oz) produces a treelike plant. Some varieties of the mustard plant attain a height of up to 4.5 m (15 ft).
the tiniest of all the seeds: The mustard seed was used in ancient Jewish writings as a figure of speech for the very smallest measure of size. Although there are smaller seeds known today, it was evidently the tiniest of seeds gathered and sown by Galilean farmers in Jesus’ day.
your little faith: The Greek expression is related to the term rendered “you with little faith” at Mt 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; Lu 12:28. Jesus does not imply that his disciples were entirely without faith but, rather, that their faith needed to be stronger.
truly: Greek, a·menʹ, a transliteration of the Hebrew ʼa·menʹ, meaning “so be it,” or “surely.” Jesus frequently uses this expression to preface a statement, a promise, or a prophecy, thereby emphasizing its absolute truthfulness and reliability. Jesus’ use of “truly,” or amen, in this way is said to be unique in sacred literature. When repeated in succession (a·menʹ a·menʹ), as is the case throughout the Gospel of John, Jesus’ expression is translated “most truly.”
by prayer: Some manuscripts add “and fasting.” But the earliest and most reliable manuscripts do not include “and fasting.” These words were evidently added by copyists who advocated fasting and practiced it. They repeatedly included references to fasting where these were not found in earlier copies.
Some ancient manuscripts here read: “However, this kind does not come out except by prayer and fasting.” (See study note on Mr 9:29.) But these words do not appear in the earliest and most reliable manuscripts and are evidently not part of the inspired Scriptures.
Capernaum: From a Hebrew name meaning “Village of Nahum” or “Village of Comforting.” (Na 1:1, ftn.) A city of major importance in Jesus’ earthly ministry, it was located at the NW shore of the Sea of Galilee and was called “his own city” at Mt 9:1.
the two drachmas tax: Lit., “the double drachmas.” (See App. B14.) Various temple services were maintained through taxation. (Ex 30:12-16) Apparently, by Jesus’ day it had become customary for each adult male Jew to contribute a fixed amount as an annual temple tax.
the sons are tax-free: In Jesus’ day, the family members of monarchs were known to be tax-exempt.
fishhook: The only occurrence in the Christian Greek Scriptures of the Greek word rendered “fishhook,” likely a baited hook cast into the water on the end of a line. Every other mention of fishing equipment in the Christian Greek Scriptures refers to nets.
silver coin: Lit., “stater.” This coin was considered to be the tetradrachma. (See App. B14.) It was worth four drachmas, the equivalent of a shekel, which was exactly the amount required to pay the temple tax for two.
Reaching a height of 2,814 m (9,232 ft) and located near Caesarea Philippi, Mount Hermon is the highest mountain in the vicinity of Israel. Its snowcapped peaks condense water vapor, producing abundant dew that preserves vegetation during the long dry season. (Ps 133:3) Its melting snow is the main source of the Jordan River. Mount Hermon is one possible location of Jesus’ transfiguration.
Located at the northern limit of the Promised Land, Mount Hermon is made up of several distinct peaks, the tallest of which rises 2,814 m (9,232 ft) above sea level. These peaks form the southern part of the Anti-Lebanon range. It may have been on Mount Hermon that Jesus was transfigured.