Friday, September 30

2 Corinthians 12:1-13: The variant readings in the manuscripts for verse 1 testify to the difficulties felt by many copyists, over the centuries, when they came to the beginning of this verse. Those difficulties admitted, the correct sense seems to be: “Though it serves no good purpose, further boasting is necessary.”

Paul mentions the spiritual revelations of which he has been the recipient, even in mystical rapture (verse 2). These experiences surely included the direct revelation that he received from the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Galatians 1:16), also recorded by St. Luke (Acts 9:4-6; 22:6-8; 26:13-18). Speaking of an especially lofty experience fourteen years earlier, Paul’s sense of reserve prompts him to shift to the grammatical third person, as though he were speaking of someone else.

These spiritual revelations strengthened Paul in the apostolic ministry (Acts 18:9-10), and he would soon receive another one (22:17-22).

The mysterious character of such revelations is conveyed by Paul’s ironic expression “unspeakable sayings” (arreta remata–verse 4). The sheer ineffability of these experiences is mirrored in the irony with which Paul speaks of them. Thus, he is unable to say whether or not he was still in his body during the occurrence. Indeed, it is almost as though they had happened to someone else, a person distinct from powerless, frail Paul (verse 5).

The Apostle breaks off speaking of himself in this regard, lest his readers entertain too high a view of him. Such experiences, after all, had to do with his relationship to Christ, not his relationship to the Corinthians, as he had reminded them earlier (5:13).

Moreover, the Lord had taken care to humble Paul, so that he would not take personal satisfaction in those lofty flights of the soul (verse 7). His human weakness—“in the flesh”—was afflicted by a skolops, a torturing thorn, which he further describes as a satanic messenger that pounded the Apostle with closed fist (kolaphize). A comparison with Job, bodily afflicted by Satan with God’s permission, comes naturally to the mind of the student of the Bible, and perhaps Paul had something like this in mind.

Paul’s description indicates a bodily ailment of some severity—perhaps epilepsy, a diagnosis suggested by comparing this text to the description of the little boy in Mark 9:20. Whatever it was, nonetheless, this repeated or sustained experience was so humbling to Paul that he prayed for its removal (verse 8). Indeed, like our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42), Paul prays three times that it will be removed.

Like Jesus in the Garden, furthermore, Paul’s prayer, when God heard it, was rewarded with more than it sought (cf. Hebrews 5:7-10). Through this painful experience, and the prayer prompted by this experience, Paul discerned the working of divine grace in his life; he learned that his weakness was the locus and occasion in which the power of the risen Christ—“the Lord” (verse 8)—was revealed. He was instructed by this experience; it taught him, in his very flesh, that divine power is rendered perfect in infirmity (verse 9).

This experience, transformed in prayer, provided Paul with a sustained and renewing paradigm for all his life in Christ, an interpretive key capable of opening many doors otherwise closed. He found that it had sustained him in every sort of suffering and misfortune (verse 10). Through this insight “the power of Christ” (he dynamis tou Christou) was active in his life and ministry. In his weakness he was strong.

In the latter part of this chapter Paul finishes his self-defense and expresses his ongoing concern for the spiritual state of the Corinthians. He seems hesitant and perhaps embarrassed by the lengthy glimpse into his soul that he has just shared with his readers.

Nonetheless, he calls on the Corinthians to remember that his presence among them demonstrated the marks of authentic apostleship (verse 12). These marks included miracles. Indeed, theologians have recognized in this verse the essential features of an authentic miracle. First, it testifies to God’s omnipotence (dynamis). Second, it is a “wonder,” an act beyond ordinary expectation (teras). Third, it serves as a revelatory “sign” (semeion. Only here and in Romans 15:18-19 does Paul ever speak of miracles associated with his ministry, though Luke describes some of them in the Acts of the Apostles. We should observe that Paul did not include these miracles in his “boasting.”

Again employing sarcasm, Paul asks the Corinthians to pardon him for not being burdensome to them. Unlike the other churches in his ministry, they had not been obliged to support him (verse 13; 11:7-12).

Saturday, October 1

2 Corinthians 12.1-16: The variant readings in the manuscripts for verse 1 testify to the difficulties felt by many copyists, over the centuries, when they came to the beginning of this verse. Those difficulties admitted, the correct sense seems to be: “Though it serves no good purpose, further boasting is necessary.”

Paul mentions the spiritual revelations of which he has been the recipient, even in mystical rapture (verse 2). These experiences surely included the direct revelation that he received from the risen Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:8; Galatians 1:16), also recorded by St. Luke (Acts 9:4-6; 22:6-8; 26:13-18). Speaking of an especially lofty experience fourteen years earlier, Paul’s sense of reserve prompts him to shift to the grammatical third person, as though he were speaking of someone else.

These spiritual revelations strengthened Paul in the apostolic ministry (Acts 18:9-10), and he would soon receive another one (22:17-22).

The mysterious character of such revelations is conveyed by Paul’s ironic expression “unspeakable sayings” (arreta remata–verse 4). The sheer ineffability of these experiences is mirrored in the irony with which Paul speaks of them. Thus, he is unable to say whether or not he was still in his body during the occurrence. Indeed, it is almost as though they had happened to someone else, a person distinct from powerless, frail Paul (verse 5).

The Apostle breaks off speaking of himself in this regard, lest his readers entertain too high a view of him. Such experiences, after all, had to do with his relationship to Christ, not his relationship to the Corinthians, as he had reminded them earlier (5:13).

Moreover, the Lord had taken care to humble Paul, so that he would not take personal satisfaction in those lofty flights of the soul (verse 7). His human weakness—“in the flesh”—was afflicted by a skolops, a torturing thorn, which he further describes as a satanic messenger that pounded the Apostle with closed fist (kolaphize). A comparison with Job, bodily afflicted by Satan with God’s permission, comes naturally to the mind of the student of the Bible, and perhaps Paul had something like this in mind.

Paul’s description indicates a bodily ailment of some severity—perhaps epilepsy, a diagnosis suggested by comparing this text to the description of the little boy in Mark 9:20. Whatever it was, nonetheless, this repeated or sustained experience was so humbling to Paul that he prayed for its removal (verse 8). Indeed, like our Lord in the Garden of Gethsemani (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42), Paul prays three times that it will be removed.

Like Jesus in the Garden, furthermore, Paul’s prayer, when God heard it, was rewarded with more than it sought (cf. Hebrews 5:7-10). Through this painful experience, and the prayer prompted by this experience, Paul discerned the working of divine grace in his life; he learned that his weakness was the locus and occasion in which the power of the risen Christ—“the Lord” (verse 8)—was revealed. He was instructed by this experience; it taught him, in his very flesh, that divine power is rendered perfect in infirmity (verse 9).

This experience, transformed in prayer, provided Paul with a sustained and renewing paradigm for all his life in Christ, an interpretive key capable of opening many doors otherwise closed. He found that it had sustained him in every sort of suffering and misfortune (verse 10). Through this insight “the power of Christ” (he dynamis tou Christou) was active in his life and ministry. In his weakness he was strong.

In the second half of this chapter Paul finishes his self-defense and expresses his ongoing concern for the spiritual state of the Corinthians. He seems hesitant and perhaps embarrassed by the lengthy glimpse into his soul that he has just shared with his readers.

Nonetheless, he calls on the Corinthians to remember that his presence among them demonstrated the marks of authentic apostleship (verse 12). These marks included miracles. Indeed, theologians have recognized in this verse the essential features of an authentic miracle. First, it testifies to God’s omnipotence (dynamis). Second, it is a “wonder,” an act beyond ordinary expectation (teras). Third, it serves as a revelatory “sign” (semeion. Only here and in Romans 15:18-19 does Paul ever speak of miracles associated with his ministry, though Luke describes some of them in the Acts of the Apostles. We should observe that Paul did not include these miracles in his “boasting.”

Again employing sarcasm, Paul asks the Corinthians to pardon him for not being burdensome to them. Unlike the other churches in his ministry, they had not been obliged to support him (verse 13; 11:7-12).

Sunday, October 2

Ezra 1.1-1: Here begins Ezra-Nehemiah, originally a single book with two large sections. The first of these sections (Ezra 1:1—Nehemiah 7:3) is structured around the three major waves of Israelites who returned from Babylon to the Holy Land. The second part of this work (Nehemiah 7:4—13:31) describes the reformation and renewed life of those who returned from Captivity.

The first section is divided into three parts, corresponding to the three major groups of exiles who returned from Babylon—to wit, the first group, who came back during the reign of Cyrus(538-530); the second, who returned with Ezra in 458; and the third, who returned with Nehemiah in 445.

Each of these three accounts marks a particular kairos—a special theological moment—in Israel’s restoration after the Babylonian Captivity. Each also finds a climax in the fulfillment of a desired project: the first (Ezra 1—6) culminates in the completion of the new Temple, the second (Ezra 7—10) in the restoration of the Mosaic observance, and the third (Nehemiah 1:1—7:3) in the reconstruction of the walls of Jerusalem.

We now begin the story of the first wave of returning exiles.

Since the first verse of this chapter is identical with 2 Chronicles 36:22, some scholars of the Sacred Text have suggested that there was originally no break between these two books. That is to say, the argument has been made that at one time the books of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah were all one work. Interpreters have long observed that all these books are united by a common theological perspective, dominated by concerns of proper worship. I believe, nonetheless, that this shared preoccupation does not sufficiently explain the profound differences between Ezra-Nehemiah and Chronicles (cf. P. H. Reardon, Chronicles of History and Worship, pp.9-10).

Cyrus, who had ruled the Persians since 559, began to reign over what had been the Babylonian Empire in October of 539, but the Bible “rounds out” that reign to the beginning of its first full year (verse 1), the “new year’s day” of which was in March of 538. This is the year, then, that the Babylonian Captivity came to an end. Cyrus’s decree, of which this chapter contains a Hebrew paraphrase (verses 2-4), indicates the relatively enlightened policy of the Persians toward those who had been conquered and deported by the Babylonians.

Unlike the Assyrians and Babylonians, the more “liberal” Persians sought to inspire loyalty among subject peoples by respecting their local religions (“which is in Jerusalem,” specifies verse 3) and, where possible, safeguarding their local and ethnic traditions. From an inscription on a clay barrel known as “Cyrus’s Cylinder,” we know of that emperor’s general policy of repatriating deported peoples and restoring deported gods back to the places of their traditional temples. That documented policy of Cyrus is obviously consonant with the biblical account.

If we examine the wording of Chapter 1 carefully, we observe that the interest of the author is not in the ending of the Captivity per se (because very few Jews actually returned from Babylon at first, after all, having established nice homes and lucrative businesses there during two generations), but in the restoration of proper worship in the temple. (Bear in mind that in 538 the ink was barely dry on those final chapters of Ezekiel, describing the glory of the new temple!)

The author’s real interest in the Book of Ezra is not geopolitical, but theological and liturgical. The “seventy years” prophecy of Jeremiah 29:10 was not fulfilled until the temple was completed in 516, exactly seventy years after its destruction in 586. When that temple was eventually finished, it would house the confiscated sacred vessels that Cyrus now restores to the Jews (verse 7-10). The case can be made that Sheshbazzar (an Akkadian name meaning “may Shamash [the sun god] protect the father”) is the Persian way of referring to Zerubbabel, about whom more will be said in the following chapters. It is also possible that Sheshbazzar, mentioned only in the first and fifth chapters of this book, is a different man altogether,

The decree of Cyrus orders all the neighbors of the returning Jews to assist them “with silver and gold, and goods, and livestock” (verse 4). This provision puts the reader in mind of Israel’s departure from Egypt several centuries earlier (cf. Exodus 3:21-22; 11:2; 12:35-36). The typological correspondence between the Exodus from Egypt and the Return from Babylon thus appears in this book for the first time. As we see from the second part of the Book of Isaiah (cf. 43:14-21; 48:20-21; 51:10; 52:12), this correspondence was much on the mind of sixth century Jews. We shall see other examples of it during the course of the present book.

Monday, October 3

Job 34: Elihu, have addressed Job, turns now to the other three characters in the story. These have not, Elihu believes, answered Job’s challenges to God in a proper way. That is to say, Job’s friends have made an inadequate presentation of the traditional wisdom itself.

Elihu’s remarks to Job’s critics are among the book’s best parts, variations of which will appear in God’s own account near the end. Elihu’s comments are heavily didactic, nonetheless, and seldom rise to the high poetic levels of the other speakers, especially Job himself.

Elihu’s chief objection to Job’s friends concerns their exclusive attribution of divine punishment to human suffering. Punishment and reward, Elihu argues, do not comprise between them the whole of God’s dealing with man. There is another and important aspect to the “negative side of God,” namely, divine correction and exhortation. God, says Elihu, is correcting and exhorting Job by permitting his sufferings.

We now meet explicitly for the first time (except in the introductory chapters in this book) a new thesis: God sends afflictions not only to punish, but also to admonish. If a man accepts these sufferings as God’s loving correction and invitation, rather than as a punishment, he will avoid the pride and self-satisfaction that may sometimes be the peril of a godly life. Such God-sent afflictions will serve, therefore, as a restorative. Neither Job nor any of his friends, Elihu believes, has sufficiently considered this perspective.

In order to advance this argument, however, Elihu must put to rest any notion of injustice in God. Such an idea involves an internal contradiction, Elihu contends (verses 10, 12); the very existence of the world depends on the thesis of God’s righteousness (verses 13–15).

There is no justice higher than God (verse 17), nor is the Almighty likely to be influenced by the more powerful of His creatures (verse 19). Truly, nothing in man’s experience is hidden from the gaze of God (verses 21–22). The font and source of justice, God holds all human activity to the same standard and the same sanctions (verses 24–28).

What Job’s comforters should have asserted is that God, through the sufferings that He has sent to Job, had only the latter’s proper correction in mind (verses 31–32). The insistence of his friends, however, that Job was being justly punished for his crimes simply provoked him to an improper assertion of his innocence. It was the responsibility of these men, says Elihu, to provide Job with proper instruction. The ineptitude of their arguments has served only to incite the sufferer into open rebellion against the Almighty (verses 35–37).

Moreover, Job’s call for a trial, in which he might argue his case against God, distorts the proper relationship between God and man. God is not man’s enemy or opponent. God needs opponents no more than He needs powerful friends, nor does He ever act from a sense of need.

Tuesday, October 4

Luke 10.38-42: In this well-known story we are presented with a contrast between “many things” and “one thing.” Martha is busy and concerned. What she is doing are worthy and important things. Indeed, Martha adds to her many concerns by assuming responsibility for what her sister is not doing.

What Martha is doing, however, is not permanent. In due course, the “many things” will be taken away. Indeed, heaven and earth will pass away. This is guaranteed.

What Mary is doing, however, will not be taken away. Whence is this permanence of Mary’s occupation? It is the Word of God, which will never pass away. Mary sits at the feet of the Lord and attends to that permanent and indestructible word. This is the permanence of what Mary does. Even though heaven and earth will pass away, the words of Christ will in no way pass away. Sustained attention to the words of Christ takes hold of the one and necessary thing to which we have access.

The word of Christ is not separable from His person. Mary is described as sitting at His feet and listening to that word. His word is permanent, because Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever.

To those who are busy and concerned about many things, this activity may appear to manifest indolence, particularly because of the posture of sitting.

But this posture is the one most conducive to hearing. It is also the posture in which the listener is least able to resist the power of the word.

Ezra 2.62-70: These lists of names throughout Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah are theologically important. This is the People of God, not an amorphous mass of nondescript ciphers. No one remains nameless in some anonymous flock, because the Good Shepherd knows each of His sheep and calls them all by name. Such lists, therefore, of which Romans 16 is a later example, are precious in the sight of the Lord and deserve to be held precious in our eyes as well. Ultimately the Book of Life itself is just a list of names.

Job 35: Elihu turns Job’s gaze upwards to the physical symbols of God’s transcendence, the clouds above his head (verse 5). God is not, in Himself, altered by either man’s virtue or his vice (verses 6–9). God does what He does, simply because He is free and righteous. He is not more or less righteous or free because of anything man does. How, after all, can human behavior touch God?
Is Elihu’s own presentation of the question entirely adequate, nonetheless? While there is a sense in which God is not, in Himself, affected by either man’s virtue or his vice, this is hardly a sufficient statement of the case. It is certainly not true that God is indifferent to man’s state, and the full context of Elihu’s comments shows that he knows this very well.

Rather, the point Elihu has in mind to make in this chapter is that no one has a forensic claim on God; indeed, even to voice such a claim is, in some measure, to attempt to put oneself on God’s level. This, says Elihu, is what Job has done.

Wednesday, October 5

Job 36: Elihu finished the previous chapter by accusing Job of hebel, variously translated as “vanity” (cf. KJV “in vain”) and “emptiness” (cf. RSV “empty talk”). This word, so important to the Book of Ecclesiastes (where it appears 38 times, most famously in “vanity of vanities, and all is vanity”), puts a compelling finger on the problem. In the Book of Job (unlike the Book of Ecclesiastes), the problem of hebel is not an alleged emptiness in the universe (though Job in 7:16 does momentarily wonder about this); indeed, almost all the speakers in Job explicitly refute this notion of a chaotic world.

What is at issue in Job is, rather, whether or not man’s moral life will be hebel. Will Job himself prove to be only vanity and emptiness by his choices? There is irony in Elihu’s comment here, because hebel is the very word Job earlier used to describe the “comfort” his friends were providing for him (21:34).

In the Book of Job, God’s universe is in no danger. Job is the one in danger. Very serious danger. He must exercise caution, says Elihu, lest his mind be lured into total rebellion (verses 17–18).

God, says Elihu, does not hate (verse 5). Nor is He capricious; He renders judgment for the poor (verses 6, 15). When God does chastise, it is ever with a view to man’s correction and repentance (verses 8–10, 22). The time of trial, therefore, is the proper occasion of taking stock of one’s conscience. However, not to receive the judgment of God with repentance is most serious (verses 11–14). It is Job who may be failing in this regard, not God, and Job’s present path is parlous. Let not God’s chastisement lead him into rebellion.

At the end Elihu waxes poetic, and the chapter closes with his praise of God in creation (verses 26–33), praise that continues into the following chapter (37:1–13). Virtually all the lines of this paean of praise have parallels in the Book of Psalms and elsewhere in Holy Scripture.

Elihu’s point is that God is always to be praised, regardless of how suffering man feels on the subject. No matter what the lesson to be learned, God is ever the Teacher (verse 22). It is not man’s place to correct his Teacher (verse 23). Job is invited, therefore, to join all rational voices in the praise of God (verses 24–25).

Even from a purely psychological perspective, there is much wisdom in Elihu’s admonition here. God’s richest praise has ever been raised to heaven in times of suffering. Indeed, it is not a rare moment in human existence when a man’s only two real choices are either to praise God or to feel sorry for himself. Elihu invites Job to learn this lesson.

The end of this chapter (along with the first verses of the next) describes a storm. To the present writer it does not seem far-fetched to think of Elihu’s discourse at this point being accompanied by a real storm that he is describing while it happens.

Thursday, October 6

Ezra 4.1-24: At Judah’s deportation back in 586, the Holy Land was left rather much at the disposition of those people who would, in due course, be called the Samaritans. (And, purely for shorthand, that is what we will call them here.) They were a hybrid race from the miscegenation of native Israelites and those Gentiles who had been imported into the region by the Assyrians after the fall of Samaria in 722.

In the eyes of those Jews who were now returning home from Babylon, the religion of the Samaritans seemed as compromised as the purity of their bloodlines. If the lessons of the recent Captivity had taught these exiles anything, it was the necessity of avoiding contact—to say nothing of intermarriage–with those who professed to be Israelites but whose identity as Israelites was deeply compromised. In spite of overtures from these native inhabitants (verse 2), therefore, the Jewish leadership steadfastly insisted on a policy of separation from them.

This decision of Zerubbabel and Jeshua (verse 3) commenced an important new development in the history of Judaism (cf. Haggai 2:12; Zechariah 3:9; John 4:9; 4:48). This new attitude contrasted sharply with that of King Josiah a century earlier, for he had invited these same people into the fullness of the Israelite worship and religion. The new policy, however, took into consideration the fact that the religion practiced in the Holy Land had been for a long time contaminated by idolatry and syncretism. The purity of the Jewish faith had been purchased at the great price of the Babylonian Captivity, and the Jewish leadership was not about to risk its corruption once again, thereby creating those same conditions that had led to Jerusalem’s downfall.

As we shall see, nonetheless, relatively few women were among the returning exiles. Consequently, many of the latter, who were young, unmarried men, would in due course take wives from the local population, in quiet defiance of their leaders. This defiance would lead to new problems that we will meet in the rest of Ezra and Nehemiah.

As we would expect, the local inhabitants, resentful of their exclusion from the company of the returning Jews, began to resist and confront them. Three stages are discernable in their animosity: their conspiracy to prevent the rebuilding of the temple (verses 1-5), their sustained effort to oppose that project, and their success in the opposition (verse 24).

Several other features of this chapter are worth observation:

First, we note the growing importance of the high priest, who in this book seems to enjoy a political authority nearly equal to the governor. In this book (as in Haggai and Zechariah), the two of them are often mentioned together. Perhaps the roots of this near parity should be sought in the Exile, when the Jews, who no longer had their own king, turned to the priestly families for leadership.

Second, we observe that the extensive Persian Empire (which would soon stretch from the Indus River to the Danube!) was blessed with a remarkably efficient postal system (verses 6-7). This gave cohesion to its political and economic institutions.

Third, our attention is drawn to Persia’s system of chancellors, or regional secretaries, who were directly responsible to the capital (verse 17). This institution, which clearly limited the power of the satraps themselves, demonstrated the empire’s mistrust of local governments that might become too powerful.

Fourth, we observe that the long final part of this chapter (verses 6-9) interrupts the chronological sequence. It is concerned with a later period of the general story, for it takes place during the reigns of Darius I (Ahasuerus), 485-465, and Artaxerxes I, 465-424. This narrative is inserted into this place, apparently as a further example of ill will on the part of the native population.

Friday, October 7

Luke 9.28-36: Several features of Luke’s reference to the Passion (“And behold, two men talked with him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his exodus which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem”) are important to his theological view of the Transfiguration:

First, Luke uses the technical theological expression exodus to speak of Jesus’ coming death. In his choice of this special noun Luke conveys the soteriological significance of the Savior’s death: It was an act of redemption from slavery. Jesus’ sufferings and death delivered men from bondage. This is the meaning of the word, exodus.

Second, in his reference to Jesus’ exodus, Luke explicitly places it “at Jerusalem.” This too corresponds to a theme in Luke’s Gospel, where the holy city is the culminating place of the narrative. Jerusalem is the city to which Jesus has steadfastly set His face to go.

This motif was introduced early in Luke, when Anna the prophetess “spoke of him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38 emphasis added).

Third, by referring to the Savior’s Passion within the Transfiguration story, Luke prepares for a later scene: the account of Jesus’ Agony. Only Luke will speak of that Agony taking place——ike the Transfiguration—on a mountain (Luke 22:39-41). As we shall consider when we come to the Agony, both are scenes of prayer on a mountain, a motif strengthening the link between the Transfiguration and the Passion.

Fourth, in his picture of Moses and Elijah—the Law and the Prophets—discussing Jesus’ exodus at Jerusalem, Luke touches a major theme of his theology—the fulfillment (pleroun) of Holy Scripture in Jesus’ sufferings and death in Jerusalem.

In this respect, we will later consider the scene with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, which will bring together the Passion and the fulfillment of Holy Scripture (Luke 24:25-27).

Here in the Transfiguration, then, Luke portrays Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about the meaning of Holy Scripture. Jesus discusses with these major Old Testament characters his coming fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets, the very subject on which he will discourse to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. These two disciples on the road to Emmaus symbolically correspond to Moses and Elijah here on the mountain.

Luke returns to this theme in the risen Jesus’ final apparition in the upper room, where he affirms, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled (plerothenai) which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning me (Luke 24:44).

Luke’s version of the great commission begins with this affirmation: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem (24:46 emphasis added).

In the very context of the great commission, says Luke, “he opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (24:45).

In Luke’s account of the Transfiguration, then, the two representatives of the Law and the Prophets are described as discussing with Jesus his fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets. This scene on the mountain brings to perfection Jesus’ early study of the Law and the Prophets in the synagogue at Nazareth.