Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[c] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” 8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
–Gospel of Mark, chapter 9
The original Gospel of Mark had no stories of Jesus’ alleged post-death appearances to his disciples, only a statement by a “young man” at the empty tomb that Jesus would appear to his disciples in Galilee at some time in the future. The subsequent Gospels, canonical and non-canonical, have increasingly elaborate stories of a bodily resurrected Jesus making appearances to his disciples in a transformed body that could walk, talk, and eat, but could also perform supernatural feats such as walk through locked doors, teleport between cities, and levitate into outer space (or at least into the clouds). Conservative Christians assure us that these Gospel stories were written by eyewitnesses and therefore they can be trusted as historical facts.
But take a look at the story above.
Notice that Jesus’ body is “transfigured” in this story too. Not only that, but two long dead Jewish prophets appear before the eyes of the disciples and…Jesus talks to them! One of the men Jesus allegedly talked to in this scene was Moses, you know, the guy who allegedly lead a mass horde hundreds of thousands or even a couple million Israelites out of Egypt, across a dry sea bed, to wander around the Sinai for 40 years, and then invade Palestine.
But there is a problem: There is zero good evidence of any of these persons or events. Zero.
The overwhelming majority of archaeologists and Near East experts now believe that Moses was a fictional character in ancient Jewish folklore. There was no Captivity in Egypt. There was no Exodus, no Passover, no wandering for 40 years in the Sinai, and no Conquest of Canaan! As we saw in a previous post, even evangelical Christian Egyptologist and archaeologist James Hoffmeier admits that there is no clear evidence for any of these events or persons.
In the case of the Israelite sojourn and exodus, no direct, clearly identifiable support has come to light in Egypt.” (Hoffmeier, EWN, 48)
So in the story of the Transfiguration, Jesus was talking to someone who did not exist.
Jesus was talking to a fictional character!
The Transfiguration story is FICTION. So why on earth should anyone believe that the other stories in the Gospels in which Jesus’ body once again experiences a metamorphosis and takes on superhero powers are historical facts???
We shouldn’t. These are tall tales, and nothing more.
The early Christians may have experienced something (mistaken identities, vivid dreams, illusions) that caused them to believe that Jesus had appeared to them, but the story of the Transfiguration is excellent evidence that the detailed appearance stories in the Gospels are literary/theological fiction.