Josh McDowell Ministries Responds to My Question: In What Type of Body Did Moses Appear on the Mount of Transfiguration?

Josh McDowell (Author of The DaVinci Code)
Josh McDowell, Christian author and apologist

Gary: In what type of bodies did Moses and Elijah appear to the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration? Resurrected bodies? Resuscitated bodies? Or other? Thank you.

Matthew Tingblad, speaker and author, Josh McDowell Ministries:

–“Matthew Tingblad is a Christian writer and speaker with a passion for the church to be united, strengthened, and unleashed to spread the good news of Jesus to every corner of the world. With a focus on apologetics and spiritual growth, Matthew offers a fresh voice to a world full of tough questions and deep needs. He has spoken numerous times around the United States on a variety of topics from the high-school to the young adult level. He also runs a YouTube channel discussing apologetic questions and is a regular contributor to the josh.org blog posts. Matthew holds an M.Div from Talbot School of Theology.

Matthew Tingblad

You ask an interesting question. The text doesn’t say what type of bodies Moses and Elijah had. But given the glorious nature of the Transfiguration, they [were] likely in some resurrected and glorified state.

Gary: Thank you very much for getting back to me. It is an interesting topic, isn’t it? If the bodies of Moses and Elijah were in resurrected/glorified form, this directly contradicts the teachings of Paul who said that Jesus was the “first fruits” of the resurrection. If you are correct, Moses and Elijah were the first fruits, not Jesus.

If Moses and Elijah appeared in resuscitated bodies, similar to that of Lazarus and the “raisings from the dead” in the Old Testament, then why don’t we hear about the return of Moses the Law Giver and Elijah the greatest Jewish prophet of all time to the Jewish homeland in the first century? Not one writer, Christian or Jew, mentions this earth shattering fact. So that option seems very unlikely. What other options are there? Is it possible that Moses and Elijah appeared as spirits with the bodily outline of their former selves??

Matthew: Well, one thing is fairly certain: Moses and Elijah did not hang around after the transfiguration of Jesus. This isn’t simply because Jews and Christians never talk about it, but because the two disappeared in a striking manner according to Matthew 17:8. It seems odd in my mind that their bodies would be resuscitated forms, especially since Moses’s body was buried by God on Moab (Dt. 34), and Elijah did not even have a body on earth to be resuscitated (2 King 2).
So where did they go? I suppose they would have been brought up back to Heaven. But Heaven “up there” is not the coming “resurrection of eternal life” for which Christ is the firstfruit. The New Jerusalem is. Jesus’s resurrection anticipated the resurrection of all the saints when He returns (1 Cor. 15:23). That hasn’t happened yet for anyone, including Moses and Elijah, because the new Jerusalem is still yet to come. So I don’t see a contradiction here when we consider the Bible’s eschatological view of the resurrection.

Gary: Exactly. So since the general resurrection of the dead has not yet occurred, there is no way that Moses, whom the OT says died more than one thousand years prior to Jesus’ time, could have appeared to the disciples in a resurrected body. Moses’ dead body has not yet been resurrected. And I agree with you, since the Gospels say that both Moses and Elijah disappeared in a striking manner, they could not have appeared in resuscitated bodies.

So doesn’t that leave only one option: Moses (and possibly Elijah) appeared as a “glorified spirit”? Moses appeared to the disciples as a spirit but with the outline of his physical body. If he hadn’t, the disciples would not have recognized him. Would you agree?

Matthew: I think that’s a fine possibility that avoids the pitfalls you have been talking about. Frankly, though, many would argue that even resuscitation is a kind of resurrection, especially if you’ve been dead for several days and then supernaturally raised back to life, as was the case of Lazarus. It’s just not the eternal end-of-all-things resurrection. So however you want to put it—resuscitation, resurrection, or spirit appearance—there will always be a difference between that and the resurrection of the saints into eternal glory which will be unique to Christ’s second coming.

Gary: But doesn’t traditional, Trinitarian Christianity teach that a resurrected body is very different from a resuscitated body? A resurrected body is the original corpse which has been reanimated (brought back to life) AND transformed/glorified (given heavenly/supernatural properties). I don’t know of any Trinitarian Christian scholar or theologian who believes that Lazarus or Jarius’ daughter possessed “transformed” bodies. Reanimated yes, but not transformed/glorified.

So if Moses appeared in a resurrected body on the Mount of Transfiguration it would have to have been a reanimated and transformed/glorified body. There is no other form of resurrected body in Christian teaching. But if that is the case, Moses, not Jesus, was the first person in history to be resurrected from the dead. That seems very contrary to Paul’s theology and therefore orthodox Christian teaching. And if you allege that Moses already had his resurrected dead body, wouldn’t that mean that all the other righteous dead already have their resurrected bodies in heaven? That would mean a lot of empty graves all over the world! But we don’t see that, do we? So it seems to me that Christian teaching clearly rules out the possibility that Moses (and Elijah) appeared in resurrected bodies. To be consistent with Trinitarian Christian teaching, the truly dead corpse of Jesus was the first and only body that has been resurrected, to date, in human history.

And this brings us to a bombshell conclusion regarding the Story of the Transfiguration: If Moses appeared as a glorified spirit to the disciples, with his spirit shrouded in some fashion with the outline of his dead physical body (otherwise how did the disciples recognize him?), and this apparition was so real and convincing to Peter that he wanted to build housing for Moses and Elijah, what is to say that when Peter claimed to have seen the risen Jesus, what he actually saw was a spirit (ghost)?

If a resuscitated body, a resurrected body, and a glorified spirit all look the same, how would the disciples or anyone else distinguish between them? In other words, if a glorified spirit (ghost) looks like a body, who is to say that this is not what the disciples saw when they claimed to see a “risen” Jesus?

10 Things You Need to Know About Jesus' Transfiguration| National Catholic  Register

Matthew: Ah, I think I see where you are coming from. We seem to be falling into an issue of semantics. To preface, I want to reiterate that I don’t have a problem suggesting that Moses and Elijah appeared in a glorified spirit with the appearance of bodies. But neither do I have a problem using the term “resurrected” for Moses and Elijah, as long as we keep a distinction in our heads between the general idea of resurrection from THE final resurrection to take place when Christ returns.

It sounds like you struggle with this approach because you want to use the word “resurrection” only in that specific event of Christ’s second coming. But “resurrection” like most words of any language can be used in a technical sense, or in a general sense. I only say these things so that you won’t be caught off guard when you hear modern or historical preachers of orthodox trinitarian faith talk about the “resurrection” of Lazarus, or when Eutychus was “resurrected,” etc. For better or for worse, the English word “resurrection” has come to be used in more ways than just referring to the state of our bodies when Christ returns.


If I understand you right, you don’t want to use the word “resurrection” to describe Moses, Elijah, Lazarus, or others because they were not part of THE resurrection which is to come, with all its glorification and eternality, with Christ as the firstfruits, etc.. That’s fine. I’m not invested in any particular English word that we use to describe events of the Bible. I think your term “reanimate” might be a good alternative. But I would just caution a potential communication problem if you use “resuscitation” to describe what happened to Lazarus or others whom Jesus brought back from the dead. To your common listener, “resuscitation” tends to be understood as reviving someone through natural means, usually by someone with medical training. If you tell a biblically ignorant person that Jesus “resuscitated” Lazarus, they might think “When did Jesus learn CPR?” So you will wind up needing to distinguish two different senses of the English word “resuscitate,” rather than distinguish two senses of the English word “resurrection.”
I don’t think I reflected on everything in your previous email, but I tried to dig a little deeper into the issue that felt the most relevant to our conversation.

Gary: Ok. Very good point. We need to differentiate between a body that has been resuscitated back to life with CPR (the heart has stopped but the brain is still functioning) and a body which is very dead (all cells of the body are dead, including those of the brain) which God has reanimated back to life (dead cells miraculously start functioning again). The former has a natural explanation, the latter an exclusively divine/supernatural explanation. However, both of these bodies will live additional time, days, months, or years, as a normal human body, and then die…again. So let’s use the term for the former “resuscitated” and for the latter, “raised from the dead”. That should make it clear which we are talking about.

You believe that the second type of body (a body miraculously raised from the dead by God) could also be referred to as a “resurrected” body. Ok, however, I’m sure you would agree that Jesus’ resurrected body was nothing like Lazarus’ resurrected body. Jesus’ resurrected body had been reanimated AND transformed; transformed into a divine body; a supernatural body with supernatural powers. Lazarus’ resurrected body would eventually die again to wait (for at least two millennia) for the general resurrection of the dead while Jesus’ body would never again experience hunger, get sick, or die. Two very different types of “resurrected” bodies!

To be clear: You are not claiming that Moses’ dead body had been raised by God from its grave on Mount Nebo and had been reanimated and transformed (resurrected) to appear to the disciples in the same form of resurrected body that Jesus would appear in after his crucifixion? I doubt you are. So we can agree that the only possible body that Moses could have possessed on the Mount of Transfiguration was a spirit body. It could not have been a resuscitated body. Resuscitated bodies do not pop in and out of sight as in the Story of the Mount of Transfiguration. It could not have been a “raised from the dead by God” body for the same reason. And it could not have been a reanimated/transformed resurrected body exactly the same as that of the resurrected Jesus as there is no Scripture that says that some of the righteous dead will be bodily resurrected prior to Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

Here is the big question: How would the disciples be able to tell the difference between a spirit body and a reanimated/transformed (resurrected) body? Sounds like the two could look identical. What do you think?

The Transfiguration of the Lord | Amormeus

Matthew: Great, I think we’re tracking! To your last question: I don’t know if there would be any visual differences, but we could speculate. Maybe spirit bodies glow a bit. Or, maybe Jesus’s resurrected body glowed like Moses’s face after he came down from Sinai. 
However, I think a better approach is to consider other ways the disciples would distinguish Jesus’s physical resurrection from a spirit-body resurrection. For instance, the disciples touched Jesus’s body and witnessed Jesus eat physical food (Lk. 24:36-43). Jesus also taught them that he would rise again, and they probably remembered that bold statement of Jesus: I am the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:15).

Gary: But you agree that the Transfiguration Story demonstrates that it is possible for first century people to see a spirit and think it is a real, flesh and blood body, right? Otherwise, why would Peter offer to build Moses and Elijah housing (“dwelling”) if all he saw was a couple of whispy ghosts. I believe that the Transfiguration Story deals a death blow to the apologist’s claim that it is impossible that the post-death sightings of Jesus involved sightings of ghosts. This story clearly demonstrates that the disciples could see ghosts and believe that they were real bodies.

And in the worldview of most non-Christians, non-theists and theists, this is the probable origin of the Resurrection Belief: ghost sightings.

As for the stories of the disciples touching Jesus and watching him eat broiled fish, what if these stories are the theological embellishments (fictional tall tales) of non-eyewitness Gospel authors? That is exactly the opinion of many scholars, even many Roman Catholic scholars who have no bias against the supernatural.

The Story of the Transfiguration demonstrates that first century people believed that one could see ghosts and believe that one had seen real, back-from-the-dead bodies. Tens of thousands of people have claimed to have seen the ghosts of their dead loved ones and friends. We don’t believe them, why should we believe the disciples??

Matthew: Of course it’s possible that the resurrection of Jesus was just a ghost sighting that the disciples thought was a real bodily resurrection. That was never a question in my mind, even before you brought up your take on the transfiguration. But as I’m sure you know, possibility is quite different from probability. I find that a historical resurrection of Jesus does a better job explaining all the historical data than ghost sightings. If all the disciples saw was a ghost, then I am left with more questions and problems than if I accept a historical resurrection.


I am willing to talk about this some more with you, but in order to best serve you, it would help to know more about where you’re coming from. Are you asking as a Christian pondering the reliability of Christianity, or do you write as a skeptic or from a different religious perspective? What are you hoping to accomplish in a conversation like this?

Gary: Yes, it all boils down to each individual’s world view, doesn’t it? If one does not believe in the supernatural, then a perceived ghost sighting is much more probable than a sighting of a resurrected god. If, however, one is a bible-believing Christian, then a literal resurrection is more probable. But is that belief justified? I would say it isn’t.

Here is why: Millions of Jews, Muslims, and Hindus—most of whom also believe in the supernatural and miracles—also believe that ghost sightings are much more probable to be the cause of the alleged resurrected Jesus sightings.

How certain can you really be, Matthew, that the original disciples did not see perceived ghosts and come to the conclusion that it was the risen Jesus come to fulfill his promise of establishing the New Kingdom as the Messiah? The fact that he didn’t stick around then triggered bizarre explanations: God took Jesus to heaven like he did Elijah or God took Jesus to heaven to prepare him to return to establish the New Kingdom as the Messiah. Cognitive dissonance turned a ghost sighting, into a “risen from the dead Jesus”, into a “resurrected from the dead Jesus”. Human beings are capable of coming up with the darnedest of beliefs.

I am a former born-again evangelical Christian. I am now a non-believer in the supernatural.

Matthew: Thanks Gary, that extra context helps. My apologies for jumping around your questions, but I have one other question for you that I think will help me. As a non-believer in the supernatural, then, I take it you think that the “ghost sightings” were not actually real ghosts, but just hallucinations of Jesus. Is that correct?

Gary: My guess is that all or most of the “Jesus appearance’s” involved vivid dreams or illusions: seeing something real in the environment such as a cloud, a shadow, or a bright light which one perceives to be a ghost. It is also possible that one or two of the disciples experienced hallucinations, but illusions are much more common than hallucinations.

So what other evidence leads you to the conclusion that a bodily resurrection is the more probable explanation for the Resurrection Belief than ghost sightings?

Matthew: I am familiar with the concept of the hallucination/illusion approach to the resurrection of Jesus, and I know (as you mentioned) that a lot of other religions which don’t accept Jesus will propose an illusion or ghost, etc., as an explanation for the disciples claim to have experienced Jesus. Here are a few reasons why I am hesitant to jump on that wagon. I think these reasons can be compelling even for those who don’t believe in the resurrection or supernatural activity. Perhaps by the end, you will think that the disciples were just lying about Jesus! We’ll see I guess…


To preface, I recognize that some of my reasons are not tightened until we can also establish some preliminary concerns about who wrote the gospels, when they were written, and text-critical issues that are involved. But since you seem willing to accept that there were people writing about Jesus, claiming to have seen him alive, I think that is enough common footing for most or all of what I have to say below.


First, I think we are asking too much to expect multiple witnesses to have experienced an internal, psychological phenomenon all at the same time which was so compelling that it transformed their lives, even to the point of being willing to die for their faith. Illusions and hallucinations are internal events that would have to coincidentally happen around the same time for the Christian movement to take place in the first century. Granted, their devastation of a dead messiah and beloved teacher would likely take them through a grief stage of denial, and any pre-existing psychological imbalance might be triggered from that grief to give them a fuzzy vision of Jesus in the flesh, but it’s still a huge stretch.

A much more reasonable outcome would be one or maybe two grieving disciples thinking that they saw Jesus alive, and the rest of them saying “Bro, don’t go there. We can’t handle a false hope like that. And if Jesus really resurrected, we would have seen him too. It was just a vision, I’m sorry. We’ll work through this together.” For someone who doesn’t believe in supernatural events, a hallucination/illusion theory is more suitable as an explanation when we are dealing with an isolated, private spiritual experience, such as Muhammad’s supposed encounter with Gabriel.

A Transfiguration of Body and Soul – Diocesan


Second, the type of writing that was produced by early followers of Jesus in the first century doesn’t read as if they arose out of people who had mistakenly come to believe Jesus resurrected. The resurrection stories of Matthew, Luke, and John all recount one or more appearances with Jesus by multiple people at the same time, as well as angel sightings, etc. We are told that women first saw Jesus and reported to the disciples. We learn that Roman guards were involved. In Luke 24, Jesus appears to the disciples and shows them his hands and feet, eats with them, etc. John has a similar account of Jesus’s appearance and then again with Thomas and the rest. Obviously, they speak about an empty tomb. Some of the disciples visit the tomb to confirm the women’s report. 1 John 1:1, while speaking about Jesus says, “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands…”

You also have Paul who claimed to see Jesus in 1 Cor. 15, and you see a willingness on his end to mention many other names of people who also claimed to see Jesus. You mentioned earlier that perhaps those stories are theological embellishments, but all of these stories add up to the point that we are playing “no true Scotsman.” Further, there’s no text-critical support for this view of later embellishments except in the case of Mark 16:9-20. Long story short, these people claimed to have seen, felt, and been with the risen Jesus in clear conscience and sound mind. If they really said that they saw Jesus alive, then it’s unlikely they came to believe this by mistake.


Third, the hallucination theory does not provide explanatory power for the historical evidence of an empty tomb. If a small group of Jewish individuals started claiming that they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead, the Jewish or Roman authorities could have taken out the dead body of Jesus to prove that he was still dead. This would have stopped Christianity in its tracks, or it would have changed the disciple’s messaging to say Jesus appeared in spirit form to them, but not physically. We don’t get this kind of writing in their stories. Most likely, the Romans were saying that the disciples stole the body. I suspect this is how the Romans responded because Matthew found it necessary to provide a counterargument to this Roman activity to help his doubting listeners in Mt. 28:11-15.


Gary: I agree with you, Michael. I think we are asking too much to expect multiple witnesses to have experienced an internal, psychological phenomenon all at the same time which was so compelling that it transformed their lives, even to the point of being willing to die for their faith. Psychiatrists and psychologists tell us it is impossible for two people, let alone a crowd, to experience the same hallucination or dream. Therefore, we are in agreement that the disciples did not experience group hallucinations or group dreams. But that does not mean they could not have experienced group illusions. We see group illusions today. Just a few years ago, a crowd of hundreds of devout Christians in Knock, Ireland, saw the sun come out from behind the clouds and were absolutely certain it was an appearance of the mother of Jesus. And a similar phenomenon occurred in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. So we have ample evidence that groups of human beings can experience the same illusion and believe it to be an appearance of a dead person. I must correct you, in that illusions are not an internal mental phenomenon. Illusions are misinterpretations of an external event.

“A much more reasonable outcome would be one or maybe two grieving disciples thinking that they saw Jesus alive, and the rest of them saying “Bro, don’t go there. We can’t handle a false hope like that.”

That reaction is certainly possible. But I believe another possible reaction would be for the other disciples to be so overjoyed with renewed hope that they too experience vivid dreams, illusions, false sightings (cases of mistaken identity), and maybe even hallucinations. Would you agree that both of these reactions are possible?

Second, the type of writing that was produced by early followers of Jesus in the first century doesn’t read as if they arose out of people who had mistakenly come to believe Jesus resurrected.

The authorship of the Gospels is disputed. I realize that you as an evangelical or conservative Protestant may believe that eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels but you are in the minority. Even if you dispute my claim that your position represents the minority scholarly position, the authorship of the only books which give us a detailed account of this alleged event is disputed. That fact is not disputed. How historically reliable are sources with disputed authorship?? Imagine if a significant percentage of historians questioned the authorship and historical reliability of the sources for another historical claim. Instead of being listed in history texts as an historical fact, such a disputed claim would be demoted to a “disputed historical event”. And it is exactly for this reason why many of the claims in the New Testament such as the alleged empty rock tomb of Jesus are not listed as historical facts in history textbooks. The sources and evidence for these claims are poor!

The resurrection stories of Matthew, Luke, and John all recount one or more appearances with Jesus by multiple people at the same time, as well as angel sightings, etc.

If the detailed resurrection stories in the Gospels are not eyewitness accounts but legends or the literary/theological embellishments of the non-eyewitness authors, as a significant percentage of scholars believe, then your argument falls flat, Matthew. Let’s look at the earliest account of the resurrection appearances, the Early Creed, found in First Corinthians 15. There is no mention of people touching a body. There is no mention of anyone watching a body eat food. In fact, there is no mention of anyone seeing a body! All we are told is that individual followers of Jesus and groups of followers of Jesus experienced “appearances”. That’s it. It is therefore entirely possible that every one of the appearances mentioned in the Early Creed involved bright lights or some other very natural event which the disciples misinterpreted as a supernatural event!

You also have Paul who claimed to see Jesus in 1 Cor. 15, and you see a willingness on his end to mention many other names of people who also claimed to see Jesus. You mentioned earlier that perhaps those stories are theological embellishments, but all of these stories add up to the point that we are playing “no true Scotsman.”

In his own writings, Paul never gives us one single detail of what he allegedly saw in his perceived encounter with Jesus, but if we are to believe the author of the Book of Acts, all Paul saw was a bright light. This further confirms my assertion that first century people could experience a natural phenomenon, misinterpret it, and come to the conclusion that they had experienced a supernatural appearance by a dead person.

Further, there’s no text-critical support for this view of later embellishments except in the case of Mark 16:9-20.

Not true, my friend. Even preeminent Roman Catholic scholar Raymond Brown believed that Luke’s tale of disciples watching a resurrected Jesus eat a broiled fish lunch is more likely than not to be a fictional work of apologetics, added to the Jesus Story with the intent of silencing critics who were saying that Jesus was just a ghost. If the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses or by associates of eyewitnesses, many of the stories within those books may well be legends or theological embellishments (fiction).

Long story short, these people claimed to have seen, felt, and been with the risen Jesus in clear conscience and sound mind. If they really said that they saw Jesus alive, then it’s unlikely they came to believe this by mistake.

That is what the Gospel authors wrote! And as I mentioned above, the identity and eyewitness status of these authors is hotly disputed. Therefore, you have zero undisputed testimony of any eyewitness claiming that he or she saw and touched a broiled fish eating body.

Jesus' Transfiguration Bible Story Study Guide


Third, the hallucination theory does not provide explanatory power for the historical evidence of an empty tomb. If a small group of Jewish individuals started claiming that they saw Jesus resurrected from the dead, the Jewish or Roman authorities could have taken out the dead body of Jesus to prove that he was still dead. This would have stopped Christianity in its tracks

Even Christians admit that the disciples did not start publicly proclaiming the Resurrection until approximately 50 days after Jesus’ death. How would anyone have identified a 50 day old rotting corpse? Even if the Jews were able to find the correct tomb, the body would have been unidentifiable. Christians could take one look at the rotting flesh and bones and say, “That’s not Jesus. You are pulling another one of your tricks. That is someone else’s body.” The new allegation against the Jews would have been that they had put another body in Jesus’ empty tomb for the sole purpose of discrediting the Resurrection belief. But that even assumes that there was a rock tomb. For all we know, Jesus’ body was tossed into a common grave with the bodies of other executed persons.

However, I personally favor the historicity of the empty tomb. It would explain why Jesus was the only messiah-pretender whose followers believed he had come back from the dead. The empty tomb gave the Jesus followers a sliver of hope that their Messianic dreams were still possible. A sliver of hope that the followers of other Messiah pretenders did not have. And why was the tomb empty? Who knows! There are many possible reasons for an empty grave, all of them much more probable to atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Muslims than a literal resurrection!

I suspect this is how the Romans responded because Matthew found it necessary to provide a counterargument to this Roman activity to help his doubting listeners in Mt. 28:11-15.

Even William Lane Craig admits that practically all NT scholars believe that “Matthew’s” story of Roman guards at the tomb is another work of apologetics written to silence critics who were claiming that someone had moved the body.

The sources and evidence for this never heard of before or since fantastical supernatural claim is disputed, Matthew. Even the majority of the world’s theists think the evidence for this alleged first century event is poor. So why do you believe it? Could it be that your primary reason for believing has nothing to do with historical evidence but with the subjective evidence of the testimony of the Holy Spirit in your “heart”?

Matthew: You quoted me saying, “Further, there’s no text-critical support for this view of later embellishments except in the case of Mark 16:9-20.” You pushed against this statement, citing Raymond Brown’s views on Jesus’s meeting in John 21. I checked a text-critical apparatus and did not find any text-critical reason for suggesting the section was a later addition. Whatever Raymond Brown’s reason is for suggesting that section was a later addition, it wasn’t because of a text-critical issue. Either that or there are some impressively old manuscripts of John that have surfaced without my awareness.


I also think we didn’t quite connect on my statement about the guard’s report. You said, “Even William Lane Craig admits that practically all NT scholars believe that “Matthew’s” story of Roman guards at the tomb is another work of apologetics written to silence critics who were claiming that someone had moved the body.” Exactly. That’s my point. I think Matthew was acting as an apologist here. But even if this wasn’t Matthew but instead a later addition, the fact that the text exists in the first gospel indicates that there was a need for apologists to address the claim that the disciples moved/stole the body. It seems reasonable then, that opponents of Christianity had an empty tomb issue they were trying to address. If the tomb still had a dead, rotting corpse in there (even if the corpse was unrecognizable), why would critics say that the disciples stole the body?


You said, “That reaction is certainly possible. But I believe another possible reaction would be for the other disciples to be so overjoyed with renewed hope that they too experience vivid dreams, illusions, false sightings (cases of mistaken identity), and maybe even hallucinations. Would you agree that both of these reactions are possible?” Just as I agree that a ghost-sighting is possible, I also believe that an overjoyed-with-renewed-hope experience is possible. But I’m hardly interested in what’s possible. I’m interested in this: What is probable? What is not probable? Perhaps a better way to ask is this: When you have a group of people grieving the loss of a loved one, and one or two of those people think they saw the dead person alive again, how do the rest of the people tend to respond?


There is so much more which ought to be said about this, but I cannot continue, as my work with Josh McDowell Ministry is to help people who are seeking answers to apologetic or theological questions. Although you began this conversation with a question, it’s clear to me that you were simply using it as an entry point to debate this topic. Debates are not necessarily bad, but my capacity is limited and so I wish to remain focused on those who are most needing of our help.

File:Transfiguration bloch.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

Gary: Yes, I misunderstood your point regarding Luke’s story of the resurrected Jesus eating a broiled fish lunch. I am not alleging that this story is a later addition. What I meant to say is that Raymond Brown believes this story was invented as an apologetic argument against the claim by critics that the disciples had seen a ghost, not a flesh and blood body. However, most scholars do believe that there are other scribal additions to the Gospels other than the long ending of Mark, in particular the Story of the Woman Caught in Adultery and the Story of the Angel at the Pool of Bethesda.

In regards to the Guards at the Tomb Story, I am happy to hear that you agree with the scholarly consensus that “Matthew” invented this story for apologetic purposes. It is certainly possible that there really was an empty tomb and Matthew invented the guards to respond to criticisms that the tomb was empty because someone had the opportunity to move the body. But isn’t it also possible that Matthew was simply “fixing” Mark’s story. Mark’s fictitious tomb was left unguarded and Matthew saw the opportunity that would give to skeptics to say that the body had been moved.

The empty rock tomb of Jesus is trotted out as the best evidence for the resurrection by modern apologists each and every time I discuss the Resurrection with them…yet Paul, the greatest Christian apologist of all time, says not word about this empty rock tomb. Yes, an argument from silence, but still odd. So, there is weak evidence there was a tomb. There is also weak evidence there was not tomb; that it was invented for theological, literary purposes. So once again we see that you are using very weak evidence upon which to build an entire worldview.

“I’m interested in this: What is probable? What is not probable? Perhaps a better way to ask is this: When you have a group of people grieving the loss of a loved one, and one or two of those people think they saw the dead person alive again, how do the rest of the people tend to respond?”

I agree with you that most modern, educated westerners would probably not believe one or two people telling them that their friend/loved one had appeared to them from the dead (remember, you agreed it is possible that the disciples only saw ghosts with bodies). But we are not talking about modern, educated westerners. We are talking about first century, mostly illiterate, middle eastern peasants. Would they believe such a tale? The Bible itself tells us they just probably would! The step father of Jesus allegedly sees a supernatural being in his sleep and moves the entire family to a foreign country in the middle of the night! Would you do that, Matthew? I doubt it. Peter allegedly falls asleep in the middle of the day and dreams he sees a floating sheet full of animals. After he wakes up, he cannot discern if he has experienced a dream or has really seen animals on a flying carpet!! Would you have trouble discerning between the two, Matthew? I don’t think so. And the Apostle Paul has a dream that he is transported into outer space to a third heaven where he overhears communications between space beings, communications he is not allowed to share with other humans…but he is unsure if this event really happened or if it was all in his head. The same Paul sees a bright light in a “vision” (dream, hallucination) on a dark, desert highway and thinks a dead guy has appeared to him! He goes on to convince half of Asia Minor and Greece that this vision was reality! Good grief. And you don’t believe these people could be convinced that someone had seen a back from the dead corpse??? Come on, Matthew. These people were scientifically ignorant, superstitious, vision-prone religious zealots. Go attend a modern Pentecostal healing service and you will see just how gullible this type of Christian can be.

You have said that the cumulative evidence favors a miraculous (supernatural) bodily resurrection. Yet I have demonstrated that every individual piece of evidence of this cumulative evidence is very weak. The best evidence you have is the empty tomb which Gary Habermas claims is supported by 75% of scholars. 75%? Seriously?? For what other historical event do 25% of historians/scholars doubt its historicity?? Come on. Weak, weak, weak.

Yet you teach little children and gullible adults that if they do not bend the knee and worship this executed first century god/man they will suffer unspeakable eternal torment. My goodness, Matthew. Wake up. Your belief system, if true, punishes people for thought crimes, and the punishment is never ending. Is that just? Does that describe the behavior of a good human being let alone a good “god”? Of course not. So why do you propagate this sadistic, superstitious nonsense if the historical evidence for it is so weak? It must be due to your subjective perception that this executed god/man lives “in your heart” and communicates with you in a “still small voice”. What is your evidence that this subjective perception is real, Matthew? I challenge you to provide ANY good evidence.

Matthew: (Did not respond)

Best Real Ghost Pictures Ever Taken
Ghosts are not real.

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End of post.

13 thoughts on “Josh McDowell Ministries Responds to My Question: In What Type of Body Did Moses Appear on the Mount of Transfiguration?

  1. While I pretty much agree with all Gary’s points, I can also understand the other guy’s perception that
    “Although you began this conversation with a question, it’s clear to me that you were simply using it as an entry point to debate this topic.”
    Maybe laying out the whole argument at the beginning would scare some away, but it may reduce the feeling of the person being questioned that they were being led into a trap. Just my impression after quickly reading through it.

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    1. If I put it all out at the beginning, they are less honest in their answers (see the previous post with theologian Roger Olson). He is an apologist. He is not the local pastor who thought I was contacting him for spiritual assistance. I do not feel I did anything improper.

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  2. Matthew and Mark both indicate that the Transfiguration was a vision. Why would anyone expect a person seen in a vision to have a body?

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    1. Nope. Only Matthew indicates it was a vision. And Matthew was not there! Read this pericope in parallel.

      https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2022/01/08/the-most-damning-evidence-against-the-bodily-resurrection-of-jesus-the-story-of-his-transfiguration/

      In addition, if the disciples believed it was a vision, then you must believe that four guys saw the same vision all at the same time and place. You are therefore appealing to the existence of a magical sixth sense, or magical Christian glasses, because psychiatrists and psychologists say groups of people cannot have the same vision (hallucination or vivid dream) in the natural world. The onus is on Christians to prove that such a magical sixth sense exists.

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  3. Mark uses the verb “eidon” – “…As they were coming down from the mountain, He gave them orders not to relate to anyone what they had [eidon]…”

    This verb means “to know, be aware, consider, perceive, be sure, and understand”.

    It’s only translated as “see” in a figurative sense – in English. But it’s commonly translated as “beheld”, and is often used in reference to visions. But in any case, the verb does not mean “to see”. The disciples had “perceived” something. Jesus tells them not to tell anyone what they had “perceived”.

    Jesus said “Unless one is born again, he cannot [eidon] the Kingdom of God”. Here again, the verb does not mean “see”; it means “perceive”.

    Marks use of “eidon” makes perfect sense, considering that Matthew comes right out and says it was a vision. Mark was not talking about “seeing” anything in a literal sense.

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    1. You are making an assumption.

      Eido: Definition
      -to see
      -to perceive with the eyes
      -to perceive by any of the senses
      -to perceive, notice, discern, discover
      -to see
      –i.e. to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention to anything
      -to pay attention, observe
      -to see about something 1d
      –i.e. to ascertain what must be done about it
      -to inspect, examine
      -to look at, behold
      -to experience any state or condition
      -to see i.e. have an interview with, to visit
      -to know
      -to know of anything
      -to know, i.e. get knowledge of, understand, perceive
      of any fact
      -the force and meaning of something which has definite meaning
      -to know how, to be skilled in
      -to have regard for one, cherish, pay attention to (1Th. 5:

      Source: https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/nas/eido.html

      And I know who you are. Go the HELL away, FT Bond/Holy Moly/Tobin. You are a sick troll.

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    2. If the disciples of Jesus really did claim that they had all seen two guys who had lived hundreds of years prior…in a “heavenly vision”…as Paul also claimed, it shows how gullible, superstitious, and naive first century people were. We should not trust one single word these nut jobs said.

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  4. You’re looking at Thayers???? Seriously???? Hey, pick up a copy of Strongs while you’re at it.

    But, don’t mistake either one for a serious Greek dictionary. Thayers and Strongs just tell you how those words are translated in English.

    “….for we have PERCEIVED his star…” It’s translated as “seen” only FIGURATIVELY.

    Mark says “dont tell anyone what you PERCEIVED”.

    Don’t bore me with how it’s translated by Thayer or Strong. Seriously.

    -And Jesus PERCEIVING their thoughts said, Wherefore…
    -And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled that says: ‘You will surely hear but never understand, and you will surely see but never perceive…
    -Then I PERCEIVED, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man
    -They also which PERCEIVED it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed.”

    here’s a good one:
    -Matthew (in regards to the Transfiguration) “And when they raised their eyes, they PERCEIVED no one…”

    Learn some Greek.

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  5. Besides, bonehead – if Matthew was copying from Mark, then why did Matthew (who obviously knew Greek) specifically say the Transfiguration was a VISION?

    Hint: He understood Marks use of “eidon” as a Greek-speaker would understand it. He KNEW Mark was speaking of a vision, because of that very verb.

    Use your head, Gary. And learn some Greek.

    Oh, and BTW – you calling me a troll is the pot calling the kettle black. Just read what your original post is. It’s nothing but a troll post intended to start a debate.

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    1. I am happy that you think Jesus and his three fishing buddies all saw two dead guys chatting it up with Jesus in a “vision”. It shows you are just as wacky as they obviously were. Groups of people cannot see the same mental phenomenon and claiming that Christians have a special sixth sense which allows them to see something that we non-believers cannot is total bs. You have zero evidence such a supernatural ability exists.

      This is the last of your comments that I leave up. All others will be deleted, regardless of how many times you change your IP address.

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