Matthew 17
Vincent's Word Studies
And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,
Taketh (παραλαμβάνει)

Rev. gives the force of the preposition παρά, taketh with him.

Apart (κατ' ἰδίαν)

Not said of the mountain, as isolated, but of the disciples; so that they might be alone with him. Compare Mark 9:2, apart by themselves (κατ' ἰδίαν μόνους: lit., apart alone).

And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.
He was transfigured (μετεμορφώθη)

μετά, denoting change or transfer, and μορφή, form. This latter word denotes the form regarded as the distinctive nature and character of the object, and is distinguished from σχῆμα, the changeable, outward fashion: in a man, for instance, his gestures, clothes, words, acts. The μορφή partakes of the essence of a thing; the σχῆμα is an accident which may change, leaving the form unaffected. Compare Mark 16:12; Christ "appeared in another form" (μορφή), and 1 Corinthians 7:31 : "the fashion (σχῆμα) of the world passeth away." The distinction passes into the verbs compounded with these two nouns. Thus, Romans 12:2, "Be not conformed to this world," is μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε; i.e., be not fashioned according to the fleeting fashion of this world. So Rev., fashioned. See, also, 2 Corinthians 11:13, 2 Corinthians 11:14, 2 Corinthians 11:15, where the changes described are changes in outward semblance. False apostles appeared in the outward fashion of apostles of Christ; Satan takes on the outward appearance of an angel. All these changes are in the accidents of the life, and do not touch its inner, essential quality. On the other hand, a change in the inner life is described as a change of μορθή, never of σχῆμα. Hence, Romans 12:2, "Be ye transformed (μεταμορφοῦσθε); the change taking place by the renewing of the mind. Compare Romans 8:29; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Philippians 3:21; and see, further, on Philippians 2:6, Philippians 2:7.

Why, then, it may be asked, is a compound of μορφή employed in this description of the transfigured Saviour, since the change described is a change in his outward appearance? It may be answered, because a compound of σχῆμα, expressing merely a change in the aspect of Christ's person and garments, would not express the deeper truth of the case, which is, that the visible change gets its real character and meaning from that which is essential in our Lord - his divine nature. A fore-shadowing or prophecy of his true form - his distinctive character - comes out in his transfiguration. He passes over into a form identified, so far as revealed, with the divine quality of his being, and prophetic of his revelation "as he is" (1 John 3:2), in the glory which he had with the Father before the world was (John 17:5). In truth, there is a deep and pregnant hint in the use of this word, which easily escapes observation, and which defies accurate definition. The profound and overwhelming impression upon the three disciples was due to something besides the shining of Christ's face and garments, and the presence of Moses and Elijah; and was deeper and subtler than the effect of all these combined. There was a fact and a power in that vision which mere radiance and the appearance of the dead patriarchs could not wholly convey: a revelation of Deity breaking out in that glorified face and form, which appealed to something deeper than sense, and confirmed the words from heaven: This is my beloved Son.

The same truth is illustrated in the use of μορφή in Mark 16:12, where it is said that Jesus appeared in a different form (ἐν ἑτέρᾳ μορφῇ) after his resurrection. The accidents of figure, face, pierced hands and feet, were the same; but an indefinable change had passed upon him, the characteristic of which was that it prefigured his passing into the condition peculiar and appropriate to his essential spiritual and divine being.

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
Then answered Peter, and said unto Jesus, Lord, it is good for us to be here: if thou wilt, let us make here three tabernacles; one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elias.
Let us make (ποιήσωμεν)

But the best texts read, ποιήσω, I will make, which is more characteristic of Peter. He would erect the booths himself.

Three tabernacles (σκηνάς)

Tents or booths, out o the brushwood lying near. Peter realized that it was night, and was for preparing shelters into which the heavenly visitants might retire after their interview.

While he yet spake, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them: and behold a voice out of the cloud, which said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him.
And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.
And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.
And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.
And as they came down from the mountain, Jesus charged them, saying, Tell the vision to no man, until the Son of man be risen again from the dead.
Vision (ὅραμα).

The spectacle.

And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.

Elijah cometh first. An abstract statement expressing the fact that Elijah's coming precedes in time the coming of the Messiah. It is a point of Jewish chronology; just as a teacher of history might say to his pupils, "The Saxons and Danes precede the Normans in England." Elijah had already come in the person of John the Baptist.

But I say unto you, That Elias is come already, and they knew him not, but have done unto him whatsoever they listed. Likewise shall also the Son of man suffer of them.
Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.
And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,
Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for ofttimes he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water.
Is lunatic (σεληνιάζεται)

Rev., epileptic. The A. V. preserves the etymology of the word (σελήνη, the moon), but lunatic conveys to us the idea of demented; while the Rev. epileptic gives the true character of the disease, yet does not tell us the fact contained in the Greek word, that epilepsy was supposed to be affected by the changes of the moon. See on Matthew 4:24.

And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.
Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you? bring him hither to me.
Perverse (διεστραμμένη)

Wyc., wayward. Tynd., crooked; διά, throughout ; στερέφω, to twist. Warped.

And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.
Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?
And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.
Unbelief (ἀπιστίαν)

But the better reading is ὀλιγοπιστίαν, littleness of faith. Hence Rev., Because of your little faith.

Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.
And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:
And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.
And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?
They that received tribute-money (οἱ τὰ δίδαχμα λαμβάνοντες)

Rev., They that received the half-shekel. Every male Israelite of age, including proselytes and manumitted Jews, was expected to pay annually for the temple-service a half-shekel or didrachm, about thirty-five cents. This must be paid in the ancient money of Israel, the regular half-shekel of the treasury; and the money-changers, therefore, were in demand to change the current into the temple coin, which they did at a rate of discount fixed by law, between four and five cents on every half-shekel. The annual revenue to the money-changers from this source has been estimated at nearly forty-five thousand dollars; a very large sum in a country where a laborer received less than twenty cents for a day's work, and where the good Samaritan left about thirty-three cents at the inn for the keeping of the wounded man. Jesus attacked a very powerful interest when he overthrew the tables of the money-changers.

He saith, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What thinkest thou, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
Yes (ναί)

Indicating that Jesus had paid the tax on former occasions.

Prevented (προέφθασεν)

Rev., rather awkwardly, but following Tynd., Spake first to him. Prevent, in its older sense, to anticipate, get before, was a correct translation. Compare Shakspeare:

"So shall my anticipation prevent your discovery."

Hamlet, ii., 1.

Out of this grew the secondary meaning, to hinder. By getting before another, one hinders him from accomplishing his purpose. This meaning has supplanted the other. Wyc. renders came before him. The meaning is that Jesus did not wait for Peter to tell him of the demand of the collectors. He anticipated him in speaking about it.

Custom or tribute (τέλη ἢ κῆνσον)

Rev. gives toll for custom. Toll is duty upon goods; tribute, tax upon individuals. Κῆνσος tribute, is merely a transcription of the Latin census, which means, first, a registration with a view to taxation, and then the tax itself.

Strangers (ἀλλοτρίων)

Not foreigners, but others than those of their own families; their subjects. In other words, Does a king tax his own children or his subjects?

Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.
Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee.
Hook (ἄγκιστρον)

The only mention in the New Testament of fishing with a hook. A single fish is wanted.

A piece of money (στατῆρα)

The A. V. is very inadequate, because Christ names a definite sum, the stater, which is a literal transcription of the Greek word, and represents two didrachmas, or a shekel. Hence Rev., a shekel.

Vincent's Word Studies, by Marvin R. Vincent [1886].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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