corner graphic

Bible Commentaries

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Matthew 17



Other Authors
Verse 1

After six days (μετ ημερας εχmeth' hēmerās hex). This could be on the sixth day, but as Luke (Luke 9:28) puts it “about eight days” one naturally thinks of a week as the probable time, though it is not important.

Taketh with him (παραλαμβανειparalambanei). Literally, takes along. Note historical present. These three disciples form an inner group who have shown more understanding of Jesus. So at Gethsemane.

Apart (κατ ιδιανkat' idian) means “by themselves” (alone, μονουςmonous Mark has it) up (αναπερειanapherei) into a high mountain, probably Mount Hermon again, though we do not really know. “The Mount of Transfiguration does not concern geography” (Holtzmann).

Verse 2

He was transfigured before them (μετεμορπωτη εμπροστεν αυτωνmetemorphōthē emprosthen autōn). The word is the same as the metamorphoses (cf. Ovid) of pagan mythology. Luke does not use it. The idea is change (μεταmetȧ) of form (μορπηmorphē). It really presents the essence of a thing as separate from the σχημαschēma (fashion), the outward accident. So in Romans 12:2 Paul uses both verbs, συνσχεματιζεστεsunschematizesthe (be not fashioned) and μεταμορπουστεmetamorphousthe (be ye transformed in your inner life). So in 1 Corinthians 7:31 σχημαschēma is used for the fashion of the world while in Mark 16:12 μορπηmorphē is used of the form of Jesus after his resurrection. The false apostles are described by μετασχηματισομαιmetaschēmatisomai in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15. In Philemon 2:6 we have εν μορπηιen morphēi used of the Preincarnate state of Christ and μορπην δουλουmorphēn doulou of the Incarnate state (Philemon 2:7), while σχηματι ως αντρωποςschēmati hōs anthrōpos emphasizes his being found “in fashion as a man.” But it will not do in Matthew 17:2 to use the English transliteration μεταμορπωσιςmetamorphōsis because of its pagan associations. So the Latin transfigured (Vulgate transfiguratus est) is better. “The deeper force of μεταμορπουσταιmetamorphousthai is seen in 2 Corinthians 3:18 (with reference to the shining on Moses‘ face), Romans 12:2 ” (McNeile). The word occurs in a second-century papyrus of the pagan gods who are invisible. Matthew guards against the pagan idea by adding and explaining about the face of Christ “as the sun” and his garments “as the light.”

Verse 3

There appeared (ωπτηōphthē). Singular aorist passive verb with Moses (to be understood also with Elijah), but the participle συνλαλουντεςsunlalountes is plural agreeing with both. “Sufficient objectivity is guaranteed by the vision being enjoyed by all three” (Bruce). The Jewish apocalypses reveal popular expectations that Moses and Elijah would reappear. Both had mystery connected with their deaths. One represented law, the other prophecy, while Jesus represented the gospel (grace). They spoke of his decease (Luke 9:31), the cross, the theme uppermost in the mind of Christ and which the disciples did not comprehend. Jesus needed comfort and he gets it from fellowship with Moses and Elijah.

Verse 4

And Peter answered (αποκριτεις δε ο Πετροςapokritheis de ho Petros). “Peter to the front again, but not greatly to his credit” (Bruce). It is not clear what Peter means by his saying: “It is good for us to be here” (καλον εστιν ημας ωδε ειναιkalon estin hēmās hōde einai). Luke (Luke 9:33) adds “not knowing what he said,” as they “were heavy with sleep.” So it is not well to take Peter too seriously on this occasion. At any rate he makes a definite proposal.

I will make (παιησωpaiēsō). Future indicative though aorist subjunctive has same form.

Tabernacles (σκηναςskēnas), booths. The Feast of Tabernacles was not far away. Peter may have meant that they should just stay up here on the mountain and not go to Jerusalem for the feast.

Verse 5

Overshadowed (επεσκιασενepeskiasen). They were up in cloud-land that swept round and over them. See this verb used of Mary (Luke 1:35) and of Peter‘s shadow (Acts 5:15).

This is (ουτος εστινhoutos estin). At the baptism (Matthew 3:17) these words were addressed to Jesus. Here the voice out of the bright cloud speaks to them about Jesus.

Hear ye him (ακουετε αυτουakouete autou). Even when he speaks about his death. A sharp rebuke to Peter for his consolation to Jesus about his death.

Verse 7

And touched them (και απσαμενος αυτωνkai hapsamenos autōn). Tenderness in their time of fear.

Verse 8

Lifting up their eyes (επαραντες τους οπταλμους αυτωνeparantes tous ophthalmous autōn). After the reassuring touch of Jesus and his words of cheer.

Jesus only (Ιησουν μονονIēsoun monon). Moses and Elijah were gone in the bright cloud.

Verse 9

Until (εως ουheōs hou). This conjunction is common with the subjunctive for a future event as his Resurrection (εγερτηιegerthēi) was. Again (Mark 9:10) they were puzzled over his meaning. Jesus evidently hopes that this vision of Moses and Elijah and his own glory might stand them in good stead at his death.

Verse 10

Elijah must first come (Ελειαν δει ελτειν πρωτονEleian dei elthein prōton). So this piece of theology concerned them more than anything else. They had just seen Elijah, but Jesus the Messiah had come before Elijah. The scribes used Malachi 4:5. Jesus had also spoken again of his death (resurrection). So they are puzzled.

Verse 12

Elijah is come already (Ελειας ηδη ηλτενEleias ēdē ēlthen). Thus Jesus identifies John the Baptist with the promise in Malachi, though not the real Elijah in person which John denied (John 1:21).

They knew him not (ουκ επιγνωσαν αυτονouk epignōsan auton). Second aorist active indicative of επιγινωσκωepiginōskō to recognize. Just as they do not know Jesus now (John 1:26). They killed John as they will Jesus the Son of Man.

Verse 13

Then understood (τοτε συνηκανtote sunēkan). One of the three k aorists. It was plain enough even for them. John was Elijah in spirit and had prepared the way for the Messiah.

Verse 15

Epileptic (σεληνιαζεταιselēniazetai). Literally, “moonstruck,” “lunatic.” The symptoms of epilepsy were supposed to be aggravated by the changes of the moon (cf. Matthew 4:24).

He has it bad (κακως εχειkakōs echei) as often in the Synoptic Gospels.

Verse 17

Perverse (διεστραμμενηdiestrammenē). Distorted, twisted in two, corrupt. Perfect passive participle of διαστρεπωdiastrephō f0).

Verse 20

Little faith (ολιγοπιστιανoligopistian). A good translation. It was less than “a grain of mustard seed” (κοκκον σιναπεωςkokkon sinapeōs). See note on Matthew 13:31 for this phrase. They had no miracle faith. Bruce holds “this mountain” to be the Mount of Transfiguration to which Jesus pointed. Probably so. But it is a parable. Our trouble is always with “this mountain” which confronts our path. Note the form μεταβαmetaba (μεταmeta and βητιbēthi).

Verse 23

And they were exceeding sorry (και ελυπητησαν σποδραkai elupēthēsan sphodra). So they at last understood that he was talking about his death and resurrection.

Verse 24

They that received the half-shekel (οι τα διδραχμα λαμβανοντεςhoi ta didrachma lambanontes). This temple tax amounted to an Attic drachma or the Jewish half-shekel, about one-third of a dollar. Every Jewish man twenty years of age and over was expected to pay it for the maintenance of the temple. But it was not a compulsory tax like that collected by the publicans for the government. “The tax was like a voluntary church-rate; no one could be compelled to pay” (Plummer). The same Greek word occurs in two Egyptian papyri of the first century a.d. for the receipt for the tax for the temple of Suchus (Milligan and Moulton‘s Vocabulary). This tax for the Jerusalem temple was due in the month Adar (our March) and it was now nearly six months overdue. But Jesus and the Twelve had been out of Galilee most of this time. Hence the question of the tax-collectors. The payment had to be made in the Jewish coin, half-shekel. Hence the money-changers did a thriving business in charging a small premium for the Jewish coin, amounting to some forty-five thousand dollars a year, it is estimated. It is significant that they approached Peter rather than Jesus, perhaps not wishing to embarrass “Your Teacher,” “a roundabout hint that the tax was overdue” (Bruce). Evidently Jesus had been in the habit of paying it (Peter‘s).

Verse 25

Jesus spake first to him (προεπτασεν αυτον ο Ιησους λεγωνproephthasen auton ho Iēsous legōn). Here only in the N.T. One example in a papyrus b.c. 161 (Moulton and Milligan, Vocabulary). The old idiomatic use of πτανωphthanō with the participle survives in this example of προπτανωprophthanō in Matthew 17:25, meaning to anticipate, to get before one in doing a thing. The Koiné uses the infinitive thus with πτανωphthanō which has come to mean simply to arrive. Here the anticipation is made plain by the use of προprȯ See Robertson‘s Grammar, p. 1120. The “prevent” of the Authorized Version was the original idea of praevenire, to go before, to anticipate. Peter felt obliged to take the matter up with Jesus. But the Master had observed what was going on and spoke to Peter first.

Toll or tribute (τελη η κηνσονtelē ē kēnson). Customs or wares collected by the publicans (like ποροςphoros Romans 13:7) and also the capitation tax on persons, indirect and direct taxation. ΚηνσοςKēnsos is the Latin census, a registration for the purpose of the appraisement of property like η απογραπηhē apographē in Luke 2:2; Acts 5:37. By this parable Jesus as the Son of God claims exemption from the temple tax as the temple of his Father just as royal families do not pay taxes, but get tribute from the foreigners or aliens, subjects in reality.

Verse 26

The sons (οι υιοιhoi huioi). Christ, of course, and the disciples also in contrast with the Jews. Thus a reply to Peter‘s prompt “Yes.” Logically (αραγεarage) free from the temple tax, but practically not as he proceeds to show.

Verse 27

Lest we cause them to stumble (ινα μη σκανδαλισωμεν αυτουςhina mē skandalisōmen autous). He does not wish to create the impression that he and the disciples despise the temple and its worship. Aorist tense (punctiliar single act) here, though some MSS. have present subjunctive (linear). “A hook” (αγκιστρονagkistron). The only example in the N.T. of fishing with a hook. From an unused verb αγκιζωagkizō to angle, and that from αγκοςagkos a curve (so also αγκαληagkalē the inner curve of the arm, Luke 2:38).

First cometh up (τον αναβαντα πρωτον ιχτυνton anabanta prōton ichthun). More correctly, “the first fish that cometh up.”

A shekel (στατηραstatēra). Greek stater = four drachmae, enough for two persons to pay the tax.

For me and thee (αντι εμου και σουanti emou kai sou). Common use of αντιanti in commercial transactions, “in exchange for.” Here we have a miracle of foreknowledge. Such instances have happened. Some try to get rid of the miracle by calling it a proverb or by saying that Jesus only meant for Peter to sell the fish and thus get the money, a species of nervous anxiety to relieve Christ and the Gospel of Matthew from the miraculous. “All the attempts have been in vain which were made by the older Rationalism to put a non-miraculous meaning into these words” (B. Weiss). It is not stated that Peter actually caught such a fish though that is the natural implication. Why provision is thus only made for Peter along with Jesus we do not know.


Copyright Statement
The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)

Bibliography Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Matthew 17:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Commentary Navigator
Search This Commentary
Enter query in the box below
To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology