What does Luke 9:34 mean?
ESV: As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
NIV: While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
NASB: But while he was saying this, a cloud formed and began to overshadow them; and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.
CSB: While he was saying this, a cloud appeared and overshadowed them. They became afraid as they entered the cloud.
NLT: But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them.
KJV: While he thus spake, there came a cloud, and overshadowed them: and they feared as they entered into the cloud.
NKJV: While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.
Verse Commentary:
Those who have been on a mountain on a sunny day, then watched as a cloud races in and envelops the landscape, have a small idea of what Peter, James, and John are experiencing. Even more so, however, they just woke up from a deep sleep to see their friend and teacher speaking with two historical icons. All three were shining with God's glory (Luke 9:28–32). And the cloud, itself, is the shekinah glory of God: a sight not seen in real life since Solomon dedicated the temple (2 Chronicles 7:1–3). Until now, such a display of God's glory was only seen in prophetic visions of the day of the Lord: the coming judgment of the world.

The Hebrew word shekinah isn't used in the Bible. Rather, it is found in extra-biblical rabbinic writings. The word means "he caused to dwell" and represents God's immediate presence among His people, specifically from within a cloud. Literal appearances include the pillars of cloud and fire that led the Israelites (Exodus 13:21) and the cloud on Mount Sinai (Exodus 24:15–18). Jewish literature further developed this as a reference to God's presence, a replacement for the metaphor of God's hand or face, and eventually a mediator between God and humans. John 1:14 echoes the concept of shekinah when referring to God's presence.

In other New Testament cases, when God speaks His glory doesn't come down; the skies open (Luke 3:21–22) or the people just hear His voice (John 12:28).

Luke states that "the cloud came and overshadowed them" and that the three disciples "entered the cloud" while Matthew and Mark only say the cloud "overshadowed" them (Matthew 17:5; Mark 9:7). There's no real contradiction; when you're in a cloud, you can still see around you somewhat even if the sky above is completely blocked.
Verse Context:
Luke 9:28–36 comes amidst calls to follow Jesus more deeply. This reveals why He is worthy of allegiance; it also resolves Herod's question and Peter's answer about Jesus' identity. Peter, James, and John follow Jesus up a mountain. Jesus' clothes become bright white, and Moses and Elijah arrive to speak with Him. When the two prophets leave, a cloud descends, and God the Father affirms Jesus. This transfiguration fulfills the promise Jesus made that "there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:27). The story is also in Matthew 17:1–8 and Mark 9:2–8.
Chapter Summary:
Luke 9 completes Jesus' Galilean ministry and begins describing His journey towards Jerusalem. Jesus gives His disciples miraculous power and commissions them to preach. The empowerment thrills the disciples but confuses Herod Antipas. A hungry crowd of thousands and hard teachings about following Jesus, however, shows the disciples' faith is short-lived. The transfiguration and the demonized boy precede stories of the disciples' continued confusion. They still struggle to accurately represent Jesus. Luke 9:51–62 begins the "travelogue" (Luke 9:51—19:27) with examples of the patience and sacrifice needed to represent Jesus as His followers.
Chapter Context:
Luke 9 straddles the two major sections biblical scholars call "Jesus' Galilean Ministry" (Luke 4:14—9:50) and "The Travelogue to Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51—19:27). The Galilean ministry alternates calls to discipleship with stories on Jesus' authority and teachings. The travelogue records what Jesus did and taught to prepare the disciples for His crucifixion. After a final group of stories on how to respond to Jesus (Luke 9:51—11:13) and several examples of how the Jewish religious leaders reject Jesus (Luke 11:14–54), Luke presents Jesus' teaching on the kingdom of God (Luke 12:1—19:27).
Book Summary:
Luke was a traveling companion of Paul (Acts 16:10) and a physician (Colossians 4:14). Unlike Matthew, Mark, and John, Luke writes his gospel as an historian, rather than as a first-hand eyewitness. His extensive writings also include the book of Acts (Acts 1:1–3). These are deliberately organized, carefully researched accounts of those events. The gospel of Luke focuses on the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Luke's Gentile perspective presents Christ as a Savior for all people, offering both forgiveness and direction to those who follow Him.
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