What does Matthew 17:3 mean?
ESV: And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him.
NIV: Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.
NASB: And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
CSB: Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with him.
NLT: Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
KJV: And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.
NKJV: And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus has been transfigured: described using the word from which we get the term metamorphosis. This transformation occurred before the eyes of Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1–2). He is radiating the glory of God as light, and His clothes have become intensely white. He stands on top of the mountain changed into a more-native appearance as the Son of God in heaven.

To further confirm that the disciples are glimpsing the glory of heaven, Moses and Elijah appear on the mountain, as well, and begin talking with Jesus. The fact that these two heroes of Judaism appear is significant. For one, it confirms that there is a life after death where they continue to dwell. Many scholars suggest that the pair are also meant to represent the Law and the Prophets that are so central to God's relationship with Israel. God gave the Law to Moses to the give to the people, and Elijah was the most notable of all the prophets that followed. In addition, both men interacted with God on Mount Sinai, later called Mount Horeb (Exodus 24:15–16; 1 Kings 19:8).

Jesus has come to fulfill the Law and the prophecies about the Messiah (Matthew 5:17–18). He does not stand equal with this pair, but above them as the Son of God. The fact that the three are talking indicates that Jesus knows both men personally. Luke's account mentions that they talked about Jesus' "departure," meaning His death, which was to happen soon in Jerusalem (Luke 9:31). Moses and Elijah are shown to be aware of the plans of heaven for the completion of Jesus' mission on earth.
Verse Context:
Matthew 17:1–13 follows Jesus' prediction that some of the disciples won't die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom (Matthew 16:28). Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured—radiating the glory of God––while talking with Moses and Elijah. Peter blunders in his attempt to contribute to the moment. The voice of God the Father identifies Jesus as His Son and commands the disciples to listen to Him. Jesus tells the three not to tell anyone else what they've seen until after He is raised from the dead. He answers their question about a prophecy involving Elijah.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up on a high mountain. There, they see Him "transfigured" into a shining, divine form. They also see Christ speaking with Moses and Elijah but are commanded not to speak of this event until later. Jesus heals a demon-afflicted boy after the disciples cannot cast the demon out. Jesus very clearly tells the disciples He will be delivered into the hands of men, killed, and raised on the third day. After explaining why He is exempt from a temple tax, Jesus agrees to pay it and tells Peter to find the money in the mouth of a fish.
Chapter Context:
Matthew 17 begins with the fulfillment of Jesus' prediction at the end of the previous chapter: that some of those present would not die before seeing Him coming in His kingdom. Jesus casts out a demon, predicts His death, and commands Peter to pay a temple tax with a coin from the mouth of a fish. This leads Matthew back to extensive records of Jesus' teachings, continuing through chapter 20.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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