For he did not know what to say, because they were much afraid.
antecedents can be fun
in a transfiguration scene
we struggle to identify
who is terrified
it might be Peter James John
witnesses of blinding light
stumbling to make a response
dumbly proposing shrines
it might be Elijah Moses Jesus
witnessing to a larger light
caught in glory’s glow
lost whenever enshrined
with a forced response
our fear of tomorrow is revealed
with an on-going witness
consistency with yesterday freezes
there is more than enough terror
to frighten everyone
into reductionist responses
diminishing trust refusing change
When this verse is translated into Navajo the clauses must be transposed, “since they were exceedingly afraid, he did not know what to say”. (Bratcher276)
It is helpful to have both structures available for some better hear the action when they understand the motivation and others need an impetus to grasp an import. This could even be part of several other diagnostics to assist us in assessing our temperamental inclination.
When we are dealing with Peter’s state, it may be better to have had the translation say the disciples were in “a state of awe” rather than were “terrified”. Then we might hear echoes of terror in the midst of a storm at sea transformed into the awe of, “who is this who stills wind and wave?” We can be equally flummoxed in a time of awe or terror. Our ability to miss the point is easily engaged.
This also accords with Peter’s announcement that “it is good we’re here”.
As readers we will be tempted to understand ourselves as wiser than Peter—“If I were there, I’d have simply praised G*D for the opportunity to see this unity of Law and Prophet and Wisdom.” This still stops short of asking, “What does it mean for me to live with these three Qualities residing within me?” Having this partnership brought together in our presence brings a different relationship to ourselves and those around. This is another instance in which “glory all around!” is more of a hindrance than asset.