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Matthew 17 – Skeptic's Annotated Bible answered

A response and reply to the notes on Matthew 17 in the Skeptic's Annotated Bible (SAB).

King James Version

SAB comment

My comment

1 And after six days Jesus taketh Peter, James, and John his brother, and bringeth them up into an high mountain apart,

"After six days"
Matthew says the transfiguration occurred six days after Jesus foretells his death, but Luke (9:27-28) says it was eight days.
When did the transfiguration occur?
Matthew and Mark (Mark 9:2) only count the days between his delivery of above sayings and the transfiguration. Luke includes them (Luke 9:28).

2 And was transfigured before them: and his face did shine as the sun, and his raiment was white as the light.

3 And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.

4 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.

5 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.

6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their face, and were sore afraid.

7 And Jesus came and touched them, and said, Arise, and be not afraid.

8 And when they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no man, save Jesus only.

9 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.

10 And his disciples asked him, saying, Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?

11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things.

(17:11-13) "Elias is come already."
Jesus says that John the Baptist was Elijah. But if so, then why did John the Baptist deny it in John 1:21? And what did John the Baptist restore?

12 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.

13 Then the disciples understood that he spake unto them of John the Baptist.

14 And when they were come to the multitude, there came to him a certain man, kneeling down to him, and saying,

15 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.

(17:15-18) "He is lunatick."
Jesus cures an epileptic "lunatic" by "rebuking the devil." (Epilepsy is caused by devils.)
Although I'm not a medical expert, I somehow doubt that many epileptics throw themselves into fire and into water. As I understand it, in an epileptic fit the brain's neurons are firing randomly and an epileptic is unable to move or have any purposeful behavior. The description in Mark (Mark 9:18) corresponds more to the definition of epilepsy. But taken together, it appears to me that the devil, through these epileptic fits, tried to kill this person.
But as has been pointed out before, having the symptoms does not mean the cause is always the devil. The Bible carefully distinguishes between a disease of natural causes and one that has the same symptoms, but is caused by the devil instead, see chapter 12:22.

16 And I brought him to thy disciples, and they could not cure him.

17 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.

"O faithless and perverse generation"
Jesus speaks harshly of his disciples when they fail to cast out the devil, saying "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you?"
BOM: Alma 10:17, 10:25

18 And Jesus rebuked the devil; and he departed out of him: and the child was cured from that very hour.

19 Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out?

20 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.

"If ye have faith ... nothing shall be impossible unto you."
If your faith is great enough (as big as a mustard seed), you can move mountains around.
BOM: Helaman 12:9
John Gill remarks:

not that it would be ordinarily or ever done in a literal sense by the apostles, that they should remove mountains; but that they should be able to do things equally difficult, and as seemingly impossible, if they had but faith, when the glory of God, and the good of men, required it.

21 Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.

22 And while they abode in Galilee, Jesus said unto them, The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men:

23 And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry.

24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Doth not your master pay tribute?

25 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?

26 Peter saith unto him, Of strangers. Jesus saith unto him, Then are the children free.

27 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.

Jesus tells Peter to pay his taxes with a coin that he'll find in the mouth of the first fish that he catches from the sea.
We see here the omniscience of Christ and his dominion over all creatures.