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Having never seen Moses and Elijah how did the disciples recognised them? Also there were no evidence that Jesus introduced them to the disciples. If the recognition was ”in spirit” what would that mean?

And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him. [Matthew 17:3 KJV]

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    Great Question! - Which Gospel account did you want us to analyze : Mark 9:1-4, Matthew 17:1-3 or Luke 9:28-32? – חִידָה Apr 4 at 18:45
  • Also note [ 2 Peter 1:16-21 ] describes the same event : " we ourselves heard this declaration made from heaven when we were with Him ". - Perhaps the phrase "φωνὴν ἡμεῖς ἠκούσαμεν ἐξ οὐρανοῦ" means something declared in scripture. Perhaps the disciples saw Jesus studying the words of Malachi 4:4-6 in English Bibles | Malachi 3:22-24 in the Hebrew Tanakh, and finally 'heard' (understood) who Jesus was. – חִידָה Apr 4 at 19:02
  • ‎@חִידָה Exactly right. They recognised Moses and Elijah ‘through’ the Tanakh. They ‘knew’ Moses and Elijah from the Tanakh. The Tanakh revealed who they were seeing - and it would’ve been quite ‘instant/natural’. (No surprise). Was going to answer, but you already have. – Dave Apr 4 at 20:17
  • How did Ezekiel know that certain images were 'cherubim' ? How did John know that a certain image was Diabolos ? It is part of the gift of a vision to be (also) given the understanding along with the imagery. Those who have such dreams and visions know the sensation of understanding and interpretation being granted alongside the visionary images. – Nigel J Apr 4 at 21:30
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    I have edited to focus on Matthew's account in order to bring the question into line with site requirements. Please feel free to edit to another gospel account, if that is desired. – Nigel J Apr 7 at 12:32
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Luke 9:28 About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. 31They spoke about his departure, a which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. 32Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. 33As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)

Peter knew the identities of Moses and Elijah by a special revelation. A similar revelation is in Matthew 16:

15“But what about you?” he [Jesus] asked. “Who do you say I am?”

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven.

The Father revealed this specific knowledge to Peter.

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How did Ezekiel know that certain images were 'cherubim' ? How did John know that a certain image was Diabolos ?

It is part of the gift of a vision to be (also) given the understanding along with the imagery.

Those who have such dreams and visions know the sensation of understanding and interpretation being granted alongside the visionary images.

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The short answer is - We are not told. However, we have the following credible possibilities:

  • The disciples are recorded as hearing :Jesus talking with Moses and Elijah", Matt 17:3, Mark 9:4, Luke 9:30. Therefore, perhaps they heard Jesus say their names as they greeted each other.
  • They were expecting something like this as per OT prophecies about both Moses and Elijah from passages such as Mal 4:4-6.
  • They were informed and understood the identity of Moses and Elijah supernaturally as part of the transfiguration.

Any of these is possible but the first is the simplest.

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