Mount Tabor


Catholic Information

The name of Mount Thabor, is rendered in the Septuagint as Tabor, and in Jeremias and Osee as . It is under this last form (Itabyrion or Atabyrion) that the mount figures in the historical works of the ancients. The Arabs call it Jebel et Tur (mountain of mountains), a name which they give likewise to Mounts Garizim, Sinai, and Olivet. Mount Thabor is distinguished among the mountains of Palestine for its picturesque site, its graceful outline, the remarkable vegetation which covers its sides of calcareous rock, and the splendour of the view from its summit. Nearly isolated on all sides and almost hemispherical in shape it rises in a peak 1650 feet above the Plain of Esdraelon, which it bounds on the north and east, about five miles south-east of Nazareth. It attains a height of 1843 feet above the level of the Mediterranean and of 2540 feet above that of the Lake of Tiberias. Josephus (Bell. Jud., IV, i, 8) gives it a height of thirty stadia, or 18,201 feet, but he doubtless made use of the figure (four stadia or 2427 feet), which the copyist must have replaced by (thirty). The summit forms an oblong plateau about 3000 feet long, from north-west to south-east, by 1000 wide. The eye is immediately attracted to the north-east by the gigantic masses of Great Hermon, then to the Valley of the Jordan, the Lake of Tiberias and the mountain chains of Hauran, Basan, and Galaad. To the south are Naim and Endor at the foot of Jebel Daby or Mount Moreh (Judges 7:1), wrongly identified by Eusebius and St. Jerome with Little Hermon (Ps. xli, 7); somewhat farther off is seen Mount Gelboe. Westward the rich plain of Esdrelon stretches as far as Mount Carmel and innumerable Biblical and historical localities stir thoughts of the past.

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Mount Thabor is the object of poetical comparisons on the part of the Psalmist (Ps. lxxxviii, 13), the Prophet Jeremias (xlvi, 18), and the Prophet Osee (v, 1). The beautiful mountain also played an important part in history. There the Prophetess Debbora secretly assembled 10,000 Israelites under the command of Barac, who subsequently swept down upon the army of Sisara and put it to flight at the torrent of Cison (Judges 6:2-7:18-19). At the division of the Promised Land, Thabor formed the boundary between Isachar and Zabulon (Joshua 19:22). Within the tribe of Zabulon, but near Dabereth, a city of Isachar, the Book of Josue (xix, 12) mentions the city of Coseleththabor, in Hebrew Chisloth-Thabor, which means "slope or side of Thabor". I Par. (vi, 77) also speaks of a city of Zabulon called simply Thabor and assigned to the Levites descended from Merari. This is an abbreviated form of the name of the same city, and is probably the same as that which as Dabour figures among the Galilean cities conquered by Rameses II, according to the "Papyrus Anastasii" (I, xxii, 2). Polybius (Hist., V, lxx, 6) relates that in 218 B. C. Antiochus the Great captured by stratagem the city of Atabyrion in Galilee. History makes no further mention of this city, not even in connexion with the bloody battles fought at the foot of Mount Thabor in 53 B. C. between Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, and Gabinius, the lieutenant of Pompey ("Ant. Jud.", XIV, vi, 3; "Bell. Jud.", I, viii, 7). Eusebius alone again refers to it in the words "Dabira … a village of the Jews on Mount Thabor" ("Onom.", ed. Klostermann, 78). Dabereth (Joshua 19:12; 21:28) is indisputably the modern village of Dabûriyéh, at the foot of Mount Thabor towards the west.

A ten minutes' ascent northward from Nazareth brings one to the ruins of a Hebrew place called by the natives Khirbet Daboura (ruins of Daboura) and also Abu Amoûd (father of columns). This is the site of the Biblical Ciseleth Thabor, of the Daboura of the Egyptians, and the Atabyrion of the Greeks. It commanded the road of caravans and armies. During the revolt of the Jews against the Romans, Josephus surrounded "the plateau of Thabor" with a wall of circumvallation twenty-six stadia or about two miles in circumference, which task was accomplished in forty days. This formed a kind of entrenched camp where the rebels, pursued from all directions, sought refuge in order to organize their last stand. Vespasian's lieutenant, Placidus, marched against them with a force of 600 horsemen, enticed them into the plain by stratagem, and completely defeated them ("Vita", 37; "Bell. Jud.", II, iv, xx, 6; i, 8). In the fourth century of our era Mount Thabor, which was acknowledged as the scene of Christ's Transfiguration, became a place of pilgrimage and was surmounted by a basilica and several churches and chapels. In 1101 the Benedictine monks rebuilt the sacred edifices and erected a fortified abbey, where they withstood several attacks by the Saracens, but after the battle of Hattin (1187) they had to abandon the mountain. Melek el Adel built there (1210-12) a large and solid fortress which the Crusaders attacked in vain in 1217; in the following year Melek el Adel caused it to be dismantled. The plateau of Mount Thabor is now occupied by Franciscans and Schismatic Greek monks.

Publication information Written by Barnabas Meistermann. Transcribed by WGKofron. With thanks to Fr. John Hilkert, Akron, Ohio The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume XIV. Published 1912. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Nihil Obstat, July 1, 1912. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York

ROBINSON, Biblical Researtches in Palestine, III (Boston, 1841); Survey of W. Pal. Memoirs, (London, 1881); GUÉRIN, Description de la Palestine: Galilée (Paris, 1880); MEISTERMANN, Le mons Thabor (Paris, 1900).

Mount Tabor

Orthodox Information

Mount Tabor is a hill in the Holy Land near Nazareth. It is believed by many to be the site of the Transfiguration of Christ.


Jewish Information


Mountain of Palestine, the modern Jabal al-Ṭur, on the northern edge of the plain of Jezreel. It is a dome-shaped hill with softly rounded outlines, and rises about 400 m. above the surrounding plain and 562 m. above sea-level. Standing out boldly on all sides, except in the northeast, where a low ridge connects it with the hill-country of Nazareth, it rises high above all the elevations in its vicinity and forms a landmark visible at a great distance. From the southwest it forms almost a semicircle. Its beauty and symmetry, together with its isolated position, render it, like Carmel and Hermon, important in history and tradition (Jer. xlvi. 18; Ps. lxxxix. 13 [A. V. 12]). In ancient times it formed the boundary between Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali (Judges iv. 6, 12, 14); and there Barak assembled his army to battle against Sisera (ib. iv. 6), while it was also the center of an ancient cult (Hos. v. 1). The Tabor mentioned in Judges viii. 18 must not be identified with this mountain, even in case the text does not require emendation (comp.Moore, "Judges," p. 228), but is rather to be localized in the vicinity of Ophrah, the home of Gideon. In like manner "the plain of Tabor" mentioned in I Sam. x. 3 has no connection with the mountain under consideration, but the name seems to have been a frequent designation for places in the territory of Benjamin.

In later Jewish history Tabor is mentioned in the wars between Antiochus III., the Great, and Ptolemy VII., Philopator, the city of Atabyrium, which was situated on this mountain, being taken by Antiochus in 218 B.C. In 55 B.C. the proconsul Gabinius, the general of Pompey, defeated Alexander, the son of Aristobulus, in a bloody battle at the foot of Tabor. The mountain was fortified against Vespasian by Josephus as governor of Galilee (67 C.E.); but lack of water compelled those who survived the defeat in the plain to surrender to the general Placidus (Josephus, "B. J." iv. 1, 8; idem, "Vita," 37).

The sanctity ascribed to the mountain from very early times reappears in Christian legend; for the Gospel according to the Hebrews designates it as the scene of the transfiguration of Jesus (Matt. xvii. 1; Mark ix. 2; Luke ix. 28), and as early as the fourth century churches and monasteries were built on its summit. This tradition is incorrect, however; for a comparison of the statements of the Evangelists shows that they localized the event on a mountain north of the Lake of Gennesaret.


A city of Zebulun bordering on Issachar (Josh. xix. 22); a priestly city of the family of Merari (I Chron. vi. 62 [A. V. 77]). It was situated on a peak of the mountain of the same name, and covered a level surface of considerable extent, being about 900 m. from east to west and 400 m. from south to north, with a periphery, according to Josephus, of 26 stadia. The place existed even in the post-exilic period. Polybius (v. 70) calls it "Atabyrium"; and the walls with which Josephus fortified it may very possibly correspond to the outer walls of the peak in modern times.

Survey of Western Palestine, i. 388 et seq.; Robinson, Researches, pp. 351 et seq.; G. A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land, pp. 394 et seq.;
Barnab, Le Mont Thabor, Paris, 1900

Executive Committee of the Editorial Board.
Immanuel Benzinger

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