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ABSTRACT: The Gospel writers tell us that, directly after the death of Jesus, the veil of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The meaning of the veil’s tearing is wrapped up in its old-covenant function to separate the Israelites from the direct presence of God. Matthew in particular narrates the tearing of the veil in a way that reveals its epoch-turning significance. Because Jesus has died on the cross, the gates to God’s presence are open, and the age of the new covenant has dawned.
We asked Dan Gurtner, professor of New Testament interpretation at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to explain the meaning of the tearing of the veil for our series of feature articles by scholars for pastors, leaders, and teachers. You can download and print a PDF of the article, as well as listen to an audio recording.
Bible - Death - Jesus - Truth - Faith
From the Bible, we know that the death of Jesus is a glorious truth, foundational to our Christian faith. It grants us peace with God (Romans 5:1), redemption and the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:14). But how does the Bible express the significance of Jesus’s death in narratives, like the Gospels? This is exactly what we find at the crucifixion of Jesus and the tearing of the temple curtain (or veil) immediately after his death. Though the tearing of the veil is described in all three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45), none of them stops to explain it. Presumably, they thought the event was clear enough to their original readers. But what are we to make of it?
To complicate matters, the account in the Gospel of Matthew recounts a host of extraordinary events that puzzle us today. Yet in them the apostle Matthew, ever with his mind steeped in Israel’s sacred Scriptures, helps us...
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