Posted by: BibleScienceGuy | April 14, 2021

Crucifixion Miracle 4: Temple Veil Torn in Two

(4 Minute Read. 14Apr2021)

Christ on the Cross
1870 painting by Carl Heinrich Bloch

This Easter season I have been studying the Seven Crucifixion Miracles that occurred while Jesus hung on the cross.

Here are the Seven Crucifixion Miracles reported in the Gospels:
1. Thief on the cross saved.
2. Darkness covered the land for three hours from noon to three.
3. Jesus voluntarily gave up His spirit of His own accord.
4. Temple veil torn in two from top to bottom.
5. Earthquake and rocks split.
6. Tombs opened and dead raised to life.
7. Roman Centurion and his soldiers converted.
(Matthew 27:38-54; Luke 23:39-47;
Mark 15:33-39; John 19:28-30

The preceding articles,
Crucifixion Miracle 1: Thief Saved,
Crucifixion Miracle 2: Darkness Noon to Three, and
Crucifixion Miracle 3: Jesus Gave Up His Spirit
covered the first three Crucifixion Miracles. This blog article covers the fourth Crucifixion Miracle from the above list.

Crucifixion Miracle 4: Temple Veil Torn in Two from Top to Bottom

What was the temple veil? Why did it matter whether it was torn or not?

The veil of the temple was a thick curtain covering the entrance to the Holy of Holies in the temple. The Holy of Holies was the inner sanctum of the Wilderness Tabernacle, of Solomon’s Temple (957 BC – 586 BC), and of the Second Temple (516 BC – 70 AD) of Jesus’ day. This was the place where the earthly presence of God dwelt among His people.

The Lord gave Moses these instructions about the veil for the Tabernacle:
“And you shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen. It shall be made with cherubim skillfully worked into it. . . And you shall hang the veil from the clasps, and bring the ark of the testimony in there within the veil. And the veil shall separate for you the Holy Place from the Most Holy. You shall put the mercy seat on the ark of the testimony in the Most Holy Place.” (Exodus 26:31,33-34 ESV)

The purpose of the veil was to emphasize the distinction between the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man. The massive, ornate curtain was an awe-inspiring visual of that profound separation. Prior to Christ, sinful man could only approach God through the High Priest.

Entrance to the earthly presence of God in the Holy of Holies was blocked by the veil, and entrance was limited to the High Priest. He could enter only once a year on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) to atone for Israel’s sins through offering blood sacrifices.

The veils for the Wilderness Tabernacle and for Solomon’s Temple were made of blue and purple and crimson fabrics and fine linen with cherubim on them.
(Exodus 26:31; 2 Chronicles 3:14).

Flavius Josephus (37-~100 AD) was a Jewish and Roman historian of the first century AD. He described the curtain for the Second Temple of Jesus’ day as similar to the veils of the Wilderness Tabernacle and Solomon’s Temple. He wrote this:
“It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful.”
(Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, Book V, Chap. 5, Par. 4)

How thick was the temple’s curtain veil?
How difficult would it have been to tear it in two?

Are you picturing a substantial tapestry like the curtain drawn across a stage at the end of a play? Even that would be difficult for a person to tear in two by hand. But you will be astonished to learn the scale of the temple veil in front of the Holy of Holies.

Veil measurements are reported in the Jewish Mishnah, a written record of Jewish oral tradition from the first and second centuries AD. The Mishnah says the curtain was 40 cubits (60 feet) tall, 20 cubits (30 feet) wide, and a handbreadth (4 inches) thick.

The veil was one handbreadth thick and was woven on a loom having seventy-two rods, and over each rod were twenty-four threads. Its length was forty cubits and its breadth twenty cubits; it was made by eighty-two young girls, and they used to make two in every year; and three hundred priests immersed it.
(Herbert Danby translator, The Mishnah, p 161, par 5)

In the 1883 classic The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Jewish scholar Alfred Edersheim (1825–1889) gives the same dimensions for the veil and cites “an account dating from Temple-times” for his source.
(Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol 2, p 609)

Both the Mishnah and Edersheim say the curtain was so heavy that 300 priests were needed to manipulate it and wash it. This makes sense for a curtain as colossal and as thick as reported.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report the tearing in two of the curtain. Matthew and Mark add that it was torn from top to bottom. This is an important detail because it rules out human tearing. A person would have torn it starting at the bottom and ripping to the top. No human would have started tearing at the top, 60 feet up in the air. The direction of the tear is physically significant, indicating a divine act.

Imagine standing at the torn curtain and fingering the rich fabric. Imagine feeling the four-inch thickness and wondering what force or power could have torn it in two.

Imagine yourself being a temple priest and discovering the immense temple curtain that is supposed to block off the Holy of Holies ripped in two. Possibly you heard the horrific sound of its tearing and rushed to see what happened. Imagine inspecting the tear and realizing from the lay of the torn threads that it could only have been torn from top to bottom. What would you think? How would you explain the ripped-apart curtain? Visually such a tear could never be explained away as the sword slash of a vandal.

The gospels do not record how the priests and Jewish leaders explained the torn veil. But there is a hint in Acts that the torn veil may have had a substantial impact on the priests.
And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7)
It’s only speculation, but the torn veil may have influenced this large influx of priests into the early church.

The huge size and thickness of the veil shows the impossibility of any human being tearing it into two pieces. It must have been a divine act, a miracle. Possibly the Great Creator sent an angel to rip the veil in two at the moment of Jesus’ death. Or possibly the tearing of the veil was caused by the earthquake Yahweh sent at Jesus’ death. The earthquake may have caused the enormous lintel to which the temple veil was attached to break and fall, ripping apart the curtain, as foundations shifted.

What is the significance of the torn veil? The torn-apart veil indicated that upon Christ’s death, humans could now directly access Almighty God, the Great Creator, without having to go through a priest. Previous to the death of Christ, the veil blocked off the Holy of Holies. Once a year the High Priest entered behind the veil to offer sacrifices to God for the sins of the people. But now people could enter the presence of God through the redemptive work of Christ.
Since therefore, brethren, we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrews 10:19-22)

I will discuss the remaining three Crucifixion Miracles in the ensuing blog articles. Watch for them.

Questions to Ponder

1. If you had been there to see the astonishing miracle of the torn veil in person, would it have impressed you to accept the crucified Jesus as the Messiah?
2. Have you claimed the atonement for your sin that Jesus offers?
   (John 3:16-18)

Share your thoughts on these questions in the comments below. It could encourage or help another reader.

For Christ and His Kingdom. Soli Deo Gloria. Alere Flammam Veritatis.

Read the prequels:
Crucifixion Miracles
Crucifixion Miracle 1: Thief Saved
Crucifixion Miracle 2: Darkness Noon to Three
Crucifixion Miracle 3: Jesus Gave Up His Spirit

Read the sequel:
Crucifixion Miracle 5: Earthquake & Rocks Split

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©William T. Pelletier, Ph.D.
“contending earnestly for the faith”
“destroying speculations against the knowledge of God”
“for the defense of the gospel”
(Jude 1:3; 2 Cor 10:5; Phil 1:16)
Wednesday April 14, 2021 A.D.

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were buried therefore with Him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. (Romans 6:3-5 ESV)

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  1. Thank you for this series! I am enjoying it!

    In His Service,

    Deanna M. Ervin, Director
    F.A.I.T.H. Homeschool


    • Thanks for your encouraging feedback. I’m glad the series is blessing you.


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