Dedicated to the writings of Saint Luke.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Temple Veil

The early followers of Jesus understood the significance of the fact that the veil of the Temple was torn in two even though each of the synoptic gospel writers provided this detail without any explanation.[i] Each gospel writer also used the same Greek word for veil: katapetasma . The gospel writers linked the death of Jesus to the tearing of the temple veil. Mark has changed the Lucan narrative of the rendering of the temple veil in part by changing its position in the narrative so that the torn veil also signifies the end of the temple. F.J. Matera states that Luke “wishes to avoid the impression that the death of Jesus is the end of the Temple and the cult.”[ii]

There has been a question as to which veil the synoptic writers intended.[iii] Josephus[iv], Philo and the Septuagint use the same Greek word to identify the outer veil: katapetasma which is the same Greek word utilized by Matthew, Mark and Luke. However Josephus also uses this same word in discussing the second veil without providing any description thereof except to say it covers the entrance to the “inaccessible and inviolable, and not to be seen by any; and was called the Holy of Holies.” Certainly as between the two veils it must have been the outer veil because only someone such as the centurion could have seen the outer veil.

[i] Matt 27:51; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45.
[ii] 'Death of Jesus According to Luke: A Question of Sources," CBQ 47 (3, 1985), 475.
[iii] Hebrew 9:3 indicates that there are two veils in the Temple but the same Greek word is used for both veils.
[iv] War 5, Sections 212-214.

copyrighted 2005


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