What Did the Tearing of the Temple Curtain Mean? image

What Did the Tearing of the Temple Curtain Mean?

I've always taught, and assumed, that the meaning of the temple curtain at the moment of Jesus' death is fairly straightforward: it removes the barrier between God and man. I wrote a whole chapter in my book GodStories about this, and it honestly never occurred to me that anything else might be going on.

Fleming Rutledge thinks there is. In The Crucifixion, she suggests four things:

First, Jesus predicted the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, so that rending of the curtain vindicates Jesus by signaling the destruction of the sanctuary.

Second, the Markan wording implies an act of the wrath of God against the corruption of the temple and its priests (as, for instance, in Mal 1:6-3:4).

Third, since the rending of garments signified mourning, there may be an element of that as well.

Fourth, the rending of the veil is included by Matthew in his carefully worked-out list of four signs indicating that the apocalyptic turn of the ages is occurring with the death of the Messiah.

Plus the possibility of human beings approaching the presence of God, when formerly it was off-limits. Plus the corresponding reality that the presence of God is now spilling out into the world. Pretty good news, in other words.

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