TORN IN TWO
Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; Matthew 27:51a
The narrator has shifted in style. Jesus is still at the center. His death remains the main focus, but now the topics of miracles act like loaded exclamation points to the subject of the crucifixion.1 The temple, the center of the Jewish universe, is split, the veil torn in two, the captives are set free. God has spoken.
Mark does not include the miraculous acts listed above, but illustrates the change of location from earth to heaven through comparing the earthly Jesus, “the temple made with hands,” who was “given as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45) to the risen Jesus.2 The ripping of the veil in Mark, exposes the very face of God, splitting the heavens and opens a heavenly passageway, revealing God to all.3 “Certainly the significance of the fact that the torn veil reveals God's "face" in the face of one enthroned not on the ark or the cherubim, but on the cross, would not be lost on cultically sensitive and discerning readers!”4 The purpose of Mark’s Gospel is to reveal God. The first Gospel begins a Christological conversation that continues throughout the passion narratives and interrelated scriptures.
Matthew refers heavily to Mark’s Gospel and goes beyond retelling the story. He asserts important theological concepts while building on Mark’s revelation that Jesus is God. Matthew demonstrates through references to the Old Testament, Mark and through connections within his own composition that Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s Eschatological and Salvific promise. “This expansion brings the preternatural signs surrounding the death of Jesus to a dramatic climax: at the moment of Jesus’ death, the temple curtain is torn and the righteous dead are raised, implying that it is through Jesus (and not the temple) that life and salvation are to be had.”5
Many meanings have been attributed to the rending of the veil and the accompanying wonders. It is more than possible that these actions legitimately contain multiple interpretations. It is important to note, that within the body of the crucifixion recountal, a multitude of scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, are directly alluded to or referenced. Thematic connections include the parting of the Red Sea, the Baptism of Jesus, the Day of the Lord, Dry Bones coming to Life, the Transfiguration. In addition to the veil, the earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, the resurrection of the dead, as well as the confession of the Centurion and the cultural and scriptural connections that help illuminate their meaning play an important role in understanding the Crucifixion narrative.
We will concern ourselves with the tearing of the veil and brush the surface of two big ideas surrounding its interpretation. The “Vindication” of Jesus and how the Torn Veil opened access to God. The two topics in themselves represent major theological concepts and perceptions about the tearing of the...