Help needed with "Torn Curtain" passage


#1

Apparently some denominations see the torn Temple curtain (Mt 27:51) as a sign that prayers can/should be offered straight to God (no longer needing to go through a priest). And it’s a short hop, skip, and jump from there to claiming that the priesthood and church denominations are not important issues. It’s just Me and Jesus, right?

So what would be a scripturally valid way to interpret this event?


#2

[quote=stumbler]Apparently some denominations see the torn Temple curtain (Mt 27:51) as a sign that prayers can/should be offered straight to God (no longer needing to go through a priest). And it’s a short hop, skip, and jump from there to claiming that the priesthood and church denominations are not important issues. It’s just Me and Jesus, right?

So what would be a scripturally valid way to interpret this event?
[/quote]

The Jews would rent their garments when a person offended God. In this case God rent the temple curtain “from top to bottom” so that it was clear that no human hand did it. I have also read that this symbolized the renting of the old covenant. When a contract is torn from top to bottom it is rendered invalid.


#3

an answer to your question is found in Jesus’s teaching that He came, not to end the law, but to fulfill it. the OT covenant wasn’t destroyed or declared invalid, it was fulfilled.

the idea that the priesthood and sacraments, etc, ‘get in the way’ between me and God is a fundamental misunderstanding. i can tell you, from having experienced both (i am a convert to RCC, with a degree in baptist theology), that the closest i’ve ever been to God is in the Eucharist. in that place, there is literally NOTHING between me and Him.

the priesthood, sacraments, etc are means by which His graces flow into our lives, not walls that keep them out. they encourage a close walk with Him, rather than preventing it.

the torn curtain is a good question. what does it mean? i think one thing IS the closeness to God that He brought us through His death. but that closeness is enhanced, rather than prohibited, by the structures of the Church.


#4

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]The Jews would rent their garments when a person offended God. In this case God rent the temple curtain “from top to bottom” so that it was clear that no human hand did it.
[/quote]

God was offended, surely, so I guess that makes sense.

I have also read that this symbolized the renting of the old covenant. When a contract is torn from top to bottom it is rendered invalid.

I had heard this too (when I was a wee lad) but my current understanding is that God doesn’t break his covenants with us. So the idea that God is “tearing up the contract” doesn’t make sense to me now. And while it could be said that the Jewish leadership had broken the covenant, they didn’t literally tear the curtain (although I suppose the tearing was the “natural” effect of their actions.

What about concepts like “God left the Holy of Holies” or “the Jewish priesthood was nullified”?


#5

[quote=jeffreedy789]an answer to your question is found in Jesus’s teaching that He came, not to end the law, but to fulfill it. the OT covenant wasn’t destroyed or declared invalid, it was fulfilled.
[/quote]

Agreed. So why the torn curtain? The whole passage suggests a climactic, literally earth shattering event. In some ways in can be seen as a fulfilment, but in many ways it reads as an angry break.

the idea that the priesthood and sacraments, etc, ‘get in the way’ between me and God is a fundamental misunderstanding.

“fundamental” . . . cute :wink:

i can tell you, from having experienced both (i am a convert to RCC, with a degree in baptist theology), that the closest i’ve ever been to God is in the Eucharist. in that place, there is literally NOTHING between me and Him.

I am getting these questions from a Baptist. I agree with your points, but I can’t load him up with Eucharistic doctrines yet (baby steps, baby steps. . .).

the torn curtain is a good question. what does it mean? i think one thing IS the closeness to God that He brought us through His death. but that closeness is enhanced, rather than prohibited, by the structures of the church.

The tearing of the curtain symbolizes God leaving the Temple to be with us?


#6

Apparently some denominations see the torn Temple curtain (Mt 27:51) as a sign that prayers can/should be offered straight to God (no longer needing to go through a priest). And it’s a short hop, skip, and jump from there to claiming that the priesthood and church denominations are not important issues. It’s just Me and Jesus, right?

I hope that you understand that when we say ‘priest’, we arent using it in the literal sense of the word-a priest is techncally someone who makes an offering for the people. Our ‘priests’ dont do that. Jesus did. In fact the word priest comes from the greek word presbyter, which means ‘elder’. And we are all “priests”-that comes straight from the book of hebrews. We all belong to what is called a “royal priesthood”, with Jesus as the High Priest. Our “priests” also belong to the ministerial priesthood, because they are ministers of the Gospel and the Sacraments.


#7

[quote=Br. Rich SFO]The Jews would rent their garments when a person offended God. In this case God rent the temple curtain “from top to bottom” so that it was clear that no human hand did it. I have also read that this symbolized the renting of the old covenant. When a contract is torn from top to bottom it is rendered invalid.
[/quote]

What was posted by jeffreedy789 has a better choice of words than my response. God does not break Covenants, we do. It was the Jewish leaders who broke the covenant by killing Christ, as they had done the other times when Covenants were broken.


#8

The case can also be made that a New convenant with the world was made, signed in Jesus blood, and that Jesus fulfilled the old covenant. There is an old tradition that when a contract was fulfilled, it was destroyed. There is no need to keep remnants of the old contract around when you have a new one in place, or else you would have 2 competing contracts.


#9

“Therefore, brothers, since through the Blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way He opened for us through the veil, that is His flesh and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” (Hebrews 10: 19-23)

God opened the way to God through the pieced flesh of His Son. Out of His side was born the Church in the Blood and Water which poured forth. In the Book of Genesis, God took Eve from the side of Adam. Now we see the New Adam and the New Eve and the heavenly sanctuary opened by God Himself.


#10

[quote=Apologia100]The case can also be made that a New convenant with the world was made, signed in Jesus blood, and that Jesus fulfilled the old covenant. There is an old tradition that when a contract was fulfilled, it was destroyed. There is no need to keep remnants of the old contract around when you have a new one in place, or else you would have 2 competing contracts.
[/quote]

So is it the Catholic position that the old covenant, having been fulfilled, no longer exists (and therefore was destroyed)? And when did the old covenant get fulfilled exactly? On His death or on His resurrection?

Sorry if this is apologetics 101. It’s still early here.


#11

[quote=stumbler]So is it the Catholic position that the old covenant, having been fulfilled, no longer exists (and therefore was destroyed)? And when did the old covenant get fulfilled exactly? On His death or on His resurrection?

Sorry if this is apologetics 101. It’s still early here.
[/quote]

Since the veil was torn at the moment of his death, I would say that the covenant was fulfilled at that moment.


#12

[quote=Joanna]“Therefore, brothers, since through the Blood of Jesus we have confidence of entrance into the sanctuary by the new and living way He opened for us through the veil, that is His flesh and since we have “a great priest over the house of God,” let us approach with a sincere heart and in absolute trust, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.” (Hebrews 10: 19-23)
[/quote]

I like that. The NIV actually uses"curtain" instead.

God opened the way to God through the pieced flesh of His Son. Out of His side was born the Church in the Blood and Water which poured forth. In the Book of Genesis, God took Eve from the side of Adam. Now we see the New Adam and the New Eve and the heavenly sanctuary opened by God Himself.

So is it fair to say that the torn curtain represents God opening the way for us? He’s letting us in (rather than He’s leaving the Temple). And is that to heaven, or to Himself, or to His church, or all of the above (and more)? And that Heb 10:22 is the new ritualistic cleansing that must occur before entering?


#13

Matthew 27:50-54 "And Jesus cried again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe, and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”


#14

Hi all,

Bishop Fulton Sheen made a comparison between the tearing of the veil and the piercing of Christ’s heart by the spear.

Just as the temple veil was torn - thus revealing the tabernacle of God. So too, was Christ’s flesh torn, revealing his “Most Sacred Heart”

Originally only the High Priest was allowed to enter past the temple veil. Now we may all enter.

This does not take away the need for priests, but it does make God’s grace more accessable to all. Especially in the sacraments.

For now we may all particpate in Christ’s Most Sacred Heart.

What was once the hidden fullness of God’s Grace and revelation is now revealed to all mankind. And it pours out on us as Christ’s blood.

I can see how someone might want to use this verse to dissolve the priesthood. It makes a certain kind of sense - but it is not clearly stated at such.
It is a very symbolic event and we need to decide who & how these symbols are to be interpreted.

Indeed - they may be interpreted in several ways depending on the current situation. Thus those that are Pro-Priest will draw out one lesson and those that are Anti-Priest will draw another.

The question is – how did the apostles and the early church interprect this ? Especially the Gosple writer himself.

Take care.


#15

Pax vobiscum!

From the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas Aquinas, a collection of patristic quotes making up a running commentary of the Gospels, the following commented upon the tearing of the veil:
Aug., de Cons. Ev., iii, 19: The wording sufficiently shews that the veil was rent just when He gave up the ghost. If he had not added, “And, lo!” but had merely said, "And the veil of the temple was rent,: it would have been uncertain whether Matthew and Mark had not inserted it here out of its place as they recollected, and Luke had observed the right order, who having said, “And the sun was darkened,” adds, “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain;” [Luke 23:45] or, on the contrary, Luke had returned to what they had inserted in its place.

Origen: It is understood that there were two veils; one veiling the Holy of Holies, the other, the outer part of the tabernacle or temple. In the Passion then of our Lord and Saviour, it was the outer veil which was rent from the top to the bottom, that by the rending of the veil from the beginning to the end of the world, the mysteries might be published which had been hid with good reason until the Lord’s coming. “But when that which is perfect is come,” [1 Cor 13:10] then the second veil also shall be taken away, that we may see the things that are hidden within, to wit, the true Ark of the Testament, and behold the Cherubim and the rest in their real nature.

HILARY; Or, The veil of the temple is rent, because from this time the nation was dispersed, and the honour of the veil is taken away with the guardianship of the protecting Angel.

In Christ,

The Augustinian


#16

"For He is our peace, He who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through His flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that He might create in Himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. (Ephesian 2:14)


#17

The torn curtain is mentioned in Matthew (27:51), Mark (15:38) and Luke (23:45) with Matthew perhaps the most evocative.

I gather that it is safe to say Matthew documented it first, and since he was writing for a Jewish audience, the event described held special meaning for the Jews. Therefore . . . what was that special meaning for the Jews?

The role of the curtain had been to keep the common Jews out of the Holy of Holies? Or more probably, going back to the earliest times, it signified (among other things) that God was within the Ark. So the torn curtain would symbolize that God was no longer within the Ark/Temple in that special way? So the primary conclusion is not that the everyday Jews were now allowed within the Temple, or that God wanted the Jews to approach Him directly, but that God was now to be found elsewhere (i.e., outside of the Jewish Temple system)?


#18

Behind the veil of the temple was the Holy of Holies – the Arc of the Covenant. Only the high priest was allowed to access this, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement, where the priest offered sacrifice to atone for all the sins of the people, and an animal sacrifice was placed upon the Mercy Seat of the Arc.

Jesus perfectly completed this sacrifice, once for all. So there was no need for this particular ceremony to occur any longer.

Also, because Jesus’ sacrifice is perpetual (the Eucharist), ALL HAVE ACCESS TO THE HOLY OF HOLIES – JESUS HIMSELF!! There is no need to hide away the Holy of Holies – we get to receive Him in Holy Communion instead!


#19

Excerpted from Fr. John Echert at EWTN:
ewtn.com/vexperts/showresult.asp?RecNum=359303&Forums=0&Experts=0&Days=3000&Author=&Keyword=curtain&pgnu=2&groupnum=0

“[He is] quite correct about the significance of the tearing of the curtain of the Temple as a sign that the barrier between humanity and God was set aside by the death of our Lord on the Cross. However, it does not follow that everyone automatically is reconciled to God by that act. . .”

“[After] baptism, for those who sin again—nearly everyone—there is the sacrament of reconciliation, which has a firm foundation in the New Testament and was the practice of the apostolic Church.”

In John 20:19-23, after the resurrection, Jesus gives the apostles the Holy Spirit and the explicit power to forgive sins.

“forgiveness happens only by the grace won by Christ on the Cross; however, in the case of the sacrament of Reconciliation, the priest becomes the representative of Christ and the channel by which the grace of forgiveness is offered. The sacraments are sacred signs of what is happening unseen. For as creatures who are both natural and spiritual, it is important that we experience that which is spiritual in a natural manner as well. Christ Himself is the first sacrament in this sense, for being entirely spiritual in His divinity, he took on humanity in the Incarnation and accommodated Himself to us. So too as He continues His saving work among us, He accommodates the dispensation of His grace in visible ways, in the case of the sacraments. The sacrament of Penance allows the sinner to formally confess his sins to one who represents the presence of Christ and to hear the words of absolution, as well as any counsel which may be given. It is an incredible gift!”


#20

At the time the curtain was torn, the arc of the covenant was not in the temple. Samuel had removed it and sealed it up in a cave.

Could it be that the curtain was torn to show all the people that the arc was no longer there?

I’ve read a couple of threads on the torn curtain passage and still do not have a grasp on “Why was the curtain torn?”.


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