Friday, October 3, 2008

Book on the Temple Veil

A new book includes a detailed study on the meaning of the veil in Israelite and Jewish religion.

Daniel M. Gurtner
The Torn Veil: Matthew's Exposition of the Death of Jesus
Cambridge University Press, 2007
ISBN-10: 052187064X

From the blurb:
Daniel M. Gurtner examines the meaning of the rending of the veil at the death of Jesus in Matthew 27:51a by considering the functions of the veil in the Old Testament and its symbolism in Second Temple and Rabbinic Judaism. Gurtner incorporates these elements into a compositional exegesis of the rending text in Matthew. He concludes that the rending of the veil is an apocalyptic assertion like the opening of heaven revealing, in part, end-time images drawn from Ezekiel 37. Moreover, when the veil is torn Matthew depicts the cessation of its function, articulating the atoning role of Christ's death which gives access to God not simply in the sense of entering the Holy of Holies (as in Hebrews), but in trademark Matthean Emmanuel Christology: 'God with us'. This underscores the significance of Jesus' atoning death in the first gospel.


S.Faux said...

Grandpa E:

My view is that Christ's atonement made the temple more important, NOT less.

In some sense, the torn veil (velum scissum) provided us a way through the veil, opening a pathway to the highest heavens.

We can enter the temple (not just a High Priest) because Christ’s blood has been sprinkled in the Holy of Holies (Hebrews 10:19-25).

My non-LDS friends argue that the torn veil made the functions of the temple obsolete. Instead, I take the view that the temple was opened up to all by means of the torn veil.

Is my logic off? I am open to correction.

Grandpa Enoch said...

The intended meaning of the rending of the veil incident is, unfortunately, obscure. Some posit the rending represented the departure of the presence of God, paralleling Ezek, leaving the Temple desacralized and ready for destruction (which occurred later by the Romans). Others, like you (and following Hebrews), see the rending as opening the veil, allowing wider access to the Holy of Holies. I tend to agree with you, but I'm not fully convinced that the ideas can't be complimentary. A key issue here is that the earliest Christians continued to worship at the Temple after the veil had been rent (Acts 2:46, etc.), meaning that the earliest Christians did not see the rending of the veil as a desacralizing event. Indeed, Paul has a vision of Christ in the Temple (Acts 22:14-21). See Hamblin and Seely, Solomon's Temple, pp. 91-101.