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Saturday, April 7, 2012

And The Veil of Temple Was Rent -- Or Was It?

At the risk of bringing the Bible inerrancy troops down on my head, may I suggest that we may have been missing the real point of this story?

The Synoptic Gospels relate the story of the Crucifixion, and at the end,

 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost...And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Matthew 27:50-51
And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom. Mark15:38

And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. Luke 23:45

Except that it wasn't. We know that it wasn't because the veil itself is in the Vatican, and has been seen and described by Rabbi Benjamin Blech.

According to

Rabbi Benjamin Blech is the author of 12 highly acclaimed books, including Understanding Judaism: The basics of Deed and Creed. He is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi Emeritus of Young Israel of Oceanside which he served for 37years and from which he retired to pursue his interests in writing and lecturing around the globe. He is also the author of If God is Good, Why is the World So Bad? and of the international best-seller, The Sistine Secrets.
In A.D. 70, Roman soldiers, under Vespasian and his son Tacitus, sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the
Second, or Herod's, Temple. Determined to kill the God of Israel, Tacitus entered the Holy of Holies, sword drawn.

There was nobody there. No idol, no statue, no representation of God. No one or nothing to break or kill.

Furious, the Roman turned and slashed at the Veil.

The Romans hauled off everything they could lay hands on for the big victory parade in Rome. The event is memorialized in the Arch of Titus. Now nobody knows where all the treasure went, but some of it, including the veil, is in the Vatican.

Fast forward now to September 11, 2001, and the Twin Towers. Among the many heroes there that day there was a rabbi who distinguished himself and was awarded a piece of one of the steel beams. He had it cut and fashioned into crosses and Stars of David.

I was privileged to be present (I think in 2005, but don't hold me to the exact date) when Rabbi Blech presented one of these Stars of David to Vendyl Jones at a gathering of Noahides. Vendyl couldn't say a word. He just stood there and wept unashamedly. Rabbi Blech passed the star around to the 80 or so persons present. We all held it for a moment or two, and believe me, Vendyl's tears weren't the only ones shed. Later he said that no one had seen him cry in public since his mother died.

Rabbi Blech was at the head of the group of rabbis who presented a cross from the 9-11 beam to the Pope. While in the Vatican, he was allowed to examine many of the treasures held there. Among them: the four-inch-thick Veil of the Temple.

The Veil was not "rent in two from the top to the bottom." Decades after the death of our Lord, it was slashed by a Roman sword. The cut is still visible. I sat not 20 feet from Rabbi Blech when he told of seeing it. I believe him.

Now I must ask myself: if the veil was not rent, what effect does this have on my testimony of the Gospel? Is the Bible wrong in this respect? Is this an embellishment added in later years? Or am I reading it wrong?

I believe the Bible to be true "so far as it is translated correctly." My background and education tell me that "translate" is not limited to the precise changing of a word from one language to another. I have often spoken and written of the cultural as well as the linguistic vocabulary of a people. Biblical accounts are packed with layers of meaning. See the raising of Lazarus, the cleansing of the Temple, the smiting of the fig tree. When the Bible speaks of the veil of the Temple, is it telling of a curtain of physical fabric, separating the Holy of Holies from the rest of the building?

There is another veil, a much more significant one, the one between the Here and the Hereafter. Until that Passover weekend some two thousand years ago, that veil was closed for us. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, and was later resurrected, that veil was rent from top to bottom. We, all of us, will now pass through it, from mortality to immortality, from Earth life to the Holiest of Holies.

The Jewish Revolt, the sacking of Jerusalem, the tragedy of the Twin Towers, the attendance at a meeting of Noahides. Who would have thought that from the confluence of these events, a Christian would gain an insight of eternal significance. It must be true that

All things work together for the good of those that love the Lord. Romans 8:28

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