Barbara gave this presentation at Belen Christian Church on Good Friday. We thought you might enjoy it.
Ripping of the Temple Veil
From the measurements in Exodus 26:1-6 the Veil was 10 cubits long and 10 cubits wide and constructed from 10 sheets of fine twined linen, which is 15 ft x 15 ft. No thickness is provided for the fine linen weave. Nor does 2 Chronicles 3:14 Solomon's temple veil description does not provide any dimensions (“He made the curtain of blue, purple and crimson yarn and fine linen, with cherubim worked into it.”)
Tradition holds that the first century historian Josephus presumed the thickness to be 4 inches, so strong that a horse on either end could not pull it apart. Although Josephus does not really describe the veil thickness, a deep internet search provided
This quotation references a passage from the Mishnah, the early codification of Judaism’s “oral law” — explanations of the Torah. Here is the passage from Herbert Danby’s translation of the Mishnah:
...The veil was one handbreadth thick and was woven on [a loom having] seventy-two rods, and over each rod were twenty-four threads. Its length was forty cubits and its breadth twenty cubits; it was made by eighty-two young girls, and they used to make two in every year; and three hundred priests immersed it.
The Veils before the Most Holy Place were 40 cubits (60 feet) long, and 20 (30 feet) wide, of the thickness of the palm of the hand, and wrought in 72 squares, which were joined together; and these Veils were so heavy, that, in the exaggerated language of the time, it needed 300 priests to manipulate each. If the Veil was at all such as is described in the Talmud, it could not have been rent in twain by a mere earthquake or the fall of the lintel, although its composition in squares fastened together might explain, how the rent might be as described in the Gospel.1
Traditionally the Most Holy Place in Herod's Temple was known to be 60ft tall x 30ft wide. Which was greater in height than King Solomon's temple built for the LORD with dimensions of twenty cubits wide and thirty high. (1 Kings 6:2) Translating to 30 feet wide, and 45 feet high. Envision the veil in Herod's Temple 5.5 stories high and 30 ft wide.
Ancient Egyptian time to today High quality Fine linen is made from the Flax or Linseed plant's fibrous stem portion. The plant stem proportions is 3ft-4ft in length, slender, and flexible. A plant most modern populous would consider a useless wild flower. The woody stalk when soaked in water, dried, the outer protective shell crushed, the fibers removed and “combed” to separate the shorter fibers from the longer fibers, creates the longer fibers that are twined and spun into a yard then woven into a cloth.
We read this short passage from the 3 Gospels ( Matthew, Mark, and Luke) quickly without the understanding of the moment. “...And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent..” The 5.5 story high veil ripped from top to bottom, now in two pieces and the Most Holy Place, the Ark of the Covenant, the Mercy Seat, reserved for only one elected High priest to see yearly, is exposed for the whole priesthood to see. The earth quaked so violently that the rocks rent/split.
What rocks? Where?
The Temple had large stones for the paved flooring in the Holy Place and Most Holy Place as well as the walls. These were quarried stones slabs for the floor and blocks stacked upon blocks for the wall.
Let's paint a picture of the day. This is like every other Jerusalem Friday before sundown except more busy due to the multitude present for the Passover that just occurred. The Temple is busy with Sabbath purchases and sacrifices, the courtyard is busy, and the Holy Place daily functions are being done by assigned priests. An eclipse occurred from noon until 3PM, then suddenly the events of a rent veil, earthquake, and the rocks renting happens. Where do the frightened multitude escape for shelter, the only place they can, the Holy Place? But it's breaking and as a Jew not a priest cannot enter or they will die. But and earthquake does not just the immediate area. This is such a calamity that the natural “God' event is spoken about in Jerusalem and beyond.
The magnitude of the Father's pain, anger, and wrath of sin and death is leashed upon the Temple. An final act sealing the Spirit leaving the Temple more than 400 years prior. In one swift moment Jesus' obedience and death opened access directly to the One True God and shattered the sacrificial third party ritual, for those who followed Jesus in His ministry days, those who followed Jesus the days after His resurrection and Jesus' followers up to today. We take refuge in these events.
2 Samuel 22:2-3
“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge;
My savior, You save me from violence.
Music from Nathan Jess, with Tear The Veil.