Why Did the Author of Luke Move the Tearing of the Temple Veil to Before Jesus’ death?

Image result for image of the tearing of the temple veil

At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).[b]35 When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.” 36 Someone ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said. 37 With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.38 The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.

–Gospel of Mark 15: 33-38


It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land[l] until three in the afternoon, 45 while the sun’s light failed;[m] and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. 

–Gospel of Luke 23:44-46


Gary:  It is well known among scholars that Luke (and Matthew) borrowed heavily from the first Gospel written, the Gospel of Mark.  In Mark and Matthew, the veil in the Temple is torn after Jesus breathes his last breath.  So why does the author of Luke reverse the sequence of events?  Why in the Gospel of Luke is the veil of the Temple torn before Jesus’ death?

Mainstream NT scholar, Raymond Brown:

Combined with the darkness/eclipse, the rent sanctuary veil offers a pattern of dire portents in the heavens and on the earth.  That arrangement suited Lucan theology.  At the Lucan Sanhedrin trial there was no prediction that Jesus would destroy the sanctuary, and so at the cross there was no need to portray a fulfillment of that prediction [the rending of the Temple veil] after Jesus’ death.  In Luke’s outlook the Temple did not lose its sacred value through anything that happened in Jesus’ lifetime, for the story of that life began and ended with a scene in the Temple complex (Luke 1:9, Luke 24:53).  Indeed, in the early days of Christian life at Jerusalem believers in Jesus went daily to the Temple to pray (Acts 2:46, Acts 3:1).

By changing the Marcan picture where the rending of the veil was God’s violent response to the death of Jesus, Luke has avoided desacralizing the Jewish sanctuary at the time of the death.  The rending of the sanctuary veil before Jesus’ death is a forewarning that the continuing rejection of Jesus will bring the destruction of the holy place…

Gary:  Was the tearing of the Temple veil a real historical event or is this more theological/literary invention?  If it was an historical fact that the veil tore after Jesus’ death, why would Luke make such a blatant error?  If we are to believe conservative Christians, Luke obtained his information directly from eyewitnesses!  But wait!  Conservative Christians also say that John Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark, meticulously preserving the eyewitness memoirs of the Apostle Peter!  How is it that Luke’s eyewitnesses saw the Temple veil tear before Jesus died, but Simon Peter and the Apostle Matthew, whom conservative Christians insist wrote the Gospel of Matthew, both saw the Temple veil tear after Jesus’ died???

And one more thing.  How did any of these people see the veil of the Temple tear in two if they were in hiding as the Synoptic Gospels purport?  And if this was simply a rumor that the authors or other Christians had allegedly heard, why is the tearing of the Temple veil not recorded by any other contemporary author???  How likely then is this scene to be true?

Holy Complete Lack of Credible Eyewitnesses, Batman!



One thought on “Why Did the Author of Luke Move the Tearing of the Temple Veil to Before Jesus’ death?

  1. Think about this: Why were early Christians still worshipping in the Temple (Paul offered an animal sacrifice in the Temple upon James’ insistence) if the tearing of the Temple veil was the sign that the Temple was no longer the place to worship God???


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