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Mark 15:38

ESV And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
NIV The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
NASB And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
CSB Then the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.
NLT And the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.
KJV And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

What does Mark 15:38 mean?

"Torn" is from the Greek root word schizo. The only other time it is used in the book of Mark is right after Jesus' baptism when the heavens tear open and the Spirit descends on Him like a dove (Mark 1:10). "And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'" (Mark 1:11).

The temple consists of a series of rooms, each more exclusive than the last. Inside the eastern doors is the Court of Women. Up several steps is the Court of Israel which surrounds the Court of the Priests and the temple proper. On the east of the Court of the Priests is the altar. Up more steps is a porch, and then the Holy Place. Inside the Holy Place is the lampstand, the table for the shewbread, and the incense altar.

On the west side of the Holy Place is a thick curtain guarding the Holy of Holies. Originally, this was the chamber of the ark of the covenant. The curtain had an image of cherubim woven into its blue, purple, and scarlet yarns (Exodus 26:31). Josephus says the veil in Herod's temple is eighty feet high and tradition says it is four inches thick.

By this time, the ark of the covenant has been lost. The last time it is mentioned in Israel's story is in 2 Chronicles 35:1–6 when King Josiah orders it returned to the temple. Only a few decades separate Josiah's order from the exile into Babylon. We still don't know what happened to the ark.

The veil, both symbolically and literally, separated the sinful people from the presence of God. Only the high priest could go through the veil to the ark and only once a year to atone for the sins of the Israelites (Leviticus 16:2–3; Hebrews 9:7). With the death of Jesus, the veil is no longer needed (Hebrews 10:19–20). The destruction of the veil destroys the purpose of the temple (John 2:19). In three days, Jesus will be resurrected, and the "new temple," the church, will receive its foundation. Those who trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins have no need of a priest to perform ceremonies and sacrifices. Jesus is our high priest (Hebrews 2:17; 4:14) and our sacrifice (1 Corinthians 5:7; Ephesians 5:2; Hebrews 10:12), and by His work we can approach God directly (Hebrews 4:14–16).
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