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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

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VEIL.—‘The veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom’ when Jesus died (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45). The Temple is, of course, the Temple of Herod, and the veil is, the ‘second veil’ (Hebrews 9:3) which divided the הֵיבָל or Holy Place from the רְּבִיר or Holy of Holies. This is the only reference to the veil of the Temple in the NT, that in Hebrews being to the veil of the Tabernacle. The Greek words are τὸ καταπέτασμα τοῦ ναοῦ. In the LXX Septuagint ναός = דְּבִיר in Psalms 28:2 and κατ. = (1) מָסָךְ, the curtain before the door of the Holy Place and before the gate of the fore-court in the Tabernacle; and (2) פָרכָח, the curtain between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies (similarly Philo, Vita Moysis, iii. 5). The Gospel according to the Hebrews, as quoted by Jerome, had in the above passage ‘lintel’ instead of ‘veil’ (‘superliminare templi infinitae magnitudinae fractum esse atque divisum’). It is asserted that in the Temple of Solomon there was no veil, since it is mentioned only in 2 Chronicles 3:14; but Thenius’ emendation of 1 Kings 6:21 ‘drew the veil across with golden chains’ is good. In the Mishna the veil of the sanctuary is presupposed, e.g. in Yoma v. 1, where the mention of the ark shows that the writer is thinking of the Temple of Solomon. Josephus (BJ v. v. 4) mentions a gorgeously embroidered veil before the הֵיבָל, and a second veil, which he does not describe, in front of the דְּכִיר of the Temple as he knew it.

A difficulty is occasioned by the fact that there appear to have been in Herod’s Temple not one but two veils between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, each representing a surface of the wall one cubit thick, which in Solomon’s Temple separated the two places. In Yoma v. 1 the high priest on the Day of Atonement leaves the Holy Place by the south end of the outer veil, walks northwards down the cubit space between the two veils, and enters the sanctuary by the north end of the inner veil. This cubit space is in Middoth iv. 7 called מרקסין, that is, τἀραξις, because in the first Temple it was filled with the wall, and the builders of the second did not know whether to reckon the space as belonging to the Holy Place or to the Holy of Holies. According to another account, there was only a single veil. In any case the veil would mean the outer one, which alone was visible to any except the priests. The Kaabah in Mecca has also a veil over its door.

The rending of the veil of the Temple would indicate the end of its sanctity, just as the tearing of a woman’s veil means dishonouring her (Hamasa, Freytag, i. 141).

It is a curious fact that Jewish tradition also records the occurrence of certain prodigies about this time. Josephus (BJ vi. v. 3) enumerates several portents which presaged the destruction of the Temple: a sword appeared suspended over the city, a heifer about to be sacrificed brought forth a lamb, and the brazen gate opened of its own accord. Lightfoot (Prospect of the Temple, xx. 1 [Pitman’s ed. ix. 329]) says: ‘There are three remarkable things, which the Jews do date from forty years before the destruction of the Temple—namely this of the Temple-doors’ opening of themselves, and the Sanhedrin’s flitting from the room Gazith, and the scarlet list on the scapegoat’s head not turning white.’ Compare Plutarch’s account of the prodigies which foreshadowed the murder of Caesar.

In Hebrews 10:20 the veil of the Tabernacle is interpreted as symbolizing the corporeal nature of Christ, and in later mysticism phenomenal existence is termed ‘the veil.’ In 2 Corinthians 3:12 ff. the veil (κάλυμμα) which Moses put on (Exodus 34:33 מָסְוֶה, LXX Septuagint κάλυμμα) becomes the spiritual blindness of the Jewish nation, probably without any reference to Is 25:7, where the words are different. The veil on Israel’s heart is ‘done away in Christ’ (ἐν Χριστῷ καταργεῖται).

Literature.—Grimm-Thayer, Lex. s.v. κατατέτασμα; Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Veil’; Edersheim, LT [Note: T Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Edersheim].] ii. 610 ff.

T. H. Weir.

Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Veil'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdn/​v/veil.html. 1906-1918.
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