A professor today made the claim that the following claim is spurious:

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. Mark 15:38 (NRSV)

His rationale is that no-one but the high priest would be allowed to see the veil in the holy of holies in the temple, so the author of Mark could not have knowledge of such an event occurring. Is this claim accurate? Who would have seen or had knowledge of the tearing of the veil that could have communicated that event, directly or indirectly, to Mark? How could this event have made it to Mark?

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    christianity.stackexchange.com/q/522/23657. You may like this related question
    – 007
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 0:13
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    The professor needs to check his facts before making assertions. The fact is that the veil has two sides - an inside and an outside. Many persons could see the outside, despite only the High Priest being able to view the inside.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 6:04
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    @NigelJ For all the expertise this professor claims with the gospels, there have been a multitude of times he's needed to check his facts.
    – Zenon
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 10:59
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    The Holy Ghost, who inspired the evangelists, could certainly have seen it. Commented Nov 1, 2018 at 23:50
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    And even apart from their being two sides to the veil, the word of its tearing would have likely spread to members of the Sanhedrin. The majority of them might have thought of it as either an anomaly or a sign of some sort of spiritual battle going on in the heavily realm. However, those of faith, Joseph of Arimathea & Nicodemus, might have seen it as a vindication of Jesus' being the Messiah.
    – Jess
    Commented May 17, 2022 at 23:21

3 Answers 3


The Holy of Holies, or the Most Holy Place, was separated from the outter room (the Holy Place) by the veil. Only the High Priest could go beyond the veil into the Most Holy Place, but other priests could enter the Holy Place. Thus any priest at the Temple would have been able to see it.

The non-priest Levites may have also been able to enter the Holy Place (they were originally charged with tearing down and setting up the Tabernacle in the wilderness)

So any number of people could have seen it. Even if they weren't immediately present, it would have been known within a day (if crucified Friday as many believe) or within a few days (if crucified on wed. as others argue). It would have been found within the week at the latest.

Obviously the two events couldn't be watched simultaneously, so there is no doubt some interpretation/correlation being done by Mark and others between these two events. Mind, the veil ripping in half would be no small event.

Holy of Holies (Wikipedia)

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    Also, any number of people who might be involved in repairing or replacing the veil. Commented Jan 17, 2019 at 5:26


There were two veils in the Second Temple, aka Herod's Temple. One was from the outside court or court of the gentiles that veiled the Holy Place. The second was between the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. Only the High Priest could enter the Holy of Holies, but into the Holy Place the other priests could enter. For example, the Holy Place is where the father of John the Baptist had his vision while ministering.

There could have been a lag time between when the inner veil ripped from top to bottom to when the news spread, but there may be another explanation.

In these two pericopes, the timing is different.

In the first, the veil (outer) tears and then Jesus dies.

And the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was rent in the midst. And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit: and having said thus, he gave up the ghost. Luke 23:45-46

In the second, Jesus dies and then the veil (inner) tears.

And Jesus cried with a loud voice, and gave up the ghost. And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom. Mark 15:37-38

Veil in Luke

καταπέτασμα katapetasma

Veil in Mark

καταπέτασμα katapetasma

So, it appears the bible is telling us a time line of the outer veil tearing first, Jesus dying, and the inner veil tearing second.

Who and How

With that in mind, who could have watched this and how (from where)? This question leads to the question of where Christ was crucified?

If one uses the traditional view that Christ was crucified north of the city of Jerusalem, there is no line of sight into the temple. This tradition is where the Church of the Holy Sepelchre is located.

But other research is indicating the crucifixion happened in an area east of the city and thus east of the temple. From that vantage, it could be possible that one could see into the temple. Here are links to the second view.

-source- -source-

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    Who could have watched?
    – 007
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 0:15
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    The two reports (Mark and Luke) are clearly of the same event. There is no evidence for your supposition and you have not proved it in any way.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 6:02
  • @NigelJ They might reference the same veil or since the sequences are different, they might not be. I could provide further evidence of this as time permits.
    – SLM
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 16:52
  • @Kris I added the who and how section.
    – SLM
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 17:15
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    @AlexStrasser after I read the two accounts and thought they might be two accounts of the outer veil tearing, Christ dies, and then inner veil tearing, I did a search. Others have considered it. One referenced an early source. If time permits, I'll try again to find it. The other piece is the "new" research of the real site of Golfotha from the north (tradition) to east (from which temple and veils could be viewed (depends on angle and height)). Interesting stuff.
    – SLM
    Commented Oct 30, 2018 at 23:36

“Because this disciple was known to the high priest, …” (John 18:15 NIV) seems to indicate how the torn Temple curtain event might have become known to the disciples, especially as John and Peter were in the high priest’s courtyard at the time of Jesus’ trial. God bless.

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    Welcome to the site, Carlos. That's an interesting point you raise. As it stands, however, your answer could benefit from some substantiating evidence that a link between that disciple and the High Priest would have caused the disciple to be an eye-witness to the supernatural tearing of the curtain, from top to bottom. Can you enlarge your answer a bit?
    – Anne
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 17:06
  • Welcome to Christianity.SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others. I would also recommend reading the Help Center's sections on asking and answering questions.
    – agarza
    Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 23:57
  • Thank you Anne, but I won’t be staying: jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/… . For me, if the priests and Levites were there in the Temple, they likely saw it or knew of it and likely told others, - even if paid or threatened to say otherwise, - just as the Genograhics Project tries to convince me I’m a descendant of Copernicus and Genghis Kahn among others. Thanks again and God bless. Commented Apr 28, 2023 at 21:33

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