A Time to Rend: Bible Literacy

Curtain RentA de-converted ex-conservative-Christian fellow blogger at “A Time to Rend” refreshingly and honestly discusses his transition, his compromises and his questions. I am taking this opportunity to educate those who don’t know where his Blog title comes from. It is King James English from the Hebrew Bible’s book of Ecclesiastes. And my friend is implying that he is tearing down his old beliefs and speaking out about his new ones !

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: … a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
Ecclesiastes 3: 1- 7

But I found his Biblical allusion a bit ironic. For the King James word “rend” also conjures up the famous synoptic Gospel stories where Jesus’ death resulted in the curtain in the famous Jerusalem temple being torn — “rent”, in King James English. The Curtain in the temple seperated the Holy of Holies area where God is directly accessed and limited only to Levi priests. It tearing, then, was meant to be a symbol that Jesus’ death now caused the Holy of Holies to be opened and now all people had direct access to God with no more need for priests and animal sacrifices at the temple. Jesus was to be seen as the ultimate & final sacrifice.

So I found it ironic that ATTR (as my blogging friend is called) choose an image meant to stand for his leaving Christianity while another image associated with “rending” is that of Jesus’ perfect atonement — the pillar of Christianity.

Following are Bible verses around the notion of “rending” to help educate those who may not be familiar with this story. The first is the Exodus passage where God tells how his holy temple is to be built.  The curtain/veil in this passage is the one that will be rent in the synoptics.

31 You shall make a veil of blue and purple and scarlet material and fine twisted linen; it shall be made with cherubim, the work of a skillful workman.

32 You shall hang it on four pillars of acacia overlaid with gold, their hooks also being of gold, on four sockets of silver.
—–Exodus 26

Then below are the passages from the synoptic gospels about the veil/curtain.  But before we read them, let me not a few questions I have.

  • I must admit, I do find it curious that all three synoptics have the “Rent Curtain” passage.  Does anyone have insight from critical scholars on this passage?  Is it suspected as retro-addition to Mark?  I could see Matthew doing this, but why Mark?  Why didn’t John mention it?
  • Actually, the biggest question is the general “Jesus Sacrifice” question.  Why did the Jews not move beyond a god that needs things killed to feel at peace with its creations in the first place?  Duh !  And, OK, let’s say the Jews accepted that they had a blood thirsty god, why did the Christians(themselves, Jews) need to make their god now hungry for human sacrifice?  Maybe the early Christians were just like modern PETA activists who wanted to spare all the animals !  That is it !  Has anyone ever written a paper on this?
  • Mark kept is short, as always.  Matthew then added about the dead parading in the streets.  What was that?  Am I missing something or is there some  Hebrew Bible prophecy that Matthew was trying to force fit into his Jesus story again.   Anyone know?  And boy, you’d think an event a Parade of the Dead would have been mentioned in the other gospels. Or maybe it was no big deal.
  • Luke said Jesus breathed his last — didn’t he breathe after his resurrection? Do resurrected bodies not need to breathe?
  • And what is with Luke’s eclipse — was this his way of competing with Matthew?  Remember, Luke tells us in the beginning of his Gospel that the others did it wrong and now he would do it right !

38 And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.

MATTHEW 27: 50-53
50 Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost.

51 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;

52 And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,

53 And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

LUKE 23: 44-46

44 It was now about the sixth hour, and darkness fell over the whole land until the ninth hour,

45 because the sun was obscured; and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

46 And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” Having said this, He breathed His last.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

4 responses to “A Time to Rend: Bible Literacy

  1. There is also mourning:
    “And Jacob rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his loins, and mourned for his son many days.”
    Genesis 37:34

    I guess the Ecclesiastes verse may be tied to that, though I was thinking of the deconstructing beliefs as you noted.

    Don’t you know better than to ask questions about dead bodies walking around and stuff like that? ;^) How about this — how did they know the temple curtain was rent at the moment of Jesus’ death? I guess they could have later correlated it to the earthquake event. The dead bodies didn’t depart for town until 3 days later so that wouldn’t help. It sure is a lot more interesting to read that stuff skeptically.

    And thanks for the kind mention.

  2. Just for the sake of Devil’s advocacy (ironic, yes), the claim is that Jesus’ sacrifice was potent enough to render the need for animal sacrifice needless. A once-for-all sacrifice, if you will.

    The reasoning is that, as God, His sacrifice was as powerful and as timeless as He is and, thusly, forgiveness is given to anyone who asks.

    Of course, the biggest problem I have with the whole crucifixion story is also something you’ve mentioned. The dead supposedly climbed out of their tombs and walked the earth and yet, even during a pretty decently well-recorded period of time, there was no mention of this happening.

    That seems pretty historically shady to me.

  3. Actually Janus, the biggest problem I have with the crucifixion is the whole bizarre need of a god to require blood — animal, human or otherwise.

    In Wright’s new book on “The Evolution of God” he describes the blood thirstiness of the Chiefton gods — blood is always a concern of gods — and since humans make gods in their image — presto !

    Oh the silly things that humans believe !

    Thanx Janus , I modified my post to capture some of this.

  4. Oh, well fair enough. It seems like a lot of gods were bloodthirsty around that time.

    I wonder what that says about human nature?

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