The parochet at the Holy of Holies was “rent in two” as Jesus gave up the ghost on the cross.   A most significant event to the Jews, even the Pharisee’s, and yet I have found no Jewish or Roman (non-Christian) evidence or commentary of this event. And the parochet in question is not be found anywhere in Jewish antiquity.   The parochet was of such dimension that a tear could not be ignored, nor hidden by the high priest.  Other than in the Holy Bible, where is the evidence for this event?


Apparently, you believe that if it were true that the curtain was ripped in two, as reported by Matthew, Mark and Luke (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38 and Luke 23:45) then we should have a record of that from outside the Christian scripture. I believe that this is an unreasonable expectation for several reasons.

First of all, we should not forget that we have VERY little detailed information in our histories of what happened in the ancient world. We often do not even know who the High Priest was in any particular year, never mind the detailed events which happened during those years. Until fairly recently, it was not even confirmed from either Roman or Jewish sources that Pontius Pilate was ever procurator of Judea. Skeptics questioned the story of Pilate having Jesus executed. Recently, an inscription found in Caesarea Maritima confirmed that Pilate was indeed procurator of Judea under Tiberius. Given that we often do not even know the names of leaders of entire Roman provinces during the first century, expecting that the ripping of a curtain, no matter how important that curtain, would somehow enter our histories is not reasonable. It would not be absolutely amazing if another source also reported the event, but it would be quite surprising.

Second, those Jewish leaders who were enemies of Jesus had a very strong motivation to cover up the fact that the curtain in the sanctuary was ripped. You should remember that there would be only a rather small number of eye-witnesses, because only Aaronic priests were allowed into the Holy Place, where the bread and the lampstands were, and most of them would not have been supporters of the Christian cause. Reason tells us that the priesthood did not trumpet this event around Jerusalem, although we know that the secret got out because word of it got to the early Christians. It is quite unreasonable to expect non-Christian Jewish writers to report the ripping of the curtain!

The fact is that we do not have non-biblical sources for this event. It would be nice if we did, but it is unreasonable to expect that we would have a report of this event from outside sources. However, Matthew, Mark and Luke all report it as true. Mark wrote within about twenty to twenty-five years of the event, and Matthew and Luke within about thirty to thirty-five years, when nearly all the eye-witnesses to the event were still alive. There is no reason to believe that they would have lied about this. Everything we know about Matthew, Mark and Luke tells us that they have every appearance of being honest. To propose that some sort of conspiracy was launched to falsely claim that the curtain was rent in two is really quite unreasonable. Besides, the gospel accounts were summaries of information which was generally available to the churches. We can assume that the disciples, including those who lived in Jerusalem, believed this account, and they lived in the same city where the event occurred–where the priests who had been in the temple and who would have seen the event lived. To presume that the apostles would all conspire to lie about this event and to assume that the priests who were in the temple at the time would not cry foul to this lie is to stretch credulity rather far. The most reasonable conclusion from the evidence is that this ripping of the curtain did indeed take place.

John Oakes

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