Bart Ehrman On The Tearing Of The Temple Veil

One way to read the evidence is as Ehrman does here that the ripping of the veil is what Jesus accomplished through his penal substitution super blood magic atoning death, removing the barrier between man and God. Another reading is the Moral Influence reading that the world turned on God’s specially chosen beloved (agapetos) son, and so there is nothing an animal sacrifice could ever do to make up for this. There are two main reasons to prefer the Moral Influence reading. One is the Barabbas satire as a gross injustice lampooning of the Yom Kippur atoning goats. Second, for penal substitution you have to suppose the imagery of the tearing of the curtain is completely different in Mark/Matthew and Luke: Matthew and Mark state that the temple veil ripped right after Jesus died, but Luke states that it happened before the Jesus’s death. So, it’s a question of whether we focus on what Jesus did for the world, or instead what the world did to Jesus. One is easy and feel good, the other is philosophical.

What is remarkable in Mark is that Jesus in Gethsemane doesn’t think he needs to actually die for God’s plan to be fulfilled (like rescued Isaac), and so Jesus doesn’t seem to have penal substitution in mind as what he is up to.

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