An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

Veil of the Temple

In the Jerusalem Temple, the veil or curtain of the temple was at the entrance to the most holy place (see Ex 26:33, 35:12, 39:34; 2 Chr 3:14). It has also been known as the holy of holies. This inner room contained the ark of the covenant, which was covered with the veil when the tabernacle was moved (Nm 4:5). At first only the Levitical priests could enter the most holy place (Nm 18:7). Eventually only the high priest could pass through the veil to enter the most holy place and only on the Day of Atonement (see Lv 16). The veil of the temple was torn when Jesus died on the cross (Mk 15:38). This has been associated with the removal of the barriers to right relationship between God and humanity through Jesus' death. The Letter to the Hebrews notes that in Christ we have “a hope that enters the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus, a forerunner on our behalf, has entered” (Heb 6:19-20; see Heb 10:19-20). This imagery of entering the most holy place through the veil is reflected in the hymn, “Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,” which states that faith “pierces through the veil” (Hymn 314). It also appears in the hymn, “Alleluia! sing to Jesus!”, which states, “thou within the veil hast entered, robed in flesh, our great High Priest” (Hymns 460-461).

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.