Behind the Curtain?

Q. The Bible says that when Christ died, the Temple curtain was torn in two from top to bottom (see Lk 23:45). Since the Ark of the Covenant was by then lost, what was behind the curtain?

D.G., Boswell, Okla.

A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:

The curtain referred to in the Gospels enclosed the Holy of Holies, the innermost part of the Temple. The original Temple was constructed in the reign of Solomon in the 10th century B.C. The Holy of Holies housed the Ark of the Covenant, which contained the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments had been inscribed by God, and the Ark remained in the Temple for approximately 400 years. When that temple was destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 B.C., the Ark of the Covenant was lost. Seventy or so years later the Temple was rebuilt. From that time on, however, the Holy of Holies was a bare room. The Jews must have repaired the curtain after it was torn at the crucifixion of Our Lord. Until the Romans finally destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D., the high priest — and he alone — continued to enter the Holy of Holies once a year, on the solemn Day of Atonement. There he offered intercession for the people of Israel.