New American Bible (Revised Edition)
51 (A)And behold, the veil of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom.[a] The earth quaked, rocks were split, 52 (B)tombs were opened, and the bodies of many saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53 And coming forth from their tombs after his resurrection, they entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54 [b]The centurion and the men with him who were keeping watch over Jesus feared greatly when they saw the earthquake and all that was happening, and they said, “Truly, this was the Son of God!”Read full chapter
- 27:51–53 Veil of the sanctuary…bottom: cf. Mk 15:38; Lk 23:45. Luke puts this event immediately before the death of Jesus. There were two veils in the Mosaic tabernacle on the model of which the temple was constructed, the outer one before the entrance of the Holy Place and the inner one before the Holy of Holies (see Ex 26:31–36). Only the high priest could pass through the latter and that only on the Day of Atonement (see Lv 16:1–18). Probably the torn veil of the gospels is the inner one. The meaning of the scene may be that now, because of Jesus’ death, all people have access to the presence of God, or that the temple, its holiest part standing exposed, is now profaned and will soon be destroyed. The earth quaked…appeared to many: peculiar to Matthew. The earthquake, the splitting of the rocks, and especially the resurrection of the dead saints indicate the coming of the final age. In the Old Testament the coming of God is frequently portrayed with the imagery of an earthquake (see Ps 68:9; 77:19), and Jesus speaks of the earthquakes that will accompany the “labor pains” that signify the beginning of the dissolution of the old world (Mt 24:7–8). For the expectation of the resurrection of the dead at the coming of the new and final age, see Dn 12:1–3. Matthew knows that the end of the old age has not yet come (Mt 28:20), but the new age has broken in with the death (and resurrection; cf. the earthquake in Mt 28:2) of Jesus; see note on Mt 16:28. After his resurrection: this qualification seems to be due to Matthew’s wish to assert the primacy of Jesus’ resurrection even though he has placed the resurrection of the dead saints immediately after Jesus’ death.
- 27:54 Cf. Mk 15:39. The Christian confession of faith is made by Gentiles, not only the centurion, as in Mark, but the other soldiers who were keeping watch over Jesus (cf. Mt 27:36).