The Message in the Neatly Folded Napkin in Jesus’ Tomb!

tomb.jpgThere have been several debates and questions regarding the “Neatly Folded Napkin” at Jesus tomb.  To me it doesn’t matter whether there is truth or significance in the napkin being folded or not.  Either way, I know He is coming back and the below is a nice story to share at Easter.  The actual story is at the very bottom of this post, the beginning debates whether there is any truth or significance in the story.

Summary from Truth or Fiction:

According to this forwarded email, the head covering over the body of Jesus Christ in the grave was a neatly “folded napkin.”   It goes on to say that among Jews of the time a master would let his servants know whether he was finished eating or coming back to the table by the way he left his napkin.  If he tossed it aside, he was finished.  If he folded it, he was not finished and would return.  The hidden message in the story is that by laying his “napkin” aside and neatly folded Jesus was saying he was coming back.

There are a couple of problems with this eRumor.  One is the translation or interpretation of the Bible verse quoted.  The other is the alleged Jewish custom referenced in the story.

The eRumor is based on whether the cloth was a “napkin” and was “folded” in the empty tomb of Jesus.

The story is based on the account of Jesus’ resurrection in John 20:7.

Here is how that verse is translated in one of the most widely-used versions of the Bible, the King James Version:  “…and the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.”

We checked seven of the most respected translations of the Bible to see how the translators handled this verse.
Three of them translated the cloth as a “napkin” (King James, American Standard, Revised Standard Version).  Others translated it as a “burial cloth” (New International Version), a “handkerchief” (The New King James Version), or a “face-cloth” (New American Standard Bible).   The Greek word is saudarion, which comes from a Latin word for “sweat.”  It connotes, for example, a towel for wiping sweat.  It is used in the Greek for a towel or cloth, but not specifically a table napkin.

The other key word is “folded.”  Was the burial cloth or napkin left folded in the tomb?

Two of the translations used the word “folded” (New International Version, New King James Version).  Others translated the word as “rolled up” (New American Standard Bible, American Standard Version, Revised Standard Version), or “wrapped together” (King James Version).
The Greek word is “entulisso,” which is from words that may mean to twist or to entwine.

The bottom line is that there is not agreement that it was a table napkin and not agreement that it was neatly folded in any meaningful way.  The main meaning of John 20:7 is to convey that the cloth, which was placed over Jesus head or face at burial, was separate from the rest of his grave clothes.

We have checked numerous Bible study sources and have found nothing about this alleged Jewish custom of the folded napkins.  We did not find any Bible scholars who have used this story and illustration about the meaning of the folded napkin.

Additionally we talked with a Jewish rabbi friend of’s who has been a life-long Orthodox Jew, a Jewish scholar, and lives in Jerusalem, Israel, and he said he’d never heard of it. The only references to this story that we found are from Internet postings and emails that seem to have originated in 2007.

Below is the email that has been sent on email and over the internet….

The Gospel of John (20:7) tells us that the napkin, which was placed over the face of Jesus, was not just thrown aside like the grave clothes..

The Bible takes an entire verse to tell us that the napkin was neatly folded, and was placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. She ran and found Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved.. She said, ‘They have taken the Lord’s body out of the tomb, and I don’t know where they have put him!’

Peter and the other disciple ran to the tomb to see. The other disciple out ran Peter and got there first. He stopped and looked in and saw the linen cloth lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there, while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying to the side.

Was that important? Absolutely!
Is it really significant? Yes!

In order to understand the significance of the folded napkin, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition of that day. The folded napkin had to do with the Master and Servant, and every
Jewish boy knew this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for the master, he made sure that
it was exactly the way the master wanted it.

The table was furnished perfectly, and then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating, and the servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished..

Now if the master were done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers, his mouth, and clean his beard, and would wad up that napkin and toss it onto the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the
wadded napkin meant,  “I’m finished.”

But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant would not dare touch the table, because……….

The folded napkin meant, “I’m coming back.”


2 Responses to “The Message in the Neatly Folded Napkin in Jesus’ Tomb!”

  1. Why Did Jesus Fold the Napkin? - Page 2 - Christian Forums on May 11th, 2011 1:16 pm

    [...] The Message in the Neatly Folded Napkin in Jesus’ Tomb! | Ron Kennedy | Devotionals and Leader… Jesus’ Folded Napkin at Empty Tomb – Does It Mean "I’ll Be Right Back"? Become a CF Site Supporter Today and Make These Ads Go Away! [...]

  2. Starsque on May 15th, 2011 7:51 pm

    Only a fool would create a debate over this.

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