Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Napkin

This was forwarded to me recently.... -E

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 stooped 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. Is 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 was done eating, he would rise from the table, wipe his fingers and mouth with that napkin and toss it on to the table. The servant would then know to clear the table. For in those days, the wadded napkin meant, 'I'm done.' But if the master got up from the table, and folded his napkin, and laid it beside his plate, the servant knew that the folded napkin meant, 'I'm not finished yet.' The folded napkin meant, 'I'm coming back!'


Joe B said...

Okay, here goes Jaded Joe. This sounds like baloney. I would be stunned if (a) such a custom were recorded in such detail, and (b) if such a customer would be both uniform enough across time and space to amount to anything. In an age where writing and writing materials were precious, who would bother recording such things, and what are the odds of such a manuscript's survival? Okay, maybe this comes right out of Flavius Josephus, and if so I'll just be amazed and wrong.

But, it is a very nice devotional thought in any case. And I don't need to be convinced that Jesus is coming to reign. I've staked my life on it.

Jesus is coming, and his dinner napkin is coming with him!

Joe B said...

The Void post got me curious so I went looking around forstuff about bible napkins. Didn't find much except this:

I found this definition of "napkin", soudarion, from Eastons Bible Dictionary: "Gr. soudarion, = Lat. sudarium, a "sweat-cloth". A cloth for wiping the sweat from the face. The word is also used of a wrapper to fold money in (Luke 19:20), and as an article of dress, a "handkerchief" worn on the head (Acts 19:12)." So it is a sweat rag or a do-rag or a hanky. I wonder if it might even be all the above, an item worn on the head, like a shepherd's head covering in a christmas play. It is reasonable to think that you might carry valuables in your hat if you have no pockets, or that you might wipe sweat with your do-rag. Note it is from Latin, not Hebrew, so not an ancient Jewish cultural thing, as Latin was a recent arrival in Judea. Not a lot of Latinoid words in the NT)

It occurs to me that Lazarus also had a soudarion on him when he came out of the grave, so it was typical practice, not some special thing.

Strong's says the wording for "folded up" is "entulisso", or approximately "twisted, wound, rolled or wrapped up" or "wound up" or "rolled up". I found this commentary excerpt on John 20:7: "The cloth for Jesus' head (soudarion) was either a face covering or a cloth tied around Jesus' face to hold his jaw in place. If the latter, then perhaps John's description indicates the cloth was lying in place, still in the oval shape it had when around Jesus' head. Or it could be John means this cloth, however it had been used, was in a separate place, rolled or wrapped up (v. 7, entetyligmenon). Jesus' body passed through the grave clothes, presumably including the soudarion (Westcott 1908:2:340).

scott said...

I tried to comment on this last night, but Blogger was having some issues.

I'm glad I'm not the only pessimist here -- I actually went straight to after reading this! It is a good story, especially formulated for easy email-forwarding or a two-minute sermon point.

I wonder where the original author got his info.

Big Doofus said...

What's this? You guys are arguing over whether or not something is true? Who cares. Truth doesn't matter as long as it's missional, baby!

Joe B said...

I didn't say it's not Truth, just that it's a bunch a crap. I mean, one man's crap is another man's Truth, after all. Live and let live, baby.

Emergent Joe B

Macca said...

There's another popular sermon illustration circulating through churches and the Internet about the eagle which is a totally fictional load of poo-poo. It was originally put together by some pastor, and it's spread everywhere. Our pastor even thought it was a great illustration, so he shared it at church. Skeptic that I am, I went home to Google up its veracity, and found this writeup by a bird expert.


Joe B said...

I'll guess it's the one about "renewing their strength", where they crawl into a cleft of the Rock and loose all their feathers and nearly die, then like the Pheonix they emerger bigger, better, stronger, faster and younger, right? Okay, now I'll go look...hang on


Yep, sure enough. I've been hearing that one in churches for 25years. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles..." Then comes the baloney wagon "Scientists tell us that there is only one creature on earth, the eagle, that LITERALLY renews its..." Blah. Bklah.

I have to say, the beak plucking is a whole new level of funny!

Joe B said...

Sorry. Phoenix.

soebeck said...

Man, Eric! I guess your post sucks! :)

Joe B said...

Thus the nickname "Void"

Bethany said...

still, the Bible doesn't contain anything about 400 years of history between the OT and NT, and spent a whole verse talking about a napkin. There has to be significance to it.

Joe B said...

Sure there is. It is all right there. One need not add anything to it. Significance need not be an extra layer of icing and a cherry on top.

Macca said...

Exactly as Joe says. We don't need to construct a whole myth around a napkin just so that it can be forced into your feel-good sermon.

The same mistake was made time after time through history, as wars were fought over useless relics that were supposedly touched by or came into contact with Jesus.

The story that Eric relates is a nice little account, but I am more convinced that the meaning of the folded napkin is a proof of the resurrection, rather than having the body stolen by the disciples. Grave thieves wouldn't have taken the time to carefully fold up the napkin. The theft would have happened in haste, and most likely would have been thrown in a heap by robbers. That it coincides with a Jewish tradition of napkin-folding is neat, but I don't think that it is the main point of the passage.

The first rule of exegesis is that Scripture speaks for itself. Another primary rule is that interpretation depends on the genre. In this case, we are looking at a book that is a historical account, not one of prophecy or allegorical in nature. There may be symbols in the Scripture, but it's important to take it at face value first.

scott said...

I'm all for nice, 5-minute stories like this that illustrate a point. There are certain personality types that really get something out of that. Granted, I'm not necessarily always one of them. But there is a time and a place for it.

I'm still curious if this one is true. I wonder who it originated from.

What bothers me is the abundance of entirely fabricated "5-minute stories" that seem to come out of the mouths of pastors and teachers and special guest speakers all over America. Sure, with the advent of the Internet, false information proliferates. But also because of the Internet, someone could generally check the veracity of a story in five or ten minutes.

I would hope that pastors and teachers would at least spend a minute or two to make sure a story or a point is true before they go out and tell 500 people about it. If the teaching pastor is rushed for time, just make the junior high minister check out the source. He's got nothing else to do anyway.

soebeck said...

True! I don't do nothin!

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