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I am sure you seen this story going around on the internet about why Jesus folded the napkin or known as the linen burial cloth in His Tomb. This blog post talks about that and if there is any proof of this or not.

Why did Jesus Fold the Napkin? – Folded Napkin in the tomb of Jesus brings people to wonder why did Jesus fold the napkin? why did Jesus fold the burial cloth? on His Resurrection?

I am sure you seen this story going around on the internet. With Easter coming up and the resurrection of Jesus I figured I would share this story. I saw this on Facebook. I am going to share with you the story and some research that I have done on this story. This story has been around since 2007 (maybe longer). I am also sure that some of this story has changed in some ways over those years too. There might be some differences or variations of this story.

This is a popular story that usually you hear about a lot during Easter, Resurrection Sunday. Easter can call as early as March and as late as April. This story you can say is a Springtime story. But, I believe this is notable any time of the year to learn about this story and if it has any significant meaning to it.

… and the handkerchief that had been around His head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded together in a place by itself.

John 20:7 – Where the Story is based.

Why did Jesus Fold the Napkin?
Why did Jesus Fold the Burial Cloth?

Why did Jesus fold the napkin or known as the linen burial cloth after His resurrection? I never noticed this….

The Gospel of John (John 20:7) tells us that the napkin, or known as the burial cloth, 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 placed at the head of that stony coffin.

Why did Jesus Fold the Napkin? – Folded Napkin in the tomb of Jesus brings people to wonder why did Jesus fold the napkin? why did Jesus fold the burial cloth? on His Resurrection? Click To Tweet

Early Sunday morning, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and found that the stone 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!”

Research on this story

Some versions of the Bible show napkin while others show burial cloth.

According to 

It has been rumored that folding the napkin at the table is a Jewish custom that means the person folding the napkin intends to return. Numerous Bible study sources have been checked, but there is nothing about this alleged Jewish custom of the folded napkins. The only references to this story seem to be from internet postings and emails that appear to have originated in 2007.

According to

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

According to

John didn’t explain the meaning of the folded napkin in his gospel (John 20:7) Personally I believe the Lord folded the napkin to show that His departure was an orderly and voluntary act.  It was proof  that the tomb had not been robbed and His body had not been stolen, as some later claimed.

According to

Back in the days of Jesus, the Jews, the Persians, the Greeks and the Romans did not sit on upright chairs around the dining table with their legs underneath the table to dine as is portrayed by Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous painting, “The Last Supper”. Much like the Japanese people would sit on the floor around a low table to dine or they would recline on couches or cushions around a low table to dine. They would usually recline on one side while eating with one hand. There were no forks, no spoons and no knives on the table and certainly there was no table napkin.

Final thoughts

So this story is just something possibly someone made up. We may not know the true reason why right now, but in due time when we are in heaven we may know the reason why. The search I found there is nothing about folded napkin as a Jewish tradition.

If you check out BibleGateway, you can see the various versions of that Verse John 20:7. (Just click on parallel). I seen it say burial cloth, cloth, napkin, face cloth, wrapping, handkerchief, and grave cloth. It also said in some versions it was wrapped, folded, and rolled.

Also doing research for “Jewish Folded Napkin” never came up with anything. So this I would say was never a custom of the Jewish faith. If you know differently, feel free to share and your resource to that place.

But never the less, there is No Bones About It! Jesus is Alive! He died to save us from our sins and overcame death and arose from the dead. I used an image of the 2012’s Trail to Empty Tomb from New Market Baptist Church instead of a burial cloth. Yes, Jesus is coming back! He will return! But the folded napkin back then may not have any significance. Like I said, God may reveal that purpose one day to us on the true meaning. Not just speculations.

Pastor Bob Neal mentioned a different meaning … It was used by carpenters to mean the job is finished and I will return to settle. We know Jesus was a carpenter and Jesus knew Peter would know. It was said to be folded in a special way that only carpenters would fold it. 

 Response time!

So have you seen this story or another version? What do you think about this story? Do you have a theory on this story? Do you have something to share? Feel free to leave your comment.

Easter, Lent, Resurrection Related Post

  1. Got Questions
  2. Truth or Fiction
  3. Grace Thru Truth
  4. BibleGateway
  5. Prophetic Revelation

First published March 9, 2013. Last updated or republished on March 28, 2020.

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