Why Was the Head Cloth of Jesus Wrapped to the Side? – Crossexamined.org

This is a repost of an article originally posted at crossexamined.org pertaining to the story and alleged meaning of the folded head napkin within the tomb of Jesus. The following is reposted for your consideration.
A friend asked me about a supposed Jewish tradition concerning the head wrapping of Jesus in the tomb. The Gospel of John notes that Peter and John (if the beloved disciple is the writer of the Fourth Gospel which this writer accepts) run to the tomb of Jesus. They investigate the tomb and saw the “napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself” (Jn. 20:7, KJV).

According to a story circulating online which has been passed along in many churches, an ancient Jewish tradition held that when a person had finished their meal, the person would toss their napkin aside if he or she was finished. However, if the person had to leave and was not finished, the person would neatly fold their napkin and place it to the side of their plate indicating that he or she would return. Advocates of this story contend that the folding of the napkin in John 20:7 was Jesus’s way of saying that he was going to leave but would soon return. While the story is heartwarming, one must ask if there any merit to the claim. After investigating the story, unfortunately, I must report that there seems to be no evidence that the story is true. But there is a more remarkable twist that is greater than the supposed tradition. First, here are the reasons why the story seems to be nothing more than an urban legend.

To read the rest of this thought provoking post please click on the direct link below:


Worthy is the Lamb! Blessings!


  1. I was wondering if you were going there, Bruce I wasn’t sure, since the illustration shows the graveclothes just lying about, but I envision them like an empty, collapsed she’ll – the way it’s portrayed at the end of “The Passion of the Christ,” if I remember correctly. Gives me chills just thinking about it.
    There’s another story that the napkin theory reminded me of – the woman who wanted a fork put in her casket when she died. When her church had pot luck dinners, some of the members served by clearing the tables. If there was still dessert on the way , they’d say, “Keep your fork,” meaning “The best is yet to come.” 😏
    (P S. I have never relied on the Shroud of Turin to make it break my faith.)


    • Hi Annie, like Craig indicated, there is nothing in the text of John 20 that would support that the wrappings were still in a wrapped form with the body of Jesus not within them that I can see. Is it possible? Yes, but the actual text itself doesn’t actually indicate that. The Shroud of Turin is interesting to say the least, but I agree with you, whether it is or isn’t authentic doesn’t alter our faith. Blessings, Annie!


  2. In the Jewish tradition when a person finish with their meal and toss their napkin it meant that they were finish, however if the napkin is folded it meant that they would be back. When the disciples found the cloth of Jesus’ head folded neatly it meant that He (Jesus) would return.


  3. Interesting, Bruce. I had not heard this story, but it’s good to set the record straight. I found it curious that the author of the article, while refuting the folded napkin story, nevertheless goes on to make the assumption that all of the graveclothes (head cloth excepted) were left in the form they had been in when they wrapped Jesus’ body, and then uses that as evidence of the supernatural nature of the resurrection. I find nothing in the text to support this claim or even to suggest it. The main thing the biblical account provides is clear evidence to the disciples that the body was not stolen or moved by the authorities, because who would bother to unwrap it and leave the head cloth rolled up in a separate location from the other linens. Thus it says in verse 20:8 “he saw and believed.”
    Blessings to you!


    • Hi Craig, I agree. There is nothing to indicate that the form was maintained that I can see either. John 20:6-7 NASB does translate the “rolled” aspect though. “And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, 7 and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.” Multiple wrappings as in plural makes sense. Not sure where he got the “form” aspect from either. Blessings!

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