Jesus’ Burial Cloth- Why Folded? – Reading the Bible – why are people so slpppy?

I got an email today, which referenced this article by Ma CiCi – a true Biblical scholar, no doubt.  She’ wondering why Jesus folded the burial “napkin” that was “on his face” in the tomb. Jesus’ Burial Cloth- Why Folded?.

Did you ever wonder and think: Just ‘why’ did Jesus fold up this cloth and lay it, separated from the other linen after His resurrection?

She decides to link this idea to a “Hebrew tradition” of table manners: when you’re don eating – really done – you’re supposed to wad your napkin up and throw it on your plate.  If you’re just going ptty or something, you instead fold your napkin to indicate to the waiters that you are coming back (not to clear your place).

In order to understand the significance of the folded cloth, you have to understand a little bit about Hebrew tradition. The folded napkin had to do with a clear message between a Master and his Servant. Every Jewish person knows this tradition. When the servant set the dinner table for his master, he made sure that it was exactly the way the master wanted it. After the table was perfectly furnished perfectly then the servant would wait, just out of sight, until the master had finished eating. The servant would not dare touch that table, until the master was finished.

So, first of all, I’ve never thought of this as a Hebrew tradition between Master and Servant – I learned it when I started going to restaurants other than IHOP, as just common restaurant etiquette.  I’ve noticed many times that this etiquette has mostly disparaged in Amerika.  But, here’s a short description of how to use your napkin at a restaurant (from http://whatscookingamerica.net/Menu/DiningEtiquetteGuide.htm):

As soon as you are seated, remove the napkin from your place setting, unfold it, and put it in your lap. Do not shake it open. At some very formal restaurants, the waiter may do this for the diners, but it is not inappropriate to place your own napkin in your lap, even when this is the case.

The napkin rests on the lap till the end of the meal. Don’t clean the cutlery or wipe your face with the napkin. NEVER use it to wipe your nose!

If you excuse yourself from the table, loosely fold the napkin and place it to the left or right of your plate. Do not refold your napkin or wad it up on the table either. Never place your napkin on your chair.

At the end of the meal, leave the napkin semi-folded at the left side of the place setting. It should not be crumpled or twisted; nor should it be folded. The napkin must also not be left on the chair.

I mean, the burial cloth is NOT a friggin napkin!  It’s interesting how many translations do refer to it as a “napkin” – even more interesting, the number of different terms used (see bottom of this post). But, for certain, it’s not a restaurant: it’s a tomb!   So, the whole argument she’s making – The folded cloth give this clear message, saying, “I’m not finished yet. I’m coming back!” – is just not valid – that is to say, her conclusion is not made in a valid way.

I’m not saying that the message is wrong.  I don’t even really care that Miss CiCi has limited academic skill, but feels the need to spread theological musings among people who also lack the academic skills to assess her conclusions for themselves.  I actually want to know what the truth is!

It bothers me, too, that  Miss CiCi says “on his face, ” when the NIV translation she quotes says:

the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head.

This also varies in translations (see below).  The point is: how can you say one thing in one sentence, and then some something different in,like, the next sentence.

The actual Hebrew tradition involves the Tachrichim (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tachrichim). Here are some salient observations:

The traditional clothing for burying the dead are tahrihim, simple white shrouds.

Regardless of gender, they include shirt, pants, a head covering, and a belt.

If the body has been prepared for burial with ritual cleansing (taharah), the body will automatically be dressed in tahrihim.

Tahrihim swaddle the entire body, including the face, so that the deceased is both clothed and protected against the gaze of other people. If shrouds are used, the body is placed in the coffin, which is then closed. In Israel, it is customary to bury the deceased (except soldiers) without a coffin – The body is carried to the grave wrapped in a tallit..

Finally, why does she think that Jesus folded the burial garments? In John 20:12, Mary meets the two angels that had attended to Jesus.

and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.

I’m thinking they folded the stuff.  I mean, you think the angels said to Jesus, “Hey, we’re not folding your crap!  What,you’re leaving your tomb a mess? Fold that Tahrihim up before you rise from the dead!”

But, in the end, all this bitchin’, and I don’t have an alternative answer!  Except to say that Hebrew tradition is so much stronger than any WASP/Amerikan trandtions that it is difficult for non Jews to “feel” the inherent power in traditional acts, when they are presented.  In other words, the writers of the scriptures simply would not think of leaving the Tahrihim unfolded.  Just like some people do get offended if you don’t immediately unfold your napkin at a restaurant and put it in your lap.

—————————-  How is “napkin” tranlsated in John 20:7? ———————

New International Version (©1984)
as well as the burial cloth that had been around Jesus’ head. The cloth was folded up by itself, separate from the linen.

New Living Translation (©2007)
while the cloth that had covered Jesus’ head was folded up and lying apart from the other wrappings.

English Standard Version (©2001)
and the face cloth, which had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen cloths but folded up in a place by itself.

New American Standard Bible (©1995)
and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself.

International Standard Version (©2008)
and that the handkerchief that had been on Jesus’ head was not lying with the linen cloths but was rolled up in a separate place.

GOD’S WORD® Translation (©1995)
He also saw the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head. It wasn’t lying with the strips of linen but was rolled up separately.

King James Bible
And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

American 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.

American Standard Version
and the napkin, that was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.

Bible in Basic English
And the cloth, which had been round his head, not with the linen bands but rolled up in a place by itself.

Douay-Rheims Bible
And the napkin that had been about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but apart, wrapped up into one place.

Darby Bible Translation
and the handkerchief which was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but folded up in a distinct place by itself.

English Revised Version
and the napkin, that was upon his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.

Webster’s Bible Translation
And the napkin that was about his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but wrapped together in a place by itself.

Weymouth New Testament
and the towel, which had been placed over the face of Jesus, not lying with the cloths, but folded up and put by itself.

World English Bible
and the cloth that had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths, but rolled up in a place by itself.

Young’s Literal Translation
and the napkin that was upon his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but apart, having been folded up, in one place;

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