Handkerchief or Napkin
Handkerchief or Napkin
(σουδάριον; Vulg. sudarium) occurs in Lu 19:20; Joh 11:44; Joh 20:7; Ac 19:12. The Greek word is adopted from the Latin, and properly signifies a sweat-cloth, or pocket-handkerchief, but in the Greek and Syriac languages it denotes chiefly napkin, wrapper, etc. In the first of the above passages (Lu 19:20) it means a wrapper, in which the "wicked servant" had laid up the pound entrusted to him by his master. For references to the custom of laying up money, etc., in σουδάρια, both in classical and rabbinical writers, see Wetstein's N.T. on Lu 19:20. In the second instance (Joh 11:44) it appears as a kerchief, or cloth attached to the head of a corpse. It was perhaps brought round the forehead and under the chin.. In many Egyptian mummies it does not cover the face. In ancient times, among the Greeks, it did (Nicolaus, De Graeco. Luctu, c. 3:§ 6, Thiel. 1697). Maimonides, in his comparatively recent times, describes the whole face as being covered, and gives a reason for the custom (Tract Efel, c. 4). The next instance is that of the σουδάριον which had been "about the head" of our Lord, but which, after his resurrection, was found rolled up, as if deliberately, and put in a place separately from the linen clothes. The last instance of the Biblical use of the word (and the only one in which it is rendered "handkerchief") occurs in the account of "the special miracles" wrought by the hands of Paul (Ac 19:11); "so that σουδάρια (handkerchiefs, napkins, wrappers, shawls, etc.) were brought from his body to the sick; and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them." The Ephesians had not unnaturally inferred that the apostle's miraculous power could be communicated by such a mode of contact; and certainly cures thus received by parties at a distance, among a people famed for their addictedness to "curious arts," i.e. magical skill, etc., would serve to convince them of the truth of the Gospel by a mode well suited to interest their minds. The apostle is not recorded to have expressed any opinion respecting the reality of this intermediate means of those miracles. He had doubtless sufficiently explained that these and all the other miracles "wrought by his hands," i.e. by his means, were really wrought by God (ver. 11) in attestation of the mission of Jesus. If he himself did not entertain exactly the same ideas upon the subject as they did, he may be considered as conceding to, or, rather, not disturbing unnecessarily, popular notions, rendered harmless by his previous explanation, and affording a very convenient medium for achieving much higher purposes. If the connection between the secondary cause and the effect was real, it reminds us of our Savior's expression, "I perceive that virtue has gone out of me"(Mr 5:30); which is, however, regarded by many critics as a popular mode of saying that he knew that a miracle had been wrought by his power and efficacy a mode of speaking in unison at least with the belief of the woman that she should be healed if she could but touch the hem of his garment unperceived by him, and perhaps even conceded to, in accordance with the miracles wrought through the medium of contact related in the Old Testament (1Ki 17:21; 2Ki 4:29, etc.), and in order, by a superior display, in regard both to speed and extensiveness, to demonstrate his supremacy by a mode through which the Jews were best prepared to perceive it (Lu 6:19; see Schwarz, iad Olear. de Stylo N.T. p. 129;
Soler. De Pileo, p. 17; Pierson, ad Mer. p. 348; Lydii Flor. Spars. iad Pass. J. C. p. 5; Drusius, Quaest. Heb. c. 2; Rosenmuller and Kuinlol on the passages). SEE KERCHIEF; SEE NAPKIN; SEE HOLY HANDKERCHIEF.