The four soldiers who supervised Jesus’ execution divided his clothes among themselves. “But,” says John 19:23, Jesus’ “inner garment was without a seam, being woven from the top throughout its length.” The soldiers decided not to tear it but to cast lots over it. How was such a garment made?
The inner garment appears to refer to a shirtlike tunic made out of linen or wool and reaching to the knees or ankles. These garments were usually made by sewing together two superimposed squares or rectangles of fabric, stitching along three of their sides. Holes were left for the head and arms.
A more expensive type of tunic was made in a similar way but using “only one long piece of cloth, folded in two, with a hole cut in the middle for the head” and hemmed, says the book Jesus and His World. This kind of tunic needed to be stitched at the sides.
Completely seamless garments, like the one Jesus wore, were unique to Palestine. They were woven on upright looms that used two sets of vertical warp threads, one at the front and one at the back of a crossbar.
The weaver would alternate his shuttle, which carried the horizontal weft thread, from the front part of the web to the back, “thus creating a cylindric piece of fabric,” says one reference work. A seamless tunic would likely have been a rare possession, and the soldiers considered it a desirable one.