Perfume of pure nard

Shortly before His death, Jesus went to Bethany. The event we are considering today took place at the home of Simon the Leper, but Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, His friends, were present.  On this occasion Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with perfume of pure nard.

Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. (John 12:3 ESV)

The Greek word for perfume is muron, and the word for nard is nardos. Our word myrrh comes from muron. While it might be used of a specific type of fragrance, in this place it is probably used in the general sense of perfume. Nard (or spikenard) is “a fragant oil derived from the root and spike (hair stem) of the nard plant which grows in the mountains of northern India” (Brown, Anchor Bible, I:448). Mary anointed His feet. The parallel accounts are Matthew 26:6-13 and Mark 14:3-9. This act is to be told wherever the gospel is preached. This took place in the house of Simon the leper. The account in Luke 7:36-50 took place in Galilee and is different.

The Eretz Israel Museum at Tel Aviv University has one entire building devoted to glassware. I was especially interested in a large collection of perfume bottles from the first century A.D.

Perfume Bottles at Eretz Israel Museum at Tel Aviv University

First Century A.D. Perfume Bottles at Eretz Israel Museum. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The museum sign associated with this collection identifies these bottles as “Free-blown vessels of colored opaque and translucent glass, probably produced in the same centers.”

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