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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

 

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SPIKENARD

spik'-nard (nerd; nardos (Song 1:12; 4:14); neradhim; nardoi (Song 4:13), "spikenard plants"; nardos pistike (Mk 14:3; Jn 12:3), "pure nard," margin "liquid nard"; the English word is for "spiked nard," which comes from the Nardus spicatus of the Vulgate): Spikenard is the plant Nardostachys jatamansi (Natural Order, Valerianaceae); in Arabic the name Sunbul hind, "Indian spike," refers, like the English and Latin name, to the "snike"-like shape of the plant from which the perfume comes. The dried plant as sold consists of the "withered stalks and ribs of leaves cohering in a bundle of yellowish-brown capillary fibres and consisting of a spike about the size of a small finger" (Sir W. Jones, As. Res., II, 409); in appearance the whole
plant is said to look like the tail of an ermine. It grows in the Himalayas. The extracted perfume is an oil, which was used by the Romans for anointing the head. Its great costliness is mentioned by Pliny.
With regard to the exact meaning of the pistike, in the New Testament, there is much difference of opinion: "pure" and "liquid" are both given in margin, but it has also been suggested among other things that this was a local name, that it comes from the Latin spicita or from pisita, the Sanskrit name of the spikenard plant. The question is an open one: either "genuine" or "pure" is favored by most commentators.
E. W. G. Masterman

Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. "Definition for 'SPIKENARD'". "International Standard Bible Encyclopedia". bible-history.com - ISBE; 1915.

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