The Life of Jesus in Harmony
Mark 14:3 - And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he
sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of
spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured [it] on his head.
The Bible mentions an alabaster flask or box or more
accurately "an alabastron", a small container which was filled with
costly spikenard (perfumed oil).
Mary came to the house of Simon the leper to anoint Jesus by breaking the jar
and pouring the spikenard on his head in Mark 14. In the ancient world one of
the purposes for anointing the head was to show respect and honor to the person
receiving it. This is still seen in many parts of the oriental world today. Alabaster was a soft
stone resembling marble, and many of these jars came from Egypt. Alabaster jars contained
many interesting colors, some were translucent with veins of yellow,
brown, and red. The alabaster jar usually contained olive oil, or a costly
ointment or perfume. It had a long neck designed to restrict the flow and
prevent waste. Mary broke the top in order to pour out
The above painting is a 3rd century wall painting in the
synagogue at Dura Europas in Syria, it shows young David being anointed as the
future king of Israel by the prophet Samuel with oil. The word "Messiah" comes
from the Hebrew word "Meshiach" which means "the anointed one" or to "smear the
anointing oil." Ancient Hebrew kings were consecrated to God with the anointing
(Heb. pak, (2 Ki 9:1,3); Gk. alabastron, <Mark 14:3>). A container usually
narrowed toward the outlet and used for holding liquids such as oil, ointment, or
perfume. . The KJV uses "box of oil" or "box of ointment," whereas the NASB
rendering is "flask of oil" or "vial of . . . ointment," and the NIV, "alabaster
(Gk. alabastron, (Mark 14:3); Heb. shesh, (1 Chr. 29:2); translated "marble"
in the KJV and NIV). Identified with the substance now called oriental (or
Egyptian) alabaster, also "onyx marble."
The most common form of alabaster is a fine textured variety of massive gypsum
(sulfate of lime). It is very soft and therefore excellent for carving. The
color is usually white; but it may be gray, yellow, or red.
Large quantities of gypsum were quarried in the Jordan
Valley in the days before the Hebrew people occupied this territory. Many
articles were fashioned from this stone, including vases, jars, saucers, bowls,
lamps, and statues. Mary
with costly oil from a flask made of alabaster (Mark 14:3).
The ancient variety of alabaster is known as "oriental alabaster" (carbonate
of lime), a form of marble. It is much harder than the gypsum variety but is
used for the same purpose. Ancient alabaster was found only in Egypt.
Today the name alabaster is applied to a still softer stone, the compact
variety of gypsum, or sulphate of lime, used for small statuettes, paper weights,
and little ornaments of no great value.
The alabastrites of Theophrastus, Pliny, and the ancients generally was
largely quarried and worked at Alabastron, a well-known locality near Thebes, and was
the favorite material for the little flasks and vases for ointment and
perfumery that are so abundant in Egyptian tombs and almost all ancient collections.
Mark 14:3 -
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there
came a woman having an alabaster box
of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured [it]
on his head.
Luke 7:37 -
And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that [Jesus]
sat at meat in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster box
Matthew 26:7 -
There came unto him a woman having an alabaster box
of very precious ointment, and poured it on his head, as he sat [at meat].