Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Ointment (2)

OINTMENT (μύρον).—Nard oil, from a plant found especially in Arabia (nardus), and highly prized at Rome. St. Luke mentions it in connexion with the anointing of Christ by the unnamed woman in the house of Simon the Pharisee (Luke 7:38; Luke 7:46), and again (Luke 23:56) as one of the things prepared by the women for the intended completion of the burial of the Master. See art. Anointing.

In the account of the anointing of Jesus at Bethany, St. Matthew describes the unguent as μύρου βαρυτίμον, ‘exceeding precious ointment’ (Matthew 26:7 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ); St. Mark as μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς, ‘ointment of spikenard [marg. pistic nard] very costly’ (Mark 14:3 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ); St. John as μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτίμου, ‘ointment of spikenard very precious’ (John 12:3 Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 , with ref. to Mark 14:3 [marg.]). As this word πιστική is found only in these two places, it is rather difficult to give its true equivalent. It is used by Plato (Gorg. 455) and by Aristotle (Rhet. 1. 2), where it is synonymous with πειστικός, ‘persuasive’; but that meaning would be irrelevant in this connexion.* [Note: In later Greek, however, πιστικός = trustworthy, and the meaning may thus be ‘genuine,’ ‘unadulterated,’ ‘pure.’] Scaliger would translate ‘pounded nard,’ from πτίσσω, ‘to pound,’ which is a possible rendering, but lacks analogy. The Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 has translated it ‘spikenard,’ following, apparently, the Vulgate rendering of Mark 14:3, spicati. Some would translate ‘liquid nard,’ deriving πιστικός from πίνω, ‘to drink’; others regard it as a local technical term (see Mark 14:3 (Revised Version margin) ; cf. Westcott, St. John, John 12:3). The most natural rendering would appear to be ‘pistic nard,’ an Ointment prepared from the oil of the pistachio nut, which is used to this day in Syria for similar purposes. See especially a long note by Morison, Com. on Mark, Mark 14:3, and cf. artt. Nard and Spikenard.

Henry E. Dosker.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Ointment (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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