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John 12:1-3

Context
Jesus’ Anointing

12:1 Then, six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany, where Lazarus lived, whom he 1  had raised from the dead. 12:2 So they prepared a dinner for Jesus 2  there. Martha 3  was serving, and Lazarus was among those present at the table 4  with him. 12:3 Then Mary took three quarters of a pound 5  of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard 6  and anointed the feet of Jesus. She 7  then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) 8 

1 tn Grk “whom Jesus,” but a repetition of the proper name (Jesus) here would be redundant in the English clause structure, so the pronoun (“he”) is substituted in the translation.

2 tn Grk “him”; the referent (Jesus) has been specified in the translation for clarity and to conform with contemporary English style.

3 tn Grk “And Martha.” The connective καί (kai, “and”) has been omitted in the translation because it would produce a run-on sentence in English.

4 tn Grk “reclining at the table.”

sn 1st century middle eastern meals were not eaten while sitting at a table, but while reclining on one’s side on the floor with the head closest to the low table and the feet farthest away.

5 tn Or “half a liter”; Grk “a pound” (that is, a Roman pound, about 325 grams or 12 ounces).

6 tn Μύρον (muron) was usually made of myrrh (from which the English word is derived) but here it is used in the sense of ointment or perfumed oil (L&N 6.205). The adjective πιστικῆς (pistikh") is difficult with regard to its exact meaning; some have taken it to derive from πίστις (pistis) and relate to the purity of the oil of nard. More probably it is something like a brand name, “pistic nard,” the exact significance of which has not been discovered.

sn Nard or spikenard is a fragrant oil from the root and spike of the nard plant of northern India. This aromatic oil, if made of something like nard, would have been extremely expensive, costing up to a year’s pay for an average laborer.

7 tn Grk “And she.” Because of the difference between Greek style, which often begins sentences or clauses with “and,” and English style, which generally does not, καί (kai) has not been translated here.

8 sn This is a parenthetical note by the author. With a note characteristic of someone who was there and remembered, the author adds that the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil. In the later rabbinic literature, Ecclesiastes Rabbah 7.1.1 states “The fragrance of good oil is diffused from the bedroom to the dining hall, but a good name is diffused from one end of the world to the other.” If such a saying was known in the 1st century, this might be the author’s way of indicating that Mary’s act of devotion would be spoken of throughout the entire world (compare the comment in Mark 14:9).



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