12:3 Then Mary took three quarters of a pound 1 of expensive aromatic oil from pure nard 2 and anointed the feet of Jesus. She 3 then wiped his feet dry with her hair. (Now the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfumed oil.) 4
12:5 “Why wasn’t this oil sold for three hundred silver coins 5 and the money 6 given to the poor?”
1 tn Or “half a liter”; Grk “a pound” (that is, a Roman pound, about 325 grams or 12 ounces).
2 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.
3 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.
4 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).
5 tn Grk “three hundred denarii.” The denarius was a silver coin worth a standard day’s wage, so the value exceeded what a laborer could earn in a year (taking into account Sabbaths and feast days when no work was done).
6 tn The words “the money” are not in the Greek text, but are implied (as the proceeds from the sale of the perfumed oil).