Aloe and Myrrh Wrapped Body

Today is the most solemn day in the Christian calendar.  By 9:00 a.m., Christ was crucified.

Jewish law and custom required immediate burial of Jesus’ dead body. Mosaic Law required that Jews bury the body of a man put to death by hanging on a tree the same day he died (Deuteronomy 21:22-23). The reason for this Mosaic requirement was so that the land not be desecrated by a dead body remaining un-buried. The book of Tobit (Apocrypha, 2009) described the value Jews placed on seeing that all slain Jews had a proper burial even when the Jews were in exile.

Jesus’ crucified body died about 3:00 p.m. on Friday. By Jewish custom, Friday was the Day of Preparation for the Saturday Sabbath. Preparation Day ended at about 6:00 p.m. on Friday when the Sabbath began. No work was allowed on the Sabbath to include burying a dead body. Jesus followers had about three hours between the time he died and the start of the Sabbath celebration.

Joseph of Arimathea was a prominent member of the Jewish council who believed that Jesus was the Messiah. Boldly, Joseph went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. After confirming with the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate released Jesus’ body to Joseph.

Along with Nicodemus, Joseph took Jesus’ body from the cross. They wrapped the body in linen stripes and 75 pounds of mixed aloe and myrrh. The Jewish burial custom of using spices in burial linens was associated with covering the smell of the decaying body.  Because aloe had little odor, possibly the aloes were used to “fix” or hold the scent of the myrrh.

Aloe vera

Aloe

The aloe of the New Testament is the Aloe vera also known as the Aloe barbadensis, Aloe vulgaris (common aloe) and the medicinal aloe. Some sources identified the aloe as the oldest medicinal plant. The aloe is distributed in Mediterranean woodlands and shrub-lands in hard rock outcrops including maritime sands. When aloe is harvested for its medicinal gel, older leaves are harvested as they are larger and contain more gel.

Myrrh

The Israelite myrrh plant is the Commiphora abyssinic. The Hebrew word for myrrh is môr or môwr which means bitter, possibly because myrrh has a bitter taste (Strong, 2010). Around 1876-1880 B.C., Jacob described myrrh as one of the best products of Canaan and directed his sons to take myrrh to Egypt to trade for grain (Genesis 43:11-14). In present day Israel, the myrrh tree grows in the Biblical Landscape Reserve (Neot Kedumim). Although often referred to as a spice, myrrh is the dried resin from the myrrh tree. When the resin is harvested, lateral cuts are made on the trunk or branches. An aromatic gum resin exudes from the wounds. When the resin is exposed to the air, the gum hardens forming irregular shaped yellow or brown globules. The globules smell pleasant but have a bitter taste. We saw myrrh in the bazaar in the old city of Jerusalem. The myrrh was in sharp-edged, marble-size pieces. Myrrh continues to be used today as sweet smelling incense for religious celebrations.

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Symbolism: Healing

Traditionally, aloe has been associated with healing.  In the book of Isaiah (Isaiah 53:5, NIV, 2002) we read these prophetic words about Christ, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Jesus body was dead; therefore, aloes weren’t used to heal him. The healing aloes in Jesus’ burial cloth exemplified Jesus’ continued healing of us even after his physical death.

After Jesus’ resurrection some individuals in Judea and the Roman Empire accepted healing from Jesus. Other individuals weren’t willing to be healed. Some couldn’t comprehend that a man would die for their sins. Others simply didn’t believe that they were all that bad; why would someone need to die for their few sins? For still others it was easier to continue their same religious observances, e.g., make an animal sacrifice or give a little money into a treasury, than to accept a new way of thinking.

The rationale and rationalizations that individuals used 2,000 years ago for not accepting healing from Jesus are the same ones that individuals use today. On Sunday morning in church, we pray the “Prayers of the People.” Frequently, there are prayer requests for healing – surgery, diagnostic tests, cancer – from members of the congregation. I’m always surprised that congregates don’t offer more prayers for loved ones’ spiritual healing. My dear friend isn’t a Christian; I love him so much. From time to time, I ask congregates to pray that he comes to a saving knowledge of Christ. I really should ask them to pray for him every Sunday.

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at http://www.CarolynRothMinistry.com/

Copyright March 25, 2016; Carolyn A. Roth

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8 responses to “Aloe and Myrrh Wrapped Body

  1. Robert Patridge

    Robert:
    We find in Mark and Luke Mary prepares spices to bring to Jesus’
    tomb; I wonder if you know what spices she prepared?

  2. The swoon theory is the most ridiculous theory to explain away the resurrection when u understand that the Romans were efficient when they crucified and killed people. When u consider the emotional strain Jesus endured the night before while on trial, the brutal beating he absorbed that often killed people, and the crucifixion itself, there is no way he survived this whole ordeal. He went into the tomb dead as a door nail! Furthermore, while on the cross, they pierced his side with a sword to insure he was dead; blood and water emerged, which confirmed he was dead. Pilate was surprised he died so quickly (Mark 15:44). What the skeptics, who suppress the truth, would have us believe is that rather than rising from the dead, Jesus never died but was revived in the tomb with the spices. He emerged from the tomb and declared himself to be the risen Savior thereby deceiving the multitudes and all followers today. Please. If this were true, and its not, He would have needed immediate medical attention because the amount of blood loss would have killed him, the holes in his writs and feet would have need time to heal. Also, he could not have roled away the stone himself, being in a weak condition, so the disciples would have had to get past the Roman guards and break him out of the tomb and declared him risen. Hardly sounds like a risen, victorious Savior to me. Also, all the disciples, minus John, died Martyrs death’s for a willful lie?? The N.T. says He is risen, and will either be your judge or your Savior
    Paul said in Romans 10:9-10
    9 If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.

  3. Hi, there is a group of people out there who believed that Jesus survived the crucifixion, did NOT die on the cross, Joseph etc. knew of it and they used the aloe and myrrh to help Him recover more quickly from His wounds, so that He may escape (to Pakistan). Would you be able to enlighten us as to whether this claim is reasonable?

    • Rykel, I have heard this idea also. I sent my Pastor an Email and asked him if he knew the name of the group. Will get back to you because now I am also wondering.

      • Rykel, here is the answer that I received from my Pastor, “Yes, Islam teaches that Christ was crucified on the cross but did not actually die. He simply passed out and after being removed from the cross, He went on with His life on earth.”
        Also about 40 years today a Jewish scholar by the name of Hugh J. Schonfield authored a book “The Passover Plot.” The book’s thesis was that Christ’s death on the cross was a giant hoax perpetuated by his disciples. Christ did not really die on the cross.
        That is about all I know on the topic. Blessings, Carolyn

        They call it the “swoon theory,” as you rightly say.

      • Hi Carolyn,

        1. To be exact, the group is called the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community. However, certainly unfortunately, they have been condemned and even assaulted by the “mainstream” Sunni and Shia Muslim communities as heretics. There are Youtube videos of how Sunni Muslims in Indonesia beat an Ahmadi Muslim alive and burnt down their places of worship. Ahmadis believe in the “swoon theory” indeed. Incidentally, it was an Ahmadi who mentioned “God as a gardener” which led me to your site! He was trying to say that the herbs were meant for healing, rather than burial items. 🙂

        2. Nevertheless, regardless of who propagates the idea, whether a Jewish author or a Muslim sect, the argument still goes like this – that Joseph and Nicodemus somehow “knew” that Jesus was not dead, and decided to use 75~100 lbs of myrrh and aloes on Him to help Him recover from His wounds quickly… after which He left for Kashmir/Pakistan.

        According to the New Testament, however, the herbs were part of the Jewish burial customs at that time. According to modern day Jews, the only thing they do use in burial is water. Of course, just because Jews today do not wrap aloe and myrrh with the dead does not mean that they did not do it back then. Thus, it is important for us to ascertain that indeed, aloe and myrrh were part of Jewish/Roman/Greek burial rituals 2000 years ago.

        So, the main question remains – WHY did they use the aloe and myrrh on Jesus’ body – if it was not a Jewish/Roman/Greek custom?

        I hope that someone reading this, or perhaps your pastor, would be able to conclusively refute the swoon theory, and idea that the aloe and myrrh were part of a conspiracy theory to revive a wounded but living Jesus. After all, if Jesus did not die, then our entire faith is in vain, says St Paul.

        p/s. It was also not likely to be a form of embalming, since Jews do NOT embalm, to the best of my knowledge. The cases of Joseph and one other OT saint were exceptions rather than the norm. So, if the aloes and myrrh were to have been embalming materials, then we need to provide some logic, reasoning or rationale as to prove that they had indeed wanted to embalm Jesus.

  4. I love the choice of message. It makes so much sense.

    I’m surprised how much blooming aloe looks like Kniphofia flowers. I’ll have to look and see how closely they are related.

    Myrrh is one of my favorite fragrances and I usually wear it on Good Friday as a constant reminder of Christ in the tomb. It’s supposed to activate certain glands in the body that bring on a meditative state, so it’s appropriate in that sense too.

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